10/25/12 2:51 AM ET
Tigers stick with Avila-Verlander battery
By Jason Beck, Alden Gonzalez and Paul Hagen / MLB.com
When it came time for manager Jim Leyland to fill out his lineup card for Game 1 of the World Series at AT&T Park on Wednesday night, the latter won out.
"We just felt like the combination of Avila and Verlander [has worked well]," Leyland said on Wednesday afternoon.
Avila's start against Giants lefty Barry Zito was the one real surprise in the Tigers lineup. Though there had been some speculation that Andy Dirks would start over rookie Avisail Garcia, Leyland went for Garcia's right-handed bat against Zito, who allowed a .281 batting average and an .823 on-base plus slugging percentage to right-handed hitters in the regular season.
By contrast, Zito held left-handed hitters to a .209 average and a .559 OPS during the regular season. Thus, the 21-year-old Garcia was starting in right field on Wednesday night, about seven weeks after making his Major League debut.
Normally, both Garcia and Dirks would be starting in the corner-outfield spots against a left-hander. With no designated hitter in a National League park, though, Delmon Young had to shift into left field for his first start there since August.
"It's not a perfect world," Leyland said. "If you want to get Delmon Young's bat in the lineup, you've got to play him [in the field]. It's pretty hard to leave the MVP of the ALCS on the bench."
Both Avila and Garcia went hitless against Zito. Two of the six hits surrendered by Zito came from Austin Jackson, who hit worse against left-handers than righties during the regular season.
Most likely, Garcia will be in right field again for Thursday's Game 2 (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8:07 ET first pitch), when the Tigers will face another lefty in Madison Bumgarner. Gerald Laird, a right-handed hitter who had been behind the plate every time the Tigers faced a lefty starter this postseason, will most likely catch Game 2, though Leyland wouldn't commit to that after the 8-3 loss in Game 1.
"I'm not going to get too excited," Leyland said. "When I go back to my office when I'm through speaking with you folks, I'll take some time to think about tomorrow."
If Laird had caught Game 1 as well, that would've left Avila catching Saturday's Game 3 after 10 days of rest.
"That's one thing," Leyland said. "I think the other thing is he's had a very good rapport with Justin Verlander. He's caught him 23 times this year, as opposed to nine for Laird. Alex has caught every game in the postseason.
"I don't think that the offensive difference would sway you enough. ... I don't mean this as a criticism, because Gerald has done a great job. But if you thought you had a real offensive catcher from the right side, you'd probably do that. But I think when the numbers are what they are, I think this is a good time to slip Alex in there. So when I weighed all those factors, I thought this was a good day to play Alex."
Laird has hit right-handed pitchers better than left-handers this year.
Game 4 start allows Scherzer to build strength
SAN FRANCISCO -- Max Scherzer spent most of the summer outpitching Justin Verlander atop the Tigers rotation. Scherzer is spending the postseason as a Game 4 starter, the only Tigers starter guaranteed only one start in a best-of-seven series.
The right-hander filled the role in the best-of-five AL Division Series against Oakland and the best-of-seven AL Championship Series against the Yankees. He'll do the same against the Giants.
Scherzer has allowed one earned run and struck out 18 over 11 innings this postseason. It's the type of pitching most teams would want to get as often as possible in a seven-game series. The Tigers are concerned about the flipside, not getting it at all. With three other starters pitching as well as they have all season, it's a luxury the club can afford to take.
"Some people have asked about, 'Should he pitch in the fourth game?'" manager Jim Leyland said on Tuesday. "But because of his little bit of setbacks recently, not too recently, but with the celebration and prior to that with a little tired arm, we decided this was the best way to go."
It all goes back to the right shoulder. No matter what the results for Scherzer, and they've been increasingly positive since his return at the end of the regular season, the Tigers aren't going to take a chance.
On one hand, team officials downplay the injury. When right shoulder soreness scratched Scherzer from one start after two innings and erased his assignment from another with a week to go in the regular season, he was diagnosed with deltoid soreness, not tendinitis.
"I know everybody keeps talking about that [as a shoulder injury], but it was definitely muscular," team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said last week. "They identified it quickly, so it was really more a matter of making sure he got it where it was rested again.
"Like [doctors] said, it's just like a person that's tired. But I was concerned, as far as getting it up and going again."
Even so, shoulder fatigue is enough for the Tigers to use caution. It's not the injury itself, but the chance that trying to push too hard to pitch through it could lead to something else.
Berry will be ready when name is called
SAN FRANCISCO -- For a while now, long before manager Jim Leyland revealed his lineup for Game 1 of the World Series, Tigers left fielder Quintin Berry has figured he wouldn't start either of the first two games in San Francisco. Not with the way Delmon Young swung the bat in the American League Championship Series, and not with Giants skipper Bruce Bochy starting back-to-back lefties, Barry Zito and Madison Bumgarner.
"Delmon's got to play," Berry said. "It's kind of like, I know my situation weeks coming in, so I had no expectations of [starting]."
But Berry also figures that somehow he'll be called upon to make a difference late, quite possibly with the game on the line.
