DETROIT - The issue for the Detroit Tigers at this critical stage of their season, is depth and health and, of course, the two are intertwined.
The Tigers are getting clobbered by injuries just at a point in the season when they need all hands on deck.
Jim Leyland was clearly frazzled Tuesday afternoon. He was late for his media briefing because his medical staff had just informed him that Delmon Young, who tried to play in Game 2 despite an oblique strain, is unable to perform.
Leyland had already posted a lineup with Young’s name in the three hole and in left field but had to go back to the drawing board.
“Delmon is obviously hurting too bad to play,” said Leyland. “I don’t know my lineup. I’m going to go back and look at that again.”
This is in addition to the fact that Magglio Ordonez has re-broken an ankle that has been gimpy ever since July of 2010. Ordonez has not been a huge factor for the Tigers this year but he is a seven-year member of this club who was the best player on the team that went to the World Series in 2006.
He’s a free agent at the end of this season and is not expected to be back in Detroit. At the age of 37 and after 15 years as a big-leaguer, eight seasons in Chicago and seven in Detroit, he may even retire.
More to the point, if he was healthy, he would be in the lineup every night, even though his best days are behind him. Against the Yankees in the ALDS, he hit .455 (5-for-11).
Earlier, in August, Brennan Boesch was lost for the season after undergoing surgery to repair a thumb injury and now Leyland is scrambling to find enough healthy bodies to fill out a lineup while playing for the league championship.
It’s not all about injuries, either. Leyland’s leadoff man, Austin Jackson, is in a horrendous slump. In seven playoff games this season, he is 3-for-25 with 14 strikeouts, not exactly what you want from your leadoff man and if the manager had another option, he would happily go to it.
“He has gotten some walks. He’s been on base a few times. If he can get going, he can ignite us. Hopefully that will happen.”
Alex Avila, who was so good during the regular season that some people in Detroit and elsewhere were suggesting he might get some league MVP votes, has gone 2-for-25 (both singles) in the playoffs and driven in one run. During the regular season, he hit .295 with an OPS of .895, 19 homers and 82 RBIs, massive numbers for a guy who is also among the better defensive catchers in the game. In these playoffs, not so much.
For that matter, Miguel Cabrera, whose overall offensive numbers approached Jose Bautista territory this season, is another who has had a mediocre playoff to this point, hitting just .217 with five hits (one home run) in 23 at-bats.
For all of that offensive ineptness, the Tigers have been, on several occasions just one key base hit away from winning one or both of the first two games.
“Just look at the first two innings of both games in Texas,” said Leyland. “We have had our chances.”
Over the course of the two games, the Tigers have left 22 on base, while the Rangers have left just 11. Just looking at the first two innings of those two games, Detroit left 10 runners on base, five in each game, during the first two innings.
Both these teams won at least 50 games at home this year and that is at least a ray of hope for the Tigers, coming home for three games that will surely determine their fate. The other comforting fact for Detroit is that since the Tigers moved into Comerica Park in 2000, the Texas Rangers have the worst record of any visiting team. The Rangers are just 23-34 (.404) overall. In recent years, they have been even less successful in Detroit.
In the last 20 meetings, prior to Tuesday, between the two teams at Comerica, the Tigers had 16 wins and four losses.
But those stats were of little consolation to Leyland Tuesday afternoon as he scoured his roster to cobble together a lineup. He did not appear to be a happy man and it’s not hard to understand why when the best option was Andy Dirks.