In terms of Detroit Tigers history—especially after Thursday’s excruciating ALCS Game 5 loss at Comerica Park which featured, among other gaffes, Miguel Cabrera running through a bright red stop sign and the home crowd booing Prince Fielder—September and October of 2013 are shaping up to be the era of what might have been. What might have been, that is, if Miguel Cabrera were even remotely healthy.
Anthony Castrovince enumerated this nicely today over on MLB.com. Without dwelling on Cabrera’s individual production, which we all know has tanked since the calendar turned to September, Castrovince notes that the Tigers’ team run production has dipped in this same time period (which we also knew), from an MLB-best 5.10 runs per game from April–August to just 3.73 since September 1.
Cabrera was an obvious liability in Game 5. Although the box score shows a 1-for-3 night plus an RBI, that run batted in came by way of a rally-killing double-play ball in the bottom of the 7th, setting up yet another Fielder groundout to end an inning (cue the boos) and concluding the Tigers' scoring. Cabrera was also responsible for killing a rally in the first inning when he stubbornly tried to score from second on a Jhonny Peralta single, apparently thinking it wiser to use his tender torso as a battering ram on Boston catcher David Ross than to counter Newton’s (and Brookens’?) laws of motion by stopping himself at third. Add to that Cabrera’s run-producing error in the second, in a game the Tigers lost by a single run, and we have a perfect storm of ineptitude for the legitimate MVP candidate.
All of which—along with Alex Avila’s own injury status—leads me to propose the following lineup change for Saturday’s elimination game: It’s time to DH Cabrera. This means inserting the Tigers’ most productive hitter since mid-summer (including these playoffs) back behind the plate at Fenway, a place he occupied regularly in the not-too-distant past. Victor Martinez can probably handle catching better than Cabrera can handle playing third. Avila has been solid but is questionable for Saturday. Putting Jose Iglesias at third (another Fenway flashback), Peralta back at shortstop, and Andy Dirks, Don Kelly, or maybe Chet Lemon (am I right?) in left field would shore up the whole left side of the diamond and give the Tigers a fighting chance on Saturday.
I’ll leave the batting order to the experts (not you, dear reader). But in the spirit of desperate times and desperate measures, let’s take our chances with a Max Scherzer-V-Mart battery and a Miguel Cabrera whose only job is to mash baseballs over Green Monsters. This is what the Designated Hitter was invented for. This is how we force Game 7.