Welcome to Game 5. Will the Tigers bounce back or will the Cards Party Like It’s 1982?
Keys to the Game: Obvious. The Tigers have to win and hope their pitchers don’t make errors. For the Cards, they need to win this tonight behind the same old traits that got them up 3-1: great pitching, take advantage of mistakes and have timely hitting. It’s that simple
Top 1st: Jeff Weaver sets the Tigers in order. Strikes out Curtis Granderson with a fastball, Craig Monroe with a slider. Carlos Guillen flies to left. What a transformation for Weaver going from 3-10 with Anaheim to the starting pitcher in a possible World Series clinching game
Bottom 1st: Justin Verlander does not set the Cardinals in order. In fact, he’s a little nervous and very wild. Verlander walks three batters, throws two wild pitches, wents full count on four batters in the innings. Despite loading the bases without a base hit, Verlander luckily gets out of the inning as Guillen made a nice stop of a Ronnie Belliard grounder up the middle and Casey made a nice scoop of Guillen’s throw to save two runs. Detroit fans just let out a collective sigh.
Pudge Rodriguez should get a medal for making it through the bottom of the first. Verlander threw six or seven balls in the dirt, blocking all but his two wild pitches. Pudge Rodriguez, a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
By the way, I am listening to the game and one of the reasons Kenny Rogers did not start Game 5 was because Leyland didn’t want him pitching in front of the St. Louis crowd and type of atmosphere. I thought Cardinals fans were harmless, wholesome like the Osmonds. If Verlander tanks tonight, the second guessing will only get worse. Tigers fans should hope he doesn’t throw 35 pitches per inning again.
Top 2nd: Weaver’s fastball is hitting the corners well. He got the right-handed hitting Magglio Ordonez to swing on an inside and low fastball and followed that by getting the left-handed hitting Casey called on strikes with a waist-high inside fastball. Rodriguez grounds out to end the inning. Six up, six down.
Bottom of 2nd: Yadier Molina drives a 2-2 pitch to center for a single. Taguchi tried to bunt his way on but third baseman Brandon Inge made a great bare-handed grab and throw to get Taguchi at first. Weaver follows with a groundout to short moving Molina to third. Inge makes a great stab of Eckstein’s broken-bat grounder but his throw goes past first baseman Sean Casey. Molina scores, Eckstein advances to second. The Tigers have made an error in five straight World Series games, the first time since the 79 Pirates. Verlander gets Chris Duncan on a called third strike and his second inning is a vast improvement from the first inning. 1-0, St. Louis.
Placido Polanco leads off by grounding out to third and is now 0 for 15 in the series. Brandon Inge, who had a nice night at the plate last night, continues his success at the plate with a double to left. His time on the bases is brief. Verlander grounds back to Weaver, who catches Inge in a rundown. Scott Rolen catches Inge for the second out and a huge baserunning blunder for Inge. Granderson follows with a single to center which would’ve scored Inge. Monroe ends the inning with a groundout to third. Not looking good for the Tigers so far.
After giving up a leadoff single to Pujols, Verlander gets Edmonds into a strike em out, throw em double play. Pujols went halfway toward second drawing a throw from Rodriguez. Casey tagged him out for the second out. Rolen popped up to end the inning. Verlander seems more relaxed. If the Tigers can only get a couple more good innings out of him and scored some runs.
Top 4th: Detroit has the luck goes its way finally. Ordonez lifts a routine flyball that goes off of Chris Duncan’s glove. Ordonez races to second. Next batter, Sean Casey turns on an inside pitch and drives it into the right field stands for a 2-1 Tigers lead. Credit Casey, who struck out looking on an inside fastball in the second inning, for making the adjustment between at-bats. Rodriguez flies out and Polanco ground out and is now 0 for 16. Still, the Tigers catch a break and take advantage.
Bottom 4th: Jim Leyland and his staff should address a week on showing his pitchers who are not named Kenny Rogers, the aspects of fielding and throwing the position especially on bunts and comebackers. I don’t care if its not en vogue in the AL to bunt, this is costing the Tigers big time in the series. With two on and one out, Weaver bunted back to Verlander, whose low throw to third skipped past Inge and into foul territory scoring Molina to tie the game. It is Verlander’s second error of the series. Taguchi moved to third and Weaver to second. Eckstein’s groundout scored Taguchi for a 3-2 lead. Duncan popped out to Guillen to end the inning. Fifth straight game a Tigers pitcher has committed an error. Just awful. Detroit fans must be losing their minds right now.
