Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Down, Then Up

Photo: AP

I almost forgot that I had to cover two games. I suppose we’ll start with the bad one, which was Game 1. I was in class at the beginning of the game, and it ended about an hour before I was supposed to go to work, so I saw/heard just about all of it. Ironically, this was one of the best games the Tigers had against the Twins pitching-wise this season. It was also one of the few games in which the Twins beat the Tigers by playing “Twins-style baseball” instead of just bombing the ball everywhere like they normally do. Unfortunately, Brandon Lyon chose the wrong game in which to be shaky. Two wild pitches were ultimately the death knell (well, more specifically, the ensuing single, walk, bunt, intentional walk, and sacrifice fly ended up being the difference). And then, early on, the Tigers kinda didn’t do anything with scoring opportunities (This is Nick Blackburn’s M.O., however: He gives up lots of hits but not a lot of runs). Polanco in particular had a horrible game at the plate, going 0-for-5 and stranding four. Then they didn’t even have scoring opportunities. And then they got screwed by Twins defense, particularly because of pinch-runners. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth and Wilkin Ramirez on second base, Ramon Santiago hit a line shot to deep right field that Denard Span ran down. Span was only in right field because Carlos Gomez pinch-ran for Jason Kubel a couple innings earlier and Gomez was in center. Kubel does not run that ball down. Then in the bottom of the tenth, Polanco hit a ball that looked like it was gonna bloop it’s way into a hit, but Gomez ran it down. That kinda fizzled any momentum after Granderson’s home run brought them to within one.

So you can imagine after that, work ended up being the longest five hours of my life (and it didn’t help that they kept playing songs like Abba’s “Winner Takes It All” and Foreigner’s “That was Yesterday”). But Justin Verlander came through, sort of. He didn’t pitch as well as Porcello had, but when the Twins had whittled it down to a one-run game with the tying run on second and their hottest hitter at the plate, Verlander was challenged by Leyland to step up, and he did. Meanwhile, Curtis Granderson has gotten on a hot streak. His home run in the bottom of the eighth proved to be critical, as he almost singlehandedly gave that run back by misjudging a ball hit by Nick Punto. Couple that with some early clutch hitting from Cabrera, Magglio, and Inge, which was good to see them do against a pitcher that had handled them easily the last time they saw him.

Okay, so the good news is that the worst-case scenario has been avoided. The bad news is that the second-worst-case scenario isn’t all that pretty itself. And we’ve already spent our two best bullets, so to speak. So it’ll be up to Eddie Bonine to somehow, someway keep the Twins offense under control. Bonine was victimized by poor run support in his last start, taking a no-hitter into the sixth but ultimately losing by giving up a two-run homer to Gordon Beckham (Do I need to warn you that Bonine is prone to giving up home runs? Do I further need to warn you that Mauer, Kubel, and Cuddyer hit lots of home runs anyways?). However, Minnesota has a much better offense than Chicago. He hasn’t started against Minnesota this year. He made one start against them last year and it didn’t go so well (although ESPN thinks it was this year). I don’t know how he’ll do it, but he’s gotta keep the Twins off the board cuz they’re starting Carl Pavano and, um, yeah. The Tigers got eleven hits off him last time they saw him but only two runs (and I’ve heard that none of the eleven hits were hit very hard). By now it’s gotta all be in their heads, right? Jason Beck says Alex Avila will probably start behind the plate tonight, presumably because he and Bonine worked well together in Chicago and because Laird caught both games yesterday and could probably use a break. I will be working tonight, but only four hours this time, not five. Still, it’s going to be a long four hours.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Keep on Chewing Those Fingernails

So as it turns out, this agony of waiting will have to go on a bit longer. I did not want a doubleheader, I can tell you that much. Unfortunately, I will not have time to post a Game 1 recap tomorrow before I go to work, so I guess you’ll have to settle for two games in one post. Good night, folks.

And So It All Comes Down to This

As I didn’t see any of yesterday’s game, I’ll be brief about the game recap. While I listened to the game during my lunch break, the White Sox tied the game 1-1. When I checked in later, the score was 4-2. So those other runs came in a hurry. I have no assessment of Edwin Jackson, other than to pass along the message that Jim Price thought his stuff was better than it had been in Cleveland, despite the final line. Meanwhile, I told you Daniel Hudson was pretty good against the Twins, did I not? He even duplicated the one inning where he lost sight of the strike zone, as well as the results (giving up only one run). And so we’re done with that series, at least until this weekend.

And now we have come to THE series. This one is pretty much for all the marbles, so to speak. The last time there was a series this critical for the Tigers in the regular season was 1987 against the Blue Jays. I was four years old then, and so I have no memory of that. They’re celebrating the ’84 World Series team tonight (I don’t remember that, either). But onto the game. A lot of people think the Tigers have collapsed or are in the process of collapsing because of losing the big lead in the division, but as
Kurt points out, they’ve actually done about the same as they’ve done all year (albeit they’ve been a bit more streaky about it), and we were given assurances by all the columnists, pundits, stat heads, and sabremetricians that all Detroit had to do was hold their own. They’ve done that, but the Twins have just flown in the face of every math calculation and simulation that you can throw at them. And the mind-boggling thing is that ever since Morneau was lost for the season, they’ve played better than any point in the season that they had him. That makes no sense. We keep getting told that the Twins aren’t good on the road, and yet they had won every game on their current road trip until finally getting slowed down by Zack Greinke yesterday (and yet, even against the combination of Greinke and Soria, the Twins STILL banged out eleven hits). You’ve heard all the scenarios of what happens if each team wins a certain number of games in this series (though I find it a bit worrisome that the media and bloggers are acting as though the Twins taking three of four is the worst case scenario; We don’t want to fathom what the REAL worst-case scenario is, do we?). And so, there are two things that have been true most of the season that must hold true for the Tigers to win out: The Tigers play very well at home (only the Yankees and Red Sox are better), and their pitching is better than Twins pitching (though this good pitching oftentimes does not show up AGAINST the Twins). And it goes without saying that, due to the pitching matchups, the first two games are huge. Rick Porcello was pretty good in his last start, though he had to dodge a lot of traffic on the basepaths early in that game against the Indians. The last time he saw the Twins, he gave up three runs and lost. His lone shutout appearance came against the Twins back in May at Comerica Park (And it would behoove him to get that sinker working tonight because it is REALLY windy). Nick Blackburn typically does not pitch well at Comerica Park. However, after going through an awful second half, he has been really good in his last three starts, including his last one, where he threw seven shutout innings against the White Sox, and is a big reason why the Twins are as hot as they are now. And I’ll admit it: I am absolutely terrified right now. My gut feelings and intuition have taken the Tigers almost into the range that I thought they were capable of (Remember, I said they had the ability to win 85-90 games and contend. I promised nothing beyond that). Beyond this point, I have no idea what will happen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Perfect Night for a Comeback

Photo: AP

When I said that the Tigers would have to outpitch Freddy Garcia, that isn’t exactly what I meant, but I’ll certainly take it. Who says this team has no fight? I don’t know what Nate Robertson’s problem was, but he did not have his slider working this time around. Hopefully, that will be addressed before his next start. Therefore, none of this would have been possible without some stellar performances from the Tigers bullpen, particularly Alfredo Figaro. Meanwhile, usually when an offense makes a comeback from a large deficit, it starts with bloop singles and eventually builds up to a home run. Last night was kind of the opposite. The comeback started with a Miguel Cabrera home run, and then the Tigers began singling the White Sox to death. Cabrera had a huge night with four hits and four RBIs, giving him an even 100 for the season, but everyone got into the act except Brandon Inge (who went 0-for-5 and didn’t look good in most of his ABs, but he did hit a ball to the wall in his first at-bat that Carlos Quentin speared). And after struggling recently, it was nice to see Granderson get three hits.

