One of the big stories of the 2006 World Series is how poor fielding from the Tigers’ pitchers did the team in. In 2012, the focus might go a similarly specific problem; bad slides led to two outs and cost Detroit at least one run in a 2-0 loss in Game 2.
The Tigers lost a run in the second, when Delmon Young doubled and Prince Fielder’s horrible baserunning allowed Buster Posey to employ a swipe tag at the plate. Posey, who has forbidden from blocking the plate since last year’s collision, was up the line and never would have been able to reach Fielder had he taken a wider angle to the plate. Instead, Fielder was actually running inside the baseline by the time he was approaching Posey. He still almost got in anyway, but Dan Iassogna made the right call at the plate.
If Fielder had scored, the Tigers would have had a 1-0 lead, a man on second and no outs, putting them in position to do some real damage against Madison Bumgarner. Instead, Bumgarner got out of the inning scoreless.
The second bad slide came on Omar Infante’s caught stealing to end the fourth. That one probably wasn’t so costly, but maybe Young would have come through again with a man on base. For what little it’s worth, he struck out to open the next inning.
The Tigers are also suffering from a lack of production at the bottom of the lineup, which was a recurring theme even when the pitcher wasn’t hitting during the regular season. The Tigers don’t have a hit from their seven, eight or nine hitters through two games. Things might get better there now that the Tigers are returning to Detroit and can employ the DH. Andy Dirks is probably the team’s fourth-best hitter, and he’ll be back in the lineup with right-handers on the mound the next two games.
James Paxton of the Mariners is 3-0 with a 1.39 ERA, 39 strikeouts and only six walks in 32.1 innings of work over five starts. Last night he shut the Tigers down, tossing seven shutout innings, striking out nine and allowing only four hits. With Felix Hernandez looking less than king-like lately, Paxton is asserting himself as the new ace of the Seattle staff.
And now the tall Canadian native has a nickname to match his ace-like status:
“Pax was really outstanding and we certainly needed it,” manager Scott Servais said of the Canadian southpaw. “Big Maple is what he was nicknamed tonight and I kind of like that. He was awesome.”
“Big Maple” is a fantastic nickname. That’s the sort of nickname guys used to get back when nicknames were great. Before managers just put “y” at the end of dudes’ names and before the “First Initial-First Three Letters of The Last Name” convention took hold in the wake of A-Rod.
“Big Maple.” That makes me smile. I’m gonna be smiling all dang day because of that.
I mentioned this in the recaps this morning, but I think it deserves it’s own special place. Get what went down in the second inning of last night’s Rays-O’s game:
Ryan Flaherty was on first with Seth Smith up to bat. Smith hit a single to center. Flaherty, who was running with the pitch, was making for third base. All-world defender Kevin Kiermaier tried to gun him down but threw wildly to third, causing Flaherty to break for home.
Pitcher Alex Cobb had the play backed up, however! He got the ball near the dugout. Flaherty scampered back to third and Cobb tried to throw him out. The ball hit Flaherty’s helmet, richocheting into left field, allowing both Flaherty and Smith — who had stopped at first and then stopped at second, like a kid at tee ball or something — to come around and score.
I still think the Rays walking home the winning run on four pitches in the 11th inning was worse, but this looked worse.
Oh well: the Rays get the day off today and tomorrow, of course, is another day.