Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Who Needs Air Conditioning?

With all the swinging and missing that was going on by Tiger hitters, you’d probably be sufficiently cooled off at the ballpark last night (by the way, if they tried, I’m sure they could come up with a longer name than “Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum”). Fourteen strikeouts make for an excellent imitation of the hometown Mud Hens (who, as a team, have struck out over 700 times, including a game where Ian Snell struck out 13 Mud Hens in a row recently). Contact was elusive, for some reason. I just don’t remember Brett Anderson throwing that hard back in May (and Comerica Park’s gun tends to be a little hot). He IS highly thought of in their organization, and he’s obviously got a really good fastball (or so it would seem), but he HAS struggled this year, and the Tigers beat him before (though, as I said, it’s tough to say that he pitched horribly in that start, given the sheer number of errors that the Oakland infield committed behind him; still, he did give up nine runs). I suppose we’ll make the final judgment on this when we see what he does in his next start. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello started off okay, but with him not lasting deep into games in his recent starts, you figured something like this was coming. This game also featured the debut of Fu Te Ni, who seemed to impress just about everyone on the blogosphere, despite the long home run he gave up to Ryan Sweeney. As usual, the BYB Game Thread was jumpin’, but this made me laugh. Sad, but funny. Not to mention a terrific Photoshop job.

Tonight’s another late night for Tigers fans (which is fine, since I work and normally would miss the first few to several innings, but tonight I’ll be able to work a 5-hour shift and not miss a pitch should I so choose). Armando Galarraga, well, didn’t have a by-the-book quality start his last time, but he did win, and could just as easily be around a .500 record right now if he had gotten more run support in his starts. Now, during that stretch, he had had somewhat promising outings, only to follow them up with more struggles, so winning his last time out doesn’t guarantee anything. However, the last start was more encouraging to me because of the reasonably low hit totals, only one walk, and five strikeouts, and he threw several good-looking pitches (also some more of those different-looking pitches that aren’t effective, so he’s still got a ways to go). He did not have a good start at all against the A’s last month, as he got charged with five runs in only 2/3 of an inning. He’ll be opposed by another lefty, Gio Gonzalez, who, like Brett Anderson, is highly thought of but has struggled. The Tigers saw him once last year and hit him pretty well (including a grand slam by Gary Sheffield for the 250,000th home run in MLB history), but at this point, I have no idea what to expect. Your Mood Music for tonight: I thought that Styx’s “Just Get Through This Night” would be fitting, considering that it’s both a late night for us fans and because this is a big start for Galarraga. And you’ll notice that I’m the one who uploaded the song, but that’s because I couldn’t find it on YouTube. This is NOT the slideshow I’m planning for Friday. Also, bear with it, because the beginning of the song is really quiet.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Inge to the Rescue Again

Photo: AP

Maybe the Tigers left Weekend Mojo back in Detroit by accident, and Fu Te Ni kindly brought it with him when he made the trip to Houston (I’d make a joke about losing it like you lose your luggage at the airport, but the Tigers have their own plane so that joke wouldn’t really work). At any rate, it took until the ninth inning, but Brandon Inge came up with the big hit. And the Tigers had been down to their final strike when the strikeout-prone Marcus Thames managed to work a walk, and Inge made Valverde pay for that walk, hobbled as he was (Hopefully, it’s nothing that’ll keep him out of the lineup, cuz right now he’s too valuable both with the glove and with the bat). At any rate, I really didn’t see this game (other than watching a couple of innings on the MLB.tv archives). It was over with before I got home from work. I lucked out and DID have an Internet connection, but it was on a computer that didn’t have any sort of Flash player, so I ended up on the auto-refreshing boxscore/play-by-play on Yahoo Sports (I was also able to listen to an inning and a half on the radio while I was at lunch). In some ways, though, I’m kind of glad I did not get to watch this game, because happy as I am about the Tigers’ win, it would’ve killed me to see Pudge be the last out (I did hear that it was a hard groundball, though, so at least he gave Brandon Inge somewhat of a challenge). And hey, at least with this series over, I can be rid of the mixed feelings I was battling all weekend (Well, Friday and yesterday, at least; I don’t really care about Humberto Quintero). By the way, I said I had more thoughts related to my slideshow, but they’re kinda long, so I’m going to save those for Friday’s post, since Thursday is an off-day.

Yesterday also featured a bunch of roster moves. First up, Nate Robertson was placed on the DL and Fu Te Ni was called up to replace him. Apparently, Nate’s got a mass or cyst in his elbow that is pressing up against his ulnar nerve, causing numbness and tingling in his pitching hand. So why did he wait so long? You’d think that after, oh, his second or third ineffective outing he’d go to the trainers and say that his fingers were numb and tingling. Apparently he learned nothing over the last two years from such struggles as those of Kenny Rogers, Jeremy Bonderman (twice), Joel Zumaya, Fernando Rodney, and Todd Jones: Don’t pitch hurt. You’re not effective if you pitch hurt. Also, they decided to make a change in the rotation and swap out Alfredo Figaro and Luke French. French will start on Friday in Minnesota, but he will apparently be available out of the bullpen for the next day or two.

Well, Interleague play in 2009 has come to a close for the Tigers, at least (I know there are still one or two makeup games to be played elsewhere), and though the boys didn’t fare as well as they have in years past, I still say that it beats having to play the Red Sox and Yankees more. Anyways, it’s back to the realm of the DH and onto what has been the Tigers’ favorite division so far this year: the AL West. The Oakland Athletics are last in their division (by a good margin), and they got swept by the Tigers back in May. However, the Tigers have generally not played well in Oakland over the past couple years. At any rate, it’s a late-night affair, and Rick Porcello gets the ball tonight. He ended up with a no-decision his last time out. He hasn’t lost since that game against the Red Sox, but he maybe hasn’t been quite as sharp as he was in May. He’s been throwing more pitches in fewer innings, but so far, he’s been able to limit the damage. The A’s HAVE seen him before, so there is the question of whether or not adjustments will be made, either by Porcello or by the Oakland hitters. He’ll be opposed by Brett Anderson, whom the Tigers beat back in that series in May. He probably pitched better than the numbers would indicate, though, because the A’s infield made four errors behind him (That was that wacky game where the Tigers hit two grand slams and Edwin Jackson pitched three more innings after a rain delay that lasted over an hour). Hope you’ve got the caffeine ready. Your Mood Music for tonight: Oh, how ‘bout some good old-fashioned headbanging? Let’s go back to the early ‘90s and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Totally Different Issues This Time

It seems that whenever the Tigers lose a game in which they leave a lot of men on base, it almost inevitably gets followed by a game in which they get dominated and end up with very few guys to strand. If I were superstitious, I’d say it was karma biting them in the ass. All in all, it was a strange night for Alfredo Figaro, and an even worse night for the offense. Figaro had a disastrous third inning in which he gave up a bunch of hits and a bunch of runs (Rod Allen mentioned that all the hits came on offspeed pitches, so make of that what you will). The other five innings he was in there, well…he wasn’t great, but he was okay, I guess. Leyland said that Figaro got aggressive “only after the horse was out of the barn.” Freddy Dolsi finished things up and yes, I know he didn’t give up a run, but he still scares the hell out of me. Besides, between him and Figaro, it looked like the Tigers had a couple of 12-year-olds pitching for them. At any rate, the two of them combined to only give up three walks, which is certainly more acceptable than 7. In terms of the offense, I may as well not give them their own paragraph, because there’s not a lot to talk about. Santiago homered, and Cabrera and Thames each had a single. That was it. I listened to the radio post-game show and watched the post-game show on television as well (hey, I am nothing if not thorough). Jim Price seemed to think that the hitters helped out Paulino immensely, but Jim Leyland’s attitude would seem to suggest that he thought the Tigers were genuinely overmatched. I’m inclined to believe the manager over the radio color analyst, but I will say this: Brandon Inge was taking some really funky swings all night. He also scraped up his arm, likely on that Michael Bourn rundown that took way too long to complete (cue the Benny Hill music).