Today’s a big game for Edwin Jackson. He shut out the Indians for seven innings in his last start, but he only threw first-pitch strikes to six batters. He has struggled somewhat against the White Sox this year (if you call giving up three runs struggling), but ended up with no-decisions both times. He’ll be opposed by Daniel Hudson (who has the unusual distinction of having pitched in all four minor league levels this year), who took the loss against the Twins in his last (and only) start, but I watched that game, and he did not look bad at all outside of one inning where he temporarily lost the strike zone (the runs that scored against him scored on a passed ball, a bases-loaded walk, and an RBI single that scored a runner who had reached on an error). The Tigers may have some problems with him. Leyland expects as much. Unfortunately, I work until 5:00 today, so I will likely miss all of this game.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

We Were Due For Something Like This

I can’t give insight into the very beginning of the game, and this is gonna be a short post anyways. The ironic thing is that as I was driving home, I was under the impression that Jake Peavy was the one throwing the no-hitter. I didn’t really expect Eddie Bonine to seal the deal, because he’s too prone to giving up home runs, and sure enough, that’s what happened. So, he’s beating himself up for the hanging changeup to Gordon Beckham and Brandon Inge is beating himself up for the error. Still, Bonine certainly did a better job than I expected him to. After Bonine departed, though, I am amazed that the White Sox didn’t put more runs on the board, what with Ryan Perry’s wildness (and one interesting thing that’s been pointed out is that the Tigers went entirely with rookie pitchers last night). I am also amazed that they pulled Peavy after seven innings. The guy’s pitch count was so low, he could easily have gone the distance. I don’t know how he could have a pitch count that low and strike out eight. And I know most guys weren’t striking out on three pitches. And it’s harder to manufacture runs when you can’t get a runner to third with less than two outs (Did they even get a runner to third?). If a runner is at second with one out, it’s still gonna require a base hit to score him (outside of something weird happening). And I could be wrong about this, but I don’t think they ever got the leadoff man on either. There were a few instances where they had runners on first and second with one out, but Peavy always got a strikeout or a double play. And it doesn’t help that most of the Tigers didn’t have good numbers against Peavy in the first place (Miguel Cabrera came into the game 2-for-17 in his career against him, and for the most part, looked completely overmatched).

And so we move on to the second game in this series. Nate Robertson is coming off an important win in Minnesota. Can he keep it up against the White Sox? In his career, his ERA against them is over five, and he says the Cell is one of the hardest places to pitch because the fans tend to be obnoxious (his paraphrased words, not mine). Freddy Garcia, who was briefly with the Tigers last year, will be on the mound for the Sox, and he’s done a very good job for them recently. His September ERA is under 3, and he went eight innings in his last start though he took the loss. And, oh yeah, he’s 15-5 against the Tigers, though they haven’t faced him since 2006. Nate’s simply gonna have to outpitch him, plain and simple.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hello, Winning Season

Photo: AP

Well, they had to hang on, but the important thing is that the Tigers got the win, extended their lead over Minnesota by a half-game, and lowered their magic number to eight. Outside of one weird inning where the Indians put him in a lot of stress, Justin Verlander was his electric self. And unlike that start against the Blue Jays, he didn’t let the stressful inning carry over into the rest of the game. There were some issues with the bullpen. Bobby Seay couldn’t get his hitters out, but that may have something to do with a shoulder problem that has cropped up (that’s probably not good). Brandon Lyon did a good job, though. And then there’s Rodney. He retired the first two relatively easily, but a walk to Carroll meant bad things when facing Shin Soo Choo (one of the few Indians left in the lineup who can hurt you on a regular basis). After the home run and the Hafner single, with a 3-2 count on Peralta, it looked bleak, but we all forgot one very important thing: We have Brandon Inge on our team. The defense was tremendous, and the offense was nicely spread around (each of the 6 RBIs was from a different person), which is good on a night Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-5 (and was swinging way too hard in his final two at-bats). By the way, last night's win guarantees the Tigers will have a winning season, and that's certainly something to celebrate, especially after last year and considering where all the "experts" placed us this year. And here is your broom:

Okay, we are done with the Indians for the season. Now it’s time to see the White Sox a whole lot over the final ten days or so. We’ve still got six games left with them. And while they have been eliminated (for all intents and purposes), they are probably gonna be a lot tougher than the Indians. For one thing, the Indians are essentially playing their Triple A team, while the White Sox still have their “A” lineup mostly intact (though they did trade Jim Thome to the Dodgers). For another thing, we won’t have Porcello or Verlander in this series (and Jackson doesn’t start until Sunday). First up is Eddie Bonine (sans mohawk), who hasn’t pitched in quite a while. He started a game against the White Sox in July. It was Game 2 of a doubleheader, and it was a game the Tigers won, though Bonine did not get the win. He pitched pretty well, though, allowing only three runs in six innings. However, he is prone to giving up home runs, and US Cellular Field is a launching pad. And he’ll be up against a former Cy Young pitcher in Jake Peavy. Peavy has made one start for the White Sox, giving up three runs in five innings against the Royals. The Tigers have only seen him once, and it was back in 2005 during Interleague play. He only gave up three runs but got the loss in a game that had an eventual score of 8-4. I’m working tonight, and all weekend (but I SHOULD be able to catch all of tomorrow’s game).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Nice to Have a Stress-Free Night

Photo: AP

The Tigers were done scoring by the time I got out of work, but they sure scored plenty of times before that. Rick Porcello was also gone before I left work, so I can’t give you a ton of insight into his performance, but it seemed like he wasn’t totally sharp but was able to battle through it. The pitch count got up higher than you’d want it to in this sort of game, however. Things got a little bit sloppy with the bullpen, but no harm done. Bonderman walked two, but a lot of the pitches just missed and he hadn’t pitched in several days. Meanwhile, the Tigers teed off on Justin Masterson and Mike Gosling. The home run ball was in vogue. Cabrera hit his so far it almost should count for two. Guillen hit one from each side of the plate, and here I thought it would be a while before he got his timing back from the right side.

Tonight we listen to That F***ing Drum for the last time this year. And boy, do we want to sweep the Indians. Nothing’s a foregone conclusion, though. Carlos Carrasco has an ERA of 9.64, but they still think highly of him, plus the Indians at this point are desperate to win a game. Also, this is really the first year that Verlander has had prolonged success against the Tribe. Will the law of averages catch up to him? I sure hope not. Let me put it this way: This is a game the Tigers SHOULD win (“should” as in “It would look bad if they didn’t”). Verlander has beaten the Indians three times this year, once at Progressive Field (and that was without question one of the most memorable games of the year). The Tigers saw Carlos Carrasco back on September 1st and beat him then. That was his Major League debut. Carrasco really hasn’t pitched much better since then. He’s been especially prone to giving up home runs. It should be noted, however, that the Indians will likely put Lou Marson behind the plate, and he caught Carrasco in the minor leagues. By the way, “Lou Marson” sounds like the name of someone who should’ve been playing in the 1940s.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Be It Luck or Progress, It's Still a Win

Photo: AP

I’ll admit I didn’t see a lot of this game (just the ninth inning, though I was able to listen to the eighth inning on the radio). The assessment of Edwin Jackson’s performance seems to be different with every source I check. I’ve heard or read everything from “he threw a gem” to “he was damn lucky.” He did have huge problems throwing first-pitch strikes and he fell behind a lot of hitters, but he still pitched seven shutout innings, so I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. And, from what I’ve heard, his defenders helped him out greatly. Things got a little ugly in the eighth, when Bobby Seay gave up two hits and Brandon Lyon gave up two walks (one of which forced in a run). And it’s not like Brandon Lyon to walk people, let alone two in a row. However, there were complaints all evening that the strikezone was very erratic for both teams (If you trust Gameday, check out Lyon’s pitches to Jamey Carroll and you’ll see what I mean), and that might have been part of Jackson’s problem as well. So you could imagine that everyone was a bit nervous to have Fernando Rodney on the mound with this wacky strikezone, but he actually did a very good job. And by the way, if the name Paul Schrieber sounds familiar, he’s the umpire that was involved in that whole business with “nudging” Magglio Ordoñez toward the dugout a few months ago. Meanwhile, the offense wasn’t exactly tremendous against Aaron Laffey (though by the sounds of things, there were some balls hit hard right at people; same for the Indians against the Tigers), but they scored just enough to get by. The two insurance runs came against an abnormally wild Chris Perez. By the way, I chose today’s photo on the sole basis that Miguel Cabrera looks like he’s dancing and that’s funny.

