Monday, May 31, 2010

The Return of Max Scherzer

Photo: AP

I missed this game (work), but I kinda/sorta watched the archived game this morning (the sound was out of sync, so I wasn’t paying real close attention). Whatever mechanical adjustment Scherzer made seems to have paid off, as his velocity has come back. He was throwing more like what I remember him throwing when he was with the Diamondbacks, if not a fair bit better, judging by the way he mowed through the A’s lineup. If there’s one little mini-complaint I have about the pitching yesterday is that the bullpen has now given up runs in four straight games and I wish for that to stop. It was a big day for the offense, as they scored in all but two innings and everyone got at least one hit except Ryan Raburn and Ramon Santiago. Miguel Cabrera is particular is having a monster series.

This series wraps up today (Memorial Day). If the Tigers are gonna try for a split, Justin Verlander is their best chance. He pitched a complete game win against the A’s last time he saw them, although he lost to the Mariners in his last start (which seems like ages ago). The Tiger hitters will face righty Trevor Cahill. He faced the Tigers twice last year. He was knocked around in his start at Comerica Park, and he pitched well in his start at the Oakland Coliseum. And of course, being Memorial Day, a big thanks goes out to the men and women who have served our country.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Not Exactly One For the Ages

This is gonna be a short post, because I have to go to work soon, but I really don’t have a lot of insight on this one anyways. I spent the first few innings on the phone with the game kind of in the background, and then I spent the ninth inning watching the FS Florida feed on because Roy Halladay was throwing a perfect game (just wish it was against the Twins and not the Marlins). At any rate, Rick Porcello was having trouble getting the sinker down, as evidenced by the large number of fly ball outs (He kept Magglio busy in right field, that’s for sure), but he pitched well enough to win. He just didn’t get any run support. The bullpen seems to have gone into somewhat of a rut, because they’ve given up multiple runs in three straight outings now (Hey guys, can we not slump together? One at a time, okay?). Meanwhile, there was nothing doing against Brett Anderson or the A’s bullpen. It seemed as though there were a lot of balls hit hard right at people, particularly Gabe Gross and Kevin Kouzmanoff. And for some reason, the baseball gods hate Gerald Laird this year. He just can’t catch a break, getting robbed of a home run in his first at-bat (Gabe Gross finally gets revenge for Justin Verlander’s no-hitter, I suppose), then hitting a couple of hard ground balls right at guys in his other two at-bats. With the tying run at second base in the sixth inning, Magglio ripped a line drive right into Kevin Kouzmanoff’s glove. That’s kind of how it went all night.

So today, it was supposed to be Armando Galarraga’s start (just like I was supposed to have the day off), but instead, Max Scherzer will be called up. However, Galarraga is still in the rotation, as it is Dontrelle Willis who has gotten the heave-ho. To tell you the truth, they actually got more out of him than I thought they would this season. I had hoped he’d be able to redeem himself this year, because I like him as a person, but it was not meant to be. And from a personal preference standpoint (nothing to do with results), I like Galarraga better. So anyways, Scherzer’s been tearing it up at Toledo. I saw his first start with the Mud Hens. In the early innings, he was in a lot of 3-2 counts and got the hitters to swing and miss at pitches that were way out of the strike zone. I’m not sure big league hitters would swing at those. However, he looked on top of his game in the later innings. I did not see his other start. The important thing is that his velocity seemed to be back, thanks to a mechanical adjustment. We’ll see if it can translate. The A’s have Dallas Braden going. Braden didn’t get to ride his perfect game publicity train very long before Roy Halladay stole his thunder. Right now Braden is dealing with a sprained ankle, but he will try to pitch through it. And I’ll be at work, so odds are tomorrow’s post will be short as well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

At Least It Was Nice to See Cabrera Again

Well, you can take the A’s out of the west coast, but you can’t take the west coast out of the A’s. In other words, strange things happen. Sometimes I say a pitcher “deserved better” in games where he gets the tough-luck loss or his team makes a defensive miscue that causes lots of runs to score. Dontrelle Willis probably deserved worse with as many baserunners he stranded, and there’s been a lot of harping about that on the interwebs, but games are decided by how many runs a pitcher gave up, not how many he should have given up, and from that standpoint, Willis was a non-factor. And you could say the bullpen imploded, but the A’s never hit anything hard in that inning. There was a bloop double, an intentional walk, a hit batter (probably the only mistake pitch of the inning), a little swinging bunt down the first base line (one of those rare instances where the ball was not hit hard enough), and a very shallow sacrifice fly. Meanwhile on offense, fatherhood seems to have rejuvenated Miguel Cabrera, at least for one night. I’d never seen a three home run game before, either from a Tiger or against the Tigers. It’s a shame it had to come in a losing effort. Also, I kept forgetting that it was Guillen at second base, and I suppose that’s a good thing in that he didn’t embarrass himself. He did a good job there.

This series continues tonight with Rick Porcello on the mound for the Tigers. He earned the win in his last start against the Dodgers, taking several line drives off his body in the process. He faced the A’s in Oakland last year and it didn’t go so well. He’ll be up against Brett Anderson, a lefty who is coming off the DL. And he’s a lefty with very good stuff. The Tigers saw him twice last year. They were able to win the first game (thanks in large part to a lot of errors by the Oakland defenders), but the second time they saw him they were shut down (and I sweat Anderson was throwing a lot harder that time). Oh, and Gerald Laird has changed his number from 8 to 12, supposedly to change his luck. For some reason, this has generated a lot of discussion. As long as no one gets 7, I don’t really have a problem, but does this mean that Johnny Damon has to buy him a new bathrobe?  

Friday, May 28, 2010

Then Again, It IS the West Coast

A busy day yesterday prevented me from blogging about Wednesday’s game until now, although I can’t really delve into details since I only saw pretty much the top of the first inning and that’s it. But on the west coast, a lot of times up is down, black is white, front is back, and Ryan Perry is a bad pitcher. For shame, too, because I’ve heard Jeremy Bonderman pitched quite a good game. I caught wind of a 4-1 score in the seventh and thought that this one was in the bag. Apparently it wasn’t. At any rate, I heard we also got a 2-run shot from Magglio, and the rookies had themselves a good time at the plate as well. Someone (I can’t remember who) pointed out that this was a series in which each team’s best hitter was essentially a non-factor at the plate. Miguel Cabrera wasn’t there, and Ichiro went 0-for-9.

