Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Clete Thomas Show

Photo: AP

Is anyone else out there as exhausted as I am after watching last night’s game? I’m glad the Tigers won, but geez, it was a max effort type of performance. It really wasn’t easy for anyone in that game, offense or pitching. I mean, if Justin Verlander can’t slay the Luke Scott dragon, then who can? I almost advocated Joel Zumaya drilling Luke Scott in the ribs with a 100 MPH fastball, but I was afraid that it’d bounce off his body and sail over the right field wall. I will say this, though: The Tigers right-handers last night were all throwing heat. I think all four of them hit 99 on the gun, and Verlander and Zumaya both reached triple digits. Meanwhile, the offense DID perk up a little bit against Jeremy Guthrie, Matt Albers, and Jamie Walker (although they struck out ten times against Guthrie). Clete Thomas, with his two home runs and 3 RBIs, ended up being the difference in this game. By the way, the two home runs don’t really surprise me. I’ve seen him drive the ball the other way with authority and have it hit off the wall at Comerica Park. Camden Yards doesn’t have as big an outfield as Comerica Park. By the way, last night’s game thread on BYB continued the Matt Wieters razzing, but
this, courtesy of Tagne13, was absolutely hilarious (not to mention a very good Photoshop job).

Today marks the end of this road trip, and the last time we’ll have to see Camden Yards this year. Edwin Jackson was cruising through his last start against the Royals before he proved to be his own undoing with a pair of errors. He does not have good numbers against the Orioles in his career (and if you’re curious, yes, Luke Scott has homered off him before, so consider yourself warned). He won both of his starts against the O’s last year, but wasn’t exactly stellar (in his last start against them, he won, but gave up six earned runs in the process). Obviously, the Rays gave him a lot of run support in those starts, but run support is not something he’s gotten a lot of with the Tigers. Meanwhile, after facing a little bit of familiarity in Jeremy Guthrie, the Tigers hitters face another rookie in Jason Berken. The other two Orioles rookies have handcuffed the Tigers. Polanco and Cabrera both have the day off. Granderson is your cleanup hitter today.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

This Whole Luke Scott Thing is Getting Ridiculous

Well, unlike Galarraga, there was nothing tough-luck about this loss. I didn’t get home until the bottom of the seventh, so I can’t really comment on Dontrelle Willis. He only walked two, but by all accounts he was “all over the place” and didn’t have a lot of velocity. He was, perhaps, victimized in the big five-run third by some bad decision-making on the part of Brandon Inge, who fielded a ground ball and decided to come home with it instead of starting what would have been an inning-ending double play. That’s not the first time I’ve seen Inge do that, though. He doesn’t do it THAT often, but every once in a while he’ll have a brain fart like that. In this case, he might have just delayed the inevitable, but a two-run homer looks better on a pitcher’s line than a grand slam. Still, I would be surprised if the Tigers didn’t let Willis make his next start. I’m not saying whether I agree with that or not. I’m just saying they’ll probably give him a chance to rebound. Nate Robertson was the first one to figure out how to pitch to Luke Scott: Just walk him on four pitches. Oddly enough, on a night where they gave up 12 hits, Tigers pitching was able to hold The Anointed One (Matt Wieters) hitless. By the way, if you’re sick of hearing about America’s Next Top Prospect™, just read last night’s game thread on BYB. Even though the Tigers lost, the digs at Wieters are hilarious. While there was a sharp contrast in the starting pitching the last two nights, the story from an offensive standpoint was the same: A whole lot of nothing. By the way, Brandon Inge has now grounded into double plays on consecutive nights. That’s normally not his MO. I mean, he doesn’t have “beat out double plays” type speed, but most of his outs seem to be made via pop-ups or strikeouts.

I’ve been doing some thinking about the whole Bonderman/Galarraga/Willis situation, and the thought popped into my head that Galarraga (assuming he does have minor league options, which I believe he does) may be the odd man out regardless of how he pitches in his next start. The Tigers play a day-night doubleheader in Chicago a week from this coming Monday. Galarraga is scheduled to pitch that day. Assuming Bonderman doesn’t get shelled or injured in his rehab start tomorrow, it would not shock me if the Tigers decided to activate Bonderman to start the other game that day. However, the Tigers don’t have an off-day after that until June 15th (the following Monday), and that’s too long to be carrying around six starting pitchers and be one man short either in the ‘pen or on the bench (especially when you consider how the Tigers typically pitch in Chicago). Therefore, Galarraga may lose his spot in the rotation purely on the basis of logistics. Which kinda sucks, if you ask me.

Tonight, we get to see if Luke Scott can do anything with a Justin Verlander fastball as the Tigers and Orioles play game 3 of this series. For the record, Verlander made two starts against the O’s last year and won both while keeping Luke Scott AND Melvin Mora in the ballpark (In fact, none of the current Orioles have ever homered against Justin). So there is indeed hope. On the flipside, Verlander can only do so much. The bats have gotta heat up again. They’ll be facing Jeremy Guthrie, who is probably considered the ace of the Orioles staff. He pitched for Team USA in the WBC (In fact, he beat out Verlander for the final spot on the pitching roster). He’s had a few issues this month, but his last start was apparently a good one. Another thing to be concerned about is that the Tigers haven’t seen a lot of him. The most that anyone’s faced him is five at-bats, but in general, those who have seen him have good numbers against him, small sampling or not. However, if I’m correct, it’s been a long time since anyone on our roster has faced him (except possibly Gerald Laird). I’m pretty sure the Tigers did not see him in either ’07 or ’08. Your Mood Music for tonight: It’s only a little mini-losing streak right now, but I still sense that the team and the fans are in need of a lift. Some positive vibes, if you will. And what’s better than another cheesy ‘80s song?

Friday, May 29, 2009

I Think I Would've Preferred Uehara

In the season series against Baltimore last year, the Tigers, for some reason, got pummeled in just about every game by the two-headed monster of Luke Scott and Melvin Mora. This time, they were able to keep Mora under control, for the most part, limiting him to two singles that really didn’t impact the game that much (He didn’t have an RBI, nor did he score a run). The same can’t be said for Luke Scott. He is becoming the left-handed Joe Crede. Why don’t we have a player who hits ridiculous amounts of home runs against another team? I mean, Cabrera hit eight home runs against the Indians last year, but he’s only hit one against them this year, so you can’t even count that. Still, I’ll echo the words of RichardZ on last night’s BYB game thread: If this game gives us the Armando Galarraga who goes seven innings and gives up three runs or fewer for the rest of the season, I’ll take the loss. I said as much on the game thread, and I know a lot of people disagree with me, but Galarraga was a lot better, and certainly pitched well enough to win. As I’ve said before, he’s going to give up home runs, and as long as he limits them to solo shots (which he does when he’s going well), it’s something you can live with. Hell, if you want to get picky, the first Luke Scott home run went 413 feet, according to HitTracker (I found a new toy last night, although it contains a lot more numbers than I care for), which means, given the area of the park it was hit to (center field), it would NOT have gotten out had this game been at Comerica Park (Scott’s second home run was also measured at 413 feet, but it was hit to left center, so that one’s harder to picture). Galarraga threw more strikes, only walked one (and hit a batter), threw several good sliders, and induced three double plays (including one very nifty DP started by Inge). A lot of people are concerned over the fact that Galarraga gave up 10 hits for the first time in his career. Here’s my sabremetrics-less take on it: If you stick around in the big leagues long enough, you’re eventually going to have a game where you give up 10 or more hits. Even Justin Verlander had four games in ’06 where he gave up ten hits or more, and one in ’07 (Interestingly enough, in ’08, which was by far his worst season, he didn’t have any). If you want to be more pertinent to the situation, Jeremy Bonderman had four games in ’06, three games in ’07, and one game in ’08 of 10-or-more hits. Kenny Rogers seemed to average about three or four a year, and Derek Lowe seems to follow that pattern as well (if you want to use a sinkerball pitcher for comparison). Plus, the Orioles DO have a good offense. If he continues to give up 10 hits in a game, yes, that’s a problem. But we haven’t reached that point yet, and let’s hope we don’t reach that point (though given the fact that his next opponent is the Red Sox, you might not want to use that game as comparison either). Bottom line: I don’t think he’s all the way back yet, but this game was definitely a big step in the right direction.

Meanwhile, the blogosphere probably wouldn’t have gotten so nitpicky about Galarraga had he been given even a decent amount of run support. This is something that has kind of been overlooked for the past month. Throughout Galarraga’s struggles, the Tigers haven’t scored a lot of runs for him while he’s been on the mound. Whether or not this is the Reyes Effect remains to be seen (for all I know David Hernandez could end up like Matt Palmer and pitch surprisingly well in his next few starts), but when you’re given seven walks and two errors, you have to score more than one run. Instead, there were a lot of pop-ups and double plays (not so much strikeouts, though). Polanco and Cabrera were probably the biggest culprits in that department. By the way, this is rather incidental, but Maggs should really look into getting a different shipment of bats. I think he’s had a bat shatter in his hands in, like, five straight games now (and they make really weird noises when they shatter).