Tonight, the Tigers send Rick Porcello to the mound. He’s coming off a loss in his last start in which he pitched reasonably well but took the loss against Minnesota. They brought a somewhat stunning fact during that game: Rick has not had a road win since June 24th. I did not realize that. He’s been good against the Indians this year, and the last time he faced them in Cleveland he pitched eight superb innings. He’ll be opposed by Justin Masterson, one of the big pieces in the Victor Martinez trade. The Red Sox had Masterson working out of their bullpen, but the Indians have converted him back into a starter. He’s pitched reasonably well for them up until his last start where he gave up five earned runs against Oakland, but has been plagued by poor run support. However, there is a reason why he is highly regarded, and you’d have to think that’ll show up sooner or later (Hopefully, “later.” Much later). Then there’s this: He has pitched 3 1/3 innings against the Tigers this year, all in relief. In that span, he has given up only two hits and one walk, and he has struck out six (though three of those strikeouts belong to Adam Everett). And, oh, by the way, last night at work we were out of Z-Packs, Cipro, and Vicodin, so you can imagine things’ll be rather busy tonight.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Goodbye, Metrodome, and Good Riddance

Photo: AP

Going into this series, everyone said the Tigers just had to win one game. Just one. Well, they did that, although it was probably the one that had the least likely win probability, especially since the Twins have a knack for completing the sweep when they have the opportunity, especially at home. But you have to be happy with it. Nate Robertson channeled some of his 2007 self and pitched five good innings. Most of the Twins made him throw a lot of pitches, but he was mostly able to limit the traffic on the bases. Striking out Denard Span three times was particularly impressive. And the Tigers got some good work from the bullpen, especially when you consider that neither Zach Miner nor Bobby Seay had pitched well at the Metrodome this year. But we actually scored some runs as well. Everyone is talking about Polanco’s three RBIs, but I think Guillen’s triple was the big hit of the game, because after that, everyone seemed to loosen up a bit, and the swings got better (though I was a bit surprised that Ron Gardenhire pulled Scott Baker so quickly).

It is now time for the final off-day of the season (and by my observations in yesterday’s post, our boys need it), and then it’s three in Cleveland. And while the Tigers’ recent issues have given some, well, unwanted drama to the top of the division, something similar is happening at the bottom. I watched the end of the Indians’ game yesterday, and their broadcasters gave me this somewhat stunning statistic: On September 6, the Indians were in fourth place ahead of the Royals by nine games. That was two weeks ago. As of yesterday, they now have the same record. Those two teams (so far) are going in opposite directions to end the year. The Royals have been hot recently (we know about that firsthand, and we need them to stay hot for the remainder of the season), while the Indians have lost eight in a row and are coming off a winless road trip that saw them get swept in Minnesota and Oakland (and that Oakland series was a 4-gamer). This can mean one of two things: Either this is the perfect time to be playing the Indians, or this is going to scare you to death because they’ll be desperate to break the losing streak. And the Tigers will face two of their better starters in the series. Tomorrow night, Edwin Jackson takes on Aaron Laffey. Jackson spent his bullpen session yesterday working on mechanical tweaks to his slider (plus there’s some belief that he’s been tipping his pitches), and he thinks he’s got the problem fixed. I sure do hope so. The Indians have made him work the last couple times they saw him (although he did get the win against them in late August). Meanwhile, Aaron Laffey has probably pitched the best of all the Indians’ starters recently. He took the loss in one of those games in Detroit, but probably pitched better than the numbers show, as the Indians made five errors in that game (and the Tigers haven’t been so hot against lefties recently).

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I Sure Won't Miss the Metrodome

All hell sure did break loose after I got home. The Tigers went from having a one-run lead to being blown out in the space of two batters, all amidst a chorus of complaints about the Metrodome. And just like that, Justin Verlander, who had been brilliant all day (or so I heard) gets tagged for five earned runs again. That’ll just about take him out of the Cy Young discussion, I would think, especially since Sabathia won last night. If that becomes the defining turning point of the season, then I suspect Don Kelly won’t be welcome in Detroit again for some time. Meanwhile, after getting progressively worse against Pavano every time they faced him, the Tigers actually scored two runs off him, which is more than what I thought they’d do. There’s been complaining that they didn’t take advantage of the eleven hits they got off Pavano, but from what I heard on the radio, not a single one of them was hit hard, and the odds of getting five bloop singles in a row are nearly impossible (though the Twins manage to do this with regularity). The fact of the matter is that the boys just look tired and exhausted. It’s like they’re just running on fumes. Meanwhile, the Twins look like they have boundless energy. Perhaps there needs to be an investigation into the Tigers’ in-season conditioning and training regimen?

Well, it comes down to this. After today, the Tigers will never have to venture into that godforsaken place known as the Metrodome. And at this point, you have to rely on that which has been your strong suit: Your pitching and your defense. I sure do hope Nate Robertson is healthy. I still haven’t seen the “good” Nate that came off the DL. He did not do well against the Twins last year, but in 2007 he was 2-1 with a 1.93 ERA in four starts against Minnesota (and one of those was a 1-0 win at the Metrodome). In his career at the Metrodome, he is 5-5 with an ERA of 4.08, so he’s made some good starts there. Meanwhile, Scott Baker is winless in his last two starts, but prior to that, he had won seven games in a row. The Tigers HAVE scored quite a few runs off him this year in the two games they’ve seen him, and there are a few guys in the lineup who have hit him well. Magglio (who has been slumping recently) hits over .400 against him, and both Granderson and Thames have 4 home runs apiece off of Baker. I don’t know, though. I promised I’d be honest about my gut feeling, and right now, it doesn’t feel too good. However, no matter what happens today, the Tigers WILL leave town in first place. A three-game lead sure looks better than a one-game lead, but they will be in first place (and they’ll head to Cleveland hoping the Indians continue to lose a lot). Your Mood Music for today: Through my own quirks and eccentricities, I give you the Parade of the Ewoks.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

This Is Getting Too Predictable

VERY short post today, as I have to be at work in an hour and I still have to get dressed. It’s bad when the photos of the rookie hazing during the pregame show ended up being the highlight of the game (I missed the pregame show, but I was able to see the photos, thanks to Alli at Bless You Boys). If there’s one thing positive to take away from this, it’s that Tigers pitching was a lot better than they had been previously at the Metrodome this year (Prior to last night, I think the fewest runs they had given up in a game was four). However, Rick Porcello (who I hear DID look good in that dress, even though the photo they showed was of poor quality) is destined to not get any run support at the Metrodome. Brian Duensing had been outstanding since joining their rotation. You expected us to do differently?

Today the Tigers are on Big Fox (which means that I’ll miss most of it, since I work 10-6). You’d figure this game as the one which the Tigers have the best chance of winning, but not only do Carl Pavano starts tend to dictate that the Tigers not score many runs, they also seem to dictate that whichever Tigers starting pitcher opposes him pitches really badly, whether it’s Armando Galarraga or Justin Verlander. And it seems like every time the Tigers have faced Carl Pavano, the hitting has gotten worse, not better. Meanwhile, JV had himself a bizarre outing against the Blue Jays. He struck out nine and walked none while going seven innings, but he gave up ten hits and five runs. Minnesota is the only divisional opponent he has not beaten this year. He tends to get a lot of no-decisions at the Metrodome (1-1 in his career there, although one should point out that he didn’t pitch there at all in ’07). And by the way, you’ll be in the capable hands of Rod Allen for your color commentary today (Dick Bremer, Twins broadcaster, is doing play-by-play. Could be worse).

Friday, September 18, 2009

Who DIDN'T See That Coming?

This game smelled like trouble before it even started. I can’t give a tremendous amount of insight, as I was only able to listen to the first hour on the radio (I had to go to lab right after the Miguel Olivo 3-run homer), part of the postgame show on the radio, and later I saw bits of the sixth inning when FSN re-aired the game. Edwin Jackson’s had trouble with the home-run ball recently (although walks are not the problem they were last year and in his career in general). If you have to take something positive away from it, it’s that it looked like he dispatched the Royals fairly efficiently after that. Unfortunately, the part of the sixth inning that I saw was the Josh Anderson 3-run homer (Really? You’d expect Porcello to be the one to give up home runs to HIM) and the walk that followed. I really wish that didn’t happen. Armando Galarraga said afterwards that his elbow felt fine. I hope he was lying, cuz I saw those bad different-looking pitches again. The offense didn’t do anything against Greinke, but you pretty much knew that would be the case.