Well, at last we’ve come to the end of Interleague play, which this year was not as bountiful a harvest for the Tigers. That’s kind of disappointing to me, because I enjoy Interleague play and this year I can’t really use my #1 argument for it (although I could adapt it by saying that if the Tigers are gonna suck against the AL East, which they’ve done so far, .500 against the National League ain’t so bad in comparison). At any rate, Edwin Jackson will be charged with nipping this little mini-skid in the bud. The Cubs made him work to get his outs last time, but he navigated his way out of trouble with minimal damage and it was only Micah Hoffpauir’s home run off Zumaya which denied him the victory. He’ll be up against Russ Ortiz, who I guess is kind of a middle-of-the-road-type pitcher. His earned run average is pretty good, but he’s not overpowering. However, those “crafty” type pitchers have been known to give the Tigers fits in the past. I’ll be at work from 10 to 5, so it’s quite possible (in fact, likely) that I will miss the vast bulk of this game. Your Mood Music for today: I started this slideshow last year shortly after Pudge was traded to the Yankees, and I never finished it. Given that the Tigers were facing him once again, I decided to go ahead and complete it. I would much rather have made a music video than a slideshow, but the video capture software I have leaves the image really grainy (either that, or I have a crappy VCR hooked up to the computer), and I wouldn’t be able to share it for very long, because YouTube would have it taken down within an hour. At any rate, it is not my best work by any means (I am planning another, more complicated slideshow that I will hopefully have done in time for the Minnesota series, but if I don’t get it done, it’ll have to wait until the next time the Tigers go to Minneapolis), and it is perhaps a bit more emotionally charged than it would be if I had started it today instead of a year ago. No, I am not a teenage girl who has to make slideshows of all her favorite people. I’m a filmmaker at heart, so this is my way of creative expression. At any rate, YouTube kinda screwed up the video when it got uploaded, and the transitions are slower than they should be. By the way, I do NOT have a repository of Pudge Rodriguez photos. I have a massive repository of Tigers photos in general from 2007 and 2008 (and a tiny bit of 2006), of which I ended up using nearly every picture of Pudge that I had. I do have an addendum that I came up with while making this slideshow, but as this post is already too long, I’ll save it for the next blog. At any rate, if you’re not a fan of Pudge, you don’t have to watch it. The song is Ozzy Osbourne’s “See You on the Other Side.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Wild Zumaya + Hello, Old Friend

Photo: AP

I’ll tell you right up from that I was antsy and restless during this whole game. I thought I knew the reason for that (and that reason was behind the plate for half the game), but maybe I could sense the same thing that Leyland felt. Things started out really good, but then the offense kinda went quiet, at least when there were men on base. Now, is it that the old bugaboo about no clutch hitting back, or is it simply a matter of Wandy Rodriguez (who HAS pitched well this year) making a pitch when he needed to? I suppose we’ll find out soon enough. A lot of heat is gonna fall on Magglio for stranding seven runners, but it didn’t really seem to matter who was at the plate. Cabrera was the only guy in the lineup that did not strand anyone (He also hit a very long home run that I missed). Meanwhile, Justin Verlander had to work very, very hard for most of his outs, so much so that he gave up three runs and threw 118 pitches in only five and a third innings (Could it have been the climate? I know the roof was closed, but from all appearances, it was really humid inside the ballpark. They interviewed Pudge after the game and he was absolutely soaked in sweat, which was kind of nasty, actually). The bullpen was able to hold things down until Zumaya, who was clocked at 105 (my guess is that Houston has a hot gun), but couldn’t find the strike zone, leading to one of the strangest comments ever from Rod Allen: “This is where the Tigers miss Carlos Guillen.” I know he meant that a veteran like Guillen would try to calm Zumaya down, but Zoom’s still gotta throw strikes (and it’s also besides the point, since if Guillen were healthy, he’d be in left field and therefore unable to talk to Zumaya). However, this follows a stretch in which Zumaya hasn’t been that wild. He threw plenty of strikes on the homestand. The only issue he had was the two-run homer by Micah Hoffpauir, but that was due to an error in judgement, not because he was walking people. At any rate, after walking in the tying run, Zumaya had to be pulled and Freddy Dolsi was brought in. I was never particularly crazy about Freddy Dolsi last year, even when he started off the season pitching well, but it’s too early to tell if he’s made any adjustments yet, as he only faced two batters. Still, I know sometimes there’s not much you can do to prevent sacrifice flies, especially when you’re a flyball pitcher, but he could have at least gotten a lazy fly ball off the bat of Tejada, not a bullet that chased Don Kelly to the warning track, for crying out loud.

This game, regardless of the outcome, has been the source of some consternation for me for some time now because I didn’t know how I would react to seeing Pudge against his former team. As it turns out, I paid more attention to the game than I thought I would. And mostly it just felt nice seeing him again, even if he was wearing the “wrong” uniform. By the way, for all you Pudge fans still hanging around the Tigers blogosphere, Jason Beck has a
nice blog post in which Pudge discusses Leyland, his future, and what he thinks of the Tigers now. I included one of the photos from it, even though I normally do not post photos following Tiger losses (Pudge is worth an exception). The only part of the game I could not bring myself to watch was any of his at-bats (I also couldn’t bring myself to watch any of Verlander’s at-bats, but that’s because he’s such a bad hitter that it’s downright painful, although I will give him kudos for laying down two sacrifice bunts). I’m sorry I keep being such a wuss about this. I did learn one thing, though: I can’t root against him. I just can’t. The Tigers and Astros could be tied in extra innings tonight and the Astros could have the bases loaded with Pudge at the plate and I STILL wouldn’t be able to root against him (The only similar situations I’ve found myself in were instances last year where Sean Casey and Craig Monroe batted against the Tigers. In those situations, I WAS able to root against them, but I felt bad about it. Pudge is different, though…and I imagine Verlander would fall into the same category as Pudge should it ever come to that someday, though I hope it never does). He struck out his first two times against Verlander, then doubled in his third trip. I guess this sums up my feelings about that: I’m happy that he got a double, but I’m not happy that he scored a run. I think that’s fair enough.

Tonight, it’s Game 2 of this series (and the Tigers have already been granted a bit of a reprieve, because the Cardinals beat the Twins earlier today), featuring Alfredo Figaro against Felipe Paulino. Figaro got the win in his Major League debut and only gave up two runs while striking out seven in five innings, but he had to pitch around a LOT of baserunners. Meanwhile, Paulino is coming off the DL, but he’s got a losing record and his ERA is pretty high. Honestly, I have no idea what to expect from this game, either from a pitching or offensive standpoint by the Tigers. I do know that tonight’s lineup is very similar to last night’s lineup, except that Ramon Santiago is at shortstop and Don Kelly is in right field (According to Jason Beck, Magglio is not starting tonight “because of the pitching matchup,” whatever that means). I know I promised that I would have my slideshow for the Mood Music tonight, but as it turns out, Pudge is not in the lineup for Houston, so I’m going to wait until tomorrow (I assume he WILL start tomorrow’s game).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Homemade Perfection

Photo: AP

Man, I think the Tigers escaped every single one of these games on the homestand by the skin of their teeth (hell, that statement could even apply to the entire winning streak), but the important thing is that they were able to do just that. Armando Galarraga got off to a rough start, and as a result, eventually got saddled with four earned runs in six innings, but I was encouraged by his pitching after the first inning. In some respects, he looked better than he did in the three quality starts he put up during his winless stretch. He made some mistakes in the strikezone that got hit hard, but he also threw a lot of pitches that looked like they belonged in the arsenal of the Galarraga of old. I saw quite a few good sliders in there. Perhaps there are three things about his final line that are especially encouraging. First, he only gave up six hits, which is not excessive for the time he was in there by any means. Second, he only walked one batter. Third, he struck out five batters, which is the highest number he’s gotten since the last time he won. And though I’m not real big on sabremetrics, he DID get quite a few swings and misses. So all told, he’s not quite back to being El Prestidigitador, but I think this start was a step in the right direction.

Once the Cubs got the three-run homer in the first inning, I was concerned because Ted Lilly had been pitching extremely well and I wasn’t sure he’d give up more than three runs. As it turns out, the Tigers’ history of punishing lefties won out. Ramon Santiago got the Tigers on the board first with a two-run homer (He’s got five now this year; at what point does he cease to be a “surprising” source of power?). And then a day after breaking the heart of nearly every woman in Tigerdom, Magglio Ordoñez DID homer. I still stand by what I said previously, although I will add that the placebo effect is an amazing phenomenon. If you’re gonna be superstitious about it, you could just as easily argue that Maggs homered because I ate macaroni and cheese for lunch yesterday, or because one of the cats decided to climb up the window shade and broke the frame. That has a nice ring to it: “Every time a cat breaks a window shade frame, Magglio hits a home run.” Yes, I’m sure by now you’ve realized that while I can take major problems like bases-loaded walks in stride, I get mad at really stupid things that are largely inconsequential. By the way, Magglio is selling his hair on eBay. I know it’s for a good cause, but it’s still CREEPY. Anyways, back to the offense. Miguel Cabrera continued his hot streak (though he’s got a long way to go if he wants to catch Ichiro), as did Ryan Raburn. And thanks to all of them, here’s your broom:

