Banged-up Tigers never gave up in ALCS
Leyland proud of Detroit's resolve despite the injuries
ARLINGTON -- There were the injuries, bad enough and ample enough to make people grimace. Had this been mid-July, not mid-October, a third of the Tigers' regular lineup might have been on the disabled list, not on the field."It was kind of stacked against us a little bit," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. There was the inability to step on the clutch. Doing most of their scoring on solo home runs, the Tigers had a total of eight hits with men in scoring position in the six games of the American League Championship Series, while remarkably failing to cash in any of the 22 walks they were issued. "We just weren't the best team," Detroit catcher Alex Avila said. "That's why we lost." And on top of all that, there was Nelson Cruz. So while the Texas Rangers were celebrating a second consecutive AL pennant after Saturday night's 15-5 victory in Game 6, Leyland could only celebrate a fantastic AL Championship Series and the guts his players had shown in it. Minutes after the game ended, while the Rangers and their fans began the shindig on the field, Leyland quietly addressed his gathered players in the visitors' clubhouse. It isn't known what Leyland said. "Some stuff we've got to leave between us," said pitcher Doug Fister. But here's a guess that his brief speech was littered with "proud," "guts" and "tough." "I managed a team that won a World Series," said Leyland, who did that with the 1997 Marlins, and he also managed the 2006 Tigers into the Fall Classic, "and I don't think I've ever been prouder of a team than I am of this one. They gave everything they had." When it was over, they did not give excuses -- or take advantage of any offered them. This was a bandaged version of the team which blew out the rest of the AL Central with 95 wins. The injuries crippled the offense. The Tigers did all right in the batter's box, but were at a disadvantage once they had to run out of it. Inopportune rain marred their pitching rotation, at least the gem of it, Justin Verlander. All you need to know is that a strained left oblique muscle got Delmon Young ruled out of the ALCS. Before the end of Game 1, Magglio Ordonez -- Detroit's leading hitter (.455) in the Division Series win over the Yankees -- was removed for a pinch-runner with a fractured ankle, and Young was ruled back in. "We didn't get cheated," Fister said of the ill-timed injuries to also Victor Martinez (intercostal muscle) and Avila (knee tendinitis). "We took it where we could, took it as far as we could." "It wasn't because of the injuries that we didn't do our best," Avila said. "What's frustrating is to get so close, and still finish far away." There is a reason Leyland, or any of his players, did not lean on the injuries as a crutch: The Rangers had them, too. Adrian Beltre limped as badly as any Detroit player upon fouling a pitch off his left knee early in Game 3; Josh Hamilton had a strained left groin. "Both teams were banged up at this time of the year," Leyland said. "I might reflect back on [our injuries] a little bit later on, but I don't think tonight is the night to do that. I think tonight is the night to give the Texas Rangers credit." "That's baseball, the way it goes," said left-hander Phil Coke. "The Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals have been banged up all year, too. They're still playing [in the National League Championship Series]." "The toughest thing is ... you go through the entire season with these guys, and it's a drag. It's hard," said Verlander. "Day in and day out, we go through it as a family. And then you have to say goodbye. To come up a bit short is tough." No consolation, but at least the Tigers weren't hit with the reality of the end of the line quickly. They had a lot of time to prepare for it since, by the end of the third inning of Game 6, it was all over but for the confetti. Like a true baseball man, Leyland called this finish an easier sendoff into winter than a one-run loss would have been. "I'm not going into the offseason disappointed at all," he said. Leyland, however, hoped the one-sided game would not detract from what had been a competitive, suspenseful series. "I'm sure some people are going to make fun of us now because of the way this game ended," he said, "so that hurts a little bit. I hope that doesn't happen. But I can understand it if it does, because it was a great series, and this was just not a great game. It was for the Rangers. It wasn't for us. "It really was a tremendous series. And with [Max] Scherzer tonight and Fister waiting in the wings, I felt absolutely great. That's why baseball is a great game. It just didn't work out." "I really wanted to take us to the top," Fister said of the personal letdown of not getting to that Game 7 assignment. "So there's a little disappointment, sure. But I'm proud of every one of these guys. We all fought hard and took it as far as we could." So the end definitely did not sully the means. These Tigers earned the admiration and gratitude of Detroit, uniting a hurting city in joy. "This last week was tough," Miguel Cabrera said. "It's tough right now. But we move forward. A lot of injuries ... but we got to move forward and get better next year." "It'll take a few days to get over it. It's disappointing, but that's the game," said Avila, who decided to expand on that theme: "That's life." "I hope this gives us extra drive next year, and we'll have a little more to finish it off," Verlander said. "We proved we are a very good club," Coke said. "The Rangers know the club across the hall was a good club. We weren't even supposed to be here, I think that needs to be said. "The Yankees and the Phillies were supposed to win. Well, neither of those teams is here, where we are even now."