I know you’re probably not in the mood for it, but on a lighter note, since the Tigers left Detroit for Minneapolis immediately after the game yesterday to begin the final road trip, that meant that it was time for the annual rookie hazing ritual of making them wear dumb outfits (mostly women’s Halloween costumes). I’ve only read one mention of it so far. Apparently, this year’s batch of costumes included two Teletubbies outfits, a Scooby Doo costume, and a bunch of dresses. The only player I’ve gotten the details on is Rick Porcello, who ended up having to wear a purple flapper costume (This sounds wrong, but something tells me he’d look good in it). And this is pure speculation, but my gut’s telling me that Alex Avila ended up with the Scooby Doo costume. I could be wrong, though. The other thing that was significant about this game is that Carlos Guillen batted right-handed for the first time since coming off the DL. And something about looking at him batting right-handed and wearing the high socks just made me laugh. I don’t know why. It was just highly amusing. Now, I took a look at him batting left-handed earlier in the game, and I had no reaction to it, so it’s only when he’s batting right-handed. But the logos have gotta go. Logos are bad.

Oh, by the way, Detroit still has SEVEN games left with Minnesota. And three of them begin tonight at that hellhole known as the Metrodome. The Tigers have only won one game there this year (and that one took 16 innings). However, even if they get swept, they will escape Minneapolis in first place, albeit by just one game. But one thing that’s discouraging is how bad the pitching was on the homestand, and that’s discouraging because the pitching has not been good at all against Minnesota at any point this year (Seay, Galarraga, and Miner in particular have had a tough time of it), and the defense has been pretty bad as well (although overall the defense has been good in recent games). Rick Porcello has been one of the more reliable pitchers of late, with the exception of a start against Kansas City. He’s faced Minnesota twice this year. He shut them out at Comerica Park, but struggled at the Metrodome. He’ll be opposed by lefty Brian Duensing, who has done a tremendous job for the Twins since joining their rotation. He’s handcuffed better offenses than the Tigers, I’ll tell you that. The Twins will be without Justin Morneau, who is out for the rest of the year with a stress fracture in his back. However, since making that announcement, the Twins are riding a four-game winning streak (Michael Cuddyer has picked up the slack). Your Mood Music for tonight: Alas, I will never get that Metrodome slide show done in time, so you’ll have to settle for the music I would have used for it.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hope You Had the Tissues Handy

Photo: AP

Short post, as I only have an hour before my next class and I want lunch (plus the girl at the computer next to this one keeps clearing her throat and it’s very annoying). Eddie Bonine acquitted himself nicely last night (more impressive when you consider that he handled the Royals a whole lot better than anyone else on this staff had recently). I’m guessing they’ll stretch him out a bit further next time if they can, but if he can duplicate that performance in his remaining starts, I’ll be satisfied (though I’m still not digging the mohawk). The bullpen was very, very good, especially Brandon Lyon, who did a masterful job of getting out of a first-and-third-none-out-in-a-one-run-game jam. The offense didn’t do quite as much as you’d like against Lenny DiNardo, but they did enough (and got a big boost from KC’s inability to turn double plays last night). Adam Everett in particular came up big. They were also having a charity auction of the players’ “favorite things” as put together by their wives and girlfriends. Over at
Bless You Boys, we were having a chuckle at some of the stuff. In particular, I found it ironic that Alex Avila’s basket included Reduced Fat Cheez-Its AND Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies. Wouldn’t those two cancel each other out? And what in the world happened to Justin Verlander’s girlfriend? I haven’t seen her since his no-hitter, but back then, she was cute-looking (if a girl is allowed to say that about another girl). Now she has spikey emo hair and wears way too much glitter. Personally, I love Justin, but I liked Brandon Inge’s basket the best cuz it included an Xbox. And of course there was Ernie Harwell’s speech, which was to the point, but very touching. I don’t have a lot of personal experience with Ernie Harwell, but the guy is classy to the very end. Thank you, too, Ernie.

Well, can the Tigers take the series today before heading out on the road? It’ll be a tough task. Zack Greinke has been on a roll recently as far as being stingy, but has taken a lot of no-decisions cuz the Royals tend to not score runs for him. The best strategy is probably to just try your best to hold the Royals off the board until you get Greinke out of the game and then take your chances against the Kansas City bullpen. The Tigers don’t score many runs for Edwin Jackson (So by that logic, we’re headed for a slugfest, right?). They actually scored six runs for him in his last start, but he ended up giving up five, including three home runs. Jackson has already been outpitched by Greinke once this year, but Greinke has not won at Comerica Park this year, either. Jackson last faced the Royals on August 15th, when he gave up three runs in six innings but had to deal with baserunners almost the whole time (I should know. I was there). Those runs came on a Billy Butler 2-run homer and a Brayan Peña solo home run. It was a game that the Tigers ultimately won 10-3. I’ll have Gameday Audio at my disposal for the first hour, but after that I have to go to lab, and from what I’ve heard, the earliest I’ll get out is four o’clock, and the game will probably be over by then.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Some People Just Won't Learn

Note to pitchers: You are not effective if you are injured, so what’s the point in pitching hurt? No one ever listens to me. And so the list just keeps growing. Most of the damage had already been done by the time I got home, In fact, the only scoring left to be had was the Miguel Olivo three-run homer, which I heard on the radio. From what I can tell, Jarrod Washburn was clearly hurting from the start and only lasted an inning. Zach Miner was actually quite effective for two innings but Casey Fien and Jeremy Bonderman had issues of their own that obviously weren’t health-related. Things got ugly, and the Tigers could do nothing against Robinson Tejeda. Just about all the regulars had been pulled by the time I got home, so I can’t comment on them either. However, the Tigers have been left with one gargantuan problem, and that is there is currently no one to start on Sunday, unless Washburn’s knee miraculously heals. Leyland is adamant that he doesn’t want to use Zach Miner, but I’m not sure he’ll have any other choice. Nate Robertson MIGHT be able to start, depending on how the groin injury feels. Armando Galarraga says he has gotten to the point with the elbow injury where he can pitch a bit in relief, but once he’s in there for an extended period of time (I’m guessing after two innings or so), the inflammation flares up again and he becomes ineffective (His outing against the Blue Jays would seem to support this argument). As a result, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to start again this year (and it’s not a good idea to start Armando against the Twins anyways). And…Leyland wanted to put him into the game after Washburn departed but apparently the elbow flared up again and he wasn’t able to. And Bonderman’s not stretched out. With all this, Alfredo Figaro has been activated off the DL, but he’s not stretched out either. It is all quite a conundrum.

I don’t know how they’ll do it, but somehow, someway, the Tigers are going to have to climb their way out of this hellhole they’ve dug themselves into, and they need to do it tonight, cuz you know Zack Greinke is gonna hand it to them tomorrow. However, they didn’t do much against Lenny DiNardo back in KC (though at one point, they DID have the lead in that game). They also haven’t been able to touch Kansas City’s bullpen recently. In the meantime, Eddie Bonine makes the start for the Tigers (so chosen because Jim Leyland was sick and tired of everyone else getting hurt; yeah, that worked real well). He was decent in his only start this year, which came against Chicago. At Toledo, he was a strike-thrower, but at the Major League level, his big problem has been giving up home runs. He faced the Royals in relief last week, giving up a solo home run to Alberto Callaspo. I heard somewhere that tonight would’ve been his mother’s birthday. Tonight’s game will also feature Ernie Harwell saying thank you to the fans. Bring the tissues.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Goonies Never Say Die

Photo: AP

This game was looking an awful lot like the first two games until the ninth inning. I don’t know what happened with Verlander. He was dominant until the sixth inning, and then the Blue Jays started hitting everything hard (I will tell you this: I was smelling Edwin Encarnacion home run for this entire series). How do you go seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks, but give up ten hits and five earned runs? But the Tigers were able to bail him out, which they don’t often do, and the bullpen was very, very good. Marco Scutaro, who is a good defender at shortstop, made two costly errors for the Blue Jays, the latter of which allowed the winning run to score (Mario said he cursed him for breaking his headset on a foul ball in the seventh inning). The big blow came from Aubrey Huff’s pinch-hit three-run homer in the ninth. I have never seen anyone swing the bat THAT aggressively and make contact before. The reaction shot in the dugout brought its own amusement. Miguel Cabrera jumped onto the back of Armando Galarraga, who piggybacked him all the way to the stairs (Geez, the guy’s already dealing with a sore elbow; you don’t want to add back problems to that). And I love Inge’s expression in that photo. After the game, there were more antics with Armando, who tried to give Alex Avila the towel full of shaving cream while Alex was being interviewed (mostly he got the back of his head, but it was still funny, especially the fact that Armando managed to mug the camera as he was sneaking up on Avila).