By the way, I forgot to mention this yesterday, but I really don’t like four game series. Bad things always seem to come from them. At any rate, Dontrelle Willis takes the hill tonight for the Tigers. He had some control issues against Colorado, but he didn’t let it get out of hand and he really wasn’t the reason the Tigers lost that game. I know Baltimore has a good offense, but I haven’t gotten a feel for how patient or aggressive they are yet (If I had to make a guess, I’d lean towards aggressive, but it’s just a guess). He’ll be opposed by Brad Bergesen, who apparently has allowed at least three runs in all of his starts this year and has an ERA of over 5, but as last night proves, that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. Tonight will also feature the Major League debut of Baltimore’s number one prospect, catcher Matt Wieters. By the way, it’s my parents’ wedding anniversary tonight, so a Tigers win would be most appreciated. I’m working tonight, so it’s just the late innings for me.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

You're Gonna Go Far, Kid

Photo: AP

Hmmm…could that be a hint for the Mood Music next time Porcello pitches? As expected, I had to go to work before the game was finished, but the Tigers had already pretty much put the game out of reach before I left, so I wasn’t really left hanging. Porcello didn’t quite have the command of some of his other starts. He threw first pitch balls to several hitters, but he got away with it, for the most part. That’s kind of impressive in itself, seeing how Kansas City had already faced him once before. As far as the guys out of the ‘pen are concerned, judging by their lines in the boxscore, perhaps they were all a bit rusty? I just hope the fact that Rodney threw 29 pitches doesn’t come back to haunt them.

The offense showed no signs of lingering sluggishness induced by Zack Greinke, cuz they hit Kyle Davies pretty much the same way they hit him the past couple times they saw him. I was a bit concerned early on, cuz they hit into a couple double plays early and it took them a few innings to get rolling, but then after the Polanco home run, they found their stride. That Polanco home run was kind of a long time coming. I mean, he’s definitely not a home run threat, but he’s usually hit his first by now. I’m just sorry that they weren’t able to do any damage against Farnsworth.

Even though I still wish they’d’ve been able to hold on and beat Greinke in the middle game, it was still a successful series in Kansas City. Now it’s off to Baltimore, which can be a tricky place for a pitching staff. The Orioles generally don’t have the greatest pitching in the world, but their offense is pretty good, and can certainly outslug you. And do I have to tell you just how badly I want Armando Galarraga to pitch well tonight? It sounds as though they’ve decided it’s a couple of mechanical issues related to footwork, arm slots, and release points, which begs the question: How in the world do you get that out of whack mechanically so quickly in the first place? My God, pitching is complicated. At any rate, it sounds as though he’s guaranteed at least this start and his next one, though both opponents are far from ideal. Camden Yards is very home run friendly, and given Galarraga’s propensity towards giving up home runs, that’s not an ideal mix either. He did lose his only start against the Orioles last year, giving up either two or three home runs in the process. I can’t tell you for sure, because I missed the beginning of that game. The only home run I remember is Melvin Mora hitting one off the top of the foul pole—literally. Bottom line: He’s gonna have to earn this win. It will not be easy. He was supposed to have been opposed by Koji Uehara, but Uehara’s down with a hamstring injury, so the Tigers will be facing a hard-throwing right-hander by the name of David Hernandez instead. Hernandez will be making his Major League debut. Obviously, there’s not a lot of scouting to be had on Hernandez, but I do know that apparently he’s been really racking up the strikeouts in Triple A. For those of you who listen to Tigers baseball on the radio, Dan Dickerson has had to have surgery to repair a ruptured quad tendon, so he will miss the entire series against the O’s. For the record, my dad had that exact same surgery about ten years ago, and lemme tell you, it’s a lengthy recovery process (Dan Dickerson kind of lucked out in that he’s only had to have surgery on one leg; my dad ruptured quad tendons in both legs and couldn’t walk for about four months afterwards). Jim Price will be handling the play-by-play in the meantime. He’ll be joined tonight and tomorrow by Al Kaline, while John Keating will step in as color analyst over the weekend. Your Mood Music for tonight: You know, Galarraga also needs to return to form because I am rapidly running out of songs that can be considered “inspirational” yet allow me to maintain my credibility. If this goes on much longer, I’ll be forced to dip into the realms of Disney or Josh Groban, and I don’t want to do that (Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In fact, I’m rather fond of both of them, but I get the feeling that in the world of sports blogging, I’m in the minority). At any rate, here’s Seether.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pitcher's Fielding Practice. Need Some.

This one’s kinda frustrating, and that’s something when it comes from me. Usually losses don’t really gnaw at me unless it’s Verlander or Galarraga and they didn’t pitch well, which is obviously not the case here. I think this one gets to me because the Tigers DID have the lead for most of the game. They had a chance to make a statement and beat Zack Greinke at his own game, and they blew it. Edwin Jackson kind of sealed his own fate by making two throwing errors. He didn’t really look any worse for wear from his 132 pitch performance in the previous start, but he didn’t seem to throw a lot of first-pitch strikes and I thought it was a bit odd that he only struck out two.

Meanwhile, Greinke looked vulnerable early. The Tigers actually got quite a few hits off him in the first few innings, but would then almost immediately hit into double plays, even when they started the runner. I don’t remember Greinke being that severe a groundball pitcher. Then again, my perception of Greinke has always been a little bit skewed. I didn’t really watch a lot of baseball while I was away at college, which included 2005, so I did not see Greinke then. Therefore, the first time I saw him was in April of 2007 in a game where Pudge hit a grand slam off him and the Tigers made him throw 50 pitches in 2/3 of an inning (Greinke didn’t survive the first inning). The next time I saw him, they beat him up again. I think they hit, like, three 2-run homers in one inning against him. As a result, whenever I see him dominate the Tigers nowadays, my initial gut reaction is to scream out “What’s the problem?!” Obviously, cooler heads prevail and I know it’s not as simple as that, but I still can’t entirely erase that first impression. I mean, I’m sure Indians fans had the same reaction when Verlander dominated Cleveland earlier this month. But it seemed like the Tigers had some decent at-bats against Greinke until after Jackson gave up the lead. That’s when they started striking out more and making easier outs (Hell, Cabrera struck out on a pitch that bounced into the left-handed batter’s box). At what point will Greinke’s dominance lie solely in his ability to get into the opponent’s heads? I mean, with an ERA that low, psychology has to have some prominence, right?

Today is getaway day and the rubber match between these two teams. The aces have done their jobs, and now it’s down to Rick Porcello and Kyle Davies. This’ll mark the first occasion where Porcello pitches against a team for the second time. He didn’t pitch particularly well the first time against Kansas City, but he’s been pretty good recently, regardless of the opponent. The Tigers got to Davies the first time they saw him this year, but he pitched well in his last start against St. Louis. Plus, the problem with having faced Greinke is that you don’t know if the offense has gone back to sleep or not. I would imagine that Zumaya and Rodney will pitch regardless of the score, because it has been a LONG time since either of them have taken the mound (Rodney’s last appearance was last Thursday, Zumaya’s was Friday). This game is going to drive me crazy, because it starts at 2:10, and I have to be at work at 4:00, so obviously it won’t be over until after that. Luckily, the Tiger fan pharmacist is working tonight, so maybe I can get word of the score before 9:00. By the way, it’s a strange night when you have to put your radio announcer on the DL. The Tigers Amateur Analysis sends out best wishes for a speedy recovery to Dan Dickerson, who suffered a knee injury while jogging yesterday. John Keating handled the play-by-play last night, but there’s no word on who will fill-in for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My Hat's Off To You, Justin Verlander

Photo: AP

Actually, I’m not wearing a hat right now, but if I were, I would take it off. Verlander was tremendous despite that ugly hat that didn’t go with anything (I know it’s a patriotic promotion, and as much as it clashed with the Tigers’ uniforms, I’m gonna agree with Ian over at Bless You Boys: The red hats made the Royals look like
Bomb Pops). I saw a picture of him on the sports page of the local paper and at first I thought it was a photo from one of the high school baseball playoff games. At any rate, Justin’s certainly become such a joy to watch again. And he didn’t rack up the high pitch count in this one, needing only 96 pitches to get through seven innings. He probably could’ve gone at least another inning, but with his next start coming on regular rest (no off-day this time), I suppose it was wise to conserve him in case he’s needed to go longer in Baltimore (Hopefully Galarraga and Willis will both turn in good performances against the O’s, but you don’t know).

After snoozing their way through Colorado pitching, the Tiger hitters didn’t seem to have a problem with the Royals. Granted, Gil Meche was obviously not healthy, and the Tigers took advantage of that, but you’d expect the Royals to do the same if one of our guys were trying to pitch hurt. The reassuring thing is that pretty much everyone contributed. Every member of the starting nine had at least one hit, everyone scored a run except Clete Thomas, and everyone had at least one RBI except Jeff Larish (who I guess drew the collar by striking out four times). It was good to see guys like Clete, Granderson, and Cabrera kinda rebound from the slow weekend. Hey, this game even featured Ryan Raburn playing first base for one inning. I didn’t even know he COULD play first base. It’s like Spring Training all over again.

