BOSTON – Detroit Tigers star Miguel Cabrera certainly didn't look like he was feeling extra pressure going into Game 6 of the AL championship series against the Boston Red Sox.
About four hours before the game that the Tigers had to win Saturday night to avoid elimination, the banged-up slugger sat in the stands about 20 rows behind his dugout dressed in street clothes. Last year's Triple Crown winner was chatting with an acquaintance, looking at his cellphone and even smiling for photographs.
It was quite a surprise for a tour group that was winding its way around Fenway Park. Fans stopped to take pictures, and he even gave a thumbs-up pose for a few.
All while the third baseman is hampered by injuries.
"It kind of breaks your heart, to be honest with you, to see him out there the way he has to be out there and the way he is right now, because he's hurting," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before the game. "He can't do some of the things he normally can do. I think it's realistic. We're not trying to hide anything. I think it's pretty obvious to the naked eye when you watch him."
Cabrera has been dealing with a variety of aches and pains since the end of the regular season, most notably a groin problem.
The AL's regular season batting champion began the night hitting just .263 in the postseason with two homers and seven RBIs in 10 games. In the first five ALCS games, he hit .278 with one homer and four RBIs.
"To not be able to see him at his best because of a physical ailment, it hurts a little bit," Leyland said, "but that's just the way it is and you live with those things."
Boston manager John Farrell still has a lot of respect for Cabrera.
"Every time he steps in the box, he's got a chance to change the game," Farrell said.
TO SWITCH OR NOT TO SWITCH: Boston right fielder Shane Victorino, a switch hitter, has been batting mostly right-handed for the last two months due to a sore right hamstring. But he decided to switch back to the left side against Detroit Tigers right-handed starter Anibal Sanchez in Game 5.
Red Sox hitting coach Greg Colbrunn said the right fielder was starting to feel better and that's why he went back to switch hitting.
But after going 0 for 3 and failing to get the ball out of the infield against Sanchez in Boston's 4-3 win Thursday night, Victorino went back to the right side. He struck out swinging against right-handed relievers Jose Veras and Al Alburquerque.
"When he started doing it, he was having trouble with his hammy and his lower half wasn't firing the same," Colbrunn said on the field as the Red Sox were finishing up batting practice before Game 6 Saturday night. "It was firing better on the right side and he felt like he had no legs under him, so that was probably the main reason he wasn't hitting on the left side."
But it all may be temporary, even though Colbrunn thought he looked pretty good.
"He hasn't done it for two months. He's been hitting right-handed most of the time," Colbrunn said. "He's taken a few swings (left-handed) here and there. Hopefully, he feels good whichever way."
It marked the first time that Victorino, a career switch-hitter, batted from the left side since Sept. 3. But he stranded four runners and is hitting .095 (2 for 21) in the series.
Victorino hit .309 batting right-handed and .274 left-handed during the regular season.
COOL KID: Two months ago, Xander Bogaerts reached the major leagues for the first time. On Saturday night, he made his second straight start at third base for the Boston Red Sox in the AL championship series.
Just 18 days past his 21st birthday, the native of Aruba was batting ninth in the game that could send the Red Sox to their third World Series in 10 years.
Manager John Farrell didn't see the rookie feeling any of that going into Game 6 against the Detroit Tigers.
"The smile on his face never goes away, There's no deer in the headlights, any kind of those descriptions you might come up with," Farrell said before Game 6 of the best-of-seven AL championship series. "He's a very mature and poised young man."
A shortstop in the minors, Bogaerts replaced a slumping Will Middlebrooks in Boston's 4-3 win in Game 5 on Thursday night. He went 1 for 3 with a walk and a run and played a key role in Boston's three-run second inning.
Bogaerts doubled to left sending Johnny Gomes to third after Gomes reached on an error by third baseman Miguel Cabrera. Bogaerts took third on a double by David Ross that scored Gomes then scored himself on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury.
Bogaerts played just 18 games in the regular season. He hit .250 (11 for 44) with one homer and five RBIs. But his potential enabled the Red Sox to send their backup shortstop, defensive whiz Jose Iglesias, to the Tigers in a three-team trade that brought Boston right-hander Jake Peavy on July 30, just before the trade deadline.
Bogaerts has said he tries not to show the nervousness he feels.
"Well, I haven't been around many 21-year-olds in this environment," Farrell said. "I can't even begin to compare what he's demonstrating. And I would hope he would be nervous inside. That would only be, I think, a natural response."
RATING IT: The NLCS averaged a 3.2 rating and 5 million viewers on TBS, down from a 3.8 rating and 5.9 million for Detroit's sweep of the New York Yankees last year in the ALCS but up from a 2.9 rating and 4.6 million for the Cardinals' six-game win over Milwaukee two years ago.
St. Louis' 9-0 victory in Game 6 on Friday received a 3.7 rating and 6.1 million viewers.