Well, from now on, it’s all Central, all the time. First up, the Kansas City Royals come into town, and, as strange as it sounds, they’re hot right now. They swept the Tigers and then took two of three from the Indians. And the Tigers will be facing two pitchers they didn’t do a lot against last week, PLUS Zack Greinke. Jarrod Washburn takes the hill tonight for the Tigers. It was a battle for him back in KC, but he somehow managed to go five innings and only give up three runs. The Tigers will see Robinson Tejeda again, and he shut them out the last time they met. Tejeda’s on quite a scoreless streak right now, and he’s got really good stuff. Your Mood Music for tonight: Well, Patrick Swayze died yesterday. I thought I should post something Swayze-related, but “She’s Like the Wind” doesn’t really fit. So I settled on this, which kind of describes last night’s victory. And hopefully we can sing it again tonight.

Monday, September 14, 2009

And THIS Streak Ends At Five

Photo: AP

Rick Porcello was the one who started this mess, and he was the one to clean it up. Fitting enough, I suppose. It was all there yesterday: pitching, good defense, and timely hitting. In addition to some decent pitching for Porcello (who actually got an uncharacteristically high number of fly ball outs), Zach Miner, Brandon Lyon, and Fernando Rodney were pretty steady as well. Meanwhile, the Tigers did okay against Ricky Romero. It wasn’t a great offensive display, but the nice thing was the two two-out RBIs from Gerald Laird. And the add-on runs in the eighth courtesy of Aubrey Huff and Brandon Inge certainly helped. Meanwhile, Miguel Cabrera was seemingly feeling real good with his legs. He even stole a base. Now if we could just do something about the atrocious logos…

Boy, it sure feels like today’s an off-day, doesn’t it? But it’s not. It’s the last game in this series, and the last game against a non-Central opponent. This was originally scheduled to be a big Verlander-Halladay showdown, but Halladay has been pushed back a day, so instead the Blue Jays are starting David Purcey. The Tigers haven’t done much against Purcey in his career (except walk a lot), although Edwin Jackson outpitched him in the second game of the season (it was a game the Tigers eventually lost). Meanwhile, Verlander is coming off a loss to the Royals in which he only gave up one run in six innings, but it was a battle to do that. The Blue Jays are a better offense than the Royals. Justin has not fared well against the Blue Jays in his career, either, though that only encompasses two starts (last August and Opening Day this year). The Blue Jays can hit fastballs. One thing that we might be keeping an eye on is the bullpen. Rodney’s suspension was cut to two games, and he’ll start serving it tonight. Normally, you’d just stick Lyon in to get the save, but he’s pitched for three days straight and Leyland wanted to give him a rest as well, so I don’t know what they’re planning on doing.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

This is Officially a Problem

I suppose I should have specified that I wanted Edwin Jackson to pitch deep into the game in an effective manner. He went seven innings, but he couldn’t keep the Blue Jays in the ballpark. Then again, neither could anyone else, except Brandon Lyon and he had his own issues (though I’m fairly certain that Laird would have been able to block that ball). And Brandon Lyon is officially the last of the pitching staff to fall. I did not see Jackson at all, so I can’t really elaborate. Meanwhile, Rodney in a non-save situation is just asking for trouble. You weren’t really expecting him to get out of it two nights in a row, were you? There’s been kind of a big deal made about the fact that once Cabrera hit the three-run homer, the Tigers didn’t do anything until getting two hits in the ninth. Now, if they had scored all six runs in the first and then didn’t do anything except let the Blue Jays chip away, I could see their point a bit better. But Cabrera’s home run came in the fifth. That’s not exactly early. It’s not late, either, but when you score six runs, you should win.

Now today there’s gonna be an awful lot of pressure on Rick Porcello to straighten out the pitching staff, but he’s technically the one who started all the problems in the first place. He had problems holding down the Royals and gave up four runs in five innings, which marked the beginning of everyone’s downward spiral. He faced the Blue Jays in his Major League debut, also giving up four runs in five innings. His opponent that day was the same guy who will oppose him today: lefty Ricky Romero. Both were making strong cases for Rookie of the Year, and both are in search of their 13th win. Romero has struggled recently as well. Jim Leyland will once again try the same lineup that he used on Friday.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

I'm Still Waiting

Due to school/work, I had not seen the “new and improved” Nate Robertson since he’s come off the DL, at least not in a start. I still haven’t seen that version of him. Nate had no command whatsoever. He walked five and the only reason he only gave up two runs is because of the strong wind knocking balls down. Obviously, you can’t say with 100% certainty that the groin injury was the cause of his problems, but you can certainly suspect that. Nate had several problems last year and this year. Walks were not one of them. He had issues with putting hitters away, but those normally resulted in base hits, not walks. At any rate, the injury finally forced him out of the game and brought Armando Galarraga in. Now, I did not want to see Armando in this game, although probably for different reasons than everyone else. He actually looked very good for the first inning and two-thirds that he was in there. However, between the injury and the fact that he hasn’t pitched much in over two weeks, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of stamina right now, and it appeared like he ran out of steam. The line as a reliever is not good, but in and of itself it’s not so bad. He didn’t get a lot of help from his friends. I can’t be sure about this, but on the Barajas home run, it looked like it was gonna stay in the park and Raburn actually knocked the ball over the fence. And the third run scored on the Ruiz home run that Ryan Perry gave up. Ryan Perry has not had a scoreless outing (and by that, I include his own runs and inherited runners that he’s allowed to score) since August 26th, the last game of the Angels series, and even that was an adventure. Jim Leyland was quoted as saying that the add-on runs are killing them, immediately adding that “some guys are getting too casual.” Was that aimed at Perry? At any rate, Robertson had to have an MRI and will NOT make his next start. So who will make it? Obviously, the leading candidates would be Galarraga, Miner, and Bonine, but all three have their issues. Galarraga has already made three good starts against Kansas City this year, but he’s not 100% healthy and is arguably not stretched out enough right now. Miner has the best stuff of the three, but hasn’t been good at throwing strikes recently. And Bonine is the best at throwing strikes, but gives up too many home runs. I suppose a lot of that will be dictated by how the bullpen is used in the rest of this series.

Okay, tonight we need Edwin Jackson to pitch deep into this game because right now the bullpen is out of whack and could use a night off to straighten things out. Because of the day off, he does have an extra day of rest, which is good, since he threw a lot of pitches his last time out. Jim Leyland left him out there long enough to turn a loss into a win thanks to Brandon Inge’s ninth-inning grand slam against the Rays. He pitched a good game against the Blue Jays in his very first start of the year (a start which I did not see, by the way) but was denied a win because, well, Brandon Lyon struggled in April. He’ll be opposed by native Canadian Scott Richmond, who is the lone righty that the Tigers will see in this series. He has struggled recently, just like Tallet, although Richmond’s problem tends to be one big inning. Outside of that, he’s fine. Like his last start. He gave up five runs to the Twins in the first inning, but only gave up one run after that in five or six innings. I’ll be at work tonight (I hate closing on Saturdays), so it’s the late innings for me.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It Just Goes to Show...