And so now the Tigers are finally back home and finished with going to the west coast (and in the minds of most experts, their most difficult part of the season is over with). They aren’t done with the AL West though. First up on this homestand is a four-game series with the Athletics, who scored quite a few runs in their just-completed series with the Orioles. Up until that point, they had not been a particularly good road team. At any rate, the Tigers will have all their starters except Gio Gonzalez, and in turn, they’ll see everyone except Jeremy Bonderman. Tonight’s starting pitcher is Dontrelle Willis (and by unfortunate coincidence, this means you’re likely to hear a lot of bad-taste Gary Coleman jokes, so I’ll spare you). D-Train is coming off a somewhat mediocre start against the Dodgers in which he started out okay but then faltered and hit a batter with the bases loaded. Things snowballed from there. Anyways, he’s faced the A’s once as a Tiger (at least), and walked a bunch of them, if I remember correctly. Other than that, he doesn’t have a lot of history against A’s batters. Just as Dontrelle Willis was once the ace of the Florida Marlins, Ben Sheets was once the ace of the Milwaukee Brewers. He started off this year not pitching that well (as his high earned run average will attest to), but he has been better lately. Six Tigers have faced him before, but only two have more than ten at-bats against him, both guys that spent quite a bit of time in the National League. Adam Everett is 12-for-34 with a double and a home run off Sheets, which is probably why he’s in the lineup tonight. Miguel Cabrera, is, well, 3-for-18 with ten strikeouts. Yikes. Still, it’s nice to see Cabrera’s name in the lineup again. Carlos Guillen is also back off the DL, and so the entire Venezuelan contingent is whole for the first time this season.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sometimes Baseball Makes No Sense

This game would be one of those instances, at least from the pitching perspective. I mean, it seemed like Justin Verlander had good stuff. The eight strikeouts would attest to that, and not many of the outs were hit hard. Most of the damage came from Franklin Gutierrez and Milton Bradley, both of whom have hit Justin well in his career. Still, you’d hardly expect him to give up five earned runs to a team that has struggled offensively, not with the way he was pitching. I have no explanation for you. And I don’t have any problem with Leyland electing to let Verlander stay out there in the eighth. Usually JV will get the job done. This time he didn’t. He did get the #1 web gem, though.

I’m not gonna pick on the offense too much. Between Cabrera’s absence and the fact that Seattle has a good pitching staff, I wasn’t expecting them to score a lot of runs. And in the two instances where they had a runner at third with less than two outs and didn’t get him in, whoever was at the plate put a good swing on the ball. One turned into a hard groundout with the infield in and the other turned into a line drive double play and a hit and run. It was a good game for Brandon Inge, who had a single and a homer (I find it amusing that Mario and Rod finally noticed last night that his mohawk is gone, when it’s been gone for almost a week). Don Kelly can’t replace Cabrera in terms of power, but he did chip in with a single and was robbed of another.

It’ll be up to Jeremy Bonderman tonight to prevent a sweep. Safeco Field is the sight of his worst start of the season (yes, even worse than his meltdown in Cleveland that got wiped off the books). He gave up 10 runs (8 earned) in less than five innings, plus a ton of stolen bases. His career ERA against the Mariners is over 5, so this is nothing new (though if I remember correctly, the last few years have featured either great pitching performances or meltdowns, with nothing in between). Since he’s generally slow to the plate, it would behoove him to keep Ichiro and Figgins off the bases. The Tigers will be facing lefty Jason Vargas, who is also having a good year for the Mariners. Most of the Tigers haven’t seen him before (Johnny Damon and Adam Everett are a combined 1-4, which doesn’t say a whole lot). With the lefty on the mound, Ryan Raburn will be filling in at first for Cabrera today, and he will be batting third with Maggs once again in the cleanup spot. Not that I will see much of this game at all, since it’s on the west coast and I have to work. Hopefully I can get wind of the score at some point, otherwise the suspense will kill me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I Finally Got My Vin Scully Game

Photo: AP

I meant to do this yesterday, but you’ll have to deal with the lateness. Baseball is a funny game. I think there were at least two or three other games this season where Rick Porcello lost or gave up more runs and yet had his pitches working better than in this start. I suppose the law of averages would have them even out, but the important thing is that he won. It was certainly target practice, though. Rick had at least three line drives hit right back at him (one of which he managed to catch), so he’s a little beat up, to say the least. Still, he probably saved his best pitch for last, getting Manny Ramirez on an easy grounder to third to end a bases-loaded threat. At any rate, all is well now and I can go back to liking the Dodgers as my NL team.

It was a pretty decent all-around day for the offense (though they didn’t do much in the middle innings). They might have benefitted from the fact that Hiroki Kuroda was lifted when he was (since his pitch count was still quite low, but that’s one of those rare instances where National League rules worked in the Tigers’ favor), since they didn’t do anything against him after the first and they were able to do damage against the Dodgers’ bullpen. Everyone’s favorite Venezuelans each hit a home run in this game, and the tack-on runs in the ninth came via a unique set of circumstances. I was a tad disappointed that Dontrelle Willis ended up not getting a chance to pinch-hit (though Leyland hasn’t ruled out using him as a pinch-hitter during the second round of Interleague play, though we probably won’t see him pinch-hit in an AL game). I found it amusing that Joe Torre respected Dontrelle as a hitter enough that he brought in a lefty to face him. Of course, that burned Dontrelle and brought in Adam Everett, but it worked out okay with the suicide squeeze (which I know Leyland hates doing, but he has to do it at least once in a while so that opposing managers can’t automatically rule it out).

The Tigers spent yesterday as an off-day in Seattle. Tonight and tomorrow there’s a 2-game series, and then another off-day, which doesn’t make much sense, especially since they’ve spent most of the season playing in long stretches with no off-day. There has been a TON of speculation about how these off-days are going to manipulate the rotation, and whether starts are gonna be skipped or someone put in the bullpen or anything like that. I really don’t think starts need to be skipped (and both of the two most likely candidates to be skipped, namely Willis and Galarraga, have shown that they don’t do especially well on a ton of rest and they’ve been a lot better as starters than relievers), unless Rick Porcello could use a few extra days for the bruises to heal (then you head back into the “too strong” argument). And right now the ‘pen is at full strength, though you don’t know what will happen in these two games. Still, with Justin Verlander going tonight, you would hope the bullpen wouldn’t have THAT much work in this series (and again, the off-day on Thursday would serve as another recharge). However, JV hasn’t beaten the Mariners since 2008, and it’s been a really long time since he pitched a good game at Safeco Field. He’s 3-3 in six starts there with a 4.14 ERA, but that win/loss total means he won his first 3 games there and now he has lost three straight (because I remember the three loses; one each in the past three years). He’s never given up a home run there, which I found interesting, but then again it’s not a home run-friendly park and the Mariners don’t have a lot of power hitters. The Mariners’ offense has been struggling for the most part (though they did score 15 runs on Friday). I guess what I find shocking is that Chone Figgins (who I admittedly fantasized playing left field for the Tigers) is only around .200. However, they’re pretty much the only team the Tigers have seen who have demonstrated that they will run on any pitcher/catcher combo there is. Meanwhile, the Tigers will face Chip Caray’s favorite pitcher: Doug Fister (if you’ve watched TBS postseason, you will know what I mean). Fister is a right-hander with a ridiculously low 1.89 ERA. I know nothing else about him, and the only Tiger who has faced him before is Johnny Damon (3-7 with a double). To complicate matters more for the offense, they will be without the services of Miguel Cabrera for this series, as he has flown to Florida to be with his wife for the birth of their second daughter (so I hereby congratulate the Cabreras, and I look forward to seeing Miguel back in Detroit on Friday). I’m guessing the plan will be for Don Kelly to play first base tonight and Ryan Raburn tomorrow, but no word on who will be batting cleanup. That might depend on how Austin Jackson’s swollen eye is doing. Last I heard, the training staff was optimistic that he’d be able to play, but we’ll see. And with that, here’s your Mood Music, in honor of the final late-night game of the season:

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Casey Blake is Still a Pain in the Ass

Ah, I was afraid of this happening. I would gladly have exchanged the two wins in Oakland for two wins in LA. At any rate, Casey Blake was a Tiger-killer when he was with the Indians, and apparently that hasn’t changed. It doesn’t matter who is pitching for the Tigers; he will hammer them. It doesn’t matter who is at the plate for the Tigers; he will come up with some sparkling defensive play to kill a rally. Armando Galarraga was just his latest victim. Galarraga had his fastball working pretty well, but he had some issues with hanging sliders and the Dodgers made him pay. At the time, I thought it was bad pitch selection, like he was trying to throw the slider for a strike and the Dodgers were sitting on it, but according to him, that’s not what it was. Combined with his words and Jim Leyland’s words, it sounds like a mechanical issue and those can be fixed. I appreciate the fact that he was not timid and kept attacking the strike zone, and I appreciate the fact that the Tigers, at least right now, are not inclined to give him the quick hook, so to speak. The bullpen (Ni and Zumaya) did a nice job.

I guess that I misspoke when I said John Ely was a hard thrower (either that or the gun in Arizona was really hot). Still, if he can be successful in the majors, I see no reason why Armando Galarraga cannot be (and I daresay Armando has slightly better stuff). At any rate, he shut down the Tigers for the most part (first inning notwithstanding), and the Tigers attempted their rally against the Dodgers’ bullpen. Things got scary when Austin Jackson was hit in the head with a 92 MPH fastball. It appears he’ll be okay, but understandably, he won’t be playing today. The Tigers had Jonathan Broxton right where they wanted him in the ninth, getting the first two on, but pinch-hitter Alex Avila (the last position player on the bench) struck out, then Cabrera hit a bullet that was headed into left field, but Casey “There’s-that-bear-again” Blake snared it and turned it into a fielder’s choice. Boesch got one run in (and the fact that it was a ground-rule double probably cost the Tigers a run), but Broxton painted the outside corner with a 98 MPH fastball to get Brandon Inge looking.

Would it be too much to ask for a game today that I can watch Vin Scully do later? As in, I want the Tigers to win? Rick Porcello had an “in the middle” type start last time, which was a loss to the White Sox. He’s never faced the Dodgers before, but apparently he’s 0-3 in three starts made in California, which is probably one of those stats that mean absolutely nothing. Jamey Carroll and Nick Green have faced him before, but that’s not a big sample. The Dodgers will counter with Japanese righty Hiroki Kuroda, who has done a lot of good work for the Dodgers since he signed with them a couple years ago. Vin Scully describes him as a control artist. None of the Tigers have seen him before, and Kuroda’s no picnic. This is going to be a hard game to win. I would love to see it, but someone called off work on my day off and I got called in. Boo.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An Enigma

I can’t say I “expected” the Tigers to lose last night (I wouldn’t want to be that negative), but I knew it was a virtual certainty that the Twins would beat the Brewers so I figured the stay in first place would be short, at least for now. A lot of other bloggers and writers are passing this off as “typical, vintage Dontrelle Willis,” but if you examine it closer, it wasn’t. Usually, if there’s going to be wildness (and there often is), he starts out that way. Sometimes he settles down and pitches reasonably well, sometimes he doesn’t. But on the rare occasions where he starts out sharp, he generally stays that way. Last night was an exception, and for some reason a two-out single from Matt Kemp got him flustered and he couldn’t get himself un-flustered, so to speak. The rest of that inning proceeded a lot like how Jeremy Bonderman’s one bad inning the day before went, culminating in a hit-by-pitch (maybe) with the bases loaded.

The Tigers’ promising start against Chad Billingsley lasted for exactly one batter. Austin Jackson had a nice 10-pitch at-bat before finally hitting a double and being manufactured home, but after that there were a whole lot of one-pitch outs. Even when the Tigers hitters were ahead in the count and got fastballs (which seems to be more common in the National League, for some reason), they’d foul them off at best (pop them up at worst). And can I say I was a little bummed that Dontrelle didn’t get a hit? At any rate, I was extremely disappointed that the Tigers were unable to put on a good show for Vin Scully.

The series continues tonight on Big Fox (Dick Stockton and Jose Mota…could be worse). Armando Galarraga did a good job against the Red Sox, though as I said then, he needs to be better about getting more first-pitch strikes. The Red Sox have a pretty potent lineup, but I’d say the Dodgers are better than them, even without Ethier. Galarraga did see the Dodgers once before, back in ’08, and pitched seven innings of shutout baseball. They weren’t quite the potent lineup back then that they are now, however, even though it’s a lot of the same guys. Interestingly enough, he did not face Matt Kemp in that game. My gut’s telling me that Kemp might be a thorn in this game. Not sure why. Anyways, the Tiger hitters will face John Ely, who made his big league debut earlier this year and is somewhat of a hard thrower who apparently does not walk anybody ever. The Tigers will have their work cut out for them (and a not so bold prediction is that Dick Stockton and Jose Mota will spend most of the game having a John Ely lovefest). Your Mood Music for tonight: I promised you Randy Newman, and so I give you Randy Newman. Me being as weird as I am, it makes me think of the movie Volcano because that's where I first heard it. But I really like the instrumental bridge. They play this song at Dodger Stadium when the Dodgers win. I hope that the only place you hear this song for the rest of the weekend is on this site.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Hello, First Place

Photo: AP

It may be technically a tie, and it may only be for one day (after all, the Twins have the easier Interleague draw this weekend), but the Tigers now find themselves in first place during their most difficult stretch of the year. This was a strange game (I should have expected it, being west coast and all). It felt like every inning was the fifth inning and it didn’t move. I also learned a couple things during the game that surprised me. For instance, I did not realize that this was Jeremy Bonderman’s first win since April (his first start of the year). His pitching would suggest that he should have two or three more. He had one inning where his control abandoned him (walking three and hitting a batter with the bases loaded), but was very strong otherwise. Phil Coke gave up a run, and Jose Valverde walked two batters, but that was the only blip on the bullpen.