Interleague play winds down this weekend as the Tigers head to Houston for one more taste of National League-style baseball. The Astros have been near the bottom of the NL Central for most of the season, which doesn’t make a lot of sense since they have okay pitching and with some of the hitters they have, you’d think their offense would be better. Still, remember what the Pirates did to us. At any rate, Justin Verlander takes the hill tonight. He bounced back marvelously from that bad start in St. Louis to beat the Milwaukee Brewers. He’s gonna have to give them some innings tonight, because I would think Bobby Seay, Brandon Lyon, and possibly Fernando Rodney are all unavailable tonight. Meanwhile, he’ll be up against Wandy Rodriguez, who has had a weird season, in that he started out pitching well enough to almost rival Zack Greinke, only to then go through a stretch where he got pounded every time out (which led to a mini-soap operaish controversy involving the catchers, the Astros’ GM, and whether or not he was tipping his pitches). Recently, he’s been either really bad or lights-out. Which brings me to the dilemma involving his batterymate. While I have become accustomed to not seeing him around Comerica Park anymore, I am still just as fond of Pudge as I was the day I picked him to be my favorite (and yes, I know he’s only batting around .250 this year, but he IS throwing runners out with a good amount of consistency). July 30th was the low point in the 2008 season for me, and truth be told, I’m not sure how I feel. It’s not that I can’t abide seeing him in another uniform (though seeing him wear a number other than 7 is exceptionally strange). It’s more that I don’t know how I would feel seeing him oppose the Tigers. I did not watch the one game last year where he came back to Comerica Park with the Yankees, marking the only occasion in the last three years that I have deliberately missed a game. It’s quite a conundrum. I don’t have very long to figure things out, though. Still, I’d like to think that Pudge has had a lasting impact on the Tigers that he was teammates with, and that that influence is part of the reason why the Tigers are playing well this season. That’s the beauty of catchers. Those intangibles. I’m not doing Mood Music tonight because I meant to use a slideshow that I myself started after Pudge was traded last year but did not finish. However, it’s still being uploaded to YouTube (literally), so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow or Sunday (unless it gets deleted for copyright issues before then). I would've used something from Michael Jackson, but I can't find one that's appropriate that allows embedding at this late notice. Yikes!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Fireworks and Flirting with Disaster

Photo: AP

We’ll get to the Magglio hair saga in a moment, but first, I do have a game to comment on. Tigers pitching certainly gave up a veritable parade of baserunners all night, but somehow managed to limit the damage. Leyland certainly wasn’t happy about the walks, in particular. However, if you think about it, this has gone on for the entire homestand with the exception of the Verlander game. I suppose I shouldn’t be picky, since they’re making good pitches when they need to and they’ve won all these games, but it’d be nice to have a Tiger pitcher just shut down the opposing offense completely for once.

The Tiger hitters did not have quite as many chances as the Cubs, but for once, the Tigers were receiving bases-loaded walks instead of giving them up (though I wonder how many bases-loaded walks the Tigers have given up if you take Dontrelle Willis and Ryan Perry out of the equation). Miguel Cabrera and Gerald Laird provided some early fireworks before the main event from the International Freedom Festival (which I had never heard of before last night…Hey, I’ve never lived in Michigan, so how was I supposed to know about it?). However, the difference came after the dropped pop-up by Geovanny Soto (whom I actually like, despite the fact that he’s not hitting much this year; he’s throwing out runners, he’s nice-looking, and he’s Puerto Rican). Again, the Tigers took advantage of an error.

Now to tackle the unpleasant task of Magglio’s hair, or lack thereof (By the way, it wasn’t just Magglio. Vladimir Guerrero shaved off his dreadlocks last night as well). First of all, you’re not going to convince me that any homerun that he hits from hereon out is anything but coincidence (or the result of hard work in the batting cage). Second of all, while he does not look awful like Brandon Inge did after he shaved his head last year (
nor does he look like Armando Galarraga), I still don’t like it because now he just looks like everyone else. There’s nothing distinguishing about his appearance anymore (and remember, I didn’t watch a lot of the Tigers prior to 2006, so I’ve never really watched a short-haired Magglio before outside of some old photos and video of his White Sox days), and that’s disappointing. This has also, very predictably, caused a gender split on the blogosphere. The guys are ecstatic, while the women are bummed (I maintain that the men were just jealous). There was also some discussion about how it must feel better for him because it was 90 degrees yesterday, which reminded me of what I said last year when the Tigers were in Baltimore and Fernando Rodney and Brandon Inge had both shaved off their hair because of the heat:

Would you guys stop being a bunch of wusses about the heat? I hate being hot,
and yet I’ve had plenty of experience fencing wearing the full equipment (heavy
jacket and helmet) in a hot, sweaty gym and an even hotter, sweatier racquetball
court, and my hair goes down to the middle of my back.

Today, the Tigers go for the sweep (and a perfect homestand). They’re gonna need Armando Galarraga to go deep into this game because the bullpen was taxed last night (every pitcher was used except Freddy Dolsi). Armando needs a good start, because I imagine the leash is very short by now. There’s been speculation that he would’ve been pulled after four innings in his last start even if there hadn’t been a rain delay, but I think they would’ve at least tried to nurse him through the fifth, just so he could get the win. As I’ve said, his pitches have just looked different than they used to, and apparently it’s different in a bad way, given the results. And I have started wondering in earnest whether or not he’s hiding an injury. I haven’t been able to watch a start of his since the start he made in Chicago (work gets in the way of those things sometimes). I want to see the return of El Prestidigitador, not his evil twin (who throws different-looking pitches that aren’t effective). The Cubs will send out lefty Ted Lilly, who is having a good year with a very good earned run average. I’m hoping for a quick Tigers’ victory, because I go to work at 4:00.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Better Late Than Never

Photo: AP

I only saw the late innings of this game, but it certainly went from being a frustrating pitching duel to being a dramatic see-saw affair at the end. Edwin Jackson apparently had some control problems, but he battled his way through seven innings and only gave up two runs (both of which came on outs). I was at work during most of the game, including the go-ahead 2-run homer by Brandon Inge (though that happened right before we closed). I got to listen to most of the top of the eighth in the car on my way home. Derrek Lee’s single happened sometime while I was en route from my car to the house/TV, and the Hoffpauir home run occurred when I left the room for minute to change clothes. I do want to discuss that a little bit, though. If you believe the Comerica Park radar gun, Zumaya blew away Milton Bradley with a 104 MPH fastball (if that’s true, then that’ll break Zoom’s own record for the fastest pitch thrown). Hoffpauir really had no business sitting on a changeup, but at the same time, Zumaya really had no business throwing it. I usually don’t get into things like pitch selection, but it seems to me that it’s not a good idea for a reliever to take a chance on his third-best pitch in a one-run game with a runner already on base. With a three-run lead? Sure. But not when you have no wiggle room, especially when you throw harder than anyone on the planet and you have a somewhat decent curveball. At any rate, what I was referring to in the title is that the Tigers hadn’t had a walk-off win this year, and it’s kind of late in the season to not have one. Ryan Raburn took care of that, and made Jim Leyland look like a genius in the process. This game also featured the return of Magglio to the lineup. However, he was out of the game by the time I got home, so I can’t really comment on how he looked at the plate. He went 0-for-2 with a walk, though Leyland said after the game that he liked his swing better. More (bad) news on Magglio later.

Tonight is Game 2 in this series. Rick Porcello’s last start brought an end to a four-game losing streak, and the Tigers haven’t lost since. He maybe battled some control problems, though. At the same time, he’s tied for the team lead in wins with Justin Verlander. The Cubs will send Rich Harden to the mound. I haven’t seen him pitch this year, but I’m just going to ignore the 5.27 ERA, because I know he’s a much better pitcher than that. And now for the (bad) news (at least, it’s bad news for me and every female Tigers fan I know): We have advanced warning from both
Jason Beck and MLive that Maggs is in the lineup…sans long hair. ¡Qué lástima! indeed (Of course, I would imagine the male fans are thrilled, as this topic had kind of stirred up a mini-battle of the sexes on a BYB game thread one night). Kurt has posted a link to a picture, and basically he looks like how he did in the old video I’ve seen of his pre-2006 days, which is, to say, not real distinguishing (And I’m praying that neither John Keating nor Mickey York have anything to do with the pre- or post-game show). Well, I had a feeling it’d come to this eventually. Damn superstitious bastards. Just for that, I’m going to punish you by having no Mood Music tonight.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Brandon Inge Secures the Sweep

Photo: AP

Maybe it’s because Milwaukee used to be in the American League, but the weekend mojo returned from its Interleague hiatus, at least temporarily. Any thoughts of another no-hitter for Justin Verlander were quickly dispelled. Like, in the second batter of the game. But I suppose if he wasn’t going to throw a no-hitter, it’s best that the first hit of the game should happen early to kill off any suspense (though it does take some of the mystique out of the no-hitter). However, the Casey McGehee home run did make the next six innings all the more excruciating to watch until Brandon Inge got to Yovani Gallardo for the three-run homer, which is all that Milwaukee pitching would give up, but Verlander, Seay, and Rodney made sure it held. And because the sweep took place on Father’s Day, I’ve got a blue broom for you:

Tonight, the Chicago Cubs come to town (marking the return of Alan Trammel for the first time since his days as the Tigers’ skipper). They haven’t been doing as well as they were expected to, mostly because their offense has been mostly underachieving. They did perk up over the weekend with a sweep of Cleveland, but they got shut out by Atlanta last night. Tonight is also the last time (at least for now) that Edwin Jackson will follow Justin Verlander, as Leyland intends to use the off-day to stick Alfredo Figaro in between them (this’ll likely make the bullpen work less lopsided). He got the loss his last time out, but didn’t pitch horribly. He’s never faced the Cubs before. The Tigers will take on Carlos Zambrano, who is a good pitcher in his own right. He’s been pretty dominant since coming off the DL a few weeks ago (he pulled a hamstring while bunting for a base hit). The two things that amaze me about Zambrano are that he’s only 28 (He looks like he’s 35) and that his shoulders are so big that they make his jersey look like a blouse (the sleeves look kinda puffy). He’s also got a very short fuse (I’m sure we all saw the video of him taking a bat to the Cubs’ Gatorade machine after being ejected). Also, it’s probably a good thing that the Tigers are facing him at Comerica Park and not Wrigley Field, because Zambrano is arguably one of the best hitters on the team (the whole team, not just the pitchers). Jim Leyland has said that Magglio Ordoñez “might” return to the lineup tonight, but he also admits that this is a tough pitcher to face in the best of times. However, the Tigers are in a stretch where they’re going to face good pitchers for the next several days, so easing him back in might not be an option. Your Mood Music for tonight: Well, I’ll go with another James Bond theme, this time Paul McCartney with “Live and Let Die.” By the way, the song is pretty much the only good part of the movie. Roger Moore is easily the worst of the James Bonds, and the rest of the movie is pretty lame as well, including a speedboat chase that lasts about 20 minutes longer than it should (and I’m in a position to know, both from my film background and because my dad and one of my best friends both claim to be the world’s biggest James Bond fan).

