Bullpen Depth, Injuries Were Tigers' Downfall

A thin bullpen, mainly because manager Jim Leyland couldn't use Al Alburquerque as much as he would have liked, and a thick list of nicked-up players hurt the Tigers' chances of overcoming Texas in their six-game American League Championship Series.

The Rangers rolled up a nine-run third inning Saturday en route to a 15-5 trouncing of Detroit to advance to the World Series for the second straight year.

The Tigers could not match the Rangers' lock-down bullpen, especially midgame ace Alexi Ogando. Alburquerque filled that role for Detroit when he joined the club early in the season -- until getting hit in the head by a line drive during batting practice and suffering a concussion in mid-August.

Alburquerque was slow to recover physically and then never really regained the effective pitching he showed before the concussion. Leyland thus was unable to give him the work he needed while the club was trying to lock down first place in the AL Central.

The third-inning Texas rally was tailor-made for Alburquerque, whom Leyland liked to bring into crucial midgame situations because his killer slider resulted in a lot of strikeouts.

Alburquerque's struggles with his control late in the season precluded his use while Texas was getting out to a 3-1 lead in the series. He could have made a difference in the two 11-inning losses.

The Rangers became only the second team to win a best-of-seven postseason series with no victories from their starting pitchers.

"All the games were really conducive to ... it was just getting late where you were using (Joaquin) Benoit, (Phil) Coke and (Jose) Valverde," Leyland said. "It wasn't fair to some of our relievers. They just weren't used in this series because the situation just didn't present itself. That's unfair to be upset about that. That would not be fair to them."

Leyland never offered up injuries as an excuse, but at the same time it was a fact that the Tigers were unable to capitalize on the weakness of the Texas starters.

Delmon Young wasn't even on the roster when the series began because of a strained side muscle -- then all of a sudden he was on the roster again because Magglio Ordonez re-fractured his right ankle in the first game. Young hit two home runs in the fifth game but was limited before that and struck out three times in the sixth game.

Alex Avila had just three postseason hits, one a home run, because of knee and possibly hand problems.

Victor Martinez, who had three hits in the final game, was playing on a sore knee and with a sore side.

"I've managed a team that won a World Series," Leyland said. "I don't think I've ever been prouder of a team than I am this team. They gave everything they had.

"Things were kind of stacked against us a little bit ... tough travel, rain, days off. But I learned a long time ago you don't sit up here and wonder about stuff like that. You give credit where it's due. The Texas Rangers beat us and they are definitely the team that should rep the American League in the World Series.

"We've got a long time to rest up. About 10 days or so more than I would have liked."

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Max Scherzer wasn't as sharp in his second shot at Texas as in his first. He had a strong first inning, but beginning with the second he kept leaving too many balls up and wasn't sharp in the strike zone. "That's what's most frustrating," he said. "I didn't come out with my best stuff." Scherzer walked four, a total he reached less than five times this season. "He was out of whack for the most part all the way," manager Jim Leyland said. "His control was not good from the get-go, really. He had a tough time. We just couldn't stop the bleeding." Overall, Scherzer enhanced his standing with his sharpness in the postseason, and it should serve him well entering spring training.

--1B Miguel Cabrera disclosed after Detroit's season-ending 15-5 loss to Texas that he, too, was playing hurt. Cabrera said that he hurt his right arm slamming into Rangers' C Mike Napoli trying to score in Game 4. He said he will have it examined soon, although he was told it was just muscle damage. Didn't hamper Cabrera's swing, though, as he ripped two solo home runs in the loss. The first came in the first inning on an outside fastball he drove into the right-field seats. The second came in the eighth and went about 450 feet into left center. The first home run extended Cabrera's League Championship Series hitting streak to 13 games, tying him with LF Greg Luzinski of Philadelphia. Cabrera's streak dates from when he was teenager -- he debuted with Florida in 2003.

--SS Jhonny Peralta finished a good season by hitting a solo home run in the second inning to give the Tigers a brief 2-0 advantage. He gave Detroit solid offensive and defensive production all season. He also played the kind of solid, unspectacular defense the club was looking for, and manager Jim Leyland was hoping he'll win a Gold Glove for his play. "He deserves it," Leyland said before the game. "He's one of my favorite guys. I have a lot of favorite guys on this team, but he's one of them. He's a manager's dream -- never says anything, never complains. He just comes out and does his job. Who doesn't want to manage guys like that? I hope he wins it."

--RHP Rick Porcello "got the groundball, we just didn't get an out," manager Jim Leyland said of his Game 4 starter, who pitched in relief of RHP Max Scherzer in the third inning. Porcello was brought in with runners on first and second but the Tigers didn't get an out on a groundball to second. He gave up a two-run single and two-run double before leaving during the inning.

--RHP Ryan Perry had his postseason moments and pitched well in his last outing of the season. Perry came in for the last out of the nine-run third inning and then pitched two more innings, allowing just an unearned run as the result of a dropped flyball for an error by RF Ryan Raburn, who collided with CF Austin Jackson trying to make a catch. Perry was better with his slider and spotted his fastball better than he did when he came into Game 2 and didn't get an out in the 11th inning, capped by a grand slam.

--CF Austin Jackson came into Game 6 with 18 postseason strikeouts in 37 at-bats and made it 19 by whiffing in the third inning. But he singled leading off the game and hit a two-run home run in the fifth to give the Tigers brief hopes of a comeback. Jackson struck out 181 times during the regular season, and that's way too many for a leadoff batter.

--DH Victor Martinez ended the postseason with a three-hit game. Martinez was playing on a bad knee much of the last three months of the season and vowed afterward to be able to catch more next season so C Alex Avila doesn't get worn out by the time postseason play rolls around. Martinez didn't catch a single game after the first week of August.

--C Alex Avila is going to get his knees checked out as soon as possible. Avila was playing with tendinitis in both knees at season's end, and it definitely limited his postseason production. He had just three hits after the regular season, one a solo home run in Game 5.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2 -- Teams getting four victories out of their bullpen in a best-of-seven postseason series. Texas joined the 1997 Cleveland Indians as the only teams to have all four games won by relievers.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I just don't think there's a lot of secrets at this point. Maybe there are. Maybe I am dumb. I don't know." -- Manager Jim Leyland, who again in the series disclosed whom he would use in relief and who would not pitch. Leyland said RHP Rick Porcello, LHP Phil Coke plus RHPs Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde were his preferred choices to work after starting RHP Max Scherzer. He said before Game 5 Benoit and Valverde would not pitch, and they didn't.


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