Impatient Tigers return after layoff
Club unable to work counts in its favor in series opener
DETROIT -- To some observers, it may have appeared as if the Tigers were a little impatient to swing the bats in Game 1 of the World Series on Saturday night -- perhaps because they hadn't played in a week.
But the Tigers said they haven't reverted to their free-swinging ways last seen in September. Despite the quick fashion, St. Louis rookie Anthony Reyes mowed them down in the Cardinals' 7-2 victory at Comerica Park.
"You can be patient when the pitcher is not throwing strikes," Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "But [Reyes] was throwing a lot of strikes. He pitched a great game."
After a shaky start, Reyes settled down and retired 17 Tigers batters in a row, the longest such streak in World Series play since Cincinnati's Jose Rijo retired 20 consecutive Oakland A's in Game 4 of the 1990 Fall Classic.
The Tigers offense that had worked Oakland's staff for 19 walks in four games managed just one free pass against Reyes, but the Tigers batters defended their decision to swing away and insisted they had no choice.
"We just missed some balls, we didn't square them up, you have to credit him for what he did," center fielder Curtis Granderson said. "When you're 0-1 a lot, it's easier to miss pitches than when you're ahead in the count. Plus, he gets a little bit of late movement on his fastball. I remember [Tigers right fielder] Magglio [Ordonez] said he got jammed on a couple of pitches he thought he should have hit."
When the Cardinals took the lead in the third inning, the Tigers tried harder to get something started offensively, and that didn't help.
"I think we got in a little funk when we got behind that we were going to hit a quick home run, and usually when you get behind in a game like that, you see popups right off the bat -- that means you're going to get a fastball and you get it, and you're maybe trying to hit one out of the ballpark, and you pop one out," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "He pitched very good. And we just didn't."
Seventeen of the 24 outs Reyes recorded came via popup or fly ball. And since the right-hander's pitches were usually in or very close to the strike zone, the Tigers hitters kept hacking.
The result was too many quick innings. Reyes had five innings of 10 or fewer pitches and four innings of seven pitches or fewer.
"He's got a pretty good changeup, sometimes you can look too much for the changeup but you've got to stay aggressive," said Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe, who hit his fourth homer of the postseason, a franchise single-season record. "He got ahead of us, that's the big thing.
"The last two series we were getting a lot of 2-0 and 2-1 counts. Today, that wasn't the case. We took some good swings and just missed them, that's the nature of the game. There's no excuses here, we're all accountable, we had some good swings and we just missed."
First baseman Carlos Guillen expressed similar sentiments.
"He had good movement on his fastball," Guillen said. "That's why it was so hard to [hit the ball squarely]. We took some good swings, we just didn't hit many balls hard."
The Tigers made it clear that Reyes' pitching, not the week off since their last game, was the reason behind their poor offensive showing.
"We couldn't really get a bead on him all night long," designated hitter Sean Casey said. "It was just one of those games, chalk it up and move on."
Not a case of rusty bats?
"Man, we don't buy into that excuse," Casey said. "It's the World Series!"
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.