But in the hour after that fifth game, Prince Fielder occupied that same place, and the worries engulfed him. He is 29, a father of two, a millionaire more times over than his home run champ of a father ever could have dreamed. And yet as the Tigers lost another one-run game to the Boston Red Sox, Fielder — who is relied upon to produce — did not. The boos came down, and came down hard, from the Comerica Park stands.
“They’re fans,” Fielder said quietly to a pack of reporters in that clubhouse late Thursday night. “I mean, it’s definitely not pleasant. But if that’s what they want to do, they can do it.”
The Tigers trail the Red Sox three games to two, and that they have reached this point in the playoffs with this contribution from Fielder — in a word, nothing — is in itself remarkable. In 37 postseason at-bats, he has one extra-base hit. From 2007 through this year, a seven-season span, only one player in baseball drove in more runs than Fielder, and that is his teammate Miguel Cabrera, who now bats in front of him in the lineup. But in the Tigers’ 10 postseason games to this point, Fielder hasn’t driven in a single run. He is mired in his least-productive period at the most important time.
“I’m just trying to hit the ball hard,” he said.
He is not. Since 2006, his first season as a starter, Fielder has never experienced a dry spell like this. In July of 2011, his final season with Milwaukee, he went 11 consecutive games without driving in a run. He finished the season with 120 RBI.
But this skid is two-fold. Fielder, who played all 162 games for the third straight year, failed to drive in a run for the final six regular-season games. His last RBI came nearly a month ago, on Sept. 22. Yet it is his postseason drought that has the fans most frustrated. In the sixth inning of Game 1 of the 2012 ALCS against the Yankees, Fielder singled off Andy Pettitte, driving in Austin Jackson. He has played 17 postseason games since then, and not driven in a single run.
“Little Leaguers that watch Major League Baseball, fans that watch Major League Baseball, players from other teams that watch the games . . . when they think of Prince Fielder, they obviously think about the power-hitting guy,” Tigers Manager Jim Leyland said Friday in a conference call with reporters. “He’s been a home run derby champion a couple times. He’s hit many, many home runs in his career so far. I know what he’s capable of doing.