It’s an overused cliche — I know, because I’ve overused it — to say that a team has to have someone “step up” when things go poorly. I guess what makes it most objectionable is the notion implied in the term itself that a player can simply choose to perform better. To “take a step” voluntarily and hit homes runs and stuff. Baseball just doesn’t work like that. Guys are always trying. Sometimes the bat connects. Sometimes it doesn’t.
But even if one cannot simply choose to step up a team can do so in effect. That’s what the Tigers did tonight, with Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta all coming up big to give the Tigers a 5-2 win and cut the Rangers advantage in the series to 2-1.
A combined 4-for-23 in the first two games of the ALCS, Cabrera, Martinez and Peralta went 5-for-10 in Game 3, with each of them hitting a home run. Also stepping up: a not-so-big gun, Austin Jackson, who has been horrifyingly awful in the postseason thus far — 3-for-25 with 14 strikeouts in the ALDS and ALCS entering Game 3 — but who went 3-for-5, scored a run and drove one in tonight. Compare that to the Rangers Nos. 4-5-6-7 hitters who went a combined 0-for-15 and we can see whose bats made the connection from Dallas last night and whose didn’t.
But maybe more critical that the Tigers’ big bats waking up was the performance of starter Doug Fister, who gave Jim Leyland seven and a third innings of two-run ball. While Leyland did use both Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde tonight, neither of them threw too many pitches and they and the rest of the taxed Tigers’ bullpen should be in decent shape to back up Rick Porcello as he takes the the hill tomorrow afternoon. With Justin Verlander looming in Game 5, the Tigers can and should view tomorrow’s game as an “all hands on deck” affair.
But that’s tomorrow. Today the Tigers can take comfort in the notion that they’re back in the series. The bats are awake and, even if it was a mistake pitch to Cabrera from Koji Uehara, they proved that they can actually score a run or two off the Rangers’ bullpen.
Welcome to the series, Detroit. You arrived a bit late, but now that you’re here, enjoy yourself a while.
In addition to getting unanimous support from Hall of Fame voters, Mariano Rivera’s election is getting universal praise from fans and the baseball community. I mean, at least it seems so. If you see someone out there in the wild really mad that Rivera was elected, please, let me know. But don’t approach such people. They’re probably dangerously imbalanced and might cause harm to you.
From what we’ve seen, anyway, there is no one who doesn’t love Rivera and his election. That love has come out in the form of anecdotes people are sharing this morning. I’ve seen two that made me particularly happy. One “ha ha” happy, the other “aww” happy.
The “ha ha” comes from Michael Young, who shared the ballot with Rivera this year and whose Rangers actually beat Rivera’s Yankees in the 2010 ALCS. Not that they had much success against Mo:
Now the “aww.” It comes from Danny Burawa, who had a few major league cups of coffee after coming up in the Yankees system. From his Instagram last night:
In 2012, in the middle of my first big league spring training, I tore my oblique during a game (I wound up missing the whole season). First cuts hadn’t been made and the Yankees let me stick around to rehab with the big leaguers for a few days. The next day, after finishing my rehab, I returned to the locker room which was totally empty. I’m sitting at my locker getting ready to go home when in walks Mariano Rivera. Considering I was a nobody A-baller, I kept my eyes down on my feet and minded my own business. Next thing I know, he’s in the chair next to me, telling me his story, about failing as a starter, about an injury he had when he was younger, about how the setbacks we think are fatal usually end up as speed bumps on a longer, grander road. This is the greatest of all time, taking the time to cheer up a nobody, for no other reason than he thought it was the right thing to do. Great pitcher, greater human, congratulations Mo!
People use that “great player, better person” construction a lot. I often roll my eyes when I hear it because it’s pretty subjective and, I suspect, the “better person” part can’t be vouched for outside the subject’s friend or peer group. Doesn’t sound that way with Rivera, though. He simply sounds like a prince of a guy.