Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  By DAVE HOGG  |  Last updated 10/15/13
DETROIT -- Mike Ilitch has spent millions of dollars trying to create the exact situation the Tigers faced on Tuesday night. Game 3 of the ALCS, with his ace pitching a masterpiece and his two best hitters coming up to the plate in the biggest situation of the day. Down 1-0 in the eighth inning, but with runners on the corners and only one out. That's why the Tigers were willing to spend so much in cash and prospects to get Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder -- just for that moment. He didn't get his money's worth. Torii Hunter singled to move Austin Jackson to third base, and he admitted that he thought his team was in perfect shape to steal the game and the lead in the series. "I was pumped up, because I got the big hit and Austin got over to third, and we had the best hitter in the world coming to the plate," he said. This, though, wasn't the Cabrera who looked so good in Boston. All night, he had struggled to make contact with fastballs that he would normally drive to distant parts of Comerica Park, and things didn't get any better. Junichi Tazawa threw Cabrera four mid-90s fastballs, keeping them just off the outside part of the plate, and Cabrera flailed helplessly at three of them. "I got myself out," Cabrera said. "When you swing at balls, you aren't going to have much success. I need to do a better job." Cabrera has one of the best eyes in baseball, and he rarely misses when he swings at a fastball. Against John Lackey and Tazawa, he swung at 11 and missed eight. He fouled off another, and the two he put into fair territory resulted in a soft fly ball and a weak pop-up. "I was swinging at a lot of high pitches out of the zone, and I was making easy outs," he said. "I've got to come out tomorrow and swing at better pitches. We didn't do our job today -- we didn't get J.V. any run support." Fielder, though, still had a chance to give Detroit control of the game. He faced Red Sox closer Koji Uehara, and failed just as badly as Cabrera. He fouled off a fastball, swung and missed at another one and then was nowhere near Uehara's splitter on strike three. "I couldn't barrel one up," Fielder said. "He's tough. That's why he's out there in that situation. We'll come back and try again tomorrow. That's baseball." Jim Leyland wasn't about to blame his two biggest hitters on a night when the whole offense wasted another one-run performance from Justin Verlander. "That's part of the game," he said, talking specifically about the eighth-inning showdown, but with words that could apply to the whole night. "You don't get the hit every time. Their pitchers get the credit, because they won the battles." He is going to make another lineup change to face Jake Peavy tomorrow -- Jose Iglesias will be back at shortstop -- but it isn't clear how much that will help. Iglesias struck out as a pinch hitter in Game 3, and has struggled badly with the bat since mid-September. Leyland said he has considered benching Jackson, who is hitting .091 in the postseason with 18 strikeouts in eight games, but he's not sure if he will do it. "I could possibly play Donnie (Kelly) in centerfield. but I'm not really sure that's the answer," he said. "I'm going to sleep on that one tonight. There's only a couple options that you really have. "I'm not sure -- when you see guys from other teams struggling, they don't necessarily change the lineup. I think you've just got to live with it unless you really come up with something that makes sense." That's exactly the problem -- finding a move that makes sense. Leyland doesn't have anyone who can come off the bench to replace Cabrera (.226 in the postseason), Hunter (.182) or Omar Infante (.179). Victor Martinez could catch, with Alex Avila hitting just .200, but Avila is a big part of Detroit's 2.57 postseason ERA. Leyland always protects his players, so he's not going to say the one thing underlying all of his comments -- he can't do anything but write names on the lineup card. If the Tigers want another shot at the World Series, it is the players who are going to have to step up and get them there.
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