Monday, August 31, 2009

Windblown, But a Win

Photo: AP

I will tell you this much: The Game Thread on
Bless You Boys went from a lot of negativity to happy dance time very, very quickly. I suppose Justin Verlander gave it all he had. He was better against them than the time I saw him pitch against them in person. Jim Leyland did him the kindness of letting him pitch the eighth inning, which put him in line for the win. He did not have as many strikeouts as one would expect, given the fact that the Rays strike out a lot. Rodney actually had kind of a quiet ninth inning for him, though Inge did close the game out with a terrific play (Are people meant to jump that high?).

Meanwhile, the offense could not get much going against Jeff Niemann. In particular, the righties really couldn’t figure him out. All five hits he gave up were to left-handed batters, and Clete Thomas had three of them. But once Niemann was out and Balfour was in, the offense woke up just enough. Particularly, Polanco’s bat woke up. Balfour pitched around Granderson, and apparently that caused him to lose sight of the strike zone long enough to fall behind Polanco. And the home run itself was a mix of emotions. I thought he hit it well off the bat, but Mario Impemba’s tone in the play-by-play and the fact that Carl Crawford was momentarily camped on the warning track suggested otherwise. Even when Crawford was slowly backing up towards the wall, I still thought it was going to be caught. Hell, I thought he had a chance to catch it after he climbed the wall. It just barely eluded his grasp. The home run led to Rod Allen shouting “I told you they’d be asking for trouble!” which caused no end of giggling on the Game Thread.

Today, it’s another day game (and I have class at 1:00, which sucks) as Detroit and Tampa Bay wrap up this series. Jarrod Washburn recovered from a shaky beginning in Anaheim to gut his way to a quality start and his first win in a Tigers uniform (though the Tigers are 4-1 in his starts). He’s 12-3 lifetime against the Rays, although, like most pitchers/hitters with good numbers against the Rays, I’m guessing most of that was pre-2008. These are the Rays 2.0, so to speak. He’ll be opposed by James Shields, who has a good earned run average but a losing record. Apparently, the Rays haven’t given him a lot of run support. His best pitch is his changeup, which has been working well for him recently. Shields has very good numbers against the Tigers in his career (2.13 ERA).

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