ANY team can bite you on the ass if you let them. And that is exactly what the Tigers let the Royals do. The Tigers scored ten runs in this series. That’s obviously nothing to get excited about, but it’s certainly enough for them to have taken two of three. The problem is that Tigers pitching gave up NINETEEN runs to an offense that ranks either last or second-to-last (can’t remember which). I didn’t get home until the end of the fifth inning, so I can’t comment too much on Jarrod Washburn, but by his own admission, skipping a start didn’t help the knee any. He gave up a lot of baserunners, but only three runs (Leyland seemed to approve of the start). I missed the first four innings of the game entirely due to lab, so I can’t give much of an assessment on the early part of the game. I listened to the fifth inning on my way home from school, and watched the game on TV from the sixth inning on. The swings against Lenny DiNardo sounded pretty good in the fifth, and if he had stayed in there longer than five, he probably would’ve given up more runs. However, after rallying and taking the lead against Yabuta, that lead only lasted four pitches into the bottom of the sixth, when Zach Miner gave up a home run to Alex Gordon. And so continued the series-long trend of Tiger relievers not pitching well. Fu Te Ni and Eddie Bonine weren’t much help either. Meanwhile, the Tigers had fourteen hits, but five double plays kind of killed all the rallies. I didn’t see the first three double plays, the fourth was just a routine double play (nothing fancy), but the fifth was just downright bad luck. You can’t ask Cabrera to hit a ball any harder than that, but he hit it right at Billy Butler and Maggs had no chance to get back to first. Ironically, on this road trip, the Tigers tattooed the “good” bullpen (Tampa) but really didn’t do much against the “bad” bullpen (KC).

By the way, I apologize with the font being weird on yesterday’s post. I already knew that Office 2007 and Firefox didn’t mix. Now I know that Office 2007 and IE7 don’t mix either (though that combination DID let me post without having a hissy fit about formatting, which is more than I can say for Firefox). Luckily, today I am using Office 2003 and IE6, so that should not be a problem.

All told, the Tigers had a .500 road trip, which is pretty much what everyone wanted when the road trip started, but they did it in a way that left you unsatisfied with a .500 road trip. But if anything can get the Tigers out of this rut, it’s a homestand. If being at home can’t do it, I don’t know what will. First up is a four-game set with the Blue Jays, whom the Tigers haven’t seen since the four days of the season (and no, I STILL don’t know what a trap series is). They will NOT have to face Halladay in the series, but keep in mind the reaction you had when we found out that the Tigers wouldn’t see Greinke in the just-completed series in KC versus what actually happened. At any rate, the Tigers will see three lefty starters in this series, with one going tonight. Brian Tallet has bounced between the rotation and the bullpen all year, as the Blue Jays have suffered injuries to their pitching staff. Tallet got the win in his last start against the Yankees despite giving up five runs. Meanwhile, we’ll continue to see just how long we can keep milking Nate Robertson for all he’s worth. I haven’t seen him since he’s come back (outside of his brief appearance in Kansas City). He did a good job against the Indians, though. Nate’s teased us like this before, however, so it’ll probably be a few more starts before we know anything. Unfortunately, his re-emergence has come at the expense of Armando Galarraga, who has been moved to the bullpen for the time being. Personally, I don’t think this is a good move, because I don’t think he’s healthy. I would rather he be shut down for the season to focus on getting the elbow/arm better and getting back to the 2008 form so that he can reclaim his starting spot next year. Which brings me to tonight’s Mood Music. It’s slightly inappropriate, as I have no romantic feelings toward Armando and there are two Tigers that I like better than him, but I’ve increasingly become his lone voice of support in the online community (Someone had to stick up for him, and besides, Justin doesn’t need my help and Magglio’s got plenty of followers). However, I realize I’m just about out of ammo and “I like him” is not a valid argument. Hopefully he can get back to his 2008 self, though, because it would be a shame to have his story end like this. At any rate, I heard this on the radio today and it made me think of the situation. I promise I’ll return to the more upbeat/”get pumped” music in the next couple days.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Now That's Just Flat-Out Getting Outpitched

When you’re trying to study for an exam on antihypertensive agents, this isn’t exactly the type of game you’d like your boys to be putting up. Yes, the offense didn’t do much last night, but they did score five runs the night before and scored plenty of runs in St. Petersburg, so right now you have no idea if this was a one-time yawn or the beginning of a hitting slump. It’s not like they were facing a guy with an earned run average over six. Tejeda had a good ERA and came into the game with off a start in which he shut out the best offense in baseball (the Angels), along with a 13-inning scoreless streak in which he had only given up two hits. The only strange part about that is that during this streak, his command has been very good, something which has not exactly defined him in his career. However, not doing anything against Kyle Farnsworth is just flat-out unacceptable. At this point, though, offense has been up and down, but the pitching has not been good in this series, and that is the more troubling aspect. Tigers pitching has given up 12 runs in this series to a team that (contrary to popular belief) ranks behind them in offense (they also kinda/sorta did this in Oakland, but there was only one game in which the pitching had a real meltdown). Justin Verlander may have only given up the one run, but it took all he had to prevent the Royals from scoring any more. Against a better offense, he may well have given up four or five runs at least. And the bullpen fared worse. It’s not like Seay and Rodney are mop-up guys, either. By the way, Bobby Seay has hit Mitch Maier in both games of this series with the same pitch in the same spot in the same count. That’s consistency for you. And unlike a lot of people online, I understand why Rodney came in to pitch the eighth (he hadn’t pitched in four days), but having him in there in a non-save situation was just asking for trouble. However, you can’t necessarily say that the runs Seay, Rodney, and Fien gave up were “the difference” because had the score remained 1-0 going into the ninth, you know Soria would’ve started the inning, and maybe Avila would not have had a sacrifice fly opportunity (in fact, this is quite likely).

Well, it’ll be up to Jarrod Washburn to salvage today’s game and avoid one really bipolar road trip (The Tigers had one like that last year, too, though; they swept the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, then proceeded to get swept at the Metrodome). He skipped his last start to rest his ailing knee. Hopefully, that’ll improve his pitching. He’s made two (arguably one) good starts as a Tiger, and one of them was against the Royals, where he pitched eight shutout innings against them back at Comerica Park. Meanwhile, the Tigers need to take advantage of the fact that Zack Greinke is NOT starting today. Instead, they’ll face lefty Lenny DiNardo, who has had time in the big leagues but spent the entire year for the Royals at Triple A, where he had a nice earned run average of 3.22 (I believe he also pitched for Team Italy in the WBC). Leyland has already said that Granderson will get the day off, with Raburn in center and Wilkin Ramirez in left. Hopefully, I’ll see some of this game. I have lab right around the time it starts, though. I have heard that the lab only lasts about two hours at the most, though, so I might be able to catch the tail end of the game.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Streak Ends at Six

I ended up staying at work an extra half-hour, so I can’t give as much insight into this game as I’d like to, but I will say that things started going downhill for the Tigers while I was driving home. There were a couple of key mistakes by the outfielders, and neither Rick Porcello nor the bullpen were able to overcome them. Ryan Raburn misjudged a ball that Josh Anderson hit (I did not see this, but I was in the car when it happened), which eventually led to two runs, and then there was the ball that Billy Butler hit that Clete Thomas probably should have caught though it would have been a difficult play (He seemed to be more concerned with bracing himself for a collision with the wall). Still, Ryan Perry hasn’t been very effective recently. The walks are down (though he did walk one last night), but he’s given up a lot of hits. Bonderman came in and didn’t look bad until he walked somebody, and then Nate Robertson came in, which confused everyone online (He’s still in line to start Friday, though). Meanwhile, the Tigers managed to score five runs off Bruce Chen, which is decent-enough work, and good enough to win on most nights (I did not see any of these runs score). But they couldn’t do anything against Kansas City’s bullpen. The past couple weeks are kind of strange that way. Kansas City has one of the worst bullpens in the AL (outside of Soria), but the Tigers couldn’t touch them, and Tampa Bay has a good bullpen (in terms of ERA), and yet the Tigers scored a bajillion runs off them. Where’s Grant Balfour when you need him?

