The sight of Miguel Cabrera -- none too fast to begin with, and made even slower by a lingering groin injury that has him one step above "statue" in the mobility department -- lumbering through third-base coach Tom Brookens' stop sign may have been the first indication that Thursday wasn't going to be the Tigers' night,
Cabrera, who had walked and then advanced on Prince Fielder's single, was on second base with two outs in the bottom of the first when Jhonny Peralta singled into shallow left field. Brookens initially waved him home since there were two outs.
"What happens with two outs sometimes, you're thinking you've got to score with two outs, that's the old baseball thing," said Tiger manager Jim Leyland.
But when Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes retrieved the ball quickly, Brookens threw up his arms in a signal for Cabrera to stay at third.
Like an 18-wheel truck, however, Cabrera isn't able to stop on a dime. With a full head of steam behind him. he simply kept on going.
The ball arrived at the plate 15 feet in front of Cabrera; he was out by such a wide margin that he didn't even attempt to slide past catcher David Ross. He was tagged out, the inning was over, and the game remained scoreless.
"That's my fault," Cabrera said.
Not totally, said Leyland.
"In this particular case with Miggy, you pretty much got to hold him up right away. [Brookens] was waving, and [he] probably stopped him a little late . . . There was nothing Miggy could do. He saw him waving, then Brooky probably held him up a little bit late. But right now, it's pretty rough for [Cabrera to stop quickly]."
Would that a baserunning gaffe be the only problem for Cabrera on this night.
In the top of the second inning, after a Mike Napoli home run had put Boston in front 1-0, he made an error at third base on a grounder by Gomes that led to two more Red Sox runs.
Then -- after he'd singled home the first Detroit run with two outs in the fifth -- he was beaten by Junichi Tazawa at a key moment in the game for the second time in three nights. Trailing 4-2 in the seventh, the Tigers got singles from Jose Iglesias and Torii Hunter and had runners at first and third with nobody out. But Cabrera hit a grounder up the middle that was snared by second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who stepped on second and fired to first for a rally-killing double play. Iglesias scored to make it 4-3, but the Tigers would get no more baserunners the rest of the way.
So now Detroit trails the best-of-seven series and -- even though it has aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander scheduled to pitch -- is faced with the daunting task of sweeping two games at Fenway Park.
"I think it's like [Dodger manager Don] Mattingly" -- whose team fell behind the Cardinals, 3-1, in the NLCS -- "said the other day: We got to win one game," said Leyland. "That's obvious. We got to win one game and then take it from there. Then you got a shot to win the next one. We got to win one game."