Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Prophecy? Or Not?

Upon further thought, the White Sox (who, by the way, DID finish their series against Minnesota with a couple of semi-blowout games, so their offense was working before coming to Detroit) should not be your first choice when trying to gauge how the Tigers will fare against the AL Central, because for some reason, they’re always a problem (even in 2006, the Tigers couldn’t solve them). I mentioned that it was windy here in Toledo, but apparently it was just plain cold in Detroit. And after starting out in climate-controlled Toronto and then having fairly mild weather over the weekend, apparently the cold had a detrimental effect on both pitching staffs (though, admittedly, I do not know the weather conditions that the White Sox have been playing in, even though MLB.tv seems to think I live somewhere between Chicago and Milwaukee, because I’ve been getting blacked out of live games for both the Cubs and the Brewers). And it affected the two pitching staffs differently. I think I remember last year someone explaining the difference between “control” and “command.” I may have this backwards (and if I do, please let me know), but I believe “control” is the ability to throw strikes, whereas “command” is the ability to throw the ball where you want to throw it. If that’s the case, then you could say that Gavin Floyd had control problems, whereas Zach Miner had command problems. He did walk a few, but his big problem was not being able to keep the White Sox in the ballpark. Eddie Bonine also gave up two runs, but Miner had essentially put the Tigers in too big of a hole so I suppose it doesn’t much matter in the long run (and to his credit, his only walk was of the intentional variety). Juan Rincon actually turned in three decent scoreless innings. He gave up a couple of hits, and for some reason he couldn’t throw a strike to Brian Anderson (literally; I believe both his walks were on four pitches each), nor could he keep Anderson on first base, but no runs crossed the plate. Which is good, because otherwise it could’ve ended up like the Yankees-Rays game last night, in which Chien-Ming Wang got bombed for the second straight game and the Yankees had Nick Swisher pitching the bottom of the eighth.

While the White Sox were getting lots of hits, the Tigers were getting…lots of walks. Tons of ‘em. How Gavin Floyd was even able to go five innings (giving up six earned runs and SEVEN walks in the process) I have no idea. It seemed like the Tigers were perpetually one big hit away from turning the game into a proper slugfest, but that one big hit never came. Instead, it got caught on a diving play by Dewayne Wise, who separated his shoulder in the process (and had he not hurt himself, Carlos Guillen probably would’ve gotten doubled off). Besides the aforementioned robbery, Ramon Santiago had a three-run homer and a bunt single, making for a somewhat interesting line (and you know things are getting weird when Ramon Santiago has one home run and Guillen and Maggs still don’t have any, though perhaps the weirdness is just getting itself warmed up for the west coast roadtrip). Meanwhile, is it just me, or does Curtis Granderson seem to be hitting a lot of ground balls to second base recently? I mean, I did that a lot back when I played softball (VERY limited sample, though), but Granderson’s a much better hitter and I swing from the other side of the plate, so I know it’s not the same thing. By the way, your dugout entertainment for the day came courtesy of Armando Galarraga, who had hand warmers tucked into his cap to cover his ears. There was also a shot of him and Edwin Jackson kind of playing with bats, which prompted Rod Allen to state, “Those two know nothing about what they’re holding right now.”

I guess yesterday was just a bad day for baseball in general. First, Philles broadcaster Harry Kalas died only a couple hours before their game started. Somewhat embarrassingly, I first knew him as the guy who did the voiceovers for the Animal Planet “Puppy Bowl” specials every year (which, if you’ve never seen it, gets broadcast on Super Bowl Sunday and basically features a three-hour block of puppies playing in a pen that’s made to look like a football field; it’s not really that interesting, and yet it seems to get turned on at some point every year at my house). Then I watched part of a Phillies game last year, and recognized his voice. I got a hunch that he was in the Hall of Fame, which turned out to be right, so my sympathies go out to Phillies fans, cuz I imagine it would be like us losing Ernie Harwell. Then the evening news brought word of the death of Mark Fidrych in an apparent accident. Obviously, when he won Rookie of the Year, I had not been born yet, so I don’t really have memories to share or anything. They aired a game of his on MLB Network a while back, and I have it on the DVR, but I’ve only watched about two innings or so. I guess this is telling, though: Even my mom found him entertaining, and she hates baseball. It’s a shame that injuries kinda took a toll on him after his rookie season, especially since stuff like that probably would not go undiagnosed for very long (at the time, they thought he had shoulder tendinitis, when in actuality it was a torn rotator cuff). Nowadays, if you’re a pitcher and you so much as feel a slight twinge, it seems like you’re immediately sent off to get an MRI. In all fairness, though, even with a diagnosis, rotator cuff surgery is not as much of a sure thing as, say, Tommy John surgery, so getting him back to form would not have been a guarantee. But God bless him, and this is a tragic loss for Tiger fans.

On the day when the Tigers will undoubtedly honor the memory of Mark Fidrych in some manner before the game, it seems somewhat fitting that they’re sending another young pitcher to the mound in the person of Rick Porcello. Jason Beck has pointed out the tendency of the White Sox to hammer Tigers’ rookie pitchers in recent years (Verlander’s struggles against them are well-documented, but they’ve also beat up on former Tigers Andrew Miller and Virgil Vasquez; I was actually at one of those Andrew Miller games, where Juan Uribe hit a grand slam off him), so history isn’t exactly on his side. But if he can limit the home runs, I think that’ll go a long way. John Danks starts for the White Sox, and he’s been a very good pitcher for them over the past year and a half or so. The Tigers had some early success in their first two games against him back in ’07, but they really haven’t been able to touch him since (and his spot in the rotation almost always seemed to come up whenever the White Sox played the Tigers last year). He also notched the only win for the White Sox in the ALDS last year against the Rays. And it’s probably not a good idea to have to rely on hoping he has the same kind of control problems Gavin Floyd had yesterday, cuz that probably won’t happen. The weather in Detroit is supposed to be a bit warmer than yesterday, but it’s also supposed to rain (and according to the radar, it is raining there right now). Here in Toledo, it was not as windy this morning, but it was rainy and kinda dreary (and there were a bunch of worms on my driveway, which was gross). Your Mood Music for today comes courtesy of the band Survivor: “Burning Heart.” Yes, it’s originally from a Rocky movie, but given how these two teams have played for the past four years, it’s kind of fitting.

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