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.

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