Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Neftali Feliz? No Problem

Photo: AP

I wanted a split, and a split is what I got. It sure took a power display and a roller-coaster ride to get there. For a while there it looked like Jeremy Bonderman was finally going to be the one to pitch some good innings, maybe even get into the eighth. Then something happened with two outs in the sixth and I don’t know what. He left after 5.2 innings with only 74 pitches thrown, but not being able to get that last hitter. Joel Zumaya finally bent, although it was through hits, not walks, and the runs scored when Phil Coke was on the mound. Coke ended up vulturing the win after pitching a scoreless bottom of the eighth, and Valverde got the save rather easily (though perhaps it’s good they’re leaving when they are; Josh Hamilton is showing signs of coming around).

Offensively, this game started the way the previous game did: A lot of runs early and then nothing in the middle innings. Until Brandon Inge hit a massive 2-run homer, that is. His average had been steadily going down on this road trip, and I was beginning to wonder if he was pressing, since he hadn’t homered yet. Maybe he had been, because after that home run, he laced a double down to left that almost got out, and then homered again in his last at-bat. The big hero was Miguel Cabrera again, who homered off Neftali Feliz right before Inge did. For all the (probably deserved) hype about Feliz and how dominant he is, the Tigers don’t seem to have that big a problem with him (of course, Ramon Santiago gave all the Tigers a good long look at all the pitches Feliz throws).

And after a not-great-but-satisfactory road trip, it’s time to don the home whites for a little while. I saw so little of the last homestand that to me it’s almost like they’ve been on the road for this entire season. And while the Tigers got into Detroit sometime in the wee hours of this morning, the Twins arrived yesterday and are well-rested and ready to go. Right now they are on pace to win 110 games. That’s unsustainable, isn’t it? I was right that they wouldn’t miss Joe Nathan that much. They could’ve made Nick Punto the closer and he’d magically rack up 60 saves this year. I still can’t help but feel they are overachieving, particularly in terms of their starting pitching, but in the last few days they have been winning games the way I expected them to (outslugging their opponent as opposed to their pitchers spinning gems). With that in mind, however, their offense is plenty dangerous, and probably the best one the Tigers will have seen thus far (League-leading Kansas City be damned). Which is unfortunate, because Justin Verlander needs a good start to rest the bullpen (and while he’s had history on his side thus far and I believe in him all day every day, one more bad start might get more than a few people whispering). He did get sent home a day early, so he should be well-rested, but he said that he felt “out of whack” in his last side session, and the Twins have several hitters who have mashed against him (Mauer, Morneau, Kubel, and Span all hit him well over .300; Jim Thome’s only 10-for-41 but he’s hit seven homers off Verlander, so odds are he’ll be their DH tonight).  On the flipside, I don’t remember back when Francisco Liriano was an electrifying Rookie of the Year candidate. He’s apparently been pitching real well this year, but the Tigers have never done well against him, so it probably doesn’t matter if his ERA is 2 or 102. Maggs, Cabrera, and Raburn have hit him pretty well (each with at least one home run); the rest of the Tigers have not (Inge does have a homer off him, for what it’s worth). My special request is that the Tigers NOT lose 8-6. Your Mood Music for tonight: “Hanging by a Moment” by Lifehouse. Because I’m sitting in a restaurant right now and that’s what they just played on the radio.  

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