Offense a problem for these Tigers

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The Tigers possess MLB’s first Triple Crown winner in 45 years in Miguel Cabrera and a second premium bat in Prince Fielder, but the offense as a whole is really quite average. And even average seems kind given its performance so far against the A’s in the ALDS.

Shut out in Tuesday’s loss, the Tigers have totaled eight runs in three games while amassing a 2-1 series lead over the A’s. That’s overselling it, though. Three of those runs were the direct result of errors. In three games, the Tigers haven’t had a single hit that knocked in a baserunner. They did get Alex Avila’s solo homer in Game 1. The rest of the runs have scored on Oakland’s miscues, groundouts and Don Kelly’s Game 2-winning sac fly.

But the Tigers weren’t so great offensively during the regular season, either. Particularly not late in the year. They were tied for seventh in the AL in runs during the second half. Their 339 runs scored put them right about at the midpoint between the top-ranked A’s (394 runs) and the Indians and Mariners (282) at the bottom. For the full year, they were sixth in runs scored.

And that’s because while Cabrera, Fielder and Austin Jackson were great, the bottom half of the lineup was dreadful. Going by OPS, Tigers No. 5 hitters ranked 13th in the AL and their No. 6 hitters were dead last.

With the A’s throwing right-handers in both Games 4 and 5 now, Delmon Young could well be key for Detroit. Fielder did his best to come up big for the Tigers tonight, only to be robbed of a homer by Coco Crisp and a double by Yoenis Cespedes. Now that the A’s are going back to right-handers after starting lefties the last two games, it’s going to make tons of sense to pitch around Fielder in big situations and go after Young in the five-hole. The slumping Young hasn’t come through with a hit in an RBI situation in 11 games, and he’s delivered one homer in a month. He’s lucky he’s still in the lineup at all, much less in such prime real estate behind Cabrera and Fielder.

Of course, Max Scherzer or Justin Verlander could make Detroit’s offensive problem moot by hurling a shutout one of the next two days. Those two are certainly capable. That said, the Tigers’ offense is quite obviously overrated, and it figures to catch up with them soon if it hasn’t already.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).