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).

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