A couple days ago, I wondered if maybe Miguel Cabrera was in a slump. I also observed (not here) that his slumps generally don’t last very long. This one didn’t. After a pop-up that fell in for a single, Cabrera unloaded in his next at-bat and blasted a pitch into the left field seats (and I think he kinda one-handed it out). And that brings up the other surprising fact that I didn’t realize: Eight of Cabrera’s nine home runs have come on the road. I know Comerica Park is thought of as a pitcher’s park, but no ballpark can hold someone with Cabrera’s power. I expect that to even out by season’s end.

And now it is time for that brief taste of Interleague play that we get in May (ugh, rhyming). For the Tigers, that means putting the DH on hold and heading to Dodger Stadium. And the Dodgers are about as hot as you can be. They got off to a really shaky start in April, but that’s a distant memory now. They had a nine-game winning streak snapped on Wednesday, only to win last night. Their pitching and offense are both running on all cylinders. Normally, I’d be thrilled about this, cuz I kind of consider the Dodgers to be my NL team of choice. But not when it involves the Tigers. Plus, I want the Tigers to win these games and impress Vin Scully. If the Tigers have caught any sort of a break, it’s that Andre Ethier, who was putting up ridiculously good numbers and is extremely clutch, is on the DL with a broken finger. Manny Ramirez had a foot injury that caused him to miss last night’s game, but I don’t think it’s major enough that he’d miss much time this weekend. Speaking of foot injuries, Jim Leyland says that Magglio will be good to go as far as playing in the field. Anyways, tonight Dontrelle Willis will take on Chad Billingsley. Dontrelle is familiar enough with the National League. He had his first really rocky start of the season his last time out, walking seven, but let’s see what he does now that he’s not sick and he’s on his regular schedule again. Most of the Dodgers haven’t seen him more than a handful of times, although it looks as though Russell Martin has given him fits in the past (4-8 with a home run). And one thing that rainout did on Monday was that it pushed the rotation in such a way that the Tigers’ two good hitting pitchers will start in this series (Willis and Porcello, although if you want to be complete, even Armando Galarraga has drawn three walks in his career). Chad Billingsley is from Defiance, Ohio, which is where I used to go to summer camp as a kid. He’s been off and on for the last couple years, but he has ace stuff. Most of the Tigers have not seen him before. The only ones that have are Willis, Kelly, and Cabrera, and only Cabrera has a large sample size. He’s 0-for-9 with four strikeouts. Ouch. Your Mood Music for tonight: The Dodgers have some sort of Empire Strikes Back promotion going on tonight, so I thought I’d join in with the Darth Vader theme (Randy Newman will have to wait until tomorrow).  

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Justin Verlander is the Man

Photo: AP

This might be a short post, since I’m in class right now, but we’ll see where I go with this (There’s a stream of consciousness for you). The sleep deprivation (and subsequent gagging down of iced mocha something-or-other) was worth it. Justin Verlander made it worth it all by himself. And he says he didn’t have his best stuff, yet still went the distance. We should all be so lucky. I was kind of hoping for a low pitch count game, but 116 pitches in nine innings is a lot better than 116 pitches in five or six innings. He hasn’t really had a high-strikeout game yet, but those will come if he keeps pitching the way he has, which is awesome.

Most of the game was an epic pitching duel between Verlander and Braden, until Brandon Inge opened the scoring in the seventh with a solo home run. I had observed that he was swinging the bat a little bit better in recent days, and finally got rewarded. And on his birthday, no less (That makes him the second Tiger to homer on his birthday this year; Miguel Cabrera was the other, and in case you’re interested, the next birthday among position players is Ramon Santiago’s on August 31, so you’ve got a long wait). Gerald Laird’s bunt base hit chased Braden from the game, and the Tigers were able to get some breathing room after that. It was a good game for a lot of the rookies. Casper Wells had his first big league hit and later his first RBIs. Austin Jackson had two hits, and Danny Worth had three. The only rookie who didn’t really join in on the fun was Brennan Boesch.

I meant to discuss this yesterday, and I forgot. A lot of the Tigers writers have taken up a vigil on who will be the last mohawk standing. Much to the chagrin of some Tigers fans (not me), the number of players with mohawks is shrinking rather than increasing. Not including Scott Pickens (who I rarely ever see) or the two fauxhawks (which look okay), we currently stand at two down, six to go. Alex Avila got rid of his at the “suggestion” of his fiancée (I like her already) last week, and Brandon Inge disposed of his a couple days ago (though I don’t buy his explanation that it was because he wasn’t hitting with it, since he doesn’t strike me as all that superstitious; more likely, he either just plain got tired of it or his wife got in his ear about it, despite his statements to the contrary). Yes, Brandon looks terrible right now, but he’ll look okay in a few weeks (Alex Avila can grow a full beard in the span of about four innings, so his hair will be back in no time).

The Tigers wrap up this brief two-game series in Oakland today, and this is a place where they’ve had a tough time winning series (although in this case they’re either gonna sweep or split). The last time we saw Jeremy Bonderman, he pitched a solid inning of relief against the Red Sox. He was also solid in his last start, which was against the Yankees, but took the loss because he didn’t get any run support. I don’t even remember the last time he faced the A’s. It’s been quite a while, because he only has a history against three batters, and the only one with significant history is Eric Chavez (6-15 with 2 doubles). The A’s are starting rookie Tyson Ross, who has mostly pitched out of the bullpen this year, but did make one spot start. Apparently it was the plan that he go back to the bullpen, but he’s getting another start (no explanation provided as to why, although the A’s have had some injuries to the starting rotation recently). Obviously, no Tiger has faced him before, although he’s a former college teammate of Brennan Boesch.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Thanks to class, I pretty much missed this one (with the exception of listening to the ninth inning in the car on my way home). I’d say that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing except that Gameday doesn’t really give you a feel for what’s going on outside of bare bones play-by-play. Something about the White Sox always brings out the worst in the Tigers. Judging by how the game shook out, I’d say there might be something to the theory that the rainout made Rick Porcello “too strong.” I know it’s an old cliché that sinkerballers tend to not do as well on extra rest because the extra strength causes them to throw too hard and therefore their sinker doesn’t sink. But just because it’s a cliché doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not true. And once Porcello got a few innings in (i.e. tired down a bit), he started getting more ground ball outs. However, the damage had already been done. Still, while it wasn’t a great start, it wasn’t horrible, either.