I think it’s safe to say that no baseball fan on the face of the earth expects the Tigers to score 13 runs tonight. On paper, it’s one hell of a pitching matchup: Zach Greinke and Edwin Jackson. Granted, it’s not as intriguing as a potential Greinke-Verlander duel (which is what I originally thought it was gonna be), but Jackson and Greinke are both in the top 5 in ERA (Jackson had been second, but Jered Weaver and Roy Halladay must’ve both spun gems in their last starts). Jackson threw 132 pitches in his last start against the Rangers, but got the win. Hopefully, there’s no repercussions from keeping him in the game that long. He DID walk five in that game, which sends off just a little bit of an alarm bell. Meanwhile, Greinke’s coming off a no-decision against Cleveland. I followed this game a little bit on Gameday, and from what I could tell, he either wasn’t at his sharpest or the Indians had a good approach against him, because his pitch count was elevated early and he was out of the game after the sixth inning (as of the third inning, his balls-to-strikes ratio wasn’t too good, but I couldn’t tell you what happened after that). Now, in general, the Tigers are not as patient as the Indians, and they were lucky to scratch one run across against Greinke in their lone meeting with him so far this year. Hopefully, Gerald Laird has well and truly busted out of his slump, cuz he’s pretty much the only one that had good swings against Greinke last time. Your Mood Music for tonight: These types of pitching matchups rarely live up to the hype (and when they do, it is excruciating for me). Nevertheless, I suppose it warrants some sort of dramatic music, so here I have Clint Mansell’s “Requiem for a Dream.”

Monday, May 25, 2009


That pretty much describes the offense over the weekend. Dontrelle Willis was definitely not as sharp as he was against Texas, walking four and falling behind hitters a lot, but give him credit for hanging in there. Similar to Galarraga on Saturday, he didn’t let the game get away from him, and with any kind of respectable run support, he could’ve won. Really, with the exception of last Sunday’s game against Oakland, the pitching was pretty decent on the homestand.

Meanwhile, the offense went from blazing to pretty much bottom-of-the-tank, as was evidenced over the past two days. Jim Leyland even tried to shake things up by using the speedster lineup yesterday. The problem was that none of the speedsters got on base. Anderson, Santiago, Thomas, and Granderson all went hitless (though Clete did draw a walk at one point). In fact, the only hit to come out of the first five hitters was a single by Cabrera. On most days, that’s just not gonna get it done. The only one who had a good series was Magglio, and while he’s not quite all the way back yet, he IS hotter than some of the guys further up in the lineup. Perhaps it’s almost time to move him back to the 3-slot?

While it ended on kind of a sour note, a 7-2 homestand is nothing to sneeze at, and now it’s time to hit the road for what could be a difficult road trip. First up is Kansas City, and while the Royals are only at .500, their pitching’s still been pretty solid and they are only 3 games out of first place (that’s what all those rainouts have done). Justin Verlander was not quite as dominant as he has been. He still pitched very well, but the Rangers made him work for it. He has good numbers against KC in his career. Then again, Gil Meche has good numbers against the Tigers in HIS career. He’s had some issues with back spasms recently that have caused him to not pitch as effectively as he had been early in the season, but they apparently weren’t bothering him in his last start and he always seems to pitch well against the Tigers. From what I know about him, he throws a lot of elevated fastballs, and I know for a fact that the Tigers as a group have a tough time laying off the elevated fastball. Your Mood Music for today: This is gonna sound dumb, but up until this morning, I did not even know there was a song about Kansas City. But there is, so I’ve decided to use it. This video is from a live performance of the song by the Beatles back in 1964, and it’s hard to hear the song at times because it gets drowned out by screaming girls, but it’s the best I could come up with. Happy Memorial Day, everyone!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Streak Had To End Sometime

Anyone else feel that this game kinda plodded along and lacked energy? In any case, I thought Galarraga did a little bit better than he has recently. Not terrific by any means, but not epic fail either. He was definitely inconsistent with his pitches, but he was able to limit the damage and not give up a big inning. And he only walked one. The home runs? Well, I think we can safely assume that even in the best of times, Galarraga is going to give up home runs. He gave up a bunch last year and he’s on pace to do the same this year. That’s definitely something you can live with as long as he limits them to solo shots, which he has, for the most part. Now, he should not have fallen behind 3-0 on Helton, and they made the wrong decision to just throw a fastball in there, but I can see what their reasoning was, and if I were one of them, I probably would’ve made the same mistake. Clint Hurdle has made no secret of the fact that he wants his hitters to be patient at the plate. In fact, he even benched Troy Tulowitzki a few days ago for not being patient and hitting into a double play. So with all this emphasis on being patient, I could see why they figured Helton would make Galarraga throw a strike before swinging at anything. It just turned out to be a bad decision. As for the other two runs, well, they were manufactured on the speed of Dexter Fowler, and both of those runs scored on outs. At any rate, it sounds as though Jim Leyland and Rick Knapp have picked up on some mechanical issues that are still going on, so I guess now it’s just a matter of tweaking and muscle memory. He is guaranteed at least one more start before Bonderman’s ready to come back. And with the rest of the rotation pitching well right now, the Tigers have the luxury of being patient, at least for the time being.

Meanwhile, I think the lack of energy was mostly due to the offense, which didn’t do much against Jason Marquis. When he was traded from the Cubs to the Rockies, the impression I got was that he was someone who never really lived up to expectations for Chicago, but I didn’t see any of that. Miguel Cabrera continues to hit him hard, but the top three hitters combined to go 0-for-12. That’s not gonna get it done. Granderson hasn’t even gotten a hit in this entire series.

Today marks the end of the homestand and the rubber game against the Rockies. Dontrelle Willis was tremendous in his last start, looking like the D-Train of old. Now, can he do it again? He’ll be opposed by Jason Hammel, formerly of the Tampa Bay Rays. He hasn’t won yet this year, but his earned run average isn’t bad considering the ballpark he normally pitches in. The Tigers last saw him in 2007, and I think they scored, like, six runs off him. He must be fairly easy to run on, cuz Leyland’s got his speedster lineup in place, with Josh Anderson leading off and Granderson batting fifth. Polanco and Laird both get the day off. Leyland has said that Dane Sardinha may catch more than he has been because he’s worried that he’s “running Gerald Laird into the ground.” This from the man who had Brandon Inge catch seventeen games in a row last year. Your Mood Music for today: Well, we don’t know what we’re gonna get out of Dontrelle today, but for now, let’s celebrate his accomplishment against Texas with some more Styx (Hey, the lyrics fit that game beautifully).

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Kids Get It Done

Photo: AP

I’m not sure if this is the first time this has happened or not (if it’s not, it’s one of only a handful of times), but last night, the three pitchers the Tigers used were all younger than me. I’m 25 years old. I probably should not be feeling old yet. At any rate, I got off work during the bottom of the eighth inning, so I had to raid the archives of to catch up on this one. Rick Porcello did another nice job. It seems like every time he ran into trouble, his defense bailed him out, be it Josh Anderson, Brandon Inge, or Miguel Cabrera. Ryan Perry followed him up with two solid innings. Joel Zumaya was indeed Jim Leyland’s choice to try to nail down the save. It got hairy for him, but he got himself out of it when he had to. By the way, I have heard that traditionally, National League pitchers were known for throwing lots of fastballs, while AL pitchers preferred offspeed pitches. I can’t imagine that that’s really true anymore (given the frequent switching between leagues), but it seemed to me like the Rockies had Zumaya’s fastballs timed a lot better than any of the other teams he’s faced so far this year. Maybe I’m just making things up.

By all accounts, Ubaldo Jimenez was at the top of his game. The Tigers got just enough offense through a little bit of timely hitting and a lot of good baserunning, particularly from Laird, Polanco, and Larish. Laird had a good day at the plate, and he was able to go first to third on Santiago’s single, which set up the opportunity for him to score on the wild pitch that really didn’t get that far away from Chris Ianetta. Polanco and Larish both aggressively broke up potential double plays in the eighth inning, leading to the critical tack-on run that proved to be the difference.

