Error-prone pitchers throw away Tigers' chances

Updated: October 28, 2006, 1:23 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Pitchers weren't the only ones who threw away Detroit's chances to win its first World Series since 1984.

With five errors in five games, they did do the most damage as St. Louis beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 on Friday to win the World Series in five games.

The Series was marked by a number of fielding errors, including the five by Detroit pitchers.

In the fourth inning, right-hander Justin Verlander cleanly fielded pitcher Jeff Weaver's bunt, pivoted and threw wide of third baseman Brandon Inge allowing St. Louis to score the tying run and later a go-ahead run.

"I couldn't really believe I did it," Verlander said. "Being an athlete on the mound is something I've prided myself on, getting myself out of jams.

"I just messed up."

Verlander's error was his second of the Series, the team's eighth and the fifth by a pitcher -- two more than a pitching staff ever has had in a World Series. In 162 regular-season games, the Tigers pitching staff combined for just 15 errors.

"In the American League you don't handle a lot of bunts and stuff," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "We knew we were going to do that this series, so we worked on it during the time frame we were off and quite frankly we didn't execute it during the World Series.

"I'm responsible and I accept that responsibility. It's my job to have my team ready."

It was the second straight night that a pitcher's throwing error helped the Cardinals win. On Thursday, Fernando Rodney fielded pinch-hitter So Taguchi's sacrifice bunt and rushed a throw that sailed over the head of Placido Polanco covering at first base.

That scored David Eckstein, who had reached on a fly ball that center fielder Curtis Granderson didn't get to because he slipped while trying to make the catch.

Rodney's wild throw sparked Leyland to look ahead to next season. Leyland said he is going to water the infield grass during spring training when pitchers practice making throws after fielding bunts.

The infield didn't appear to be wet in Game 5, but the good conditions didn't help Verlander, who also had two wild pitches in the first inning -- tying another World Series record.

But Verlander's bad throw in the fourth wasn't the first error of the game. That came in the second inning when Inge blew a throw to first base off a ball hit by Eckstein.

The Tigers struggled with fielding again in the seventh when shortstop Carlos Guillen struggled to get a ball out of his glove and was late on a throw off Eckstein's grounder. That allowed the Cardinals to build a two-run cushion on Scott Rolen's single.

"When you give four outs to the other team, they're going to get it done," Detroit catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. "That's what happened."

Detroit had a season that stunned everyone -- just three years after losing an AL-record 119 games -- but the players' fielding blunders during the Series might be what many will remember about this season.

"I just only hope that nobody forgets the job that we did, the players I'm talking about, to go from 71 wins to the World Series," Leyland said.

They likely even overshadowed the smudgegate story that swirled around Kenny Rogers after his Game 2 performance.

Before the game, Leyland said the error-prone pitchers led to the Series deficit but added quiet bats were also to blame.

Take Polanco.

The AL Championship Series MVP was 0-for-17 against one of his former teams, and his seventh-inning at-bat symbolized how nothing seemed to go right for the Tigers in St. Louis.

Polanco hit a sharp grounder that was fielded by diving first baseman Albert Pujols, who made a throw from his back that was scooped up by Weaver, a former Tiger who contributed with his arm, glove and bat. In the ninth, Polanco did draw a two-out walk putting runners at the corners, but Inge struck out to end the game and any chance of a remarkable comeback.

"Our hitting just never got going," Polanco said.


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press