Clutch Hits Proving Elusive

It's simple, really.If the Tigers are to overcome the 2-0 lead the Texas Rangers have compiled in the American League Championship Series, they will have to start hitting with men on base. Especially in the first five innings, before the Rangers can get to what they believe is their all-world bullpen.

Detroit started Monday's game with a walk and a single, then made three straight outs with the runners moving up just one base, getting stranded on third and second.

In the series opener, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out, only to have Magglio Ordonez hit into a double play.

The first game was a 3-2 loss, the second a 7-3 loss that lasted 11 innings, 10 of them unproductive.

"It was a great two games that didn't go the right way," manager Jim Leyland said. "They earned it and we didn't quite get it done. We haven't been able to come up with any big hits. That's being honest."

The Tigers stranded six runners over the first three innings and 13 in all 11. They left five runners on in the first two innings of the first game and 10 overall.

"I don't feel as good as Texas does right now, obviously," Leyland said. "They've got to win two more and we've got to win four. That's pretty simple math.

"We haven't been able to get the big hit. We've had our opportunities. The first inning in both games, in my opinion, have really come back to haunt us a little bit. We didn't score when we had a great opportunity in both games. They did score. They came right back and did score."

Texas' bullpen has barely allowed a hit, let alone a run, despite entering in the fifth inning in the opener and the third inning of the second.

"We've dealt with adversity all year long," said Don Kelly. "It's not going to change now. It's going to be good to get back home. Ideally would have been nice to get back with a split or up 2-0."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Max Scherzer rebounded from allowing two RBI doubles in the first inning to pitch shutout ball until RF Nelson Cruz drove him from the game with a leadoff home run in the seventh, tying the score at 3-3. Scherzer retired 12 in a row following a leadoff double in the second. The first couple innings I was leaving the ball up a little bit," Scherzer said. "I was able to settle in, give our team a chance to score some runs." He mixed in more sliders against Texas than he did New York because the Rangers have more right-handed hitters. He was running his sinker away from left-handed hitters and throwing an effective changeup. The first two runners reached in the sixth, but Scherzer got a one-out strikeout with runners on first and third, the key out of the inning. Manager Jim Leyland told Scherzer after the sixth he was at 90 pitches and was going to begin the seventh. "If he got Cruz out I was going to let him go," Leyland said. "I thought he was throwing great. He was throwing tremendous. If somebody got on then we'd have gone to (RHP Joaquin) Benoit after that. He tried to get one up, out of the strike zone, he didn't quite get it there and he (Cruz) hit it out." "With Cruz I thought he was fastball happy the whole at-bat," Scherzer said. "I started him with three sliders. I was trying to get a fastball above the (strike) zone. Got it there, but obviously he was able to gear up for it."

--LF Delmon Young, not on Detroit's active roster at the start of its series against Texas because of a sore side muscle, was a surprise roster replacement for injured RF Magglio Ordonez and an even bigger surprise when manager Jim Leyland announced he was returning to the starting lineup both in left and in the third spot in the batting order. "What I'm finding out now," said Leyland, "is that it's not really an oblique. It might only be connected with an oblique situation. It's a little bit of a different spot. We met (Sunday night) and he was moving around pretty good. We never thought it was severe from the beginning, but we thought that rather than taking a chance, let him sit this one out." Young went 0-for-4, but his swing appeared more confident as the game progressed although it was obvious throwing is going to be a problem. "He's OK," Leyland said. "We're going to wait and see. I'm not sure he's going to play (Tuesday). I think he probably came through OK, but we'll have to talk with the trainers." "What you have are external obliques that operate in rotation," Tigers trainer Kevin Rand explained the injury. "You have internal obliques that operate more like abdominals. So swinging is not an issue for him. The issue for him is launching a throw. That's still affected. This one isn't in his side; it's more abdominal."

--RHP Jose Valverde pulled off a Houdini act in the ninth, loading the bases with nobody out and then getting a shallow fly to left and a first-home-first double play to carry a 3-3 tie into extra innings. Valverde gave up a first-pitch double to 3B Adrian Beltre, an intentional walk and then hit a batter to load the bases. He worked a three-batter 10th to keep the game going. Even though he pitched two innings, it's likely he'll pronounce himself available for duty Monday in Detroit.

--RF Ryan Raburn got Detroit's only big hit of the game, a three-run home run in the third that gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead. Raburn was going to be the left fielder in place of LF Delmon Young, but the unexpected return of Young shifted Raburn over to right in place of injured RF Magglio Ordonez. Raburn ended the game in left. "I just kept fouling pitches off and finally was able to get the barrel on one," Raburn said. "I just got lucky, I guess." He can be expected to play regularly the remainder of the series.

--RF/3B Don Kelly was a mid-game insertion and went 2-for-2, including a two-out double in the ninth that left runners on second and third with two out. Kelly originally entered in the seventh as the right fielder but shifted to third when RF Andy Dirks pinch-hit for 3B Brandon Inge in the ninth. Kelly had a two-out single in the 11th, making him the team's last baserunner. "We've dealt with adversity all year long," Kelly said. "It's not going to change now. It's going to be good to get back home. Ideally it would have been nice to get back with a split or up 2-0." Kelly figures to start somewhere against RHP Colby Lewis on Tuesday.

--RHP Ryan Perry faced four batters in the 11th -- and didn't retire one of them. After giving up two singles to open the inning, he gave up a hit that went right between CF Austin Jackson and RF Andy Dirks, and neither one could catch it. That left the bases loaded, and Perry gave up the game-ending grand slam to RF Nelson Cruz. "Obviously, it feels like you let down your whole team," Perry said. "Bad pitch. Paid for it. You've got to make better pitches to him. The slider came inside; he made the best of it."

--RF Andy Dirks was manager Jim Leyland's choice to start in the outfield had LF Delmon Young not been able to play. He wound up in the game anyway, pinch-hitting for 3B Brandon Inge and staying in, with RF Don Kelly shifting to third. Leyland had two lineup cards made up before the game, with Dirk's name on one and Young's on the other. Dirks had not played since the final series of the regular season.

--RF Magglio Ordonez faces probably surgery for a right ankle fracture for the second time in slightly more than a year. "Magglio basically just suffered a re-fracture right along the same line of the original last year," head trainer Kevin Rand said. The stress of playing apparently caused a fluid buildup along the break line, which is being held in place by screws. Ordonez, 37, was walked intentionally in the fifth inning before the second rain delay in the first game of the series Saturday and had to come out because of the pain. "There's a lot of emotion that's going on with the Magglio situation right now, obviously, for all of us," manager Jim Leyland said. "My heart aches for the guy. I talked to him. The poor guy's in a boot. It breaks your heart." "It was not a fun day for me (Sunday)," Rand said. "It was not a fun day. Magglio was obviously extremely disappointed. ... He had felt so good of late. He played well and contributed well. It's a shame. It's a big blow."

BY THE NUMBERS: 6 -- Runners left on base by Detroit over the first three innings of the 7-3, 11-inning loss to Texas. The Tigers left 13 runners on base in the game.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If somebody buys an umbrella down here they cancel school, evidently." -- Manager Jim Leyland, noting it never rained a drop Sunday night during the scheduled game time even though the Detroit-Texas playoff game was postponed earlier because of threatening weather.


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