Man, you just can’t get anything past Jim Leyland.
Brilliant strategist, scintillating motivator that Detroit manager is, indeed. Seeing how San Francisco played baseball’s rope-a-dope with Cincinnati and St. Louis in successive series to reach the World Series as the National League’s rep, Jimmy stepped back, somehow coaxed his Motown minions to roll over the first two games and give the Giants false hope.
For good measure, he even boasted – yes, boasted – how his Tigers’ bats looked good Thursday night, belting out a collective two hits against that trio of Cy Young-like stylists named Madison Bumgarner, Santiago Casilla and Sergio Romo in what normally would have been seen as a must-win situation.
A must-win situation, of course, if it were not for Leyland’s foresight, his absolute understated genius … which somehow gets stated all the time by national media members.
Oh, the Tigers have San Fran right where they want it – up 2-0 in the series, feeling good and bordering on the edge of overconfidence – and they can thank their chain-smoking lead strategist for that.
At least that’s the scenario all of Detroit hopes is the case.
If not … uh-oh.
Heavy favorites after sweeping the Yankees in the American League Champion Series, the Tigers have seemed as overmatched and disinterested as, well, the last time they were playing for all of the major-league marbles … in 2006, also under Jim Leyland.
They were hot, they were dominant and they had the vast majority of card-carrying members of the Big Name Society in this matchup. With the best pitcher in baseball, the best hitter and the best sidekick, Detroit seemed to have San Fran trumped on every hand, except for one that reached the bullpen.
Then the series started Wednesday night by the Bay, and Verlander imploded, and Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera combined with his slugging Sundance, Prince Fielder, to go 2-for-11 in the first two games, and about the best thing to happen for Detroit is that Friday happened to be a travel day.
Things resume Saturday night at Comerica Park. You’d assume they would get better.
You may not want to assume, though.
Why? Well, for starters, the Tigers get to face the Giants’ best pitcher this postseason, hard-throwing Ryan Vogelsong, in Game 3 and then their widely regarded ace Matt Cain in Game 4 Sunday night. They also have no momentum to call on, and the colder weather forecast for the next few days doesn’t figure to bolster their offense.
If they somehow manage to scratch out a win in either of those two contests, Verlander gets the ball in Game 5 on Monday.
After his series-opening effort, which resulted in five earned runs in four innings and the celebration of Kung Fu Panda as a postseason legend along the lines of Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols and – cough, cough – Babe Ruth, the question begs to be asked: Do you really want him to have it?
In short, save for a complete collapse along the lines of what San Fran enjoyed with Cincinnati and St. Louis folding like tents before its eyes, Detroit is done.
Unless, of course, Leyland really is the visionary many believe him to be.