The Tigers left a lot of runners on base, and here’s where not seeing the game makes it hard for me to determine anything. On three separate instances they had a runner at third with one out and that run didn’t score. On two of those occasions, the batter grounded out to an infielder. I would think that in and of itself should be enough to score the run (in a small ball kind of way), and yet, it wasn’t. Now, apparently one run didn’t score because Brennan Boesch made a rookie mistake of staying at third base, thinking that Paul Konerko was going to throw home when in fact he would’ve scored easily and Konerko was just trying to get the out at first. But in the other situation, it was Brandon Inge at third and Laird grounded out to short, and I’m not sure why Inge didn’t score on that play (Speaking of Laird, he was apparently robbed of an RBI hit in his next at-bat). Miguel Cabrera in particular stranded a lot of runners, but I’m not sure if he’s in a slump, or perhaps he just hit the ball right at someone. However, some remarks from a couple bloggers have indicated that Cabrera will forever be cursed with the notion that if he fails to deliver against the White Sox, there will be whispers that he was out partying with them the night before. Maybe that’s fair, maybe it isn’t. But I don’t think it’s true in this instance.

The Tigers embark on their second (and final) road trip of the year starting tonight (and with a 6 AM wakeup time, it’ll be not much sleep for me). Tonight’s game will feature somewhat of an intriguing pitching matchup. You have a guy who pitched a perfect game going against a guy whom I want to pitch a perfect game someday (Just…maybe not tonight. If Justin’s going to pitch a perfect game, he probably will only do it once so therefore I’d rather he do it at Comerica Park). This’ll be Dallas Braden’s first start in Oakland since that perfect game. He was not perfect in his last start, but he did have a complete-game loss against the Angels, giving up four runs. He’s 2-2 lifetime against the Tigers with an ERA of over seven. They last saw him in the middle of last year, and he beat them with a strong pitching performance (I think he might have outpitched Verlander, if I’m not mistaken). Magglio was scratched from the lineup with a sore heel (day to day), which is a shame since he’s .308 against Braden with two home runs (and the only Tiger to have homered against him). Casper Wells takes his place in the lineup. Meanwhile, Verlander is 3-3 lifetime against the A’s, but he’s only won in Oakland once (late 2007). He has not faced many of the A’s hitters before, but both Jack Cust and Kurt Suzuki bat .273 against him (Cust has the only home run).

Monday, May 17, 2010

Viva Galarraga

Photo: Getty Images

Call it playing well at home, call it weekend mojo, but after a bad Friday night, that turned into a pretty good series. Armando Galarraga was quite good. He needs to throw more first-pitch strikes in future starts, but he only walked three (two in the first inning, and the other was the last hitter he faced). His pitches looked similar to how they did in spring training, at least to me. Fastball command was an issue at times, but he had the slider working real well. I have not seen that sidearm angle from him before, but it seems to be working for him, and he was throwing harder than I’d seen from him before (He got up to 94 at least once, and 93 a couple times). I wish he’d been able to get the last out of the sixth, and I know he wasn’t super thrilled with his outing, but I certainly approve of it.

Perhaps the offense didn’t hit John Lackey all that hard (though Lackey certainly found a lot of things to complain about), but they made him throw a lot of pitches and he walked quite a few. Granted, it looked as though he was dealing with a tight strike zone. Both pitchers were, but I think Lackey was victimized more by it than Galarraga. He walked Johnny Damon to start off the bottom of the first, but according to Gameday, at least three of the four balls were actually in the strike zone. Some of the pitches in the bases-loaded walk to Damon that came later were very close as well. Danny Worth made his major league debut and got the first hit out of the way quickly (thanks to Lackey not being able to step on the bag). Ramon Santiago had a good day with his first home run of the season (after I jokingly made the prediction last month that he’d be the first non-Venezuelan to homer for the Tigers).

Tonight begins a brief 2-game series with the White Sox (As a matter of fact, every team in baseball will spend the next four days all playing 2-game series). I’d be shocked if they got this game in (since it’s raining and the radar indicates that the patch of rain is large and not moving very fast), but if they do, Rick Porcello will take on Freddy Garcia. Porcello had his best start of the season last time against the Yankees. He only faced the White Sox once last year, and it didn’t go too well. It was on ESPN and he gave up five runs in five and third innings (victimized largely by Paul Konerko). And I don’t care how crappy the White Sox are playing right now, they find a way to pummel the Tigers’ pitching staff. A couple of their starters have had some issues, but the Tigers won’t see them. At any rate, Freddy Garcia won his last start, which was against the Twins. The last time the Tigers faced him, he shut them down, which may or may not have been aided by a hungover Miguel Cabrera. Fast forward to now, and Miggy is sober and happy and still sports a career .455 average against Garcia with two home runs (though he didn’t really produce much in the Boston series). Magglio has also hit him well (.304, and he’s had a LOT of at-bats against him). Brandon Inge hasn’t (.200 with sixteen strikeouts in 45 at-bats), but he does have two home runs off him. Here’s what I find kind of strange: Gerald Laird is only 1-for-11 off Garcia. There’s a day game tomorrow where the White Sox are starting a lefty. So given the low level of success plus the day game/lefty combo tomorrow, I was certain that Alex Avila would catch tonight. And yet, Laird’s in the lineup. Is this suggestive of a lack of confidence in the way Avila’s (not) swinging the bat? He did have one good 12-pitch at-bat yesterday that resulted in a walk, but oh well. I am hardly qualified to manage (and that’s not sarcasm; it’s true).

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Walk of Irony

Photo: AP

It’s not often when I return home from work during the seventh inning and I get to watch almost an entire game’s worth of innings, but there you go. Then again, the walkathon sponsored by the Tigers’ pitching staff kinda made that possible. A lot of that was Dontrelle Willis, who was gone before I got home (though I did manage to sneak onto Yahoo Sports during the game, which doesn’t tell you anything beyond a bunch of numbers and some play-by-play).  I meant to make an assessment during the replay of the game on FSD, but I ended up only half-paying attention to it. I am told that the majority of his walks were on pitches that were definitely not strikes, but not absurdly wild. I did see some of the “knock the catcher over” variety, but that was in one at-bat to Scutaro (I think). However, I’m not sure if I’m supposed to take anything away from that start. There are too many confounding variables. He hadn’t pitched in 11 days, and if he had been as sick as they made it sound earlier in the week, well, that would’ve taken a lot out of him. He looked tired out there, that’s for sure. At any rate, he needs to be given another start in order to see if he can bounce back. As an aside, I noticed that he was wearing one of Miguel Cabrera’s Duquesne t-shirts under his jersey last night. The bullpen held down the fort for the most part, although they too walked an excessive amount of Red Sox hitters.

As I alluded to in the title, on a night where the Tigers walked twelve batters, they scored the winning run on a bases-loaded walk. Of course, Ramon Santiago almost forgot to take his base and the shot of Magglio jogging home while frantically pointing to first was hilarious. Maggs had sparked a big rally himself with a solo home run (He had three hits last night to go with three hits the night before; perhaps he’s starting to get into a groove again). Brennan Boesch? Just keep milking. Brandon Inge caught some flak for not delivering the winning run, but he had 2 RBIs, including a game-tying double, so I’m not gonna complain.

