Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Shaken AND Stirred

Photo: AP

Hey, sometimes it doesn’t matter if you’re ill-suited for an opposing team or not. If you pitch well enough, you can still get ‘em out. Rick Porcello did a fine job of that last night. It didn’t hurt matters that he was staked to a huge lead, but it was still impressive. Up until the seventh inning, every hit that the Twins got was immediately followed by a double play. Nate Robertson had some issues with walks in the eighth inning, which is kind of out-of-character for him (He’s had his issues over the past couple years, but walks generally aren’t one of them). Juan Rincon wrapped things up with an uneventful ninth.

I think everyone online had something to criticize about last night’s shaken-up batting order, but Leyland proved us all wrong. I don’t mind little tweaks here and there, but major surgery always makes me feel uneasy. After all, constant lineup juggling was one of last year's problems. It almost seems a shame to move Granderson from the leadoff spot because he’s been so productive there, but if you’re going to move him, I think I’d rather see him hit third than fifth. Eric Wedge briefly tried that with Grady Sizemore back in ’07. And once Magglio rediscovers his power stroke, I think we’d all love to see him bumped back up to the 3 or 5-slot. I think a lot of people online were objecting to Clete Thomas batting third. The only logic I could get out of it was that it brought a lefty/righty alternation to the top of the lineup, and Clete had homered off Nick Blackburn last year. Whatever the logic, it sure worked for this game. Ironically, Clete fell a home run shy of the cycle. Really, the only ones who didn't really benefit from all the lineup reworking were Maggs and Inge, who both went hitless and really didn't figure into the scoring (though Brandon DID reach on an error). Meanwhile, Cabrera was a triple shy of his own cycle. And I’m usually not one to gawk at home run distances for very long, but man, he CRUSHED that ball. And yeah, the offense got a lot of help from an uncharacteristically shoddy Twins defense, but it was still nice to score nine runs. I just wish we could’ve done some damage to their bullpen as well.

Well, with the homestand all done and completed, it’s time to hit the road for a tour of the Central Division. First up is a two-game set in Chicago, which doesn’t exactly thrill me because that means that there will be a four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field at some point later in the year, and that’s probably gonna suck. One really strange thing that I’ve noticed is that in the last five games (i.e. one turn through the rotation), whichever team’s starting pitcher had the higher ERA of the two won the game (Pavano over Galarraga, Tigers over Indians in the Miner/Laffey tilt, Verlander over Lee, Liriano over Jackson, and Porcello over Blackburn). This obviously does not make much sense. Whatever the cause, I would very much like for this phenomenon to end now, because if it holds up, the Tigers are going to get swept. Armando Galarraga suffered his first loss of the season last time, and it was against a team he’s usually successful against. He’s been kinda nibbling over his last few starts instead of going after the hitters, but I’m sure he’s figured that out by now (he strikes me as a rather intelligent sort), and hopefully he’s made the necessary adjustments. Offensively, the White Sox are generally not as patient as the Indians, but if their scouting report says Galarraga’s been walking people recently (and I’m sure it does), they’ve got enough veteran hitters who will display patience, so this won’t be an easy lineup to get through (that and the fact that U.S. Cellular Field plays like a giant launching pad most of the time). He’ll also have his hands full opposing Mark Buerhle, who has gone six innings and given up three earned runs or fewer in each start so far. He is one tough customer to be opposing. With the lefty on the mound for the White Sox, the Tigers’ lineup certainly won’t look like it did last night (Maggs might even be bumped back up, especially since he has hit Buerhle well). I would assume Raburn will be in there somewhere (Hey, Toledo guys have hit Chicago pitching very well). However, as the roster stands right now, you’d almost have to have two lefties in the lineup (you don’t have to, but you’d end up with kind of a weak right-handed DH or outfielder). Granderson’s definitely going to be one of them, which leaves you with a choice of Larish, Thomas, or Anderson for the other lefty. Larish has the biggest power potential, Anderson has the most speed, and Clete Thomas actually hit lefties pretty well in his limited playing time last year. One weakness (sort of) with the roster right now is that virtually all the speedsters on the team are left-handed batters. However, you can run on Mark Buerhle, so in this case, it makes little difference. Your Mood Music for tonight: Well, we’re in Chicago, so let’s let Frank Sinatra make the introduction.

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