Game Two of the World Series was a much better affair then Game One. It was a pitchers’ duel, scoreless through the first six and a half innings and there were only seven hits throughout. An absolutely excellent game on the face of it and the sort of thing one really expects in the Fall Classic. But looking closer, it was marred by blunders, especially from the Detroit Tigers. The Tigers had two blunders in particular that perhaps cost them the game.
The first came in the second inning and part of it has been much discussed already: Tigers third base coach Gene Lamont sending Prince Fielder to the plate on a double by Delmon Young. The question that is usually asked is whether Lamont was justified in sending Fielder, who was subsequently thrown out. This is a fair question and Lamont has certainly shown himself to be overly aggressive in the past. Despite that, it was not a major blunder and Fielder in fact ought to have scored. There was a blunder on the play though and it kept the Tigers off the scoreboard.
It took a pair of good throws to get Fielder on a play that went 7-4-2, but neither throw was perfect. As can be inferred from the ‘four’, Gregor Blanco overthrew the first cutoff man and Marco Scutaro ended up with the ball instead. Scutaro’s relay was then on the first base side of home plate and Buster Posey (who, given his history, was of course never going to block the plate anyway) had to give Fielder a lot of room on the outside of the plate. But Fielder did not take this room and instead slid directly over the centre of the plate and Posey barely managed to apply a swipe-tag first. If Fielder had moved half a metre to the outside of the plate then it is very unlikely that Posey would have managed to reach him and the Tigers would have taken a 1-0 lead.
The blame for this might not entirely go to Fielder, though certainly part of it does. The on-deck hitter, Jhonny Peralta should have been clearly indicating to Fielder where to slide and the immediate replays did not show whether he was or not. There was a suggestion later, however, that he didn’t. But even if that’s the case, the play was largely in front of Fielder and he should have seen where Posey was set up to take the throw. Certainly he and very possibly Peralta ought to have done better and the Tigers ought to have scored. An argument can still be made that Lamont ought to have held Fielder in the first place (and given the overall situation I actually would agree with that argument), but it isn’t his fault that Fielder was out.
The next blunder came in the eighth inning when the Tigers’ bullpen let the San Francisco Giants add an insurance run. ‘Let’ may not actually be the right word, in fact they all but handed it to them. I touched before the series on the frailties of the Tigers’ bullpen in the first two rounds of the playoffs and they were very costly tonight. They actually allowed both Giants runs to score (though the first was charged to the starter Doug Fister, who took a tough loss) and in so doing walked four batters in just two innings. Three of those came in that eighth inning as the Giants scored without the benefit of a hit.
But even with the three walks the Tigers might have been able to get out of the inning had Octavio Dotel been more effective. This is much more speculative, of course, but what is certain is that with the bases loaded and one out Dotel jumped ahead of Huner Pence 0-2. The next two pitches where excellent and Pence did well to foul them off and the fifth pitch of the at-bat was a worse one, though Dotel got away with it. But on the sixth pitch, still ahead in the count 0-2 and with no earthly reason to throw a pitch anywhere that Pence could hit it solidly Dotel threw a pitch that may have even been called strike three had Pence not swung. (Though that too is speculative and the umpire did have a slightly small zone, but either way it was certainly much too close to the palte.) Pence ‘only’ hit a sacrifice fly to right to make the score 2-0 Giants, but under the circumstances it was a terrible pitch in a very poor outing overall.
Neither of those two mistakes directly cost the Tigers the game; each was only worth one run and there is no telling how the game might otherwise have gone. But cheaply giving away two runs is not how to win a World Series and in a two run game it looks particularly bad.