"Usually, if you look at the stats, whoever scores first usually has a good shot at winning," Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder said after the Giants blanked Detroit, 2-0, in Game 3 on Saturday night at Comerica Park. "So that would be good if we could jump out to a lead right quick. But that will have to wait until [Sunday night]."
A few hours earlier, in the bottom of the first inning, Fielder had a chance to do something about that. He was at the plate with runners on first and second and one out. The sellout crowd was in an uproar. Two balls and one strike, a hitter's count. He was looking for a fastball from Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong.
Instead, he got an 85-mph changeup and grounded it to second baseman Marco Scutaro, who started the inning-ending double play.
"[Vogelsong] just made a good pitch, good enough to where I couldn't get it on the barrel," Fielder said.
Fielder ended up going hitless in four at-bats, striking out twice. He's batting .100 for the World Series, with just one single. It happens, even to the best hitters. Three games during the regular season barely registers on baseball's Richter scale. But this isn't the regular season, and Fielder is the Tigers' cleanup hitter, and San Francisco needs just one more win to end Detroit's season. So even though he's hardly the only Tigers hitter who's scuffling, the team just as clearly needs him to get hot.
Nobody in the Tigers' clubhouse is going to paint a bull's eye on his back, of course.
"He's one of our bigger hitters, and we know how deadly our lineup is when he's at his best," said outfielder Quintin Berry. "At the same time, we've got other guys who can swing the bat and get the job done. So we've all got to pick each other up. We're not all going to be on fire at the same time, especially at this point of the season. This is when the best pitchers are on the mound and the best teams are playing. So it's not easy to go up and get hits all the time and hit home runs, so we've all got to do it."
Added manager Jim Leyland: "The Tigers talk about team, they don't talk about individuals. Obviously, a lot of people struggle when you only get five hits and don't score any runs. We don't point fingers at anybody in particular. We say that as a team, we didn't get it done. That's the way we work here. That's the way we've operated since I've been here and that's the way we'll always operate."
"We know what a good hitter he is," said second baseman Omar Infante. "But sometimes you feel good and sometimes you feel bad [at the plate]. The whole team, we have to work and keep fighting."
Fielder was philosophical afterward.
|Series||Miguel Cabrera||Prince Fielder|
|ALDS||5-for-20, two 2B's, 1 RBI||4-for-21, 1 HR, 2 RBIs|
|ALCS||5-for-16, 1 HR, 4 RBIs||4-for-17, 1 RBI|
|WS||2-for-9, 1 RBI||1-for-10, 0 RBI|
"All we can do is play hard," he said. "Unfortunately, we don't direct the script. The pitchers aren't doing anything differently. They're just good. And it happens. They're not throwing too many mistakes. At times, [we're hitting the ball at people]. At times, they're making good pitches. We're playing the same game. We're just not winning.
"I think it's the same thing as the regular season. It's just the World Series. People [slump] in the regular season, and it's not a big deal. In the World Series, obviously, it's focused on a little bit more. It is what it is."
Fielder was sixth in the American League with 85 walks this season. He doesn't have a single base on balls in the first three games. But he's seen three or fewer pitches in nine of his 11 plate appearances against the Giants in this series. And at times, he seems caught in between. In the sixth inning Saturday night, he swung at the first pitch and flied out. His next time up, he took two pitches for strikes and then struck out swinging.
"I'm just trying to get a good pitch to hit," Fielder said. "I'm not trying to let them groove it by me. Unfortunately, I'm just not getting it on the barrel."
He also denied, in order, that he was too amped up or that he was getting frustrated or that the long layoff between sweeping the Yankees in the AL Championship Series and starting the World Series threw his timing off.
To the first query: "Of course you're going to be amped up," Fielder said. "Someone's lying if they tell you they're not excited for the postseason. It's just not happening right now."
To the second: "We're definitely not giddy about it," he said. "But it is what it is. It's about the next at-bat. It's not about the past. It's about the at-bat you're in right now. I'm just trying to get a pitch to hit."
To the third: "I don't make excuses," he said. "We're just not getting it done."
Center fielder Austin Jackson credited the Giants' pitchers.
"They're making good pitches to him," Jackson said. "It's tough. It's not easy. They're not really making too many mistakes. We had them in a jam there, but [Vogelsong] happened to get out of it."
And that, bottom line, was Fielder's explanation as well.
"You've got to tip your cap," he said. "They're in the World Series, too. They're obviously making good pitches when they have to, keeping us off balance. It's baseball, playoff baseball. The pitchers are hitting their spots. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to square anything up."
Fielder said he didn't think after hitting into that first-inning double play that it was going to be another one of those nights for the Tigers.
It turned out, though, that it was. Which means they have to wait another night to see if scoring first will make a difference for them.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.