I’ll spare you the obvious pun for tonight’s game and just say that it’s Armando Galarraga against Jason Marquis. The Tigers haven’t faced Marquis since 2002, and as a result, no one’s had a lot of at-bats against him except Cabrera (who hits him pretty well) and Polanco (who does not). Meanwhile, do I have to rehash that Armando Galarraga needs to pitch well tonight? I’m pulling for him all the way, but I’m sure there’s some added pressure because Jeremy Bonderman isn’t going to be on that rehab assignment forever. It sounds as though he’s got a pretty good idea of what he thinks the problem is and what he thinks the solution is. Now he’s just gotta execute. I was trying to think of some other good pitchers who have been struggling recently, and I came up with four off the top of my head: Scott Kazmir, Gavin Floyd, Andy Sonnanstine, and Ricky Nolasco. Kazmir was placed on the DL yesterday, but the other three all pitched last night. Floyd and Sonnanstine both turned in very good outings, while Nolasco gave up eight runs in two innings and has now been sent down to the minor leagues. As for Galarraga, I’ve come to the preliminary conclusion that unless he's hiding some sort of injury (a real possibility), the initial problem is mechanical, but I think he might be letting it get into his head too much, kind of like Justin Verlander earlier in the year. It’s like once something bad happens, he just lets it snowball out of control. That needs to stop. If someone hits a home run off him or he walks someone or something like that, he needs to just let it go and not let it affect him. Magglio is back in the lineup tonight as the DH, while Ryan Raburn mans left field. Everyone else is where they normally are. Your Mood Music for tonight: Well, my attempt at being tongue-in-cheek regarding Galarraga last time he pitched backfired badly and now looks really tacky, so this time, I’ll try to be inspirational. And to me, nothing’s more inspirational than hearing my favorite band of all time: Styx. Enjoy!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Clash of the Ironmen

Photo: AP

First of all, I’d like to congratulate Michael Young for hitting into that double play to end the game, because I was on my way to work when it happened and it allowed me to know the outcome and not have to spend the next five hours in total suspense. Edwin Jackson has certainly been managed old school style recently. In his last start, he pitched three innings after an hour-long rain delay. This time, he threw 132 pitches. Jim Leyland’s drawing a lot of heat from the fans online for this. I know Justin Verlander threw 130 pitches in a start late last year against the White Sox, but I don’t remember how he did in his start after that one. At any rate, Jackson was kinda battling his control during this game. He was able to pitch around it admirably (with some good defense), but remember, five walks signaled the beginning of Armando Galarraga’s current rough patch, so hopefully this does not become a trend.

There was some question as to just how right or left-handed Jim Leyland was going to make his lineup, because this year Millwood has actually been more effective against lefties. However, Leyland decided to ignore that, and this time it paid off, because most of the offense came from Clete Thomas and Curtis Granderson. I feel like I’m saying this in every post now, but once again, we’ve got someone hitting a home run into “big boy territory,” and it’s been someone you wouldn’t expect. In this case, it was Clete Thomas, who hit one into the shrubbery behind the visiting bullpen in left field, almost exactly where Wilkin Ramirez hit his home run on Wednesday. Granderson’s home run? Well, you knew he had power, so that’s not as surprising. By the way, a lot was made of Jackson staying in so long, but Millwood hung in there for over 120 pitches as well. In his case, they probably should've taken him out once he walked Clete Thomas in front of Cabrera. And it was Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single in the 8th that gave the Tigers the sweep, so here’s the broom:

Tonight marks the start of Interleague play, which is fun for me because it gives an opportunity to see some players you normally wouldn’t see (though I am NOT a supporter of the idea by some to kind of “flip-flop” the DH rule during Interleague play). It also helps that the Tigers have been very good in Interleague play during the past three years. First up is the Colorado Rockies, who have been struggling this year. However, this season, the Tigers have generally been better against “hot” teams, for whatever reason, and the Rockies still have some very good players. Garrett Atkins is in a big slump right now, but Todd Helton and Brad Hawpe are both hitting well over .300 with power. Also, tonight’s starting pitcher for the Rockies, Ubaldo Jimenez, is very talented and throws very hard. And he’s been pitching pretty well right now. So has Rick Porcello, who starts tonight for the Tigers. However, you kind of wonder if leaving Jackson in for so long yesterday has to due with keeping the bullpen fresh as an insurance policy for this weekend. At any rate, Magglio should be back in the lineup tonight. Hopefully his wife’s surgery went well and everything will turn out okay for his family. Rod Allen is still out, so Dan Petry will be the color analyst on Fox Sports Detroit tonight. Hopefully, this game will not be as strange as the last game he did. Remember that? It was a game against the Yankees back in ’07 that had a long rain delay, didn’t start until 11:00 at night, went into extra innings, and didn’t end until Carlos Guillen hit a walk-off home run at 3:30 in the morning. I’ll be at work tonight, so I’ll be restricted to the late innings unless that happens.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

They Come In Threes

Photo: AP

I’m running out of original things to say about Justin Verlander’s outings (I’m definitely not complaining, though). Justin continues to pitch like the pitcher I knew he could be. I felt like he was fighting his control a bit this time, but six innings of one-run ball is strong nonetheless. His only bad inning was the fifth, in which he gave up that one run and threw forty pitches. He seems to think the abrupt ending to the bottom of the fourth kinda threw him off his rhythm. Speaking of which, I want to open up a discussion: Should a triple play like the one the Rangers turned really be considered an example of defensive wizardry? I mean, they always make the Web Gems, but it seems to me that if you have runners at first and second, you start the runners, and the guy at the plate hits a line drive right to the second baseman, a triple play is kind of a foregone conclusion. Now, there are other types of triple plays that do fall under the “defensive wizardry” category, like if it was a much closer play involving one of the baserunners. Unassisted triple plays are always worth a mention in terms of defense just because of their extreme rarity. And around-the-horn triple plays probably belong in that category as well because the timing of everything involved has to be perfect for it to happen. Whatever you want to categorize it as, triple plays are unusual enough in themselves that it’s worthy of mentioning them in their own story regardless of how it was turned (along the same lines as striking out four in an inning or someone hitting for the cycle). But as it turns out, it didn’t really hurt the Tigers that much, cuz they hit three home runs. Does anyone know if that free Arby’s thing is good in Ohio? Wilkin Ramirez displayed two of the things he was apparently known for in the minor leagues: Striking out a lot and hitting for power. I didn’t know he had THAT kind of power, though. And after being cold and not playing well for a long time, Ryan Raburn has been on a tear recently. Brandon Inge provided the game-winner.

Last night was Country Night, and the people at Fox Sports Detroit decided to celebrate by putting up a badly Photoshopped picture of Mario and Rod wearing cowboy hats (head on over to
Bless You Boys to see for yourselves). Then for most of the night they kept showing us the footage of Trevor Thompson trying to ride the mechanical bull while holding a microphone at the same time and falling off after about two seconds. Meanwhile, I don’t know who is in charge of creating the graphics and chyrons, but they need a refresher course in grammar and spelling.

Today, the Tigers go for the sweep as Edwin Jackson goes up against Kevin Millwood in a rematch of the Easter Sunday game. Jackson’s been good this year but one of his few “bad” starts was against the Rangers (in hindsight, though, it wasn’t THAT bad; four runs in six innings). Kevin Millwood has been pitching very well this year for the Rangers. He shut out the Tigers for seven innings before the Tigers came back against the bullpen in the eighth and won the game. Nate Robertson has been activated from the DL, by the way, and Luke French has been sent back to Toledo.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

D-Train Rolls

Photo: AP

Could this be the start of something? It’s too early to tell, and the sample size is small, but Dontrelle Willis is beginning to show some promise. Well, I guess 6.1 innings of one-hit ball is a little bit more than promise. Yeah, the Rangers hit some balls hard right at people and there were some sweet defensive plays, but Dontrelle only walked two and he struck out five (interestingly, both walks were to Andruw Jones, but then again, Jones has, like, six home runs off him). He did not look like he was struggling to throw strikes. He was able to make good pitches even when he fell behind hitters, and for the most part, he was not knocking his catcher over like he was last year. I guess what impressed me most were the fans. I know firsthand how impatient and jaded Tigers fans can be (but never fickle). They’re not Yankees fans, but they do get antsy the minute someone starts struggling, and if you begin your Tigers career that way, look out (which makes the fact that Brandon Inge has remained the most popular player even through some lean offensive years that much more remarkable). But they sure did warm to Dontrelle quickly, and I dare say they found it somewhat inspiring. The bullpen turned in a strong performance as well. And the thought just occurred to me: Joel Zumaya’s gone on record saying he’s grown up now and he’s *not* going to sneak looks at the radar gun. Well, when he’s at home, he doesn’t have to. The crowd reaction will tell him when he’s hit 100. By the way, I totally forgot it was Brandon Inge’s birthday until after the game.

This series continues tonight with Justin Verlander going up against lefty Matt Harrison. Justin’s been tremendous recently, and he’ll be trying to get double-digit strikeouts in four consecutive games. The Rangers do strike out a lot, so he’s got a reasonable chance. Hopefully all those strikeouts won’t drive his pitch count up high like they did in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Matt Harrison’s been doing quite a good job for the Rangers. He’s pitched back-to-back complete games. The Tigers beat him earlier in the year, but they didn’t exactly pound the ball against him (it was a 4-3 win). With the lefty on the mound for Texas, Wilkin Ramirez is set to make his Major League debut (as of last night, Leyland planned on DHing him). I work a rare weekday shift, which I don’t particularly care for, but at least it’ll allow me to get home in time to watch the game. Your Mood Music for tonight: It is Country Night at Comerica Park, so I thought about using some sort of country song, but I don’t listen to country music, and the few songs that I tolerate weren’t appropriate. So I decided to abandon that idea. Instead, I’ll draw inspiration from last night. During the post-game show, they interviewed Gerald Laird in the locker room. For some reason, he had a pair of sunglasses perched on top of his head. Considering that it was dark outside, this was rather strange, and Mickey York went for the obvious comment after the interview: “Gerald Laird wears his sunglasses at night.” Thus, this song.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Weekend Mojo

Photo: AP

It’s nice to see that the Tigers apparently learned something from that horrid Metrodome series: Don’t just give up when you’re down by a bunch of runs early (cuz that certainly didn’t faze the Twins at all). I wish I had good things to discuss about Armando Galarraga, but unfortunately I don’t. This time, his teammates were able to pick him up and salvage his record, but sadly, the same can’t be said for his earned run average, which is now so unsightly I almost can’t bear to look at it. It’s at the point where you can no longer say it’s either mental OR mechanical, because while one was likely the initial cause, it’s now trickled over into the other. You can’t struggle for that long and not have that happen. On his Twitter page, Jason Beck described Armando’s removal in the first inning as “the culmination of Leyland’s frustrations,” which suggests to me that Leyland is still thinking this is more mental than mechanical, and possibly that his primary motivation in removing Galarraga that early in the came was to send him a message of some sort. Let’s hope that this was the bottoming out of the whole thing, cuz I like him a lot and it would suck for it to end this way. The Tigers’ bullpen did a pretty good job for the amount of innings they had to pitch. Zach Miner was the only one to give up runs, but pitching 4.1 innings pretty much amounted to a start for him, and while I felt like he was fighting his control the whole time, he was a lot better than he was in Minnesota. Luke French had a somewhat strange outing: He walked three, including the first two batters he faced, but didn’t give up any runs. And good outings from Perry and Rodney capped off the afternoon.

