Going into this series, I thought the “power arms” of Detroit would defeat my beloved Cardinals in the World Series. Instead the Tiger’s Achilles heel has been defense, particularly the defense of its pitchers. Pitching and defense go together. Good defense helps make pitching better. Bad defense can make good pitching look bad.
Both Rodney and Zumaya have better stuff and experience than Wainright and the Cardinal relievers, but botched plays have cost Detroit. Rodney’s stuff is awesome with high heat and a changeup that has a lot of movement, delivered with the same motion. Zumaya has even better stuff, routinely dialing up triple digits with movement on the fastball. He does tend to be wild, but he is almost unhittable.
After Granderson turned a routine fly ball into a double by falling down, Rodney hurried a throw to first, airmailing it over Polanco to allow the tying run to score. That gift run really turned the tables, allowing the Cards to play tied or with the lead down the stretch. Zumaya’s error in game 2 opened the floodgates and his 4 pitch walk to Molina started the Cards game winning rally in game 4.
Detroit pitchers have had 2 other costly errors that led to Cardinal runs.
Craig Monroe probably should have caught Eckstein’s double in the 8th inning of game 4 which drove in the winning run. A poor jump and a bad angle robbed him of one or two steps that would have made all the difference.
Neither team has hit well this series, so the Detroit bats aren’t to blame for the 3-1 hole they have dug. They need only check their gloves. Without the 4 errors by Detroit pitchers and the two outfield gaffes last night, the story of this World Series would be the Detroit power arms and how they have shut down the Cardinal lineup to forge a 3-1 Detroit series lead despite their anemic bats.
In the NFL, they say defense wins championships. In MLB, good pitching beats good hitting. However bad defense can make good pitching go bad.
Before I get too excited, the Cardinals led the Tigers three games to one in 1968 before losing that series. It would be nice to finish this in St. Louis tonight. If it does go to game 6, the focus will not be on the Cardinals. It will be on Kenny Rogers and allegations that he doctored the baseball either with pine tar or by scuffing the ball. If it would get to a game 7 in Detroit, that would be trouble for the birds.
One other aside, Tim McCarver has been on target several times with observations that may seem trifling to the casual fan, but had a major impact on the game. Here are just a few:
1) Pudge’s aggressive base running to tag up on first and force the Cards to walk the 8 hole hitter, allowing the Tigers to have the top of the order the following inning.
2) Pujols heading for third, forcing the cut of the play at the plate to assure the winning run would score. There may have been a play at the plate, but with the sure out / sure lead run tradeoff, I would take the sure lead run.
3) His observations on catchers being crossed up are 100% accurate. Old catchers remember those things.
4) Commenting on Monroe’s poor jump and worse angle taken on Eckstein’s 8th inning double
5) The parallel analogy of gold glover Curt Flood’s misplay in the 1968 series where McCarver was the catcher and Granderson’s nosedive.