Sitting on third base in the sixth inning when Jhonny Peralta sent a ground ball to Dustin Pedroia at second, Prince Fielder tried to use his baseball senses.
Fielder knew Victor Martinez was at first and saw him get hung up when Pedroia came up with the ball.
With Peralta racing down the first base line, Fielder’s instincts told him to do what he could to keep one out from turning into two.
He ended up making the situation messier than he intended.
Pedroia managed to tag Martinez, even with Martinez dancing out of the base path, then he zeroed in on Fielder, dangling between third and home.
“I was trying to keep us out of the double play and once I saw Pedroia tag him, I kind of got stuck there,” Fielder said following Game 6 Saturday.
Pedroia fired the ball to catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and Fielder — too far from third to retreat quickly and too far from home to make a run for it — took a deep breath.
He hopped up and down, like a fighter in his corner, trying to bait Saltalamacchia into making a bad decision.
All Saltalamacchia did was run straight at Fielder.
Fielder tried to turn and dive for the bag at third, but ended up belly-flopping into the dirt, on an island by himself.
Feet from the bag, Saltalamacchia landed on top of him.
“It was a double play anyway,” Fielder said.
After a 5-2 loss that ended the Tigers’ season and sent the Red Sox to their first World Series since 2007, the play was weirdly symbolic of a painfully futile series for Fielder.
“Basically, that’s a play where you [assume Pedroia will] just go and make the throw to the plate,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “But once again, collectively we just didn’t do good enough.”
Fielder finished the American League Championship Series 4 for 22, adding another chapter to his postseason struggles since joining the Tigers in 2012.
“It was frustrating just because we lost,” Fielder said. “If we would’ve won, it would’ve been all right. But we lost, so it’s definitely frustrating.”
More disappointing than anything was suffering through a postseason power outage after hitting 25 homers in the regular season.
His only extra-base hit of the series was a double in Game 2. He went 0 for 3 in the finale.
Asked if it was the Sox pitching, the shift they used against him, or his own bat going cold, Fielder said, “You pick one.”
But he admitted that things change for him in the playoffs. He is 18 for 92 (.196) in five playoff series for the Tigers, with one home run.
“It’s definitely different,” he said. “They’re not going to just let you beat them. So you’ve just got to go up there and do the best you can.”
His lack of production drew boos from his hometown crowd at Comerica Park in Game 5, but Fielder brushed it off.
He said he would do the same in the offseason.
“You’ve got to be a man about it,” Fielder said. “I’ve got kids. If I’m sitting around pouting, how am I going to tell them to keep their chins up or keep their heads up when something doesn’t go their way. So yeah, definitely, it’s over.”
If he had his way, Leyland would have preferred to see the Miguel Cabrera that won the Triple Crown in 2012 on the field this postseason.
Not just because the Tigers returned to Boston needing wins in the final two games to advance.
But because the version of Cabrera that was limited to just one extra-base hit all series, labored both in the field and on the base paths because of injuries to his hip, groin, and abdominal, wasn’t the real one.
“It breaks your heart as a manager,” said Leyland before Game 6.
“It’s really a shame, to be honest with you, for the whole baseball world because they’re not getting a chance to see him at his best. This time of year, people are turning on the TV, they love to see these guys.
“Obviously I think he’s the best player in the league. To not be able to see him at his best because of a physical ailment, it hurts a little bit, but that’s just the way it is, and you live with it.”
Cabrera drove in four of Detroit’s 18 runs and finished with a .273 average and one homer.
“There is definitely a difference,” Red Sox catcher Jarron Jarrod Saltalamacchia said Friday.
“You can see it in the way he plays and the way he drives the ball. He’s a guy who can drive it out anywhere in the ballpark, so when you see him flying out to the warning track in right or not getting to that fastball, you know there’s something there.”
Even with the injuries nagging him, Cabrera sat out just 14 regular-season games, the most since his first full season in 2004.Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.