It looks as though the Tigers broke the Oakland pitching staff (they got pounded by the Rays last night as well). The A’s came in with the second-best ERA in the league, and the Tigers scored about a million runs against them over the weekend. Leyland sure did pick a good day to put Ramon Santiago in the lineup. And I don’t know if anyone else has pointed this out, but his last two home runs have been impressive just because of where they were hit. Usually, the few times he does homer, they’re shots that go right down the line. The one in Minnesota was to dead center field, and the one on Sunday was in the right-centerfield gap (or, as Rod Allen likes to call it, “big boy territory”). The other kinda weird thing about this game was that Magglio’s double accounted for the only hit from the 3-4-5 hitters. Miguel Cabrera’s 0-for-5 was especially strange to see. Let’s hope he goes on a tear this week, cuz I’m tired of seeing Victor Martinez lead the league in hitting. Anyways, the contributions from the bottom of the order secured the sweep, so here is another broom:

I hope ya’ll enjoyed the off-day, cuz we’re not gonna have another one for quite a while. The Texas Rangers are in town, and they are hot as can be right now. Not only is there offense on a roll (which it normally is anyways), but they’ve actually been getting some pretty decent pitching recently (kind of a scary thought), although their closer is currently on the DL. Tonight, Dontrelle Willis goes up against Brandon McCarthy. Dontrelle’s first outing of the year was eclipsed by events so strange it was like the Tigers were playing on the west coast. As a result, I didn’t even discuss his outing. He was not great, but okay, and probably could’ve gone the full five innings. However, last year, he was always okay in his first start back. It’s the second one where things would totally spin out of control. Still, he only walked two, which is a vast improvement over five. The Tigers will be without the services of Magglio Ordoñez for this series, as he has been placed on the bereavement list because his wife is having surgery. I certainly wish both of them the best and that everything turns out okay. To take his place on the roster, the Tigers have called up Wilkin Ramirez, their top outfield prospect. He’s been putting up some good numbers for Toledo, especially in the stolen base department. The thing I’ve heard about him is that he’s very talented but strikes out a lot. No Mood Music tonight, as I don’t have any real good ideas.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Busting Out All Over

Photo: AP

I’m running late today, so it’ll be a short recap, since today’s game starts in less than an hour. Last night was another real well-played game all around for the Tigers. I felt like Rick Porcello was sharper than his start in Cleveland, but not quite as good as he had been against Minnesota (He was falling behind several hitters but got away with it). However, it’s really impressive that he was able to limit the Athletics to one run with that many left-handed hitters in the lineup. I’m not sure why the trio of Seay, Zumaya, and Rodney were used, given the big lead, but none of them threw that many pitches so they should be good to go today if needed, and there’s an off-day tomorrow. Meanwhile, the theme of this series seems to be “Guys Busting Out of Slumps.” We saw Maggs get three hits on Friday night. He only had one hit last night, but it was a long double, so it looks as though the bat speed really is coming back. Gerald Laird broke out of his struggles with three hits of his own, including two doubles. And Ryan Raburn seems to have found his power stroke over the last two games.

Today, the Tigers have the opportunity to go for the sweep. Armando Galarraga needs a good outing, as I am rapidly becoming his lone voice of support on the blogosphere. As I said after his last loss, I’m fairly confident that it’s not a sophomore-slump type thing. So is it mental or mechanical? Jim Leyland seems to think it’s mental (that he’s “giving the hitters too much credit”). Galarraga seems to think it’s largely mechanical (as a matter of fact, in
today’s game preview, he cites a specific mechanical problem that either he or Rick Knapp picked up on in the last few days), but he does admit that he might be trying to be a little too perfect with his pitches. He’ll have a big test today. Oakland’s offense has underachieved this year, but they have a lot of established hitters who could get it together at any time. Not only that, he’ll be up against a ton of lefties. It would also be nice if the Tigers could score some runs for him early, because he hasn’t gotten a lot of run support in this tough stretch. And this is totally random, but with Kenny Rogers gone, Armando Galarraga now holds the distinction of being the Tigers pitcher who makes the dumbest facial expressions mid-pitch. Brandon Inge gets his first day off this year, as Jeff Larish makes a start at third base, and every available left-handed bat is in the lineup against right-hander Trevor Cahill. Today’s Mood Music: I figured to be a little tongue-in-cheek with Galarraga needing a good start. And so, I went back to the ‘60s with the Beatles’ “Help.” By the way, Help is a tremendously funny movie, albeit very British. Also, I apologize for the stupid comments that pop up at the beginning of the video, but it's the only video I could find on YouTube.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Not Even Rain Can Stop Edwin Jackson

Photo: AP

The first rain delay allowed me to not miss a whole lot of the game while I was at work, and I was easily able to get up to speed thanks to this morning. The second rain delay was not much fun, since I was home by then and had really nothing else to do. The length of the second delay was a bit of a concern because I wanted Jackson to get the win and the Tigers’ bullpen still wasn’t at full strength. But apparently Edwin Jackson is, like, the ironman or something, cuz not only did he come back out after a rain delay of over an hour, he went three more innings. And if anything, he pitched BETTER than before the rain delay. The game also featured nice outings from Ryan Perry and Luke French.

Well, there was so much offense that it nearly overshadowed Jackson’s fine pitching performance. Granted, the Tigers got a lot of help in the early innings by some really poor defense from the Oakland infielders. Was it the rainy conditions, or what? Anyways, I missed Ryan Raburn’s grand slam due to being at work, so it was nice of Brandon Inge to provide me with another one to watch. Another nice thing to watch was Magglio, who looked like he hit some balls hard last night (and both Rod Allen and Jim Price commented that it looked like the bat speed was back). However, Maggs is
expected to miss the Texas series to deal with a “personal issue.” Obviously, we are not privy to the details (nor should we be), but I’d imagine this has something to do with what Leyland was referring to when he said that Magglio had “other things on his mind” a week ago or so. Cabrera? Well, he’s still hitting the ball really, really hard.

Tonight, Rick Porcello goes up against Dallas Braden. Porcello showed a good amount of maturity in his last start, because he didn’t have the best command in the world, yet managed to go five innings and only give up one runs. Dallas Braden has been pitching well this year, but doesn’t get a lot of run support. He also has a sore pitching hand from being hit with a line drive in his last start. Lifetime against the Tigers, it’s been a weird mix for him. He’s had two starts in which he’s shut the Tigers down for the most part, and one other one where he gave up a ton of runs in, like, two innings (that was the game back in ’07 in which Magglio hit two home runs in the same inning). No Mood Music tonight, as I’m running late in getting this posted anyways and no ideas are coming to me.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Matter of Bad Timing

Herein lies a game where the extra innings the night before had a direct consequence on this game, and that is how it was lost. Simple as that. You can’t really blame any of the management, cuz their hands were pretty much tied. Justin Verlander was awesome again. It’s quite an accomplishment to reach a career-high in strikeouts against the Twins, a team that does not strike out often (Meanwhile, his ERA is still over 4. It takes an annoyingly long time for those to go down). However, you pay a price for thirteen strikeouts, and that is that you’re at 122 pitches one out into the seventh inning. And when that 122nd pitch is ball four to Nick Punto, well, you could sense the trouble brewing. Maybe it was the quick turnaround, or maybe Bobby Seay was just due for a bad outing (happens to everyone). It just happened at an inconvenient time. On an ordinary day, you’d simply bring in Zumaya once Seay started to falter. But Zoom had thrown 50 pitches about 12 hours earlier, so Leyland’s only two choices were Zach Miner and Luke French. Obviously, you’re not gonna put Luke French in that situation. The thing is, I’m not real wild about having Zach Miner as a reliever. I know Leyland likes having him in the ‘pen because of the potential of a double play with his sinker (though that was not needed in this situation), but that potential has never really been realized because when he pitches out of the ‘pen, Miner just doesn’t throw strikes. I don’t get it. He doesn’t walk nearly as many when he’s a starter. But he had a typical relief appearance yesterday by walking the first man he faced. I’m not sure why he was so careful with Michael Cuddyer with Joe “There’s-That-Bear-Again” Crede standing in the on-deck circle, but he got burned for it, although Crede did it by hitting a pop-up into the no-man’s land between center, short, and second. By the way, I had another nosebleed after the game yesterday, this time while I was at work (though we got good news at work when we found out that Dr. Oxycontin was finally arrested). Can I blame Crede again?