It’s time for the rubber game of this series, and it comes in the wake of a flurry of roster moves. Armando Galarraga is not just making a spot start, he’s joining the rotation for the time being. He’ll be taking the place of Max Scherzer, who was sent down to Toledo after the game last night. Scott Sizemore, who has been really struggling recently, was also sent down, and Carlos Guillen will be the starting second baseman once he comes off the DL. This is not too terribly surprising. I was not in agreement with those who wanted to move Guillen back to shortstop or third base. The Tigers already lead the league in errors, and with that in mind I did not want to sacrifice any more defense. Sizemore, on the other hand, has had issues defensively, so it’s unlikely that there will be that much of a downgrade. Besides, odds are Brennan Boesch will cool down at some point, and Guillen’s demonstrated a knack for hurting himself no matter what position he’s playing, so it’s not necessarily a permanent move. In the meantime, Danny Worth has been called up and will split the second base duties with Ramon Santiago and Don Kelly until Guillen is ready to come back. Back to Galarraga, though. The rotation has been shuffled somewhat, with Verlander going on Tuesday instead of Bonderman. Bonderman goes on Wednesday in Oakland, and Dontrelle Willis will take what would have been Scherzer’s turn in the rotation so that Galarraga can pitch on normal rest Friday at Dodger Stadium. But he’s gotta get through this start first. He began the season at Toledo pitching exceptionally well before getting lit up for seven runs in four or five innings against the Norfolk Tides. That was two starts ago. He pitched pretty well in his last start (7 IP, 3 ER), but he gave up a lot of baserunners in those seven innings. And I feel really bad for him. The Tigers want to take this series, but the bullpen’s going to be really short today (By my estimation, it would be limited to Ni, Coke, Valverde, and maybe Perry). Basically, Armando’s under an enormous amount of pressure right now. And the Red Sox are not a good matchup for him. He has not really pitched well against him in the past, and a lot of his success lies in getting hitters to swing at stuff outside the strike zone (that’s not a bad thing; lots of pitchers rely on that). The Red Sox generally don’t swing at stuff outside the strike zone. I wish he’d drawn an easier opponent for his first trip out. But this is a golden opportunity for Armando. He’s been given a second chance, so to speak, and I really, really want him to take advantage of it. Meanwhile, the Tigers will be up against the former Angel, John Lackey. He was the ace of the Angels’ staff, but probably is thought of as the #2 or #3 starter in Boston (although he is pitching better than Josh Beckett right now). The Tigers did beat him the last time they saw him, which was last August in Anaheim. Maggs, Cabrera, and Inge all have hit well against him. Laird has not (which is probably why he’s not in the lineup today; that and extra innings/day game after a four-and-a-half-hour night game). Austin Jackson gets the day off, but there are still four rookies in the lineup (Avila, Boesch, Kelly, and Worth).  Your Mood Music for today: I thought about going with a Dudley Do-Right cartoon in honor of John Lackey (Seriously, have you ever heard him talk?), but I finally decided that “Under Pressure” was more appropriate given what I’ve discussed in this post.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

One Big Inning

I wish I could give you some insight on Max Scherzer, but I never saw him last night, since he was gone by the time I got home from work. I do know that one trend that is starting to take shape is the big inning. It happened in Cleveland and it happened last night. Outside of those two innings, he hasn’t been bad. I do not remember the big inning being a real issue when he was in Arizona. Kudos go to Brad Thomas for throwing three scoreless innings of mop-up duty (I’m also going to give kudos to Alex Avila’s fiancée for “suggesting” that he get rid of the mohawk).

I was able to listen to the bottom of the third during work, and at that time it sounded like Buchholz’s pitch count would get to him before long, as he threw nearly fifty pitches in the first two innings. He must’ve gotten really efficient after that because he made it into the seventh. Leyland described him as “effectively wild” because he walked five but didn’t give up a lot in the hit column. The Tigers had five hits all evening and Magglio had three of them. It looked like they had a comeback brewing in the eighth inning, but Scott Sizemore’s baserunning error kinda fizzled that (Is it just me or has there been a lot of bad baserunning this season?).

The Tigers and Red Sox go right back at it tonight in a battle of lefties. Dontrelle Willis was still very sick as of a few days ago, but nothing further’s been said so I guess he’s good to go tonight. As I said last time, this is the longest period of consistency he’s had with the Tigers. However, he pitched one game against the Red Sox last year and had a meltdown with five walks in less than three innings (plus a hit batter that kind of caused the meltdown). As such, it’s hard to decide what to make of the opposing numbers against him, but Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre have put up some gaudy numbers against him (.667 and .778, respectively, and with power). The Tigers have only seen Jon Lester once. It was in 2008, and they beat him. In fact, it was their first win of 2008 after going 0-7 to start the year. However, that was in April, and Jon Lester tends to get off to slow starts, kind of like Justin Verlander. The rest of the year, he’s flat-out dominant, and he’s been that recently. Tonight will feature the major league debut of Casper Wells, who will either play left field or DH, giving Johnny Damon the night off (a little bit strange, because Damon’s numbers against Lester aren’t bad at all: .292 with two home runs).  I’ll be at work until 9:00, but that’s the last time I’ll have to say that on a Saturday. Our Saturday hours are changing in two weeks, so all I’ll miss of night games on Saturdays from now on is maybe the first inning.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Exclamation Point

Photo: Getty Images

As expected, I did not see this game (except for the top of the first), but I did watch the replay later in the evening. Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, and Brennan Boesch served to prove that you don’t need a mohawk to be badass. Verlander seems to be in the midst of another fine May. Perhaps this wasn’t his best start ever (he walked a few more than I’d like), but when you don’t have your best start ever and you still shut out the Yankees, that’s impressive. And with the exception of the ninth inning in game 2 of the doubleheader, the pitching on the whole was very, very good in this series. Now they just need to cut down on the errors.

One particular phrase kept popping up in the news reports on this game: Sabathia was efficient, while Verlander was effective. Sabathia didn’t throw many pitches, but the Tigers scored six runs off those few pitches. The brunt of the damage was done by Cabrera and Boesch, the latter of whom was only in the lineup because there are no right-handed outfielders on the bench right now.  I still say it’s likely he gets sent back down to Toledo whenever Guillen’s ready to return (simply because there would not be enough at-bats for him in Detroit), but there’s no harm in milking him for all he’s worth in the meantime. And Tigers fans are starting some early MVP whisperings for Cabrera (though the national media, by and large, has yet to catch on). However, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Gerald Laird’s two RBI hits. After enduring lineout after lineout, the balls are finally starting to fall in, even if one of them was a checked swing that made it into right field.

