Prince Fielder falters for flailing Tigers

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While Saturday’s shutout loss was definitely a team effort, Prince Fielder’s struggles are a central reason the Tigers are now just one defeat away from losing the World Series.

Swinging at pitches off the plate, Fielder went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in Game 3. He grounded into a double play his first time up. Overall, Fielder is 1-for-10 in the World Series, and he’s down to .188 with just one extra-base hits and three RBI in 48 at-bats for the postseason.

This isn’t Fielder’s first go at the postseason, so it shouldn’t be a case of the pressure getting to him. He had three homers and four doubles in 11 games as the Brewers won the NLDS and lost to the Cardinals in the NLCS last year. He also took part in the NLDS in 2008, though he had just one hit in 14 at-bats then (it was a homer).

Still, this is Fielder’s first World Series, and he has been unusually anxious at the plate. He’s seen just 30 pitches in his 11 plate appearances. It’s not like him at all.

That’s not to put it all on Fielder. Miguel Cabrera hasn’t done much, collecting two singles and two walks in three games. The Tigers have just three extra-base hits in the series, and their lone homer was Jhonny Peralta’s meaningless two-run shot in the ninth inning of Game 1, reducing the Giants’ lead from seven runs to five.

Having amassed 18 consecutive scoreless innings, the Tigers offense has wasted fine performances from Doug Fister and Anibal Sanchez the last two games. The team should get another good one from Max Scherzer on Sunday, but with ace Matt Cain on the mound for the Giants, one wonders if it will make any real difference.

Mike Napoli and Rays have “mutual interest” in a deal

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Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times unloaded a lot of interesting news items about the Rays last night, including a report that the Rays might have “mutual interest” in a deal with free agent first baseman/DH Mike Napoli. The Rangers declined Napoli’s $11 million option earlier this month and owe the veteran infielder a $2.5 million buyout.

Napoli, 36, had a strange year in Texas. He turned in 29 home runs, good for 11th-most among AL hitters, but finished the year batting just .193/.285/.428 over 485 plate appearances. According to FanGraphs, his -0.5 fWAR was the worst mark of his career to date, but on the bright side, he should come cheap for a team looking to swap out their veterans come spring.

Of course, the specifics of the Rays’ offseason plan have yet to be divulged — or, by all accounts from Topkin, even decided on. The club could go the refurbishment route, changing out some of their higher-paid veterans for a mix of prospects and cheaper aging players; or they could opt for a full rebuild, which Topkin cautions against as it could have a negative effect on the financing of a new ballpark. Either way, the Rays figure to offload some of their bigger contracts this winter, and will need to decide if they want to retain Alex Colome, Chris Archer, Wilson Ramos, Evan Longoria and others before pursuing any other major free agents.