For a long time it looked like the offense would kinda slumber through this one. Then they finally got productive in the sixth inning, especially with two outs, with big hits from Santiago, Maggs, Cabrera, and Thomas. However, after that, zip, nada, nilch, other than a couple singles. You’d kinda hoped they would’ve shown more life or something, but generally, with the pitching we HAD been getting, five runs would normally be enough.

Well, let’s nip this thing in the bud, shall we? Our tour of the AL Central is done for about 10 days, as the Tigers head back home to face teams from the AL & NL West. First up, the Oakland Athletics. This is a team that, for the first month and a half, had been characterized by a tremendously underachieving offense. They have Orlando Cabrera, Jason Giambi, and Matt Holiday, and yet they still weren’t scoring runs (in fact, their most productive hitter has been Kurt Suzuki, their catcher, whom I liked from the first time I saw him back in ’07). However, they’ve just come off a two-game sweep of Kansas City in which they put up quite a bit of offense, so perhaps their bats are starting to wake up. If that’s the case, it’s bad news for the Tigers. Edwin Jackson will have to stay out there a while, cuz I feel that it’s going to be at least one more day before the bullpen is back to full strength. I know Ryan Perry is available, as is Fernando Rodney, but Zumaya and Lyon will still be out, and I’d be amazed if Bobby Seay was available after pitching in stressful situations in back-to-back games. Jackson’s opponent is a bit of a mystery. Depending on which website you look at, it’s either Dallas Braden or Brett Anderson, with the other one starting tomorrow night. After careful consideration, I’m leaning towards the rookie Anderson. He’s a lefty who has struggled somewhat, and there have been injury concerns about him. However, we’ve seen the Tigers lineup get shut down before by pitchers who shouldn’t be shutting them down. I’ll be at work tonight (and not with the Tiger fan pharmacist, so no chance of checking the score), so I’m only in for the late innings. Your Mood Music for tonight: According to Jason Beck, MC Hammer will throw out the first pitch. I considered that, but ultimately decided against it (mostly because the YouTube search function is not working right now). Instead, I figured a rally cry of sorts to get us off this skid is warranted. And thus I bring you “Die Another Day.” Besides, it’s got Madonna fencing against herself.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Enough to Make Your Nose Bleed

Aw, man, I hate it when we lose the crazy games. This game had so much weirdness that a west coast game would pale in comparison. And though there’s a bunch of grousing and complaining going on online, people seem to be having a tough time finding something specific to criticize. And really, now that we have just about all the information at hand, there isn’t much you could’ve done differently in a game like this. I know Brandon Lyon is gonna take the heat for the loss, but really, the game kinda was lost on the pinch-hit home run that Jason Kubel hit off Zumaya. But you’re gonna use Zoom in that situation every time you can. He just didn’t do the job. After that, the loss was kind of a foregone conclusion, but now the bullpen has been totally burned out. Rodney only threw 17 pitches, so he should be good to go, and you might be able to use Bobby Seay in a short outing, but I’d reckon that everyone else is unavailable. And as much as Brandon Lyon has struggled this year, hey, for his first two innings he really wasn’t bad at all. But I think he ran out of gas in the thirteenth. And I never thought I’d see the day when people online were clamoring for Nate Robertson to be brought into the game (at the time I thought it a bit odd that they didn’t put him in BEFORE Lyon, given that Lyon IS a former closer so it might make sense to hold him off until the Tigers grabbed a lead, but we all found out why this morning). Lyon was literally the last man standing, and then Joe Crede (who had flied out to the warning track in his previous at-bat) finally finished him off (though at that point I think Lyon’s arm was about to fall off). You can’t keep giving Joe Crede opportunities. I’m not even that familiar with him and I know that. Still, had he gotten out of the inning, who in the world would’ve pitched the fourteenth? And as I alluded to in the title, shortly after the game ended, I got a serious nosebleed. I blame Crede.

Well, there wasn’t a problem with the offense during the middle innings, that’s for sure. Inge and Cabrera both kinda broke out of mini-slumps with home runs, and Larish homered for the third straight game. Magglio had a double, then struck out in his next at-bat, questioned the call, and that’s when the fireworks started. I’ve never seen an umpire touch a player and try to usher him toward the dugout. Is that even allowed? I know that players aren’t allowed to touch the umpire. I can’t blame Leyland for getting hot (though I know part of it was to protect Maggs). Once the extra innings fun started, the double play bug reared its ugly head, though none of the double plays were exactly tailor-made. And I know this is nitpicking something that really isn’t that important, but…well…Gerald Laird isn’t exactly attractive anyways, but he shaved his head yesterday and it looks AWFUL. Damn those baseball players and their superstitions.

Well, with the bullpen burned, we’re gonna get a lot of Justin Verlander today, no matter what happens. He’s been fantastic in his last three starts, that’s for sure. He used to dominate the Twins when he first came up, but that’s not necessarily the case anymore. Minnesota’s got quite a few guys who hit him pretty well, particularly Mauer, Morneau, and Crede. He’ll be opposed by Scott Baker, who has struggled a bit this year. He’s given up quite a few home runs, and he no-hit the Royals for six innings, only to give up five runs in the seventh and lose. However, he threw a shutout in his last start against Seattle, so perhaps he’s got it turned around as well. With Nate Robertson going on the DL, left-hander Lucas French has been called up from Toledo. Polanco gets the afternoon off, with Santiago starting in his place. Your Mood Music for today: Well, I already used this song, but as we need Verlander to come to the rescue, I figured Bonnie Tyler would be fitting once again. It’s still a lame music video, though.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Oh, It Breaks the Heart

A Tigers loss is never fun, but to me, it’s especially painful when the loss gets pinned on either Justin Verlander or Armando Galarraga (by the way, the title is a quote from an Indiana Jones movie, just so you know). Once again, the fact that it’s Minnesota prevents me from knowing for sure whether or not I can extrapolate anything from this start. I’ll try, though. This is actually the first start of his in quite a while that I’ve been able to watch. I was at work during the Cleveland game, and in his Chicago start, I was studying for a final, so I really didn’t pay much attention. This time, I saw everything except the bottom of the first. This game went was more typical of a Galarraga loss than the last two were, in that the Twins didn’t have a big inning against him. Instead, there were two two-run innings and a one-run inning. However, I now feel fairly confident in saying that I don’t think this is the result of sophomore slump-type adjustments by the other teams (i.e. I think Galarraga still has a lot to contribute to the team). That means that this is either physical, mental, or mechanical in nature, but I honestly don’t know which one it is. You don’t want it to be physical, because that suggests injury, and that would be bad (though, given Galarraga’s elbow problems in his minor league career, it is a legitimate concern; another cause for alarm is that seven pitchers who participated in the WBC have spent time on the DL already). According to Rod Allen, Jeff Jones made some comments about Galarraga opening up too soon. I’m not sure quite what that means, but apparently it causes his slider to hang, and that’s a mechanical problem. Mechanical problems can be fixed, but they can’t necessarily be fixed quickly. Just ask Verlander, although he is probably not the best example, given how stubborn and obstinate he can be. I would think Galarraga would be more receptive to the advice of Rick Knapp and Jeff Jones. However, Leyland’s post-game comments would seem to suggest it’s a mental problem, as did his little heart-to-heart with Galarraga on the mound during the game. Galarraga did pitch better after that. I know he gave up the one run in the sixth, but even though he allowed the first two hitters to reach, I think he deserved a better fate in that inning. He got the routine, tailor-made, ground ball he needed not once, but twice, and on consecutive batters. And the Tigers weren’t able to turn either double play. The last one resulted in a Polanco throwing error. So it seems the trend of the Tigers infield not playing well on artificial surface continues, which is a concern when you realize we got eight more games at the Metrodome, as well as three at the Trop. And, just by reading his body language, it looks as though he lost focus after the second double play was not turned. He walked Punto, and was clearly displaying frustration with either himself or the umpire during that entire at-bat (a rare show of emotion for Galarraga). Ryan Perry (who is apparently going to he converted to long relief now that the trio of Seay, Zumaya, and Rodney have seemingly been established) was not bad, but he also gave up a run due to a play that was not made. The weird part about his outing was that Laird was having a really difficult time catching him.

By the way, I need to make a correction regarding my preview for this game. I referred to the Twins’ starting pitcher as Kyle Slowey, when, in fact, his name is Kevin Slowey. This is not the first time I have made this mistake, either, which leads me to believe that it won’t be the last time (unless the Tigers simply never see Slowey again), because apparently my subconscious is convinced that his name is Kyle and will not be persuaded otherwise. Regardless of his first name, “Slowey” could also be used to describe the Tigers’ offense with runners in scoring position. Believe it or not, the Tigers actually outhit the Twins. Actually, against Slowey, I think they got the leadoff man on in all but one inning. Perhaps it’s just my amateur status, but I always thought that getting the leadoff man on INCREASED your chances of scoring. And yet the only scoring came on two solo home runs. They could’ve had five or six runs in the first two innings. Instead, there were an awful lot of pop-ups and double plays.

