Red Sox starter Clay Buchholz didn’t have enough gas to get through the sixth inning of Game 6. After shutting the Tigers out through five, he showed diminished velocity and command, as he walked lead-off batter Torii Hunter on consecutive 88 MPH fastballs. He then surrendered a single to Miguel Cabrera through the hole between third base and shortstop, prompting manager John Farrell to exit the dugout to bring in lefty reliever Franklin Morales.
The slide continued as Morales walked the struggling Prince Fielder on four pitches, then was nearly taken deep by Victor Martinez, who drove a single high off of the Green Monster in left-center, scoring Hunter and Cabrera.
Farrell called on right-hander Brandon Workman to halt the Tigers’ newfound momentum. He did, getting Jhonny Peralta to hit a sharp grounder to second baseman Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia dashed towards Martinez caught in no-man’s land off the first base bag, tagging him for one out. He then fired home to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, catching Fielder in a rundown. Saltalamacchia chased Fielder up the line back to third base, tagging him a foot off the bag. Peralta advanced to second base on the play, then was pinch-run for by Don Kelly.
Workman struck out Alex Avila looking to end the frame. Though the Tigers took the lead, the Red Sox have to feel good about how they played damage control. Not only could the score have been much, much worse, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland removed one of his best hitters thus far in the post-season for a pinch-runner, who ultimately failed to even attempt to score.
If any team can turn a six-day rest period into an advantage, it’s the Indians. The club polished off their pennant race with another injured starter and an overtaxed bullpen, as Trevor Bauer exited in Game 3 of the ALCS with a laceration on his right pinky finger, leaving the bullpen to shoulder 16 innings through the last three games of the series. On Friday, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reported that injured starter Danny Salazar could rejoin the rotation in the World Series, though he’ll need at least one more simulated game before Terry Francona determines whether or not he’s fit to return for the team’s last postseason push.
Bauer, who has been under the close watch of hand specialist Dr. Thomas Graham, told the press that he feels confident that he’ll be ready for a World Series start when the final showdown commences on Tuesday. Keeping the wound bandaged is not an option during games, and Bauer said that Dr. Graham decided against additional stitches to keep the laceration from re-opening. Instead, they’re banking on extra days of rest to heal the cut naturally. Should Francona pencil the right-hander into the lineup for Game 3 or 4, he’ll have had 10-11 days to rest his finger between starts — just a hair under the seven games Bauer said he was prepared to pitch.
Salazar, too, has been preparing for a World Series showdown. He’s scheduled to pitch three innings of a simulated game this weekend, and if it goes well, it could land him a spot in the starting rotation alongside Bauer, Corey Kluber, Josh Tomlin, and newcomer Ryan Merritt. Salazar has been sidelined since September 9 with a right forearm strain, and even after undergoing a rigorous throwing program over the last several weeks, any kind of comeback is expected to be curbed by a strict innings limit. Francona has been understandably tight-lipped about his World Series roster, but he hasn’t yet nixed the idea of utilizing Salazar out of the rotation, provided the right-hander remains healthy for another week or so.
The Indians have had to remain flexible throughout their seven-game playoff run after weathering injuries to Corey Kluber and Trevor Bauer, pushing their rotation through several games on short rest and relying heavily on Andrew Miller and Cody Allen‘s one-two punch in the ‘pen to clinch more than a few postseason victories. While history doesn’t always favor the first team to secure their league’s pennant race, an extra week of rest should only benefit Cleveland’s beleaguered pitching staff.
The Tigers will promoted Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon to hitting coach for the 2017 season, according to a statement released by the team on Friday afternoon.
McClendon’s history with the Tigers is long and storied. After serving five seasons as the Pittsburgh Pirates’ hitting coach and manager, he got his start with Detroit in 2006 as a bullpen coach, then transitioned to hitting coach from 2007 through 2013. When the Tigers hired Brad Ausmus to replace former manager Jim Leyland, McClendon took the opportunity to break from the team and pursue another managerial position of his own with the Seattle Mariners, whom he guided to a 163-161 record between the 2014 and 2015 seasons.
Following his departure from Seattle during the 2015 offseason, McClendon took a spot as skipper of the Tigers’ Triple-A club, managing the Toledo Mud Hens to a 68-76 finish in 2016. His return to the big league stage is accompanied by the hiring of assistant hitting coach Leon Durham, who previously served as the long-tenured hitting coach for Triple-A Toledo.