Sunday, June 21, 2009

This is What You're Supposed to Do to the National League

Photo: AP

Well, it turned out to be quite an enjoyable afternoon. Alfredo Figaro (who looks a lot like Freddy Dolsi) allowed a whole lot of baserunners, but managed to wiggle out of several jams, mostly by striking out seven in five innings. And a lot of those strikeouts came on what was described as a slider (I’ll take their word for it, cuz usually the only slider I can recognize is Galarraga’s, and I haven’t been seeing it a lot recently). Whatever it was, it moved a lot. Ryan Perry got wild, and Brandon Lyon picked the wrong situation in which to walk someone, but escaped with minimal damage. The Tiger pitchers got a lot of defensive help from Miguel Cabrera. Not bad for someone who’s generally considered a defensive liability.

It seems the offense has perked up over the past few days, to say the least. They kind of beat up Dave Bush, but they also managed to push some runs across against some bullpen pitchers with good earned run averages. I will say this: There were a couple of LONG home runs hit, one by Braun and one by Cabrera (Polanco’s went into the Tigers’ bullpen). The interesting thing is that all of the starters either had multiple hits or no hits (Granderson, Inge, and Everett were hitless, though Inge had a sacrifice fly).

I enjoy watching Arizona Diamondbacks games every once in a while because I find Darron Sutton and Mark Grace to be funny (though, truth be told, they tend to be funnier when the Diamondbacks lose, which is fine by me, as I’m not a Diamondbacks fan). I know Mark Grace does Big Fox games on Saturdays, so I had been kinda hoping he’d do a Tigers game, and I got my wish. Actually, I’m kinda glad this wasn’t the “A” matchup on Big Fox (Sorry to those of you who live out-of-market), because if we had Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, and Ken Rosenthal, this whole situation with Magglio would’ve descended into nonstop gossip talk. I thought both Kenny Albert and Mark Grace handled it a lot more professionally than the frontline broadcasters would have. Mark Grace in particular sounded very sympathetic towards both Maggs and Leyland. By the way, I discussed the situation with my Personal Baseball Guru. He’s actually a friend of my dad’s, but he’s a total baseball expert, albeit very old school (i.e. no sabremetrics or anything like that; he also doesn’t care for expansion teams). He’s a Yankees fan, but not your typical Yankees fan (he also likes the Tigers). Anyways, his take on the matter is that the fans and the media are overreacting (“This is the first big slump he’s been in with the Tigers and everyone assumes his career is over”) and that Jim Leyland would not sit Magglio just because of the contract option. So for what it’s worth, he still has faith.

Well, the Tigers have the opportunity to sweep a team for the first time in forever. Call me selfish, but when I first saw the Interleague schedule late last year, I immediately did not want Verlander to pitch in the series. Reason being: He could pitch a gem, and we’d still be disappointed. But, this time I did not get my wish. No, I do not expect Verlander to throw another no-hitter (Milwaukee’s offense is just too good), but hopefully he’ll bounce back from his last outing and turn in a good performance. He’ll have to, because his opponent is Yovani Gallardo, Milwaukee’s ace. At this point, I have no idea what to expect from the Tigers’ offense. Here’s an amazing coincidence for you: Ron Kulpa, who was the home plate umpire for Verlander’s no-hitter, is scheduled to be calling balls and strikes again today. How weird is THAT?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thunder All Around

Photo: AP

Well, my mention of rain delays in yesterday’s post was certainly appropriate, to say the least. I have to be at work in an hour, so this’ll be a short post. The rain delay was already well in progress when I got home, so I can’t really comment on Armando Galarraga first-hand. My dad said he didn’t look very good in the first inning (though I noticed there was an error by Brandon Inge that probably didn’t help matters), but the numbers have shown that he’s been struggling in the first couple innings, for some reason. I took a look at Gameday, and it seems like he was giving up quite a few hits, but he was able to get some double plays to get himself out of trouble, which at least implies that his sinker was sinking. It was a strange game defensively. The Tigers made three errors, but they also turned in some dazzling plays late, such as the double play started by Cabrera and Don Kelly making a diving catch. Meanwhile, the Tigers finally put on a power display. We’ve been waiting all season for that. Having Marcus Thames back certainly helps in that regard. Cabrera looks like he’s heated up again somewhat. Granderson’s been hot in terms of the long ball. And Dusty Ryan made his presence known by hitting a double that almost went out.

Today, the boys are on Big Fox for a late afternoon affair (and of course, this whole Magglio situation will make for a media field day, which is gonna suck, especially if Ken Rosenthal is there). They’ve called up Alfredo Figaro (Fernando Rodney’s cousin) from Double A to make his Major League debut (as expected, Dane Sardinha has been sent to Toledo). He’ll be opposed by Dave Bush, the Brewers’ #4 starter, who has been struggling recently. The Indians didn’t have too much trouble with him, at least (but then again, the Indians have a better offense than the Tigers right now). I’m at work until 4:00, so I’ll leave just in time for this game.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bittersweet Victory

Photo: AP

At last, some offense! And better yet, it didn’t have to come from Rick Porcello (which is a good thing, because he didn’t get a hit). He had to battle through it a bit (and his defense let him down at times…can we now definitively classify Busch Stadium alongside Angel Stadium and the Metrodome as Ballparks Where the Tigers Don’t Play Good Defense?), but pitched well enough in the end, and the combination of Bobby Seay and Brandon Lyon made sure the lead held up (and created no end of bad puns on the BYB GameThread). Fernando Rodney made things way too damn interesting, though I thought it was a bit odd that the only guy he retired before the Rick Ankiel double play was Albert Pujols, of all people. Meanwhile, the offense was kind of like a pair of bookends, in that there was a bunch of scoring in the first and the eighth, but absolutely nothing in between (okay, there was a single by Brandon Inge, but that’s it). The Tigers caught a break when Joel Piñiero’s calf cramped up, because otherwise they probably never would’ve seen the Cardinals’ bullpen. We had home runs from a likely source of power (Thames) and an unlikely source of power (Polanco). Miguel Cabrera went hitless, but that was mostly because he needs to hit his line drives somewhere other than right at (and off) the pitcher. It happened to him twice.

I suppose I have to discuss the Magglio Ordoñez situation, don’t I? It’s sad that it’s come to this. It really, really is. If you’re interested in my feelings on the matter, I suggest you read Old English D’s take on it, as I pretty much echo her sentiments. By the way, I don’t think last night’s offensive perk-up had anything to do with Maggs being on the bench, because Ryan Raburn didn’t really contribute anything in his place. Reading last night’s game thread on BYB, I was somewhat amazed at the gender dichotomy. Most of the guys were applauding the move, even taking it pleasure in it or finding it funny, which I found to be kind of the wrong response (though in his game wrap today, Ian responded with a much more appropriate ¡Qué lástima!). Meanwhile, the women, while not disagreeing with the move, all seemed to be saddened by it. I will say this, though: The Tigers need Magglio to come back, or they’re not gonna make the postseason. There is no realistic alternative (either on the roster or in the trade market) who can match the production levels that he’s capable of.

