Please, not 2006 again


There’s losing a big game, then there’s this — when everything a team has worked for seems to fall apart like a flimsy, made-up alibi in a courtroom.

The club’s ace gives up a pair of homers to the same guy, who then hits his third home run of the night off the bullpen.

The ALCS MVP bounces into a double play before he even starts running to first base.

The opposing pitcher, who should be hit hard, looks more like your go-to guy, who just happens to be the reigning MVP and Cy Young winner.

Were the Tigers rusty in Game 1 of the World Series after a five-day layoff? Like the Tin Man following the snowstorm in the poppy patch — and then some.

“We got beat up tonight,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said in his postgame news conference. “They beat us in every way.”

It’s only one game. There’s plenty of time to turn this around after the Giants’ 8-3 victory in San Francisco on Wednesday night.

But, man, this looked eerily similar to how the 2006 World Series went. And nobody in this town wants to lose ugly like that again.

Justin Verlander, fantastic in two starts against the A’s in the ALDS and again in one ALCS start vs. the Yankees, was rocked for five earned runs in just four innings. The big blows came on a pair of home runs by Pablo Sandoval, a solo shot in the first and a two-run homer in the third. Sandoval also homered off Al Alburquerque in the fifth.

Even Barry Zito got to Verlander. The Giants starting pitcher, whom the Tigers barely touched, hit an RBI single in the fourth to make it 5-0. Verlander lasted just one more batter, getting Angel Pagan on a grounder to second to end the inning.

“I’m one that’s been around long enough to know that a lot of things happen in this game,” Leyland said. “This was a big-hyped game with Justin, probably a lot of pressure on him, but I don’t think it had anything to do with the pressure.

“His fastball command was not good. He got out of sync. He got on fast forward. He just did not pitch well tonight. It’s that simple.”

Zito, benefiting from the impatience of Tigers hitters, pitched into the sixth, giving up one run before turning over the ball to Tim Lincecum.

“He was hitting his spots,” ALCS MVP Delmon Young said of Zito. “When pitchers hit their spots, we don’t get hits. When pitchers miss their spots, that’s where we get to eat our lobster mac and cheese, on balls over the plate.

“He didn’t miss out over the plate much.”

Maybe, just maybe, Zito doesn’t last as long if Young doesn’t — what did Ernie Harwell used to say? — stand there like the house by the side of the road in the fourth inning.

After Prince Fielder led off the inning with a single, Young tapped a one-hopper that Giants catcher Buster Posey fielded directly in front of the plate. He tagged out Young, who didn’t even run, then threw down to second to complete a momentum-killing double play.

It was that kind of night for the Tigers, who also were robbed of two hits on shoe-string catches by Giants left fielder Gregor Blanco and were victimized by the third-base bag on a Pagan double that should have been a routine ground out.

“When the ball hit the bag, you just say, ‘Wow! Anything can happen right now,'” Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera said of Pagan’s fluke double.

The lopsided game did allow the Tigers to take a look at closer Jose Valverde, who probably won’t see the ball again in a Detroit uniform. He yielded two runs on four hits and recorded only one out in the seventh inning, getting Lincecum to strike out.

Valverde blew a two-run ninth-inning lead in a Game 4 loss to the A’s and surrendered four ninth-inning runs to the Yankees in Game 1, which the Tigers rallied to win in 12 innings.

“I had all my pitches tonight,” Valverde said Wednesday. “They just hit them.”

The Tigers better hope Game 2 starter Doug Fister can keep the Giants from hitting like they did in the opener or else Detroit will head home to Comerica Park this weekend in an 0-2 hole.

It would also help the Tigers’ cause if they show a little patience at the plate against the Giants’ Game 2 starter, Madison Bumgarner, who has been lackluster in these playoffs.

“We’re going to obviously watch some video (of Bumgarner) and go about it that way,” Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson said. “We’re going to try to forget about this one and come out ready to play tomorrow.”

Somebody needs to ensure there’s an oil can in the Tigers’ clubhouse, too.