Polanco trying to find his groove
ALCS MVP hitless against his former squad in Fall Classic
ST. LOUIS -- Detroit second baseman Placido Polanco doesn't believe familiarity is the reason the Cardinals are doing what the Yankees and A's could not: Keep him off the bases.
Then again, the eight years he spent in the St. Louis organization certainly gave the Cardinals ample time to learn Polanco's strengths and weaknesses, and it's obvious they've done their homework as Polanco is hitless through the first three games of the World Series.
"[It's] not just me, they're doing a good job against everybody," said Polanco, who was selected by St. Louis in the 1994 First-Year Player Draft and stayed with the Cardinals until 2002, when he was traded to Philadelphia. "It's frustrating."
The 5-0 shutout dealt the Tigers by Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter on Tuesday night was the first time Detroit was shut out in the World Series since Bob Gibson did it in Game 1 of the World Series on Oct. 4, 1968.
The lack of offense from Polanco is a contributing factor in Detroit's offensive anemia. By shutting down Polanco, the Cardinals have silenced a bat that was seldom quiet during the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Polanco, 0-for-10 in the series, has done a 180-degree turn since the American League Championship Series, when he hit .529 to win Most Valuable Player honors. He had one hit in each of Detroit's first eight postseason games and had three consecutive multi-hit games in the ALCS. In 19 ALCS at-bats, Polanco reached base 12 times.
The Cardinals, however, have had Polanco's number, as well as some of his teammates, like leadoff man Curtis Granderson (0-for-13) and catcher Ivan Rodriguez (0-for-10 in the World Series and 0-for-22 in the postseason).
The combined 0-for-34 by that trio in the Series has been a drag on the top six spots in the order.
"It's just one of those things," Granderson said. "We are struggling right now, but we can turn it around.
"We're just not swinging the bats as well as we were. They've had great pitching and great scouting, they know our weaknesses and they're coming right at them."
Polanco went 0-for-3 against Carpenter, though he was robbed of a hit in the seventh inning when St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols snared Polanco's liner to the right side.
Pujols was playing slightly more off than bag than normal and that positioning was the difference between Polanco's smash winding up an out instead of a base hit.
"Their pitchers have been doing a great job, they're throwing a lot of first-pitch strikes and staying ahead in the count," Polanco said. "We've been in slumps before, this one's just caught us at a bad time."
The Cardinals have not tried to hammer Polanco inside as often as Oakland did. The Redbirds are mixing up their pitches and locations. On Tuesday night, Polanco was retired on three different pitches. Twice he grounded out to shortstop, and the other time was the ball Pujols caught.
"You just have to go out tomorrow and try again," Polanco said.
Rodriguez has a similar philosophy concerning his hitting woes and hopes things will turn around the other way once that first hit falls in.
"I just need to be a little more selective," Rodriguez said. "Try to see some more pitches and not swing at as many first pitches. If I do that I'll be fine."
Down, 2-1, in the series, the slumps of key regulars like Polanco, who has been hitting third, might convince Detroit manager Jim Leyland to make changes for Game 4.
"I'm going to sleep on it, I'm not sure who's going to play tomorrow," Leyland said. "I don't know what it's going to look like, and I'm certainly not going to talk about that. I would obviously talk to a player before I would ever maybe play someone else or give somebody a rest or try something else. So, obviously, I wouldn't give that information out tonight, but it's a possibility."
Jim Molony is a writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.