"Definitely, so I try to keep my mind ready," Berry said moments before Wednesday's 8:07 p.m. ET first pitch. "I played in the NL in the Minor Leagues for five years, so I kind of have an idea how it goes. And our manager, he uses our AL roster even more than most NL managers. I know we're definitely going to be used. You never know when, but you have to stay ready."
With Young starting in left field in Game 1 -- and likely Game 2 as well -- Berry will be used as a pinch-hitter, pinch-runner or late-game defensive replacement. Sitting against a left-handed starter is nothing new for the lefty-hitting Berry, but pinch-hitting sure is.
Berry pinch-hit for reliever Al Alburquerque in the seventh inning, grounding out against Tim Lincecum.
Berry barely pinch-hit as he bounced through different organizations in the Minor Leagues, and this year, his first year in the Majors, the 27-year-old got just nine plate appearances as a pinch-hitter, with one single, two walks and two strikeouts.
"I'm still really new to it," Berry said, "but I think I'm starting to understand it and learn it a little better."
Andy Dirks, another left-handed hitter, was Leyland's first option to pinch-hit against a right-hander with Avisail Garcia starting in right field. Dirks grounded out in the ninth inning against George Kontos.
Dirks had only 10 career pinch-hit appearances, albeit with three hits, one homer and four RBIs. Berry figured he would be called upon, too, so he recently picked the brain of veteran backup catcher Gerald Laird.
"Don't try to get a hit," Berry said. "Just do something productive. Move a guy over, sac fly, bunt -- just stay short and try to do something to help the team."
Leyland well aware of AT&T Park's quirks
SAN FRANCISCO -- It doesn't happen very often. But the nooks and crannies of the right-field wall at AT&T Park came into play during the 2007 All-Star Game when Ichiro Suzuki -- then of the Seattle Mariners -- lined a ball off the façade in the top of the fifth inning.
National League right fielder Ken Griffey Jr. expected the ball to bounce to his left. Instead, it caromed right and Ichiro ended up with an inside-the-park home run.
The American League manager that night was Tigers skipper Jim Leyland. The play made enough of an impression for Leyland to mention it to his outfielders before Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.
"The only thing that's dangerous about this field is where right field goes over and then that thing rounds and there's a crease there where Ichiro hit that home run in the All-Star Game," Leyland said. "I happened to be managing that game, so I talked to the guys yesterday about it to make sure that they took some balls off the wall to see what happens.
"You never know for sure how that ball's going to ricochet, so I told [center fielder Austin] Jackson, 'You've got to be careful you don't get caught over there watching. That ball could come over your way real quick, or it could go down into the stands.'"
Tigers prefer deep bench to bullpen in Classic
SAN FRANCISCO -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland said as early as Saturday that the club was planning on having the same roster for the World Series as it had for the previous two rounds of the postseason. He admitted, however, that there was some thought to carrying one more pitcher for an eight-man bullpen.
"The only question we were talking about was whether we would go to 12 pitchers or not," Leyland said.
The thinking went that with pinch-hitting situations potentially keeping relievers from throwing multiple innings, the Tigers could get some use out of the depth, especially in an extra-innings game.
In the end, though, Detroit opted to keep the versatility on its bench -- not just for pinch-hitting, but for defensive replacements and pinch-running.
Those factors all play into the challenge of managing an American League team in a National League park under NL rules.
"A lot of people have always talked about, 'It's much more difficult to manage in the National League,'" Leyland said. "I don't agree with that totally, because I think in the American League, you have to decide exactly when your pitcher is done. A lot of times in the National League, your decision is made for you because if you get behind in a game, you've got to pinch-hit."
Horton marvels at Tigers' path to World Series
SAN FRANCISCO -- Willie Horton hasn't been seen around Comerica Park much this season compared to past years. He wasn't going to miss the World Series.
"There's nothing like a World Series," Horton said on Monday in the Tigers dugout while Detroit took batting practice before Game 1, saying hello to everyone who passed by with well wishes.
As a hero of the 1968 World Series, Horton should know.
"The World Series today, I don't even have a word to express my feelings about it," Horton said. "It's something that's yours and nobody can take from you. Think about all the great Hall of Famers who never had the opportunity to play in the World Series. That's what makes you feel so grateful.
"It's tough now. Back when we played, you'd play and you'd win, and then you'd go and play [the World Series]. But now you've got the playoff divisions you have to go through. It's tough to get there. So, when you get there now, you have to appreciate it. It's a hard road.
Horton, who turned 70 last week, spent much of the season dealing with health issues, including a bout with pneumonia shortly after Spring Training. He's feeling progressively better now.
It's been pointed out that if Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera and Giants catcher Buster Posey win the American and National League Most Valuable Player Awards, respectively -- the results of the voting by 10-year members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America won't be announced until December -- this will be the first time the MVPs of their respective leagues have met in the World Series since 1988. But how about this? Cabrera and Posey both won batting titles this season, which makes it the first time batting average leaders have faced off since 1954: Willie Mays (.345) for the New York Giants and Bobby Avila (.341) for the Indians.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.