Boy, the loss last night sure makes you glad Zack Greinke is not pitching in this series, doesn’t it? One would hope that Justin Verlander would be able to get the job done tonight. However, the last time the Royals saw him, they tagged him for five runs (though two of those were unearned, so it still went in the books as a quality start). He is 9-1 in his career against the Royals. He’ll be opposed by Robinson Tejeda, whom you would think the Tigers would have a shot at, but keep in mind that he blanked the Angels (a much better offense) for 5 1/3 innings and has a 13-inning scoreless streak going. He’s got a good arm but walks can sometimes get him into trouble. He is starting in place of Gil Meche. Hopefully, I won’t be detained at work tonight and can get home at 9:00 (largely because of the game, but I also have a Pharmacology exam, and Justin Verlander is as big a distraction as they come).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Grand Slam Sweep

Photo: AP

It took until September, but the Tigers are finally looking good against the AL East (of course, all that remains of the East on the schedule is a four game set against the Blue Jays on the next homestand). They’ve had some help in this series, for sure. I think you can give a lot of credit to Joe Maddon over-managing his bullpen. That certainly came into play in the final two games of the series. Edwin Jackson pitched very well outside of the three runs, but I’m fairly convinced that the Tigers would not have come back had Maddon just let Lance Cormier pitch the ninth inning. He had developed a good rhythm and the Tigers were not getting good swings off him. On the other hand, the Tigers sure do love them some Grant Balfour. In just about every comeback the Tigers had against the Rays, Balfour issued a key walk or hit. This time, it was a walk to Cabrera. J.P. Howell came in and walked Marcus Thames, and then Russ Springer gave up a base hit to Magglio, which loaded the bases for Brandon Inge. Inge had struck out three times, and I’m sure there were a lot of Tiger fans who were fully expecting him to strike out again. But Brandon would have none of that, and proceeded to remind us what else he’s capable of. By the way, I think I saw more pitching changes over the weekend than I have in my entire life. And here’s your broom:

After having Labor Day off, the Tigers are set to start a series in Kansas City tonight. And it’s looking increasingly likely that they will NOT see Zack Greinke in this series, which’ll be a huge break, especially since Greinke’s gone back to being dominant. At any rate, the matchup tonight will be Rick Porcello against Bruce Chen. Porcello is coming off a really good start against the Indians. The Tigers have beaten Chen already this year, but he made an effective long relief appearance a few days ago after Brian Bannister got chased from a start. I’m hoping for a Tigers win tonight, because coming off a holiday weekend, work is bound to be brutal tonight.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Overcoming Bad Things

Photo: AP

Hmmm. Where to start with this one? There was certainly a lot of action, but the important thing is that the Tigers have now won two road series in a row, and they’ve done it in ballparks that they don’t normally play well in. This game started very badly, and that’s a shame. This is pure speculation on my part, but Armando Galarraga just didn’t look healthy to me. I’ve said before that I don’t think this is the first time he’s dealt with arm soreness this year (in fact, he himself said as much), and his pitches looked like they did in those “bad” starts where I was suspecting injury. However, this time, his velocity seemed to be gone as well. Obviously he’s not a hard thrower, but his fastball is usually 90-91. I don’t think it got above 88 last night. And his pitches didn’t have the movement they have when he’s going good, and if I was seeing that, then it should be blatantly obvious to anyone with a shred of baseball knowledge. So with Nate Robertson pitching well for the time being, that’s a big, big dilemma. Here’s my take on it: IF Galarraga is healthy, either keep him in the rotation, or shut him down. I don’t want him in the ‘pen. If he’s not healthy, then it’s obvious that you have to shut him down, get the arm healthy, and get him ready to be productive for the Tigers next year (And besides, he would join a long list of WBC pitchers who have had injury/effectiveness problems this year: Dice-K, Carlos Silva, Jeremy Guthrie, Roy Oswalt, Matt Lindstrom, and more). That was the bad part. The good part was that the Tigers’ bullpen was spectacular with 6 2/3 shutout innings. Eddie Bonine, Fu Te Ni, Jeremy Bonderman, Bobby Seay, Zach Miner, and Brandon Lyon all played a big part in the Tigers winning this game. They allowed the Tigers to chip away and finally break through against James Shields, a pitcher who had dominated them in previous meetings. The big hits in the game were Guillen’s two-run triple and Alex Avila’s 2-run homer (Avila had a nice night with the homer and throwing out a baserunner). Here’s a fun fact: Each of the Tigers’ eight runs was scored by a different person. But can you be surprised at that? It felt like a Spring Training game with all the pitching changes, pinch-hitters, pinch-runners, and defensive replacements.

Today the Tigers have an opportunity to sweep the Rays at the Trop for the first time ever (Really?). Edwin Jackson will get the nod against his former team. He could use a good start. He hasn’t been as sharp of late. The Indians got to him in his last start for four runs. He also needs to pay better attention to runners than he did in Anaheim. He’ll be opposed by Wade Davis, a top prospect for the Rays who is making his Major League debut. The Tigers got to Carlos Carrasco in HIS big league debut last week, but that’s been the exception and not the rule. Usually, they’ve been dominated by rookies this year.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Reward JV and Then Fasten Your Seatbelts

Photo: AP

By virtue of the fact that this game started half an hour later than most east coast games, I was able to watch a bit more than I normally would, even though I got out of work a little late. Once again, Justin Verlander was awesome. Once again, the offense could do nothing against Jeff Niemann. Once again, they rallied against the Rays’ bullpen. This time, though, they had a little bit more trouble with holding down the Rays in the ninth. Rodney didn’t help matters by walking the first two hitters he faced (He must’ve been having flashbacks to what happened the last time he was on that particular mound; that was on my birthday last year). He got out of it by the thinnest of margins, but I suppose he was due for one of those. Now, hopefully it’s a one-time thing and he doesn’t slip into one of “those” phases.

Tonight was supposed to have been Jarrod Washburn’s start, but with the knee problem, he’s skipping a turn. Armando Galarraga has been called up and will start tonight (and hopefully pitch well enough to remain in the rotation). He pitched very well in two starts before going down with the elbow inflammation (a malady which I suspect was not the first of its kind this season). However, I’m not sure how much you could extrapolate from this start if he does not pitch well. He says the elbow inflammation has cleared up, but there was still some forearm soreness as of a few days ago and no one knows what will happen once he’s thrown a few pitches. Also, he hasn’t pitched in 13 days, aside from some bullpen sessions. He might benefit from the rest, or he could be really rusty. At any rate, fate has granted him another start. Hopefully he takes advantage of that. He’ll be opposed by James Shields, who usually pitches really tough against the Tigers. He was not so sharp last week, giving up five runs, but still got the win as the Rays teed off on Washburn. He’s a lot tougher in his home ballpark, though.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Gifts from the Indians and More Polanco Heroics

Photo: AP

So why was there no post yesterday? It’s because I only had an hour to type it and while I was doing so, the fire alarms in the building went off and everyone had to leave. I didn’t have enough time to find another computer lab, so I tried to post a short blog explaining the situation. However, I was using my iPod, and for some reason, it would not let me type into the “body” section of the blog. Therefore, all you got was a tag that said “Technical Difficulties” and a joke about Jhonny Peralta being in the chemistry lab and setting off the fire alarms. At any rate, that gives me two games to cover, though I didn’t get to see a lot of either of them. Let’s start with Wednesday’s game. When I got home from work, it was the bottom of the eighth inning, so all I got to see was a lineout, a groundout, and Rodney in the ninth inning. At any rate, Rick Porcello continued pitching well against the Indians (Though I think it’s a bit premature to say that he “owns” the Indians; after all, Armando Galarraga was pretty dominant against them last year but has struggled against them this year). He was pretty efficient with his pitches, but the Travis Hafner home run still chased him from the game. And Rodney gave us his typical ninth inning. Meanwhile, the Tigers probably would not have done much offensively if not for the fact that the Indians made five errors (and from what I’ve heard, they could easily have had six), with Jhonny Peralta making three of them (at the same time, though, he made two dazzling plays, so I’m not sure you can get more bipolar defensively than that).