Tonight, the boys return to Comerica Park (and the DH) to take on the Milwaukee Brewers and their powerful offense. I daresay that Armando Galarraga will be pitching for his very life tonight. I imagine that if he struggles, it will indeed be the final straw (though if that were to happen, I would hope the Tigers would have the good sense to send him to the minors or the DL, rather than trade him or release him). For his sake and mine, I hope he pitches well, because this has already been a tough week for Tigers I like (first Verlander loses, then the situation with Magglio, you get the idea). Meanwhile, for the Brewers, this was supposed to be the spot for the struggling Manny Parra, but they had an off-day yesterday and have an off-day on Monday, which eliminates the need for a fifth starter, so Parra has been sent down to the minors and instead the Tigers will face Braden Looper, who is probably the Brewers’ #2 or #3 guy (depending on what you think of Jeff Suppan). He’s been with the Cardinals for the past couple years, so the Tigers have seen him in Interleague play before. In ’07, they pounded him en route to a 14-4 victory. Last year, they couldn’t figure him out (the same can’t be said for the Cardinals’ hitters against Kenny Rogers in that particular game). One minor note: Dusty Ryan has been called up to take Dontrelle Willis’s spot on the roster. This has led to speculation that it’ll be Dane Sardinha who will be sent down to make room for Alfredo Figaro tomorrow. I’ll be at work tonight until 9:00, so it’s likely just the late innings for me. However, they are expecting storms in Detroit, so a rain delay is not out of the question.
UPDATE: For some reason, Blogger decided to remove all the hyperlinks I created in Microsoft Word, and as I had to dash off to work, I didn't notice it until I got home. They have been fixed now, so I apologize to anyone who may have felt slighted.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

EJ Can't Save You Either

One of these days I will get home from work and good things will be happening. Like, the Tigers scoring more than three runs. I’m sure Edwin Jackson did the best he could, but in the end, he apparently needed to be more dominant and the error he committed turned out to be huge. Joel Zumaya had some issues with the strike zone, and THAT turned out to be huge as well, because the run he walked in ended up being the difference.

Jim Leyland tried tinkering with the lineup some more, putting Granderson back into leadoff, Cabrera up one place to third, and Marcus Thames cleanup. And, well…it seemingly worked for Granderson. He had himself a fabulous night with three hits, two of which left the ballpark. Unfortunately, they all came with no one on base. Cabrera didn’t do too shabby either. I mean, he had two hits including a double, and had a good night defensively, so unless I see evidence to the contrary in the next couple days, this'll be the last post where I discuss the hamstring. It looks as though it's no longer an issue. Thames really didn’t contribute anything from the cleanup position, with the exception of a walk. I can’t say Maggs had good swings, but he DID get an RBI on a sac fly that would’ve been the tying run if not for Zumaya’s wildness, and it’s worth noting if for nothing else than the fact that it was a ball in the air, which we haven’t seen a lot of.

By the way, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the major milestone reached by a certain former Tiger. Last night,
Pudge Rodriguez played his 2,227th game behind the plate, surpassing Carlton Fisk for the most all-time (ironically, Fisk was the opposing catcher when Pudge made his Major League debut back in 1991). It’s fitting that the Astros happen to be in Arlington right now, and from what I’ve heard, he was given a hearty ovation by all the Ranger fans. The Tigers Amateur Analysis sends out congratulations, and at least for me (as well as the great deal of people I see on TV still wearing Rodriguez jerseys), it was a pleasure (albeit a stressful pleasure at times) to have him wearing the Olde English D for four and a half years’ worth of those games. I just wish those days had had a better ending.

I’m generally more patient than a lot of those on the blogosphere (at least the commenters), but with this recent slide, the Tigers ARE drifting dangerously close to that .500 mark. Their lead in the Central is also dwindling, and they got bailed out last night, but Minnesota has already won today, so they won’t have that luxury tonight. As a result, this is an awful lot of pressure to be putting on Rick Porcello. He did pitch well and win in his last start against Pittsburgh, but remember, he drove in two of the three runs the Tigers scored. Now that they know he’s not a bad hitter, the Cardinals are sure to pitch him much tougher than the Pirates did. Jim Leyland has said that, provided Porcello pitches well and/or doesn’t have to be prematurely lifted for a pinch-hitter, he’d like to stretch him out to 95 pitches. It’s supposed to be really hot and humid in St. Louis tonight, and we’ve already seen what the humidity has done to Verlander. And could the Tigers PLEASE score more than three runs tonight? By the way, you’d think we’d see Fernando Rodney in the game tonight regardless of the score, right? He hasn’t pitched since last Friday. Your Mood Music for tonight: It’s another James Bond theme, this time “You Know My Name” by Chris Cornell. Basically, there’s been talk of trades or other acquisitions, but really, it’s time for the guys who are already here to pitch, catch, and hit the way that I know they can. Right now, they still control their own destiny, and as the song says, “no one else here will save you.” Of course, if you’d like to use this song to try to intimidate the Cardinals, go right ahead. It works both ways.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

JV Can't Save You This Time

Well, I got home from work only to see some news that I didn’t exactly expect. No, not the fact that the Tigers hadn’t scored any runs yet, but that Verlander had given up four runs. When I said that they weren’t always going to be able to rely on Verlander and Jackson, I didn’t quite mean right now. I did not see the first inning, but according to JV, he said he was tired from the get-go, and Yadier Molina’s long at-bat took everything out of him. I’m not sure what all that’s about. The blogosphere is being rather kind to him, which surprises me somewhat, given how venomous they were towards him back in April. Nate Robertson was no help, and even Ryan Perry got bombed. And again, there was no offense anyways. If there were positives in this game, it’s that Brandon Inge homered (though it’d be nice if he could’ve done that in the first inning), and Cabrera looked better at the plate with a single, walk, and homer (and again, he’s moving better at first base, so hopefully that hamstring’s just about healed up).

Well, if the Tigers are going to have a successful Interleague June this year, they’ve gotta step it up quickly. It’s time to start living up to that potential I spoke of earlier in the year. At any rate, Justin Verlander came into last night’s game with a stellar Interleague record and lost. Edwin Jackson comes into tonight’s game with a bad Interleague record. Maybe a little reverse psychology is in order? At any rate, his career numbers against the Cardinals are not bad, and he pitched well enough to win in his start against them last year. However, Jackson struggled against the White Sox his last time out. Todd Wellemeyer starts for the Cards. He was really good for them last year, but has struggled this year, and apparently his velocity is down. However, the Tigers saw him last year and didn’t do much against him, though it was in a game they eventually won.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Weekend Mojo Doesn't Do Interleague

Sorry ‘bout that. I meant to post yesterday, and I did not. At any rate, while I haven’t exactly surfed the blogosphere in the past day, I imagine that all that can be said has already been said, so I’ll be brief. While I stand by my assertion that Dontrelle Willis provided the Tigers with a better chance of winning than Jeremy Bonderman right now, I did not necessarily mean that that was a “good” chance. Dontrelle didn’t have any command whatsoever. He was able to wiggle out of it the first three innings, but he couldn’t get out of the fourth. Zach Miner didn’t exactly help matters. He was fine once he started a clean inning, but his numbers when it comes to stranding inherited runners suck. If he’d’ve kept the score right where it was (and I know it’s hard to come in as a reliever with the bases loaded, but there were two outs), the Tigers’ mini-rally in the 7th would’ve made it a one-run game instead of a three-run game (important when you consider the two or three leadoff walks the Tigers got in the late innings). Still, the Tigers’ offense has become downright anemic. In their last four games, they have scored exactly three runs in each game. I know the pitching’s been somewhat suspect in the last two, but you’re not gonna win many games regardless when you’re only scoring three runs.

Can I take a little time out to talk about the throwback uniforms? I think they just measured the largest person on each time and then made the uniforms to that size, cuz there were certain guys who were absolutely drowning in them. Several guys were having issues with uneven pantlegs as well (though I was a lot more lenient with that rule than I normally am, considering the unfamiliar uniform and extremely baggy pants). Ironically, the usual main culprit when it comes to uneven pantlegs, Miguel Cabrera, didn’t have that problem. However, apparently he strongly objected to the three-quarter sleeves, so much so that he took the scissors to them, proving once and for all that he does not have a career as a seamstress in his future. Those sleeves looked more and more frayed each time he came to the plate. By the way, it looks as though the hamstring is better. He was moving well at first base, and he was running out his groundouts a little more vigorously. It hasn’t quite translated to his bat yet, though. Unfortunately, because his average has dipped down into the .320 range. At any rate, it's a cryin' shame to lose a throwback uniform game, but the Tigers will have one or two more shots to make amends.

After a largely unproductive weekend in Pittsburgh, the Tigers move on to St. Louis tonight, and I’m sure we’ve all got fond memories of Busch Stadium (*sarcasm*). Yeah, the last time we saw that place, it was 2006 and Brandon Inge was striking out for the final out of the World Series that the Tigers were *supposed* to have won. The Tigers have the top of their rotation going in this series, but the offense still needs to perk up and score more runs, because Verlander and Jackson won’t always be able to save them. At any rate, Justin Verlander gets the first crack at the Cardinals’ lineup (which has been struggling of late, although Albert Pujols is no longer in a slump, which could be bad). In the regular season, he has never lost to the National League, which is kind of a mind-blowing stat (key phrase: “regular season”). The good news is that the Tigers will not have to face Chris Carpenter. Tonight they’ll face Adam Wainwright, who, if I’m not mistaken, was the one striking out Brandon Inge in the aforementioned World Series. This is kind of a busy week for me, work-wise, but next week is much lighter.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Red Wing Hangover?

