The first two games of the 2014 postseason appeared to be a script out of Brad Ausmus’ worst nightmare.
After dropping Game 1 on Thursday night, the Tigers found themselves with a 5-3 lead going into the sixth inning. Anibal Sanchez, normally a starting pitcher, came out of the bullpen for the Detroit Tigers.
After the bullpen gave up five earned runs in two-thirds of an inning in Game 1, Sanchez was able to keep the potent Orioles offense off the board. Sanchez was dominant and did not give up a hit in the sixth or seventh, inching Detroit towards tying the series at one.
In the top of the eighth, with no outs, after back-to-back singles by Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez ripped a double to deep centerfield scoring Hunter from second easily. Dave Clark, the Tigers’ third base coach lumbered down the line to see the play and chose to send Cabrera, but Orioles second baseman Jonathan Schoop received the relay and hosed Cabrera at the plate by ten feet.
That was the momentum swing.
Detroit failed to score anymore in the inning, and instead of sending Sanchez back out to the mound, Ausmus chose to lean on right hander Joba Chamberlain, who failed to record an out the previous night.
The setup man who resembles a grizzly bear did not fare much better in his second go round. Chamberlain threw just one-third of an inning and gave up two hits before being pulled and exiting Baltimore with a personal ERA of 108.00.
Ausmus called on Joakim Soria, who was no better. After walking the first batter, former Tigers playoff hero Delmon Young strolled to the plate with the bases juiced. Young laced the first pitch offering from Soria to the left field wall. J.D Martinez, who became the first Tiger in history to hit a home run in each of his first two postseason games with the team, bobbled the ball momentarily, which allowed enough time for J.J Hardy to fly around the bases from first base and slide ahead of the tag.
The damage was done. The bottom of the Tigers order went 1-2-3 in the ninth and the 48,000+ Orioles fans crammed into Camden Yards exploded. Baltimore realizes they are just one win away from their first ALCS appearance in 17 years.
As for Detroit, it will be the longest flight home imaginable. The managers and coaches can say what they want. They can tell the media they will bounce back. They can say that it is just another loss.
But the truth is it was not. It was not just another loss. This is arguably the toughest loss in this era of the Detroit Tigers. With so many expectations, and so much hype surrounding the team, the outlook is bleak in the Motor City.
Detroit is going to need to make history if they are to fulfill their New York Yankee mentality of World Series or bust that has been going on for the past four seasons.
Only five times in the history of the Division Series round has a team come back from down two games to none to win.
Who was the last team to do so?
The San Francisco Giants against the Cincinnati Reds in 2012. Their fate? Beating your very own Detroit Tigers in the World Series. So what does that mean for this year’s AL Central Division Champs.
Depends on one’s ability to separate their head from their heart.
David Price, the 2012 Cy Young award winner, is starting Game 3 in Detroit. He is followed by Rick Porcello, coming off of the best season of his career. They both pitch eight innings, Detroit’s offense explodes and the Tigers go back to Baltimore with an ALCS appearance on the line.
Price is unable to make it more than six innings. Detroit has to rely on their bullpen, again. Which blows it. Again.
Tigers fans get on your rally caps, blindfolds and lucky drawers. You are going to need it.
Tony Garcia is the host of Tiger Talk for Impact Sports.