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RandBall: Leyland had his share of crushing defeats

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • October 21, 2013 - 1:04 PM

Jim Leyland is one of the top managers in this era of Major League Baseball history and will be a slam dunk for the Hall of Fame.

He's had his share of highs -- 1997 World Series title with the Marlins, two AL pennants with the Tigers and three Manager of the Year awards -- but he's also felt his share of numbing losses. If you hang around baseball long enough, that's going to happen. But Leyland has endured more than many. Of note:

*1990: The Pirates made it to the NLCS and actually took a 1-0 lead over the Reds in the series. But four losses in the final five games -- three of them by one or two runs -- doomed Leyland and his squad to a six-game series loss.

*1991: Everyone remembers 1992 (more on that in a moment), but don't forget that in 1991 Leyland's Pirates led the Braves 3 games to 2 in the NLCS, with Games 6 and 7 in Pittsburgh. A cinch for the World Series, right? Well, the Braves broke a scoreless tie in the ninth inning of Game 6 (a double by Gregg Olson), then held on for a 1-0 win when Andy Van Slyke struck out with the tying run on third in the bottom half. If that gut punch wasn't enough, the Braves again blanked the Pirates in Game 7, with a Brian Hunter first-inning home run making a big difference in a 4-0 victory.

*1992: The Pirates rallied from a 3 games to 1 deficit with blowout victories in Game 5 and Game 6 against the Braves in the NLCS. They were on the verge of winning it all in Atlanta, up 2-0 going into the 9th inning. And then, of course, it all unraveled. An error on a ball hit by David Justice opened things up, and Francisco Cabrera's two-out, two-run single finished things off. Leyland probably has nightmares about Sid Bream sliding into home, which is something a man shouldn't have to endure.

*2006: The Tigers reached the World Series in 2006 despite losing the division title to the Twins on the season's final day. This was Leyland's first year in Detroit. the magic wore off against the Cardinals, however. Tied 1-1 in the series, St. Louis won the final three games -- including a pivotal Game 4 in which the Tigers held a lead in the seventh inning.

*2009: Game 163 at the Metrodome. Say no more.

*2011: Trailing the Rangers 2 games to 1 in the ALCS, the Tigers lost an extra innings game at home in Game 4. Miguel Cabrera was thrown out at home plate in the 8th inning trying to score on a sacrifice fly that would have put Detroit ahead. Texas went on to win the series in 6 games.

*2012: Looking like they were going to ride a charmed postseason to a World Series title, the Tigers and Leyland instead were swept in the Fall Classic by the Giants. They scored just six runs in the four games.

*2013: With a starting staff as dominant as we can remember, the Tigers seemed primed for a title in what proved to be Leyland's final season. But two crushing grand slams -- a momentum-changer in Game 2 and the finisher in Game 6 -- gave Boston the World Series berth instead.

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