That wasn’t quite the performance I was looking for after working for nine hours. After turning in three straight decent (but winless) outings, Galarraga kind of took a step back. I can’t comment on the specifics because he was gone long before I got home, but I will make a few generalized statements about what I’ve seen the past month from him. I’m still not buying the sabremetrics argument that “last season was a fluke and now his peripheral stats are catching up to him.” I’m hardly an expert on recognizing pitches in terms of location and movement, but from the unaided, amateur eye, his pitches look different than they did in April. And that’s obviously different in a bad way. It seemed as though when he was going good, his slider kinda started out over the plate and then would dive down and away outside. Now it’s like it starts out outside and moves even further outside and it’s too far away to entice the right-handed hitters, and if he tries to adjust by throwing it closer to the plate, it hangs. And there’s something he’s throwing that just breaks straight down, and I don’t recall ever seeing that pitch last year. If anything, this recent stretch kind of reminds me of how he pitched in the World Baseball Classic (okay, but not great), but he was able to get back into last year’s form early in the season. Galarraga insists that it’s a mechanical issue (though right now they’re trying to figure out how to make him less hittable in the first and second innings, because there isn’t as much of a problem with the middle innings), but more and more I’m starting to wonder if there’s an injury involved. If there is, he needs to admit it. That’s one of my cardinal rules of baseball: Don’t pitch hurt. Over the past two years, we’ve seen the likes of Jeremy Bonderman, Todd Jones, Kenny Rogers, Fernando Rodney, and Joel Zumaya all try to pitch through pain, and they all ultimately resulted in largely ineffective performances and cost the Tigers games. If he IS injured, I’d rather Galarraga get treated for it and come back in a month or so and return to form than try to pitch through it and not get the results he wants. I’ll stand by him, but few others will, and it’s starting to get lonely. At any rate, he had had three straight quality starts prior to this (starts that he would’ve won if he had gotten decent run/bullpen support, and if that had happened, there probably wouldn’t be this much scrutiny), and I think that’ll earn him at least one more shot. Nate Robertson was even less effective and was actually the one to let the game get away. Brandon Lyon ended up being the most effective pitcher of the night.

Today is the rubber match in this series, and I have no idea what to expect. Dontelle Willis battled his way through five innings against the White Sox and managed to hold them to three runs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s had a tendency to follow up a “battle” start with one where he completely falls apart. Hopefully, he’ll reverse that trend. The Pirates counter with Ross Ohlendorf, a right hander whom the Tigers have seen very little of (as in, one relief appearance with the Yankees last year). I have no idea what to expect from him either, cuz the Tigers have only scored three runs in each game this series. Speaking of the offense, the lineup is one which is sure to cause much griping in the blogosphere. No Polanco or Magglio, and Josh Anderson is hitting third. I’m guessing this is an attempt at a “speedster” lineup, which hasn’t worked well recently because either the speedsters aren’t getting on base or the pitching has put the Tigers in a big hole early such that they can’t utilize the speedsters. I’m a bit surprised that Laird IS catching, because I figured that if you’re going to use the very light-hitting Dane Sardinha at any point in a National League park, today is probably your best opportunity, since you’ve got your best-hitting pitcher on the mound. And I’m sure every Tigers fan is eager to see Dontrelle hit. But I guess you gotta bear in mind that he hasn’t seen live pitching in two years (outside of Spring Training). Still, I get the feeling that everyone wants him to go 4-for-4 or hit a home run or something. It’s a Turn-Back-the-Clock promotion at PNC Park today, and the boys are going really old school, all the way back to 1909 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Pirates beating the Tigers in the World Series. Let’s rewrite history, shall we? I enjoy a throwback uniform every now and then, though hardly anyone ever looks good wearing them. Apparently, they’re going to use a retro scoreboard and no mascots or music to make it a little more authentic. Your Mood Music for today: The obvious choice would be a song from 1909, but the pickings are kinda slim, so instead I went with a rock song that when I first heard it (back in high school) reminded me of 1909 (or some year around then), for some reason. It’s Queen’s “Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon.” I was kind of torn between that and “Seaside Rendezvous,” which is also kind of 1909-ish to me (by the way, I’ve got a weird story about that song), but the former was more fitting. By the way, I’d like to make clear that it is I who will be “lazing” and NOT the Tigers. I don’t want to see any of the Tigers doing anything that resembles “lazing.” I want a full effort (but don’t try to press or do to much…let’s be reasonable).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

No DH? No Problem

Photo: AP

I’m sure there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth about 60 miles north of here (I thought I heard screaming around 11:00 last night), but I felt pretty good, because the Tigers beat the Pirates. Actually, Rick Porcello almost beat the Pirates all by himself. He pitched a damn good game and got lots of ground balls. The only Pirates with consistently good swings against him were the LaRoche brothers, and just about every ball they hit Cabrera was able to make a nice play on (Miggy was also moving around first base pretty well, so hopefully that hamstring is better). And at the plate? Well, the Tigers’ offense has been struggling, so I guess Porcello decided to take matters into his own hands and drive in two of the three runs himself. Brandon Inge provided the third run on a solo home run off Jon Grabow. And it was nice for Rodney to bounce back from that disastrous outing in Chicago (By the way, if the “numbers” graphic on Fox Sports Detroit is accurate, Yahoo Fantasy Sports is wrong and Rodney has NOT been charged with a blown save).

With the Red Wings coming up one win short, the Tigers are now the last men standing, so to speak. The lone torchbearer for Detroit’s honor, if you will (Well, the Shock’s season has just started, but I get the feeling that the WNBA doesn’t stir the emotion of a lot of sports fans in Detroit, fair or not). Armando Galarraga (whose spot in the rotation is safe for the foreseeable future) gets the start tonight. He’s still not quite all the way back, but he’s pitched well enough to win in his last three or four starts. He hasn’t gotten a lot of run support, and last time, Zumaya gave up a game-tying home run to force Galarraga to settle for a no-decision. I’m pretty sure he won’t be able to duplicate Porcello’s performance at the plate. I mean, he did have three walks last year, and he never really looked like he was flailing that much as a hitter, but let’s be realistic. Besides, his performance on the mound is much more important. The Pirates seem to be a group of fairly aggressive hitters, so if he gets ahead of hitters (and doesn’t throw any more hanging sliders), he should have a good chance of success. However, he should not expect much run support, because the offense will be up against a good lefty in Zack Duke, who has an earned run average just slightly over three. I’m personally hoping for a well-pitched game from Galarraga and a Tiger win, because it’s going to be a long day for me as I work a nine hour shift today (and I close, which I don’t like doing on Saturdays).

Friday, June 12, 2009

Three Out of Five? I'll Take That

This is gonna be a short post, because thanks to the ridiculously long rain delay yesterday, I was unable to see so much as one second of this game. Therefore, I mostly have to rely on the boxscore and other bloggers’ accounts. At any rate, it wasn’t exactly the performance from Edwin Jackson that everyone was hoping for, but if he can limit the opposition to two runs on days where he doesn’t quite have it, things’ll turn out okay. It looks as though Brandon Lyon followed him up with a couple of impressive innings (lowering his ERA to under five in the process). Nate Robertson, however, gave up a solo home run to A.J. Pierzynski that would turn out to loom large. There was a lot of griping that the Tigers only had the “B” lineup against Gavin Floyd, but Floyd has always pitched the Tigers hard no matter who’s in the lineup, and he’s been pitching well overall recently. The heroics came in the ninth inning, when Granderson was able to hang a blown save on Bobby Jenks, which is huge despite the outcome, because Granderson had previously been dominated by Jenks. Unfortunately, because of the Pierzynski home run, it only tied the game instead of pulling the Tigers ahead. Then in the bottom of the ninth, Joel Zumaya ended up being his own worst enemy. While the position players all seem to be doing much better defensively than they were last year, this seemingly has not carried over to the pitching staff. The pitchers have made some key errors in games this year.

Following this game, there was a flurry of roster moves. Clete Thomas has been sent down to Toledo to work on “shortening his swing.” He definitely needs work on that, but I kinda like Clete (even though he always looks like he’s either in awe of everything or scared out of his mind), so hopefully he’ll be back later in the season. The Tigers have purchased the contract of Don Kelly, who will start in left field tonight. Meanwhile, they have also placed Jeremy Bonderman back on the DL. You know, it looked to me like he just wasn’t ready to face big-league hitters yet, and apparently The Powers That Be were thinking the same thing. He wouldn’t be much help in the bullpen, and right now, starting Dontrelle Willis gives the Tigers a better chance at winning than starting Bonderman (in a lesser of two evils sort of way). Ryan Perry has been called back up to rejoin the ‘pen, and I think the blogosphere is generally happy to see him return. He’s got issues with walks, but he’s also got the velocity to (sometimes) get himself out of trouble.

