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.”

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