After every Tigers playoff game, Greg Eno will ask (and answer) Burning Questions.
First off, was this game closer than the score indicated?
I suppose. But the Orioles still scored 12 runs, and they still did expose the Tigers bullpen. No one could get a much-needed out in order to keep the game manageable. The defense was shaky. There's little consolation that none of the bad stuff happened until the eighth inning. It still happened.
Thoughts on Max Scherzer's performance?
Pitched well enough to give the Tigers a chance to win, that old adage. Despite a rough first two innings, he kept his pitch count low enough to carry him into the eighth inning. Settled into a groove after the third inning and minimized the damage.
Any issues with Brad Ausmus lifting him in the eighth?
Despite the foibles of the Tigers bullpen, no. It seemed to be the right time to get Max. The double that was hit by Alejandro De Aza wasn't a bloop that fell between the second baseman and the right fielder. And don't forget Steve Pearce's near homer in the sixth that got turned into a single and a putout at second base. That ball was hit well, too.
So what about that bullpen, eh?
Let's hope it was a case of everyone melting down at once. Maybe they got it out of their system. But the bottom line is, after that nightmare eighth inning, it's hard to feel warm and fuzzy going forward.
How key was Andrew Romine's error in that nightmare eighth?
Well, it didn't help. But there was plenty of opportunity to get out of the inning before it turned into a landslide of hits and runs. The play wasn't as easy as it looked. Even if Romine fielded it cleanly, it would have taken a helluva stop and throw to nail the runner.
What does Nelson Cruz have against the Tigers?
Tigers fans were just getting over what Cruz did to them in the 2011 ALCS, too. But Cruz did hit 40 homers this year so it's not like he saves them all for the Tigers. It just seems like it. But sometimes a guy just has a team's number. In Cruz's case, he owns the Tigers in the playoffs so much, he considers himself Mike Ilitch's partner.
Good bounce back by the Tigers in the second inning, though ... right?
Sure. Back-to-back jacks by the Martinezes silenced the crowd and served notice that the Tigers can go yard, too. Not to mention that J.D.'s blast came in his first-ever playoff at-bat.
But then Max gave up the go-ahead run in the bottom of the inning.
Hey, that wasn't a question! But I get it. You'd like to think that once you got the game tied in such quick-strike fashion, Max would shut it down for a while. That run, which made the score 3-2 Baltimore, was huge because of its timing.
What did you think of the Tigers' batters approach against starter Chris Tillman?
I liked it. They battled him, fouled off a lot of pitches, and drove the pitch count up. They managed to load the bases in the fifth inning with two out and nobody on. But sadly, the Tigers couldn't put more than two runs on the board against him. Tillman got the win, which wasn't the prettiest victory in the world, but he'll take it. Not too often does a starter throw over 100 pitches in five innings and still get the W.
Was the double play that Torii Hunter lined into in the eighth inning the key play of the game?
I assume you're asking because Miguel Cabrera followed with a solo homer. I was actually encouraged to see Miggy hit one out, as I remember all too well how Cabrera turned into a singles hitter in last year's playoffs due to injury. As far as the DP goes, that stuff happens. I'm not going to lose sleep over that one. If the DP was a result of bad base running, then that's another story. It was just bad luck.
Should Rajai Davis be on the playoff roster?
Now THAT'S a burning question! The way Rajai looked out there, it's hard to believe that he was given medical clearance to play. Who are the doctors? Howard, Fine and Howard? As much as you'd like to have Davis' speed in the lineup, what good is he if he can barely run out a ground ball? The Tigers would have been better off to leave Davis off and put Tyler Collins on the bench. Yes, that would mean Don Kelly or Ezequiel Carrera would start in center field, but either would be better than a crippled Davis.
Can Davis be replaced if he is deemed to be too hurt to continue in this series?
Yes. Here's the rule: A player on a post-season Active List (25-man roster) who is injured or leaves his club on Bereavement Leave or Paternity Leave during a post-season series can (with the approval of the MLB Commissioner) be replaced on his club's Active List prior to the conclusion of that series by another eligible player, or by a player who was on a Reserve List or Inactive List of a minor league affiliate from that organization prior to midnight August 31st.
So Game 1 didn't change your prediction, did it?
Yes it did. Instead of Orioles in five, I am switching it to Orioles in four. But in all seriousness, Game 1 is exactly why I don't trust the Tigers and why I picked the O's to begin with.
You wrote last week that Justin Verlander was still a money pitcher. Does he save the Tigers bacon (again) in Game 2?
I still like the Orioles in this series, but yes, I think JV will lead the Tigers to victory and square the series. To say anything less would be to contradict myself, no?
Any final thoughts on Game 1?
It's in the books. Turn the page. Be thankful that runs don't carry over.