Top 5th: Weaver hasn’t gone past the sixth in his last nine starts. The way he’s pitching, he’s doing too well to take out just yet. Weaver struck out the first two batters, Inge and Verlander, giving him six on the night. Granderson walks but Monroe gets fooled on a change-up and pops out to Eckstein. The Tigers are running out of outs.
Bottom 5th: Verlander gets a three-up, three-down inning backed by a nice curve, one of the few that’s worked for him tonight, to get Pujols looking at a third strike. Polanco makes a nice stab and throw to retire Edmonds and Rolen send one to the wall in left but Monroe makes the catch to end the inning. Memo to Fox: Please don’t interrupt the game to do the in-game manager interview. I don’t like to see at-bats on a split screen. It’s annoying.
Top 6th: If Chris Duncan is in the field in the seventh, I’ll be shocked. For the second time tonight, Duncan turned an out into a scoring opportunity for Detroit. Duncan is quite lucky not to have his second error of the night instead awarding a double to the hot-hitting Casey. However, Weaver continues to impress as the Tigers do not take advantage of the two-out miscue. Weaver gets his 7th strikeout of the night going sidearm with a fastball to get Rodriguez looking at strike three. Nine outs left
Bottom 6th: Verlander likely pitched his last inning. Molina recorded his 3rd hit of the night in as many trips with a one-out single. La Russa is letting Weaver start the seventh as the Cardinals righty grounded out to second to end the inning.
Top 7th: No shock here, Preston Wilson enters the game in left as Taguchi goes to right. Jerry Reed had a hit with “When You’re Hot You’re Hot.” The second line of the chorus is “when you’re not, you’re not.” That describes Polanco in this series. Polanco led off the seventh with a grounder to Pujols, who was playing far off first. Pujols threw from to back to Weaver, who scooped the ball out of the dirt and touch the bag just before Polanco to get the out. Inge and pinch-hitter Alexis Gomez were retired as Weaver is still going strong after seven.
Bottom 7th: Verlander is done and Fernando Rodney comes in relief. Eckstein is making a strong case for MVP during the past couple of games. He leads off by reaching on an infield single as Guillen can’t cleanly get the ball out of his glove. Wilson walks. Rodney retired Pujols and Edmonds. Rolen, who I said had the inside track of Series MVP, delivers some insurance with an RBI single to right scoring Eckstein for a 4-2 lead.
Top 8th: Weaver is back out there against the Tigers, who are down to six outs. Make that three outs. Weaver gets his eighth and ninth strikeouts of the night to end the eighth. I think the party is about to begin in St. Louis. I hope La Russa lets Weaver start the ninth, he’s earned it.
Bottom 8th: Weaver is done but not after he tossed eight innings allowing four hits, one after Casey’s fourth-inning home run, walked one and struck out nine. Joel Zumaya comes in and retires the side in order. Three outs left for Detroit.
Top 9th: The Cards go with closer Adam Wainwright, who has a chance to put the icing on an incredible, and some would say improbable, postseason run.
Ordonez hits a liner off Wainwright’s glove that goes in front of Belliard, who throws out Ordonez by a step. Two outs to go
If the Tigers lose, Casey’s outstanding performance should still be noted. He’s 3 for 3 tonight with a two-run home run and 2 doubles, the second of which happens in the ninth. Casey is lifted for Ramon Santiago, who is stranded there when Rodriguez grounds back to the pitcher. One out away and 0 for 17 Polanco steps to the plate.
Polanco draws a well-earned but very close walks to put runners on the corners for Inge.
Wainwright makes quick work of Inge on three pitches, the last on a slider that Inge swings through to give St. Louis its first World Series title since 1982. Goodbye Denkinger, the Metrodome and the 04 Red Sox. The last time St. Louis win the WS, the Cardinals closer, Bruce Sutter, recorded the final out via strikeout too.
Postgame: So will struggling during the final month of the regular season but still making the playoffs be the new trend? 83 wins is an all-time low for world champ. La Russa’s best postseason job by far. He finally can really celebrate a WS title. Remember, the 89 A’s didn’t celebrate too much in the aftermath of the earthquake. Good for La Russa.
I know much will be made of the Tigers’ fielding misfortunes and the move to start Verlander over Rogers. Still, the Tigers offense was woeful at best. Casey was fantastic and Inge had some great spots too. The top of the order was horrible with the second lowest average of all time. St. Louis’ advance scouts definitely did a flawless job with their reports and observations in preparing the Cardinals pitching staff.
MVP goes to…..David Eckstein. I can’t argue. He was clutch in the last two games going 6 for 9 with four RBI. He had eight hits in the series and finished with a .364 average.