Though it seemed as though Tigers manager Jim Leyland pushed all the right buttons up to this point, his players must execute if they are put in positions to succeed. In Game 1 of the ALCS, one Tiger didn't get the job done on two separate occasions.
Before the game, Leyland told me that Ryan Raburn and Brandon Inge were going to be keys for the Tigers' offense. With Delmon Young out with an oblique injury, the Tigers will be hard pressed to replace his bat. Last night, Raburn did his job in the No. 2 hole by getting on base three times, but Inge failed in both of his RBI opportunities.
In the second inning, with two men on and one out, Inge was punched out on a C.J. Wilson slider. Later in the fifth, with a man on second, Inge grounded out. The Tigers' lack of depth can't sustain losing a starter like Young, and it severely hampers Leyland's mix-and-match lineup and defensive strategies. On the other hand, Texas can carry a slumping Nelson Cruz until he breaks out because of ample outfield depth, and last night it paid off with Cruz slamming a 396-foot home run in the bottom of the fourth.
Key players to watch:
• In Game 1, Rick Porcello relieved Justin Verlander in the bottom of the fifth after the rain delay and looked superb. It might have been the best I've seen him since July. His movement was terrific, getting four easy groundouts and striking out Mike Napoli with a 93 mph sinker.