It’s now time to hold tight and get set for game 2 of this series, featuring (for the first time this season) a battle of southpaws. Dontrelle Willis makes his return from the DL, though judging from the comments at BYB, none of the fans seem tremendously excited about it. Personally, I wish he had made a start at Toledo in which he didn’t walk anybody or only walked one, but it is what it is. At this point, the Tigers can afford to see if he’s gotten anything back, so long as they don’t let him linger in the rotation if he’s not effective. I’m hoping he is effective, because it would be nice to have a solid left-hander in the rotation. He made two “comebacks” last year, and both of them turned out pretty similar. In his first game back, he’d walk four or five, but he’d manage to pitch out of it without giving up too much damage and actually leave after five or six innings with the lead, only to have the bullpen give it up and lose. It was the second start that really caused problems. To make room for him on the roster, the Tigers have designated Juan Rincon for assignment. He has three days to decide whether or not he’ll go to Toledo. If he doesn’t, well, it’s a shame that he never really displayed the form that he had in Spring Training. You hate to see stuff like that go to waste. Glen Perkins is starting for the Twins. He’s off to a decent start this year, ERA-wise, though he does have a losing record. The Tigers never did much against him last year, save perhaps one game. Your Mood Music for tonight: Well, given the fact that Dontrelle Willis was once one of the top pitchers in the game, having won a World Series in ’03 and winning 22 games and finishing second in the Cy Young in ’05, and is now basically hanging by a thread to save his career, I figured that “Viva la Vida” was an appropriate song. It’s kind of a downer, but it fits.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Quick Bits + Mood Music

Time for your day-after-the-off-day Quick Bits:

  • Jason Beck has a piece over on the official site on Joel Zumaya and his “boy-to-man” transition. Apparently I was not paying attention, because I did not realize he got married last year. Not only that, but the couple is expecting their first child this summer. This information is kind of mind-blowing to me, partly because it kinda goes against the character that Zumaya has created for himself over the years, and partly because I am a year older than Zoom and as single and kid-less as they come.
  • Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle has some details on the upcoming Moneyball movie (which, by the way, I have not read, just so you know). Apparently, the producers estimate that 26 players, managers, coaches, and front-office personnel will be playing themselves. How cool would it be if Bonderman were one of them? Hey, they gotta put the chair-throwing incident in the movie. It’d be no fun otherwise.
  • BigJP of Always a Tiger discusses the impending roster move that has to be made in order to activate Dontrelle Willis tomorrow.
  • Over at Mack Avenue Tigers, Kurt shares the secrets to winning at the Metrodome.
  • The Brewers have signed former Tiger Frank Catalanotto.
  • Meanwhile, in their search for bullpen help, the Indians have signed Blaine Neal to a minor league contract. Neal was the closer for the Mud Hens last year and played on the Olympic team.
  • Just a reminder: Tonight’s game will be broadcast on FSD+, not regular FSD. That’s always a dicey proposition for me. My local cable company (Buckeye) puts FSD+ on a channel that is normally called BCSN, which showcases local sports games and tournaments (usually high school, along with University of Toledo and Bowling Green). In years past, this channel has had really crappy reception. They seem to have gotten it cleared up this year, but another thing that BCSN shows is Mud Hens games (being in Toledo, it comes with the territory). Last time the Tigers had a game on FSD+, Buckeye opted to show the Mud Hens game instead. I ended up having to watch the game on, which luckily thinks I live somewhere in Indiana so I don’t get blacked out from Tigers games. Still, with, I can either watch it on a laptop with an unstable wireless Internet connection, or on a desktop PC that gets slowed down mightily by the media player (but has a stable Internet connection). Anyways, that’s my rant for today.
  • Your Mood Music for tonight: Despite being a bit nervous about having the Tigers play at the Metrodome, they are on a bit of a mini-roll pitching-wise (It'd be nice if the offense was a bit more consistent, though). Given the fact that no one on a national level gave the pitching a chance, how 'bout some Ozzy Osbourne to get everyone pumped up and hopefully keep the good Tiger pitching going?

Galarraga: May 2008 vs. May 2009

I trust you all had a nice, productive off-day, and now it’s back to work. As we count down the hours until tonight’s game, I’m sure we’re all thinking that it’d be nice for Armando Galarraga to join in on the recent spate of great Tiger pitching, both because he’s on a personal two-game losing streak and because the seeds of doubt may be starting to creep into the minds of some, given his “unproven” status. For comparison’s sake, I decided to look into how he pitched last May. Here are the final lines from his five May 2008 starts:

May 2nd: L @ MIN, 6.0 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 SO, 0 HR (also WP, HBP)
May 7th: ND vs BOS, 5.1 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 BB, 6 SO, 2 HR (also HBP)
May 17th: W @ ARI, 6.0 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 3 SO, 0 HR
May 23rd: L vs MIN, 6.0 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 5 BB, 5 SO, 1 HR
May 28th: W @ LAA, 8.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, 4 SO, 1 HR

Without actually looking at the lines from his last three starts this year (‘cuz I’m lazy), the numbers seem pretty similar. He finished out the month 2-2 with a no-decision mixed in, but the only start he had that wasn’t shaky in some fashion was the May 28th start against the Angels, in which he fell two outs shy of a complete game. Perhaps May just isn’t his month (Indeed, it seems like he did his best pitching in April, June, and August last year). As I’ve said before, I’m not real big on sabermetrics and ultra-detailed statistics, so I’m not going to analyze batting average on balls in play or the percentage of swings and misses he gets on his slider, nor do I care to read anyone else’s analysis of it. At any rate, a couple things I have observed are that when he’s going right, he has a knack for making adjustments and limiting hits when the opposing team has guys on base. Big innings against him have been exceptionally rare, and given that there has been one in each of his last two games, you’d think he’d be on the verge of an adjustment of some sort. The problem is that he has struggled against the Twins so consistently that if he were to pitch badly tonight, you’d almost have to be forced to ignore this start and wait for the next one (Hey, the White Sox and Indians accounted for TEN of Verlander’s 17 losses last year; he’d’ve had a winning record otherwise). I can’t guarantee that he WILL be able to make the adjustment, but it’s still too early to say that he WON’T. And this is where I abandon all the numbers and stats and say that I’m totally rooting for the guy, because he is a great story and he strikes me as a very smart person, and I like smart people. In fact, I think the only pitcher on the Tigers’ staff that I root harder for is Verlander, and that’s simply a personal preference. I am just too softhearted for this business. At any rate, I figured I’d throw my two cents and lack of predictions out there.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pink Bats, Pink Bands, Pink Shoes...Pink Brooms?

Photo: AP

What a week it was for the pitching staff. Seriously. Since last Sunday, with the exception of two, maybe three, innings (depending on whether or not you want to count Rodney allowing two runs in the bottom of the ninth yesterday), Tiger pitching has been phenomenal. Rick Porcello didn’t have quite the command that he had against Minnesota, but it’s pretty impressive that a twenty-year-old was able to work around it and get through five innings while only giving up one run. Granted, the Indians were kinda flat all weekend, but their offense actually had not been struggling much before the Tigers showed up, so take what you will from it. The game also featured another great catch from Curtis Granderson, as well as great pitching from Zach Miner, Bobby Seay, and Brandon Lyon (though he only faced one batter). Rodney had some issues, though. After only walking one batter through the first 28 games, he’s now walked three in the last two. I don’t know if he’s going through one of *those* phases, or if it’s simply the tendency for closers to not pitch as well in non-save situations, and I suppose we won’t find that out until he actually is in a save situation. However, he did manage to get himself out of his own jam and secure the sweep. And keeping with the theme of Mother’s Day and the pink bats and wristbands, here is a pink broom:

The Tigers haven’t exactly bombed the ball on this road trip, and yesterday mostly featured more of the same (save for the Jeff Larish home run), but when they score five runs, I’m not going to complain. And it looks as though most of the Tigers DID use the pink bats, at least for their first couple trips to the plate. After going 2-for-3 with his first double of the season, Magglio joked that he might want to keep using his. Maybe that day off helped. Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera did not have a good day at the plate, and he proceeded to lay the blame on all things pink. He started out the game with the pink bat, pink wristbands, and pink shoes (well, technically they were black with pink soles and shoelaces). He struck out in his first at-bat, and apparently blamed the pink shoes, cuz he was back to wearing his normal shoes a short time later. In his second at-bat, he grounded into a double play. This time, he blamed the pink bat. In his third plate appearance, he used one of his own bats, and hit into another double play. In his final plate appearance, the pink wristbands were gone. He walked. I don’t know if he found that satisfactory or not, but given the fact that the only pink thing left on him was the little breast cancer ribbon that all the players had on their uniforms, there really wasn’t much left for him to blame.

