BOSTON -- Cather Alex Avila is in the Tigers’ lineup, batting sixth. Manager Jim Leyland had said on Friday he would wait until Saturday to see how Avila -- who took a bone-crunching hit from David Ross in Game 5 -- felt before announcing his lineup.
“I have talked to him,” Leyland said Saturday afternoon. “I got on the plane with him yesterday. I just left him in the trainer's room 10 minutes ago. He's ready to go. He feels pretty good.
"[The] main thing from a manager's standpoint, the one thing you don't want to happen when you're dealing with an injury -- and I think Alex is fine now -- is start the game and take him out in the second or third inning. That's one thing I try to guard against as a manager. If you can't go, that's fine. But if you can go, you want to be [in the lineup] for the entire game, if possible.”
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The Tigers find themselves in a must-win situation going into Game 6 of the ALCS against the Red Sox at Fenway Park Saturday night, down 3 games to 2. Right-hander Max Scherzer has the responsibility of holding the Sox offense in check, if there is to be a Game 7.
Leyland said Scherzer is ready to go.
“He’s pretty much the same all the time,” Leyland said. “Most pitchers are very regimented. They all have something they do prior to getting ready. Max will be ready tonight. Determination and ready to go. We’ll see how it works out.”
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Leyland said he didn't feel the need to deliver any special message to his team before the game.
“No, I don’t really do that so much,” he said. “I might say something to the players individually, but I don’t really have a meeting or anything. We’re a long way into the season now. They know that’s at stake here, and they know if we want to move on, we’ve got to win tonight.
“There’s no special speeches or anything, and just enjoy it and leave it on the field and see what happens.”
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Nor does Leyland change his own routine for these kinds of potential elimination games.
"No, I don’t do anything different,” he said. “We just had an elimination game last week with Oakland. If we didn’t win, we were eliminated. So, we’ve got three Game 5’s in the LDS, the last three times we were there. We were fortunate enough to win then.
“There’s no secret to this. You’ve got your team. They’ve got their team. You’re going to play a game. You don’t want to downplay it. Obviously it’s a huge game. But it’s another baseball game with lots of significance.”
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Prince Fielder is in the lineup, batting third. For most of the postseason he has struggled. He is hitting just .211, going 4-for-19 in the ALCS. But, that’s better than his career postseason average of .199 (28-for-141).
“People say work your way out of it,” Leyland said. “It’s almost like saying this is April or May. We don't have much time right now. Time is not on anybody's side right now that is struggling.
"But Prince Fielder is not the only guy in the National League playoffs or the American League playoffs that's struggled. We've got a lot of guys struggling. The Dodger-Cardinal game, [the batting averages] weren't that impressive. There are a lot of batting averages that aren't real good right now . . .
"Who knows, [players] can [break slumps] anytime, and that's what I continue to say about Prince. Anytime he's in the batter's box, I feel like something big can happen at any time. So far it hasn't happened.”
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Miguel Cabrera has been hobbled by injuries, but is in the lineup for Game 5, batting second.
“He obviously has been playing this entire season -- or series, excuse me, and quite a while now really in quite a bit of discomfort,” Leyland said. “It's a shame because it has handicapped him in some ways, obviously. You just don't feel good and you're hurting. It's tough.
“But my hat goes off to him to what he's going through and going out there for us and he knows we need him in there and he's really risen to the occasion in every way possible, in my opinion. He can't do some of the things that he normally can do. I think that's realistic. We're not trying to hide anything. I think that's pretty obvious to the naked eye when you watch him. You know he can't do exactly what he can do under most circumstances. But he's out there. We're glad he's out there."
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Leyland said Game 4 starter Doug Fister could be available out of the bullpen for Game 5, but “probably won’t go that way.
“Probably more available tomorrow night if we are able to extend it tonight. I don't know really how this is going to play out. If we need long reliefs tonight, we're in trouble. I mean, unless it was just Max had to go out because something wasn't feeling good or something. If we need long relief tonight we're probably in trouble, because we've got a Cy Young candidate pitching for us, a guy that's great all year for us, and if you have to take him out in the third or fourth inning, we're probably in a little bit of trouble.”
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Tigers starting pitchers have recorded quality starts in nine of 10 postseason games so far, with a combined 2.20 ERA, giving up 16 earned runs in 65 1/3 innings and 86 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .194 average (47-for-242).
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Victor Martinez has 16 hits this postseason, tied with Sean Case and Placido Polanco (both in 2006) for most postseason hits in team history.
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Jhonny Peralta has hit safely in seven of his nine postseason games. He is batting .367, going 11-for-30, with four doubles, a home run, and six RBI.