Though yesterday’s game kinda slipped through their fingers a little bit, winning three of five in Chicago is certainly nothing to sneeze at. And with that, Interleague play starts up again. Hopefully, the Tigers can tap into that Interleague mojo they’ve had over the past few years. First up: The Pittsburgh Pirates, who have had no Interleague mojo (Plus, they just traded away their best position player in Nate McClouth). However, they do have a couple good, young pitchers, so this is by no means a cakewalk. The next six games for the Tigers feature the year’s first foray into National League parks, so it’s time for the pitchers to hit. Or not, so to speak. Now obviously Dontrelle Willis is by far the best hitting pitcher the Tigers have, although Edwin Jackson supposedly is okay. Justin Verlander is convinced that he can hit, but I have seen absolutely no evidence of that yet. In fact, Verlander looks so completely out of his element when he’s hitting that I really don’t like watching him try to hit. Armando Galarraga went 0-for-3 at the plate last year, but he did walk three times (in fact, his three walks accounted for the only offensive contribution from Tiger pitchers last year). Then there’s tonight’s starter, Rick Porcello, who was a shortstop in high school on days he didn’t pitch, and supposedly he hit 11 home runs his senior year. However, high school is a far cry from the big leagues, so I can’t imagine him being able to hit 95 MPH fastballs. But he gets paid to pitch, not hit. He’s been a little shaky this month after having a fabulous May. From what I’ve heard, the Pirates’ offense tends to score either a bunch of runs or none at all, for what it’s worth. Porcello will be opposed by Ian Snell, who is one of the Pirates’ better pitchers, although his numbers don’t indicate it right now. He pitched for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic. The Tigers saw him (and beat him) in 2006, but obviously that was a long time ago. Probably the Tiger who has seen him the most recently is Cabrera, and yes, he does have good numbers against Snell. By the way, as all of you know, this is only one of two big Detroit-Pittsburgh matchups tonight, and I daresay this game’ll be playing second fiddle to the drama that’ll be going on at Joe Louis Arena. I probably won’t watch Game 7, but I’ll certainly be cheering for the Red Wings. Your Mood Music for tonight: Well, we’re playing the Pirates, aren’t we? It’s obvious, but it’s also from a damn good movie.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Demon Slain

Photo: AP

After the messiness of Tuesday’s game, last night’s was clean and tidy. No Zumaya or Rodney? No problem. Verlander simply went the distance. Against a team that had, up until now, owned him at U.S. Cellular Field. Jim Thome touched him up for his seventh career home run off him (which is still mind-blowing), but that’s the only damage he allowed. And while the offense didn’t get much going against Danks, they were able to scratch out just enough support for him. By the way, I am officially convinced that the radar gun at U.S. Cellular Field is slow. My suspicions first arose a couple nights ago when I noticed it was consistently clocking Zach Miner in the high 80s, when I know he throws harder than that. Then last night, it had Verlander’s final pitch at 98, while Gameday and just about everyone else on the blogosphere say it was at 100. Either way, it’s got ESPN buzzing about him.

Today marks the end of this epic five-game series, finally. The Tigers have already won the series, but now it’s time to get greedy. Edwin Jackson will look to follow up on both Verlander’s performance last night and his own performance from his last time out (Both were 2-1 complete games). He hasn’t seen the White Sox very often, and his numbers against them are...okay, I guess. Obviously, those numbers are from before this year. He’ll be opposed by Gavin Floyd, who has an elevated earned run average, but that’s because he had a stretch of games earlier this year where he pitched very badly, but in his last several starts, he’s been on a roll. He’s always handcuffed Detroit, so this game is by no means easy. Magglio and Polanco get the day off, while Cabrera is the DH (might as well take advantage of it, since you won't have it for the next six games), Raburn is at first, Santiago is at second, and the “speedy” outfield is in place. I have heard there is rain in the Chicago area. Hopefully, the delay won’t be too long, as I would love for this game to end before I go to work (5:00). Your Mood Music for today: I had to use this one at some point during the series. My favorite band is Styx, they are from Chicago, and this is my favorite song. And I am playing this for no other reason than it is my favorite song.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Has YOUR Head Stopped Spinning Yet?

Photo: AP

Well, I don’t think that’s how any of us would draw it up (to paraphrase Jim Leyland), but all wins are precious, no matter how ugly. Dontrelle Willis? Hard to tell. He wasn’t consistently bad. Most of the walks came in the fifth inning, and really it looked like the only hard-hit ball off him was the Brian Anderson home run (though he has no business giving up home runs to Brian Anderson in the first place). Give him some credit for continuing to battle with a banged-up knee, I suppose (though some of that gets taken back for wearing that wretchedly awful red sweater in his postgame interview). So obviously it wasn’t nearly as good a performance as we’d hoped, but (and this is going to sound odd), for some reason I feel better with him in the rotation versus Bonderman. For the time being, at least. How weird of a night was it for the bullpen? Zach Miner was the most efficient reliever. In fact, he looked very good. Everyone else had serious issues with the strike zone. WAY too many walks, even if you don’t count the five that Dontrelle issued. It appears that Rodney is indeed in of *those* phases. As I’ve said before, he’s done that for his whole career, as far as I know. The difference in 2006 is that he was able to limit it to one or two appearances at a time, sandwiched in-between long good stretches. I’d expect him to still be the closer, so it’s up to him to bounce back. There seems to be some confusion as to whether Rodney gets charged with a blown save or not. Jason Beck seems to think he does (as does the Yahoo fantasy updates), while the box score only charges Brandon Lyon with a blown save. I suppose we’ll find out next time Rodney pitches. The combination of Raburn and Everett saved Brandon Lyon’s bacon, who got himself a win out of the whole thing. By the way, this is the third straight Tigers win in which a reliever has kind of “vultured” a win by giving up a tying/go-ahead run and having the Tigers take the lead again in the following frame. In Lyon’s defense, though, he got thrown into the worst possible situation for a reliever in the ninth, and he was pretty good in the bottom of the 10th.

It was nice to see the offense perk up a bit, especially against a pitcher like Buerhle, who, when it was all said and done, was downright wild for him. Hey, Dontrelle only walked one more than Buerhle did. And the Tigers got it done with a mix of small ball and big ball. Brandon Inge was on base just about every time he came to the plate, with a home run and three walks. As for small ball, Raburn bunted for a base hit, while Laird (who hasn’t hit much recently, but I still think he’s better than a .225 hitter) laid down two perfect sacrifices. And all those runs were cashed in. Miguel Cabrera (who has been slumping lately, though the hamstring is probably the primary cause…I’ll get into Fashion Police issues later if I must) became the extra-innings hero and did his best Kirk Gibson impression by hitting a home run and then limping around the bases. However, he DID look like he was moving better at first base for most of the game (and there were a couple instances where he needed to be able to move, including the two plays on Pierzynski).

Well, after getting that win, you’d have to think the Tigers have a reasonable chance of winning at least one of the two remaining games. Tonight, it’s Justin Verlander’s turn to try his luck. This’ll be the first time this year that he’s faced the White Sox. It hasn’t been pretty in the past. He was able to get past his struggles against the Indians. Can he do the same against Chicago? Several of the White Sox have some really gaudy numbers against him. Jim Thome has six home runs career off him, which is downright ridiculous. The Tiger hitters, meanwhile, will face yet another lefty in Jon Danks. Danks has not been as good this year as he was last year, but the Tigers haven’t been able to do much against him recently. This’ll be their first meeting this year, though. I’m working tonight until 9:00, so this’ll be one I’ll have to join “in progress.” Your Mood Music for tonight: I’ve always been a big fan of Verlander, even last year and in April when he was struggling, but he’s made me feel especially good this year. I played some Queen last night, so I’ll continue that with “You’re My Best Friend.” And this video has lyrics in case you feel like doing some karaoke or something.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Contreras or Complacency?

Well, the nightcap certainly was one of those “yuck” type of games. Really nothing was working there (though I suppose you could say the ‘pen wasn’t bad, and it even included appearances from everyone’s favorite whipping boys, Nate Robertson and Brandon Lyon). Jeremy Bonderman has never been my favorite pitcher (I’m not saying he’s not a good pitcher. He is. I just don’t like watching him), but I still wanted him to pitch well. However, saying you’re gonna be like Kenny Rogers and actually pitching like him are two different things and he wasn’t able to translate plan into action. And you can’t miss with your location when you’re only throwing 87 miles an hour (I guess I imagined him maintaining 90, not topping out at 90). Just about everything hit off him was hit hard, including a lot of the outs (one of which enabled Brandon Inge to get another Web Gem on ESPN). Now, Jim Thome’s a big slugger and Alexi Ramirez has surprising power for one so skeletal-looking, but Scott Podsednik? I thought it was Rick Porcello’s job to give up home runs to guys like him. The ironic thing was that Jermaine Dye hit a double off a hanging slider that looked identical to the hanging slider that Galarraga threw him in the first game. Can we stop throwing hanging sliders to Jermaine Dye?

Back on May 7th, as the Tigers were, at the time, being no-hit by Mark Buerhle,
rock n rye had this to say over at the BYB GameThread. Well, Contreras didn’t no-hit the Tigers, but he came WAY too close for comfort. That was absolutely ridiculous. It’s a good thing they brought out Matt Thornton for the ninth, cuz I did NOT want Contreras’s name in the “Last Time It Happened in a Game” section of the daily press notes under “One-Hitter Against the Tigers” (The last pitcher to one-hit the Tigers was the late Joe Kennedy back in ’03). And Marcus Thames homered. At any rate, Jim Leyland was none too pleased with his hitters’ efforts. I get the feeling the boys got an earful last night.

