For as much as I complain about strange things happening on the west coast, it’s becoming apparent that the Yankees bring their own brand of weirdness to Comerica Park. I mean, back in ’07 they played a game that didn’t end until 3:30 in the morning, and now there’s this game. You had Nick Swisher hitting a home run on what would’ve been ball 4 (one of the few times that a walk would have been preferable), then Nick Swisher making diving plays all over right field, and then the fire alarms went off in the bottom of the eighth. Between the bat and the glove, I think Swisher kinda beat the Tigers singlehandedly. At any rate, Porcello just wasn’t throwing enough strikes, and they made him pay for it. Look, we knew he was going to get beat up at some point. It happens to every pitcher. Unfortunately, it happened at a rather inconvenient time, but there’s nothing you can do about it now. The important thing is for him to have the maturity and fortitude to bounce back in his next start. As far as the bullpen, well, outside of the home run that Clay Rapada gave up to Swisher and Ryan Perry’s two-out wildness in the eighth, the ‘pen wasn’t bad, given the number of innings they had to pitch. Zumaya looked really good in particular. Ryan Perry did have the three walks, which is not good, but given the opportunity to pitch himself out of it, he was able to do it, so maybe that’s a turning point of some sort.
Well, the offense was kinda sleepwalking through this game as well until the ninth inning (at least we weren’t being shut out). Joba Chamberlain was wild early, and then after Miguel Cabrera struck out with the bases loaded, it was like some sort of switch turned on, he became a strike-thrower, and the Tigers were too slow on the adjustment. As a result, his pitch count stayed low and there just wasn’t enough time to get to the Yankee bullpen. After the third inning, the only real threat the Tigers were able to mount against Chamberlain was in the seventh, when they put two men on with no out, but Swisher (“There’s that bear again”) ran down Brandon Inge’s attempt at a gap shot (by the way, Brandon totally smoked that ball). That would’ve scored at least one run, maybe two (given Laird’s ability to run well for a catcher). After that, the rally totally fizzled. Swisher also made a diving catch of a bullet that Granderson hit in the eighth. It wasn’t until the ninth that the Tigers finally figured out how to get the ball past Swisher, and by then it was too late cuz when you don’t rally until the ninth inning, you give the Yankees the luxury of bringing in Mariano Rivera, and then it just becomes unrealistic. Still, once he came trotting in from the bullpen I jokingly advised everyone on Bless You Boys to channel their inner Jason Bay, only to almost look like a total genius. Apparently Granderson channeled HIS inner Jason Bay. That’s the second straight appearance in which Rivera’s given up a home run. I would think that does not happen very often. However, it was extraordinary enough that Grandy hit the three-run shot off him. You knew he wouldn’t give up two more runs with two outs. It just wasn’t gonna happen. Still, kudos to the Tigers for at least injecting a little bit of dignity into the loss.
Well, there’s an off-day today, and then comes a big two-week stretch of 13 games in a row against the division. Yikes. First up are the Cleveland Indians, who don’t exactly have the record the prognosticators thought they’d have, but with things being so bunched up in the Central Division, a three-game sweep would put them right back into it. So it’s important for the Tigers to not get swept (also important to take the series). To do that, the offense needs to wake up (hopefully the ninth inning last night did that). This is important because in a lot of the games against the Indians over the past two years, the Tigers’ offense was rarely shut down completely. There were a few games where they were stymied, but most of the time they’d manage at least four or five runs. The problem was that they normally just plain got outslugged, so it’d be nice for all the Tigers to pitch well for a change. The Indians’ offense is pretty hot right now, and their pitching has essentially upgraded itself from “awful” to “inconsistent.” Their starters have been up and down, but everyone in their rotation has gotten at least one good start under their belts. They do have Kerry Wood (and I knew he was a hard thrower, but I didn’t realize just how hard), and I have no idea how his ERA is over 6, because I believe he’s been perfect in save opportunities. They have had some bullpen problems outside of Wood, though. At any rate, step one is to subdue THEIR offense and keep it that way. Armando Galarraga gets the call for his sixth career start against Cleveland, which is the most against any team. The lone AL team that hasn’t seen him is the Yankees, but I’m not sure they’d be the best team for him to face anyways, both because of the sheer number of left-handed hitters and because a lot of his success lies in getting guys to swing at stuff out of the strike zone (that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and it’s the case for many a good pitcher), and the Yankees generally don’t do that (at the same time, though, given the fact that the first series after the All-Star Break is at Yankee Stadium, I’d be surprised if Galarraga didn’t get a start there). And since Galarraga had walked five in his previous outing, you can bet the Yankees would’ve taken every pitch they could. He has had success against the Indians: 3-0 in five starts with a respectable earned run average, but the Cleveland offense is pretty patient (or, at least, they can be when they want to), so he probably can’t afford to walk a bunch of guys again (that and the fact that the Indians generally hit a lot better than the Royals). He’ll catch a bit of a break since Travis Hafner is now on the DL (though I can’t recall if he even faced Hafner last year and if he did, it was an unhealthy Hafner at that), but Grady Sizemore had evidently figured him out by the end of last season, cuz he’s got, like, three or four home runs off him. The Tiger hitters need to get the bats going, though, and they’ll need to do it against Carl Pavano, who is the subject of probably the best “non-signing” in recent Tigers history. I’m a bit hazy on the details, and I’ve had to get help filling my dad’s friend on filling in the blanks, but apparently Pavano had a good career with Florida, the Tigers tried to sign him in 2004, but he had his heart set on the Yankees and promptly spent the next four years with injury after injury. That’s the story I’ve gotten, but given the vicious reaction that he got from Yankee fans at Yankee Stadium, I’m led to believe that there was more going on than just injuries. Anyone want to help me out here with some more details? Anyways, his ERA is not pretty right now, but I’m pretty sure a lot of that has to do with the fact that he only lasted one inning and gave up nine earned runs in his first start, so it’ll take a while to get it down. I know he struggled in his last start, though. Since he’s made so few AL starts, he’s never faced the Tigers before, and I don’t think there are many hitters who have even had an at-bat against him. Let’s see...only three current Tiger position players have played for a National League team prior to 2004 (Dane Sardinha saw a little bit of playing time with the Reds, but I don’t think that really counts), and those are Polanco, Everett, and Cabrera. Cabrera and Pavano were teammates, so that just leaves Everett and Polanco (as well and maybe one or two from a couple others through Interleague play). However, one thing that I’d like to see for a change is for the Tiger hitters to face a struggling pitcher (Pavano) and actually KEEP him struggling. This is now four games in a row where the other team’s starting pitcher has suddenly “found it” against our lineup (Amazingly, the Tigers are 2-2 in that stretch; and I know Phil Hughes was not struggling in Triple A, but he had in terms of his lack of Major League success). It’s a day early, but to get you ready, I’ve included the Mood Music. With the impending long stretch of interdivision games, I needed something dramatic. Something that suggested “big battle.” And I found it in the realm of classical music, specifically from a suite written by 20th century composer Gustav Holst called “The Planets.” I give you the first movement, “Mars: The Bringer of War.” Interesting side note: There is another movement in the suite that is subtitled “The Magician,” and given my last post about Galarraga, I flirted with the idea of using that instead, but the music itself is long and kinda goofy-sounding, and just really didn’t fit the motif.