The Washington inquiry: What two losses to Nats mean
As a World Series preview, that didn’t last long. In fact, it lasted half as long (in number of games, anyway) as last year’s actual World Series, which Jim Leyland joked was over in about six hours.
So, how much can really be gleaned from the Tigers’ two games in Washington?
Probably not much, but both teams came out of it with a lot of respect for the other.
“Winning two games is better than losing two games,” Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said. “That’s a really good team over there. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if they were coming out of that league or if they’re in there until the end. That’s one of the better teams you’re going to see.”
Alex Avila was similarly complementary.
“They have a good team,” he said. “They’re built for the playoffs just like we are. I thought the last two games were really good games. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the season goes for the both of us.”
Usually teams downplay the importance of regular-season series like this, but both sides seemed to indicate that they were up for it, maybe a little more than a normal series. They were just two wins, as Zimmerman said, but they were big.
“I think everyone was really excited for this series to begin with in the clubhouse,” Zimmerman said. “It’s always fun playing a team of that caliber. You get fired up to see guys like Cabrera and Fielder and everyone in the clubhouse was excited for it. Then yesterday Jordan [Zimmermann] set the tone, he came out and dominated. We were able to get a few off a really good pitcher in Fister today early and those runs held up.”
Said Avila: “I think we played the games like it was that kind of atmosphere. I think we were pretty excited to play, and they were two really good games. The thing is, we’ve both been playing well up to this point. So if that continues, it could happen.”
One common thread was the low-scoring nature of the games, and the way the scoring came about. Aside from Matt Tuiasosopo’s pinch-hit three-run homer, the Tigers had to scrape together runs by stringing together smaller hits and advancing runners. With National League rules and no designated hitter, they ended up playing more of a National League style.
Also worth noting was how the Tigers offense looked after a few days without batting practice. With an off-day Monday, a rainout Tuesday and a rain delay Wednesday, the Tigers didn’t get to take batting practice outside until Thursday afternoon.
It’s hard to cite that as the only reason why a lineup that was cranking out runs in Houston went cold in Washington. The difference in the pitching from the Astros to the Nationals is immense.
Avila and Jim Leyland both said they felt like they had some good at-bats and good swings as a team against the Nationals. They just didn’t get the results to go with them.
“I thought we actually hit the ball pretty decent both games,” Leyland said Thursday. “We couldn’t get that one tweener with a couple guys on. Prince hit the ball well all day long [Thursday], didn’t get much to show for it. We just came up short. To their credit, they pitched pretty good when they had to and their bullpen did a good job.”