Still, while no one in the Tiger fandom seems to have liked last night’s outcome, I think we’d all be thrilled if we knew in advance that they’d split the doubleheader. However, you gotta take better advantage of the Contreras starts. Just sayin’. At any rate, tonight you’ve got Dontrelle Willis against Mark Buerhle. Dontrelle’s gotta be down to his last chance or two at the starting rotation (and if Bonderman had pitched well, it would be his last chance). He can’t let himself get flustered like he has the last couple starts. Meanwhile, Mark Buerhle’s no picnic, and the last time the Tigers saw him, he nearly threw a perfect game against them. He’s one of the quickest workers in the game. In fact, they made a comment on the radio last night that fits him perfectly: “He pitches like he’s double-parked outside the stadium and doesn’t want to get a ticket.” I do work tonight, but I’m scheduled to leave at 8:00 so I probably won’t miss THAT much of the game. Your Mood Music for tonight: This is a big, big start for Dontrelle Willis, so what better to represent that than a song called “Under Pressure?” Besides, after last night, you could say that the offense is also “Under Pressure.” And I like Queen.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Round One Goes to Us

Photo: Jonathan Daniel (Getty Images)

Finally, a pleasant Game 1, for once, at least in terms of the outcome. It was rather stressful to watch, though. I thought Armando Galarraga pitched pretty well, save for a rocky first inning and a hanging slider he threw to Jermaine Dye. He certainly pitched well enough to win, and it’s a shame he didn’t. I love Zumaya, but this is the second game in a row that he’s kind of ironically gotten the win after giving up a run. Rodney looked like he might have some trouble getting through the ninth, but a timely double play got him out of trouble.

Meanwhile, while the offense could’ve been better, it was nice that every time the White Sox scored, the Tigers came right back and scored in the following half inning. Still, they left a bunch of men on base in the early goings, but once again, they were able to take advantage of some errors that the White Sox made. And hey, for all the complaining that goes on about Dane Sardinha’s lack of offense, he DID supply both a crucial sac fly (which came on a missed squeeze, oddly enough) and a sac bunt that set up a run. Either way, Jim Leyland certainly seemed happy in his post-game interview, but what was with all the smoke that was wafting into the frame? He must’ve had, like, ten cigarettes sitting in an ashtray just off camera.

Well, that was so much fun that we get to do it again. Tonight marks the return of Jeremy Bonderman. Ryan Perry was actually the one sent down to make room for him, but I get the feeling that may be temporary. Still no word on who he’s replacing in the rotation, and they might be waiting until after Dontrelle Willis pitches tomorrow night before they make that decision. Anyways, they say that Bonderman’s velocity hasn’t returned yet (And whether or not it WILL return seems to depend on whether you ask the trainers, who believe it will, or Bonderman, who speaks as though it won’t), and he says that will force him to throw more changeups. Well, we’ve heard that about the changeup before, and it never seems to stick. The White Sox are starting our old friend Jose Contreras, who obviously struggled in their rotation but had been pitching well in Triple A. To everyone’s surprise, Cabrera IS in the lineup for tonight, although he’s the DH. You also have Raburn playing first base (He has a couple home runs off Contreras in his career), Maggs on the bench (His career numbers against Contreras aren’t that good), and the speedy lefties in the outfield (because Contreras is easy to run on). By the way, this is the last “complete” game I’ll be able to watch for a while, as I work the whole rest of the week.

Clete Saves the Day

Photo: AP

You never like to see your pitchers walk a bunch of guys and struggle, but it’s nice to know that the team still has the ability to outslug on occasion. Rick Porcello had some trouble early, including giving up a leadoff home run to Chone Figgins (who joins guys like Ronny Cedeno and Alberto Callaspo as guys who don’t hit home runs who have homered off Porcello). He did settle down somewhat after that, but he threw too many pitches early and only lasted five innings. The ‘pen had kind of a rough time of it. Bobby Seay was the only one to get through his outing cleanly, without letting a runner score (his own or somebody else’s), but he only faced one batter. The right-handers all had problems of one sort or another. Zumaya in particular must’ve felt really good (He threw at least two pitches that were clocked at 103; ESPN’s commentators joked that he was throwing “a thousand miles an hour”), but he didn’t have the command that he’s been showing so far this year. And we’ve well documented the struggles that Rodney has in non-save situations (although I get the feeling that if Leyland had brought in, say, Brandon Lyon, the entire web community would’ve had a collective aneurysm).

Meanwhile, the Tigers finally got to see the struggling version of the Angels’ bullpen, and yet they very nearly let them off the hook. I’ve said on numerous occasions that for some reason, the Tigers haven’t been very good at taking advantage of walks, but if an opposing player makes an error, it’s like the floodgates open. And that’s what happened yesterday. The Tigers did not score in the eighth inning until the error by Matthews/Morales (they gave the error to Matthews, but it probably should’ve gone to Morales, cuz it wasn’t that bad a throw). Then there was another walk and then the grand slam by, of all people, Clete Thomas, who was only in there because Leyland lifted Cabrera for a pinch-runner earlier in the game. He sure did a good job filling in for Cabrera. By the way, it looks as though “Clete’s Cougars” have returned to the ballpark. I’m still not sure where that name came from, unless they are all fans from Sylvania (After all, Sylvania Southview High School IS the “Home of the Cougars”). By the way, the astounding thing was that the Tigers scored five runs in that inning and the only hit was the grand slam. At least they finally got one of their five-run eighth innings to count for something.

After ending what had been kind of a crappy homestand on a high note, it’s time to hit the road for a long, LONG time. First up is a freakin’ FIVE GAME SERIES in Chicago, beginning with a day-night doubleheader today. Has anyone else been looking at this week on the calendar and cringing (Actually, I know Ian over at
Bless You Boys is “very fearful”). It’s not that I don’t have faith in the Tigers, but their tendency to play really crappy baseball against the White Sox is fast becoming the stuff of legend, so you can understand if I can’t help but envision all the bad things that could happen in this series. Yuck. At any rate, first they gotta tackle this doubleheader. Armando Galarraga gets the nod for the first game, and like I’ve said, I’m pretty sure he’ll end up being the one sent down (or otherwise taken off the roster) simply because they need the roster space for Bonderman, unless they decide to send down a position player. He’s not been dominant, but he’s pitched well enough to win in his last two starts (arguably his last three, as he wasn’t terrible against the Rockies), but has gotten no run support. I guarantee that if the Tigers’ offense had shown up in his last three starts, he would not be getting nearly the amount of flack from the blogosphere that he is right now. The White Sox offense is struggling right now, but that never seems to matter when Detroit shows up, and they’ve already proven that they can hurt Galarraga, especially in the homer-friendly confines of U.S. Cellular Field. He’s going to have to earn his way to a win. The White Sox counter with Clayton Richard, a lefty who has done a good job for them in most of his starts. The starting lineup for the Tigers is pretty much the same as it was yesterday, except Dane Sardinha is catching (and yes, that means that Cabrera is at first base, at least for the start of this thing). By the way, this’ll mark the first occasion that I’ve been able to watch both games of a doubleheader. In the past couple years, I’ve always missed the first game due to a dentist’s appointment, work, school, or the game wasn’t televised (though the Tigers have lost all those games, so it was never any big disappointment that I missed them). I would feel better about this if they weren’t playing the White Sox. Your Mood Music for today (or at least Game 1): Well, the Tigers are on the road again, and they’re in a place they don’t normally play well in, so here is Kenny Loggins with “Highway to the Danger Zone.” While the lyrics don’t all fit (though maybe they do, in an uplifting sort of way), the title certainly does.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Jackson Wins the Duel

Photo: Duane Burleson (AP)

I still hate pitching duels, but I’ll certainly take ‘em if the Tigers win. Edwin Jackson was, by all accounts, brilliant (though most of my observations came courtesy of ESPN.com at work). He was certainly efficient. Going nine innings and only throwing 109 pitches is extremely reasonable. I was home in time for the ninth inning, though, and that was pretty sweet.

Today marks the end of the homestand and the rubber match of this series. Rick Porcello struggled in his last start against the Red Sox, but the last time he struggled, he proceeded to win five games in a row. Obviously the Angels have never seen him before. With his tendency to induce ground balls, some of the speedsters might give him trouble by beating out infield singles, but generally the Angels don’t have a real powerful offense outside of Abreu, Guerrero, and Hunter. The Angels counter with lefty Joe Saunders, who is coming off his worst start of the season but generally pitches well on the road and at Comerica Park. Marcus Thames hit two home runs off him in a game last May, and lo and behold, he has been activated and stuck in the 5-spot in the lineup. Jeff Larish was sent down to Toledo to make room for him. Miguel Cabrera’s back in the lineup. The hamstring must be feeling a lot better, because with Larish gone, the only other person who can play first base is Thames, and he’s the DH (though Raburn apparently can play first in an emergency).