Decisions loom large in approach to Cabrera
The good news for the Tigers, or the silver lining in their Game 4 loss, is that they finally have Miguel Cabrera back in the form where he’s arguably the most feared hitter in the league. The bad news for Detroit is that he didn’t get many chances to show it.
One chance vanished because of a daring move by Rangers manager Ron Washington. Another vanished by the Tigers’ own choice.
Out of 144 regular-season intentional walks for Cabrera’s career, only one came with the bases empty, that coming in 2007. But with one out in the eighth inning, Washington gave him one for his postseason career as well. After watching his Rangers relievers try and fail to pitch around him during this ALCS, Washington effectively took it out of their hands.
“We tried to pitch around Cabrera twice, and he got us,” Washington said. “So this time I wasn’t taking any chance. And it almost came back and bit me. But he’s the best baseball player out there. I mean, this guy can just do so much.”
It was Victor Martinez’s base hit that followed which almost brought Cabrera back to haunt them. But in the end, the injury-riddled lineup which Washington saw fit to face with Cabrera on base paid off for him once Delmon Young’s fly ball to medium depth right field set up Nelson Cruz to throw home and get Cabrera, who was sent home there rather than held for slumping Alex Avila.
The Tigers were effectively helpless there, though they could have pinch-hit for Young if they so chose and likely risked putting Don Kelly against lefty Darren Oliver. By contrast, the move that took the bat out of Cabrera’s hands in the 10th belonged to Austin Jackson.
It was his green light to try to steal after being hit by a pitch with one out, and he tried to take it. His manager defended him on it afterward.
“Absolutely,” Leyland said. I agreed with it 100 percent.”
But while it was an aggressive move, it’s hard to find the upside rewarding enough to make it the right move. If Jackson isn’t successful there, and he wasn’t, the Tigers risk running themselves out of an inning. If he were successful, he would take away the double-play possibility for Ryan Raburn, but he’d almost surely take away an at-bat for Cabrera, who would’ve been intentionally walked with first base open. So while they would’ve had two at-bats with the winning run in scoring position, neither of them would’ve been with Cabrera at the plate.