So after a very satisfactory series against the Yankees, it’s time to take on the Red Sox this weekend. Rick Porcello and Jeremy Bonderman put up very encouraging starts this week. It’s time for Max Scherzer to do the same. He did look better in his last start, which was against the Indians. Not all the way there, obviously, but better. He’s never faced the Red Sox in his career, and the only two Red Sox players who have faced him were both in the National League last year: Bill Hall (2-3 with a double) and Jeremy Hermida (1-3). Not a big sample size. Josh Beckett was supposed to start tonight, but he injured himself taking batting practice in preparation for Interleague play so his start his being skipped. It’s kind of a shame, because he had been struggling recently. Instead, the Tigers will face Clay Buchholz. Buchholz had been pitching well until his last start, when the Yankees got to him. However, he’s been pitching very well on the road. The Tigers have seen him twice before. In 2008, they scored five runs off him and ended up winning the game 10-9 (Buchholz received a no-decision). Last year, he got outdueled by Justin Verlander in a 2-0 Tigers win at Fenway Park. No Tiger has more than six plate appearances against him (Strangely, former division rival Johnny Damon has only seen him three times). Every Tiger who has seen him has at least one hit off him, but only one extra-base hit (Damon has a double). In addition (and this was only made official a few minutes ago), the Tigers have called up Casper Wells. To make room for him, Alfredo Figaro has been sent back down to Toledo. There will likely be other roster moves before too long, since the Tigers need a spot starter on Sunday (no way will Rick Porcello be pitching on short rest). Unless they want to go with a bullpen start again (not an ideal situation, since the Red Sox are known to tax your bullpen anyways), it’s looking like they’ll turn to Armando Galarraga for that honor (which will necessitate another roster move). Your Mood Music for tonight: How about some Ozzy Osbourne?

Thursday, May 13, 2010


 Photo: Getty Images

At least the split makes it so that I only have to use one picture (the new Blogger text editor makes it extremely difficult to move multiple pictures around). As it turns out, I was able to see all of game 1 before I went to work. Rick Porcello finally had a breakthrough. I had kept seeing baby steps in his last couple starts, but this was one of his best starts ever, even though he only struck out two. It was very impressive. Let’s hope he can keep that up. It was somewhat disappointing to not score more against a previously struggling pitcher, but it was enough. Brennan Boesch had another big day at the plate. Maggs provided the other RBI. And Jose Valverde can just keep on dancing.

I missed most of game 2, but it was not as pretty, in several senses of the word. However, word is that Jeremy Bonderman pitched some of his best baseball of the season. He got victimized by stolen bases and seeing-eye singles. The bullpen kind of imploded in the ninth and that made no sense, especially while Phil Coke was on the mound, because it didn’t seem like the Yankees were stinging the ball in that inning. Alfredo Figaro came in and initially ran into the same bad luck as Coke, but then just plain unraveled. I’m not too sure he’d be the ideal person to start on Sunday. I can’t tell you anything about the lack of offense against Phil Hughes, because all I saw was a Ramon Santiago pop-up. What I can tell you is that I give the mohawks a big thumbs down. I do not find them attractive at all and I can’t fathom why anyone would. One, mohawks remind me of a bunch of obnoxious kids I knew in middle school (and they’re probably still obnoxious as adults). Two, guys should not have unnatural baldness (technically, neither should girls, but that’s beside the point). Not to mention the fact that it’s completely unoriginal (Start your own unity gimmick guys; don’t go stealing from the Tampa Bay Rays). That said, fauxhawks are okay, though not my first choice (therefore, Fu Te Ni actually doesn’t look that bad). And so far, the only somewhat attractive casualty was Ryan Perry, so as long as it’s just the bullpen (plus Bonderman, Damon, and Avila), I’ll let it slide. Just…no one else, please (Seriously, I don’t think Miguel Cabrera is attractive, but he’d look terrible, and besides, I like the ‘fro).

For the final game in this series, it’s got what you might call the marquee pitching matchup. Justin Verlander (who thankfully so far has not jumped onto the mohawk bandwagon, but now I’m going to spend the rest of the season terrified that he will) has won his last two starts. He wasn’t as good against Cleveland as he had been against the Angels, but hopefully that was just because of the bad conditions on the field that day. He started two games against the Yankees last year and pitched well in both, but won one and lost the other. And it seems like he’s matched up against CC Sabathia a lot in his career, including both his starts against the Yankees last year. I’m not going to look this up, but it seems as though Sabathia usually gets the better of Verlander. Tigers who have hit Sabathia well are Miguel Cabrera (.625 with a home run), Ramon Santiago (.333), and Gerald Laird (.417 with a home run). Brandon Inge has not had nearly as much success (.149 with 14 strikeouts). Amazingly, Magglio has had a whopping 61 at-bats against him. The average is rather pedestrian (.262), but he does have three home runs. And how crazy am I? I missed Verlander’s last start, and I won’t be able to watch a whole game again until Sunday, and yet I’m going to visit my best friend and her baby. Maybe I’ll be home in time for the end. Of course, it’s supposed to rain.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

More Fun With Rainouts

Are doubleheaders against teams other than the White Sox even allowed? Ordinarily, what I do during doubleheaders is that I’ll do a post on the results of the first game right between the two. However, I work 4-9 today so that’s not gonna happen. Since the game 1 pitching matchups are the same as they were last night, I’ll preview game 2 in this post. It’ll be Jeremy Bonderman against Phil Hughes. Bonderman had a meltdown his last time that got wiped off the history books by the rain. The individual matchups versus the Yankees are actually quite favorable towards Bonderman. Of the current Yankees, the only one who has hit above .250 against him is A-Rod (.308 with 2 HRs), though Derek Jeter has hit three home runs off him. Phil Hughes seems to have finally put things together as a starter for the Yankees (My fantasy team thanks him, but I’ll be more than willing for him to take the loss tonight). As favorable as the individual lines are for Bonderman, they’re even more favorable towards Hughes. Miguel Cabrera is 3-for-6, and Magglio is 1-for-8. That’s it. None of the other Tigers have hits against him (Well, Carlos Guillen does, but that’s not a big help right now). The Tigers have called up Alfredo Figaro from Toledo and sent Ryan Raburn back down. With Brad Thomas and Eddie Bonine both likely still unavailable, they probably needed an extra reliever for the doubleheader (It’s unlikely that Figaro would start today, as he would be on short rest). They will need someone to start on Sunday to get everyone back on their normal rest (no off-day). That will likely be Figaro, but I was kind of hoping they’d give Armando Galarraga a shot (and he is already scheduled to start for Toledo on Sunday; then again, the Red Sox have not been the greatest matchup for him in the past).