Photo: AP

And now for yesterday’s game. I was able to listen to the first few innings on Gameday Audio before going to lab. Once I got out of lab, the Indians had just tied the game. Traffic was a nightmare on the way home, so I listened to the bottom of the eighth, the ninth, and most of the tenth on the radio. I literally saw one pitch on TV, and that was the pitch that Polanco hit for the walk-off sac fly. Not the most dramatic way to walk off, but it still gives you the win, and so I have no complaints. I did not see Nate at all, but obviously he pitched well. They did suffer a bit from SeayLyon not being available, as Ryan Perry and Fu Te Ni couldn’t slam the door, but a couple of good innings from Zach Miner (with a little help from Gerald Laird) gave the offense enough time to get something going. And here’s the broom:

So after a good homestand, it’s time to hit the road again. The Tigers played exactly .500 on their last road trip, which is all you’re asking for. Can they do it again? First stop is St. Petersburg to see the Rays again. The Rays are a much tougher team in their home ballpark, and the Tigers don’t play well indoors anyways (though the Rays just lost 2 of 3 to the Red Sox at the Trop, further damaging their Wild Card chances). Tonight features a rematch from last Sunday, with Justin Verlander going against Jeff Niemann. Justin got the win against the Rays, going eight innings (and he generally never pitched deep into a game against the Rays). It’s tough going up against the same team in such a short span, though. This’ll be the first time since 2006 that Verlander’s pitched inside Tropicana Field. Meanwhile, I said that the Tigers got the win for Verlander in that game, but they did almost nothing against Niemann. They did most of their damage against the Rays’ bullpen. Will a second look at him help? I’ll be at work tonight, but I will be around for the rest of the series this weekend. Your Mood Music for tonight: This morning, we were all hit with the sad, sad, news that Ernie Harwell has incurable cancer. I’m not going to do a separate post on that, as I would not be able to do it justice (since I don’t exactly having memories of him from when I was growing up or anything like that). Hopefully the Tigers hang on, win the Central, and play deep into October, and that somehow Ernie can make it up to Detroit to see his beloved Tigers play in the postseason one more time. And while I couldn’t come up with a 100% appropriate song, I decided to use Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be in My Heart.” It says quite a few pertinent things, and it’s still upbeat. No need in getting melancholy now. At least, not yet.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Saved By the Bullpen

Photo: AP

I probably have a totally different perception of this game than anyone else does. By the time I got off work (bottom of the sixth, approximately), all the scoring was over and done with, so I felt like I was watching a low-scoring pitching duel. Well, more “listening to” than “watching,” as I ended up with the radio on for the most part (shower radio, if you must know; by the way, Dan and Jim seemed more interested in discussing the 1967 pennant race than the game in front of them). Anyways, I can’t give a whole lot of personal insight into the beginning of the game. I know that Edwin Jackson only lasted five innings and gave up four runs (and a ton of doubles). I don’t know if the same thing that happened to Verlander in Anaheim happened to Jackson last night. That’s certainly a possibility, although from what I hear, he didn’t exactly have an easy time of it in the innings leading up to the fifth. I also missed Zach Miner’s inning. However, Seay, Lyon, and Rodney were terrific (this is why it felt like a low-scoring pitching duel to me). It's worth mentioning that Rodney now has 30 saves this year. Who would've thought that in Spring Training? On the offensive end, Guillen remains hot, and it was nice to see contributions from Laird, Inge, and Huff (superstition and all, but luckily for Huff, judging by the two seconds worth of highlights that I saw, he can get away with the look; that is, however, only a preliminary assessment). And that is all I can give you for now.

The series continues tonight, when Rick Porcello takes on Aaron Laffey. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Porcello (He was out of the game by the time I got home in his last start). He was pretty good against the Rays, although he had a little bit of traffic on the bases. The last time he saw the Indians, he was absolutely stellar, going eight innings. Unfortunately, Rodney suffered his only blown save in that game (the funny thing is, Rodney didn’t pitch that badly either). The Tigers went on to win the game in extra innings. Meanwhile, the last time the Tigers saw Aaron Laffey, it was back in May and they beat him up pretty good (Adam Everett hit a grand slam off him). However, he’s done a good job for the Indians since rejoining their rotation. I’m at work again tonight.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Losing In a New and Different Way

It’s been quite a while since the Tigers have lost a proper slugfest. I’d like to give a lot of insight into Jarrod Washburn, but you can’t assess what you never see. I was in class during the six-run first inning. I knew it was happening, because I had the MLB At-Bat app up on my iPod, but that just tells you it happened. It gives you no indication of how hard balls were hit or anything. From the reports, replays, Washburn, Leyland, the radio, and some bloggers, every hit the Rays got up until the Peña home run was not hit hard at all. However, the runs he gave up later were on balls that were hit hard (I could imagine how the earlier bloops might lead to that though. You get frustrated that they’re getting hits off good pitches, which leads you to lose your focus, which leads you to make bad pitches). Regardless of that, the evidence seems to suggest that something about the trade itself has caused Washburn to regress. It’s the only variable in the equation. The question now becomes how could the trade cause him to regress? Whenever I try to ask this question, I always get the same answer: “Detroit’s outfield defense sucks and they play in a smaller ballpark.” I just don’t feel like this is the case. The outfielders haven’t really cost Washburn any runs (outside of the crazy ball that Granderson misplayed). No outfielder would be able to get to those balls that were dumped down the right field line for doubles. And as for Comerica Park being “smaller,” it is still a pitcher’s park that is not particularly home run friendly. And Washburn hasn’t given up many wall-scrapers with the Tigers. Most of the home runs he has given up would’ve been out in any ballpark. So I’m not buying that explanation either. At any rate, Ryan Perry was not any better. Which is a shame, because it took a while, but the offense perked up a bit yesterday by scoring seven runs. Carlos Guillen had a huge day, with four hits and four RBIs.

And so the Tigers have to settle for a split, but let’s be fair: There’s a reason why most of us dislike 4-game series, and that is that they are really tough to win (Unfortunately, there is a really big four-game series that’s looming at the end of September). But now, they gotta take care of business against the Cleveland, and that may be easier said than done. The Indians are doing exactly what they’ve been doing more often than not recently, and that is having a really decent second half. Their offense is still good, even without Victor Martinez and Ryan Garko, and they’re starting to pitch a lot better. They are playing especially well against the Central. They have won their past five series against Central Division opponents (and every other team in the division is included at least once in that stretch). The last time the Tigers and Indians met, the Indians took two of three, and it took the Tigers everything they had in order to win the one game. Edwin Jackson starts tonight for the Tigers, and the last time he saw the Indians, they flat-out wore him down to the tune of 115 pitches in four innings. It was a game the Tigers eventually lost in extra innings, so obviously Jackson got the no-decision. He’ll be opposed by Carlos Carrasco, who came over to Cleveland in the Cliff Lee trade. Carrasco will be making his Major League debut, and apparently he’d been putting up really good numbers in the minors. Plus, he was one of the top prospects for the Philles. The Tigers probably won’t have an easy time of it. And since it’s September, reinforcements have arrived in Jeremy Bonderman, Wilkin Ramirez, Eddie Bonine, Casey Fien, Dusty Ryan, and Brent Dlugach. Armando Galarraga will be called back up on Saturday, and Leyland has said they may call up more after Toledo’s season ends. At any rate, it’s time for the Tigers to take care of their own business, because the rest of the Central is undergoing a see-change. Minnesota has gotten hot for the time being (They’ve got an easier schedule than anyone else, but it’ll depend a lot on whether their pitching improves OR Mauer, Morneau, etc continue to overcome their pitching problems), and the White Sox have seemingly thrown in the towel by trading away Jose Contreras and Jim Thome (Geez, I knew they were on the Road Trip From Hell, but I didn’t expect it would actually kill them; I’m still not sure I’m buying it fully, as they aren’t that far back of Minnesota and their pitching is better). Your Mood Music for tonight: This is it. The stretch run. The pennant chase. September. Where we find out if the Tigers can squeeze out 29 or so more good performances out of their pitchers to get them into October, or whether they’ll be outslugged by the likes of Joe Mauer. I would’ve waited to use this song until the final homestand, but I didn’t want to run the risk of having the Tigers fall out of contention and rendering this song meaningless. And so I bring you Europe’s “The Final Countdown.”