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Richard Justice

Offense picks wrong time for a slump

Justice: Offense picks wrong time for a slump

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DETROIT -- There were a couple of moments in Game 3 of the 2012 World Series on Saturday night that tell pretty much the whole story for these Detroit Tigers. When they take the time to dissect how things came undone, they'll look at them and wonder what could have been.

In the bottom of the third inning, the Tigers trailed by two runs but had runners on first and second with one out. That's when left fielder Quintin Berry stepped to the plate and tapped a first-pitch changeup from Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong to second baseman Marco Scutaro for an inning-ending double play.

Later, manager Jim Leyland would point to that at-bat. Not only had Berry been fooled by the changeup, Vogelsong apparently had him thinking about it two innings later.

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That's when Detroit had the bases loaded with one out. Berry did a good job working the count to 2-1. He got another changeup, just like he'd gotten in the third inning. This time, Berry fouled it off to stay alive.

But Vogelsong had gotten what he wanted. He'd let Berry know that he was perfectly willing to throw a changeup in a fastball count. If Vogelsong would throw one with the count 2-1, he'd certainly throw another one at 2-2.

Vogelsong out-guessed him, throwing a 91-mph fastball. Berry swung and missed for the second out, and Miguel Cabrera ended the inning by popping to shortstop, and the Tigers were on their way to a 2-0 loss at Comerica Park. They're the 24th World Series team to lose the first three games, and none of them has rallied to win.

"I thought probably the biggest pitch of the night was the changeup to Berry [in the third]," Leyland said. "I think it set up the next at-bat for Berry, when he struck out on the fastball. I think the changeup was in the back of his mind a little bit."

For his part, Berry said he expanded the strike zone and that he felt like he'd taken his team out of a potentially big inning.

Taming the Tigers
Lowest team average in World Series history
Team Year G AB H Avg.
Dodgers 1966 4 120 17 .142
Orioles 1969 5 157 23 .146
A's 1905 5 155 25 .161
Tigers 2012 3 91 15 .165

"I was a little overanxious right there [against the changeup]," Berry said. "That's not what we needed right there."

If you don't know anything else about these first three World Series games, these two innings pretty much tell the entire story. One is that San Francisco is handling Prince Fielder and Cabrera, who are a combined 3-for-19 with no extra-base hits. The other is that the people around them aren't doing enough.

Detroit, which was the third-highest scoring team in the American League during the regular season, has hit a wall. The AL champs have scored three runs in 27 innings of this World Series, none in the past 18.

Has the Giants' pitching been that good? Or have the Tigers helped things along?

"All postseason, we haven't really swung the bats," designated hitter Delmon Young said.

Indeed, the Tigers have scored three runs or less in eight of 12 postseason games. That lack of offense went unnoticed when Detroit's starting pitchers were throwing zeroes on the board. Now it's magnified.

The Tigers frustrated both themselves and their fans with stretches of inconsistency during the regular season. For instance, they were near the bottom of the AL in offense in April, but near the top in May.

Now they've picked a bad week to have a bad week. In a quiet clubhouse, they remained resolute, saying all the right things about playing hard and staying professional.

If 0-3 is historically insurmountable, the Tigers say they have a roadmap out. If they can ride Max Scherzer to a victory on Sunday, they'll have Justin Verlander for Game 5.

Maybe, just maybe ...

"We're definitely not giddy about it," Fielder said.

How about a pep talk before Game 4?

"All that talk stuff is for 'Hoosiers' and the movies," Fielder said. "That's not real life. You've just got to go out there and play hard. There's nothing really to say. Everybody's playing hard. Everybody's prepared. We just don't get to write the script, and it's not working out."

Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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{"content":["mlb_postseason" ] }
{"content":["mlb_postseason" ] }