Well, the Tigers are now in first place and are now four games over .500, which is better than they were at any point last year. However, last year I’ve seen mini-rolls come to an end as soon as they entered the Metrodome. The Twins, unlike the Indians, are not really struggling, even though they are under .500. They just took two of three from the Seattle Mariners, and their offense seems to be hot right now. The Tigers struggled there last year, but they DID win 8 of 9 at the Metrodome in 2007. It’d be lovely if they could repeat that kind of success. First up is Armando Galarraga, who right now bears the only dark spot on the last turn through the rotation. He got victimized by a bad first inning in Chicago, but pitched all right after that. The problem is that it was his second loss in a row, and he’s really backed himself into a corner because now he’s forced to try to right himself against HIS own personal nemesis, the Minnesota Twins. He just has not been able to beat them. Last year, he went 0-4 against them and turned in some of his worst outings in the process. The only thing I can think of is the regularity with which the Twins put the ball in play, and on artificial surface, that can be a problem (though he also had no luck against them at Comerica Park). I think his struggles against them started to get into his head a little bit, cuz the last time he faced them (early September last year), he walked six. I’ll have more on Galarraga tomorrow and I’ll discuss why it may be too early to write him off, regardless of the outcome tomorrow night. Still, hopefully watching Verlander beat the Indians twice has provided some form of inspiration. By the way, I learned during the pre-game show yesterday that Galarraga has a really weird laugh. He’ll be opposed by Kyle Slowey, who has a 4-1 record but an earned run average over five. He must get a lot of run support or something. The lone loss came in his last start, when a lengthy rain delay knocked him out in the third inning after giving up three runs (Orioles ended up winning 4-1 in a rain-shortened game). Today is an off-day (and a really dull one at that, since I’m out of school for the summer and there are only four games being played tonight), so I’m going to save Mood Music for tomorrow’s post.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Fantastic Follow-Up

Photo: AP

Well, this game wasn’t quite as fast as the last one. This time, on my way home, I listened to Rafael Betancourt strike out Polanco to end the top half of the seventh inning, so I at least got to watch everything from the bottom of the seventh onwards. A day after Justin Verlander was masterful, Edwin Jackson looked pretty good himself, as did Zumaya. Rodney was a bit shaky in the ninth, but he didn’t allow a run to score and he hasn’t been quite as good in non-save situations anyways.

I missed what would have been the excruciating pitching duel part of the game, which I don’t entirely mind. The offense hasn’t exactly been on fire during this road trip, but they were able to manufacture a few runs last night, which was nice to see. They even got a couple of two-out runs off Betancourt, who, up until that point, was starting to look like the Betancourt of 2007, which would not be good for the Tigers.

Surprisingly, this is the Tigers’ first opportunity at a sweep since the Texas series in early April. Rick Porcello will be under some good-natured pressure to keep the scoreless streak going for Tigers’ pitching. Actually, he already shut out the Minnesota Twins. Now we’ll see if he can build off that. The Indians will send out Anthony Reyes. Remember him? He’s the guy who stymied the Tiger hitters and outpitched Justin Verlander in Game 1 of the World Series a few years ago, thus giving birth to the term “Reyes Effect.” The Tigers saw him the following year in Interleague play and roughed him up pretty good, but they haven’t seen him since. Maggs is back in right field, and Jeff Larish gets a start at DH. It’s Mother’s Day, which means that it’s the annual pink bat game. I’m not going to make the same mistake I did two years ago, when I boldly proclaimed that every Tiger was going to use the pink bats. That wasn’t the case, as I apparently misunderstood the promotion. I’m pretty sure Inge and Granderson will use the pink bats, but beyond that, I don’t know. The pink bat game got rained out last year. Anyways, Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Justin Verlander is the Man

Photo: AP

I don’t know how many of you listen to Tigers games on the radio (given the general dislike of Jim Price amongst Tigers fans, I’m going to assume it’s not that many), but for those of you who don’t, I need to explain something: On the radio, they always play the intro to “Detroit Rock City” when they come out of commercial for the ninth inning (whether it gets played for the top half or the bottom half of the inning depends on whether the Tigers are at home or on the road and whether or not they have the lead). So imagine my surprise when, on my drive home from work (9:00), I hear “Detroit Rock City” being played. Damn, that was a short game. At any rate, through a combination of the radio and the TV, I was able to experience the bottom of the ninth along with the rest of you (and yes, luckily I saw the final two outs on TV). I have since utilized to watch most of the rest of the game (“most” as in the bottom halves of innings as well as the top of the eighth, when the Tigers scored their only run), so I can at least provide a little bit of my own insight, though what more can you say, really? I think Justin Verlander is trying to serve Zack Greinke notice. He totally fought off all those demons he had at Progressive Field and locked ‘em all away, at least for one night. He sure has been racking up the strikeouts and notched complete game #1 for the Tigers this season (with the way he’d been throwing, you kinda felt like he would do it at some point). Of course, none of this happy talk would have been possible without an amazing, spectacular play by Curtis Granderson, who showed off his basketball skills as he leaped up to rob Grady Sizemore of what would have been a heartbreaker of a walk-off home run. Of course, I was immediately reminded of the play he made a couple years ago at Comerica Park to rob Wily Mo Peña in a game against the Red Sox. That play may have been flashier from a visual standpoint, but the play he made last night was definitely more significant.

Tonight’s game features sinkerballer Fausto Carmona against hard-thrower Edwin Jackson. Jackson’s been haunted by lack of run support and a really bad seventh inning his last time out. He has good numbers against Cleveland in his career, though he’s only made one start at Progressive Field. Carmona started off the season really rough, but has pitched better recently and always seems to stymie the Tigers now matter how much he’s been struggling. However, the Tigers all of a sudden have a lot more left-handed bats at their disposal (Anderson, Thomas, Granderson, Larish, and the switch-hitter Santiago), as well as more speed from those left-handed bats. Leyland has said as much, and he also said that Cabrera might DH and Maggs might get the night off. I work tonight (and, for the record, I hate closing on Saturdays), so I’ll be limited to the late innings once again.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Where's Jose Contreras When You Need Him?

You know, I didn’t really have a good feeling about this game no matter which day it got played on. Armando Galarraga got victimized by early control problems and some poor decision-making. By his own account (as well as the accounts of both Jim Leyland and Gerald Laird), he decided to pitch around Jim Thome. There were two outs, first base was open, and there was a right-handed hitter on deck, so I kinda understand the logic there, but it was still a bad idea (not to mention the fact that Galarraga had struck him out twice in their previous meeting). I’m not gonna pretend that the hits off him weren’t hit hard, but when Paul Konerko hit the two-run double the opposite way, was anyone else reminded of the double that Joe Crede hit against Edwin Jackson? I was not that surprised by the A.J. Pierzynski home run cuz Pierzynski had good swings against him last time as well (But do you think that home run gets out at Comerica Park? I did not find out what the estimated distance was, nor do I know the exact dimensions of either ballpark). Still, give him credit for pulling himself together and going six innings. And really, after the first inning he was not bad at all. He didn’t walk anybody and only gave up the one run on the Jayson Nix homer. I’ll take those five innings just about any day. He only threw 85 pitches, so he probably could’ve gone seven, but I guess Leyland wanted to get Ryan Perry some work. So here’s hoping that he made the adjustment he needed to (albeit a bit too late for this game), and that he can carry it into his next start (wish with all your might for that one, cuz it will not be an easy start).

I know he’s thrown a no-hitter before, but the way Mark Buerhle was mowing down hitters was ridiculous. The only one who had a reasonably good night at the plate was Polanco, who thankfully broke up the perfect-game bid. Therefore, it is difficult to dissect the struggles of anyone in particular (Maggs, Laird, Inge…take your pick). It looked like Magglio was having a real good final at bat. He saw nine pitches before taking a called third strike and proceeded to argue about it. That’s another kinda puzzling thing about his struggles: He doesn’t seem to be striking out more often (or if he is, I haven’t noticed it). A couple of days ago, Leyland said that Maggs had “other things on his mind,” suggesting that there is some sort of off-the-field problem. If that’s the case, then I hope he can get through it. Hopefully it’s not the same sort of off-the-field problem that Manny Ramirez had.

Well, now it’s off to Cleveland for the first time this year (which means it’s time to be annoyed by That F***ing Drum). Tonight’s game features a rematch from last Sunday’s game: Justin Verlander vs. Cliff Lee. Justin was fantastic in that game. However, it was at Comerica Park, where, as I mentioned at the time, he can SOMETIMES beat the Indians. It’s a whole different story at Progressive Field, where he’s 1-7 with an ERA of 9.00 (that lone win must’ve come in 2006, cuz I certainly don’t remember it). He’s got some demons to fight there, that’s for sure. You all saw Cliff Lee in his last start, so there’s really nothing to update as far as a scouting report, but it looks as though he has regained his form. The Indians’ bullpen is still struggling, and last night they and Jeremy Sowers teamed up to allow a 12-run sixth inning by the Boston Red Sox. So hopefully the Tigers can at least get Cliff Lee’s pitch count up fast enough to be able to get into that bullpen. I work tonight, so I’ll only be around for the late innings. By the way, last night's game continued the trend of whichever team's starting pitcher had the higher ERA won the game. That trend is certainly welcome to continue tonight.