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Win One For Ernie

Photo: Getty Images

After a nice tribute to Ernie Harwell, the Tigers got themselves a nice win. After all the complaining about the Tigers not calling up one of the Mud Hens, the bullpen came through. Everyone had too many walks except for Valverde, but limiting the Yankees to four runs on a night where you have no starter is pretty good. The Joel Zumaya walk-less stat was an unfortunate casualty, and hopefully this does not open the door for more walks. Valverde was extremely impressive, though, and I knew it was only a matter of time before his dancing around the field after a save would piss someone off (I should have known it would be against the Yankees).

The offense didn’t do as much against Mitre as I’d hoped, but again it was the new guys coming through. Brennan Boesch had three RBIs, Austin Jackson had one, and Johnny Damon had one. The bottom of the order was actually quite productive. Scott Sizemore and Gerald Laird each had a single and a walk, and Adam Everett had a sacrifice and a single. Magglio had a single, but his big contribution was the sliding, game-saving catch he made in the eighth inning.

The series continues tonight with two starters who are trying to find it. Javier Vazquez, who did a good job for the Braves last year, has not been real productive for the Yankees this year. Apparently, he pitched for the Yankees before and didn’t do real well then, either. I don’t really understand that. It’s not an AL vs. NL thing, because he was quite good when he was with the White Sox. At any rate, the Tigers tend to be streaky against him. They’ll rattle off a few wins against him, and then he’ll beat them a few times, and then they’ll win again. They haven’t seen him since 2008, and I think he beat them in that instance. Magglio probably won’t be happy to see him (.194), but Miguel Cabrera will (.391, including three home runs). Adam Everett and Johnny Damon have also had success. Meanwhile, I feel like Rick Porcello is close. I really do. If he can cut down on the walks and falling behind hitters, he has been getting lots of ground balls. However, his only start last year against the Yankees was the worst start he had all season, lasting only three innings and giving up six earned runs. The front office Twitter is still saying the game will start at 7:05, but there is a lot of rain in the area, so it’s questionable.

Monday, May 10, 2010

So Much For Pink Bats

Bleh, I’ve been putting off writing about this one, but I suppose I ought to. If you look at the raw numbers, you might start to panic about Max Scherzer, but I thought he looked better than he did against the Twins even though the final line wasn’t pretty. Only the Marte triple and the Grudzielanek single were hit hard (along with one or two others that didn’t figure into the scoring). The walks were not good, but two of the runs scored on infield singles, and the eventual go-ahead run reached on an infield single that probably should have been an out (there was also a stolen base in the 4-run second that turned out to be big). If there’s anything that puzzles me, it’s that the strikeout totals seem kinda low for someone we were promised was a high-K guy. Meanwhile, the bullpen just has to not walk people, plain and simple.

On the other end of the scale, Mitch Talbot was not exactly dominant, but he continued to supposedly overperform. I noted that he’s actually a lot tougher on lefties in his brief career, and I believe the only thing any of the Tigers’ lefties/switch-hitters did was walk. I’m actually more bummed that they didn’t do anything against the Indians’ bullpen.

By the way, congratulations are in order for Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics, who threw a perfect game yesterday. It was the first time I was able to watch part of a perfect game as it happened. And it was very exciting.

The Tigers are back in Detroit to begin quite a grueling homestand. First up, the Yankees are in town for four. And we’re not quite starting things off very promisingly. I was all set to write about how tonight would be a big test for Dontrelle Willis (given that this is the longest stretch of consistency we’ve seen from him and the Yankees are a very patient team). Unfortunately, D-Train has a 102-degree fever, and it seems like Brad Thomas is gonna be Jim Leyland’s spot starter of choice this season. Thomas hasn’t been lights-out, but he’s been better recently (and calling up someone from Toledo probably was not an option because the Mud Hens are in Durham tonight and they probably would not have been able to fly someone-likely scheduled starter Phil Dumatrait-up in time). For all intents and purposes, the Yankees have not seen Thomas (okay, Randy Winn is 0-for-2 against him, but that was so long ago it probably doesn’t count). However, the Yankees are starting a long reliever of their own in Sergio Mitre (because they were going to start Javier Vazquez, but Andy Pettitte is missing a start so Vazquez got pushed until tomorrow). I’ve seen Mitre before, when he was a starter for the Marlins. He’s a sinkerballer, and apparently he was good enough in 2006/2007 that they have a jersey giveaway night for him. He’s been beset with injuries the past couple years. Miguel Cabrera and Adam Everett are the only two Tigers who have seen him before (Cabrera’s 1-5, Everett is 2-5). And for those of you wanting to see Curtis Granderson, he’s on the DL with a groin injury and didn’t make the trip, so that particular reunion will be delayed a bit. Also, there will be an emotional tribute to Ernie Harwell prior to the start of the game. Bring the Kleenex.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

With Wind Like That, Strikeouts Come in Handy

Photo: AP

Short post, as I didn’t see this game (as I warned you). I got to listen to the fifth and sixth innings during my lunch break, and I caught wind of the final score before I left work, but that was it. Justin Verlander was dominant early in the game, but when I listened to it, he had found himself in some trouble (and that secret pitch limit must be around 120 or something). Still, Justin had the strikeouts working. And if the weather in Cleveland was anything like the weather here (and there’s a good possibility of that), it couldn’t have been much fun. He was good enough for me. The hitting heroes were Scott Sizemore and Miguel Cabrera, but every Tiger who started the game reached base (hit or walk) except Alex Avila.

Today is Mother’s Day, or as I like to call it, Pink Bat Day. Let’s hope it turns out better for Miguel Cabrera than it did last year (It was slightly funny how he had a bad day at the plate and proceeded to blame all things pink, as the pink bat and pink articles on his person gradually disappeared with each strikeout, pop-up, or double play grounded into). Max Scherzer will look to bounce back after two rough outings in a row against the Twins. Hopefully it is just a Twins thing, because he’s been decent against everyone else. He’s never faced the Indians, and the only Indian on the roster (and I’m not even sure he’s on their 25-man) who has faced him is Anderson Hernandez, so we have zero insight in that regard. The Indians start righty Mitch Talbot today, and Talbot’s actually been one of their better starters this season. The Tigers beat him last month, mostly cuz he walked a bunch of them.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Fun With Rainouts

Forget what you saw last night, cuz it never happened. Miguel Cabrera never homered. Jeremy Bonderman never had a meltdown. Ryan Raburn didn’t make another error. It was all your imagination (Actually, I never saw it in the first place; all I saw was the fourth inning). So with that, they’ll just play one game today, which is a day game (not happy about that, since I work 10-5). Justin Verlander will get the chance to build on the dominance he showed against the Angels last week. Meanwhile, Justin Masterson will start for the Indians. He’s struggled this year (especially against lefties, apparently), but he was the big piece in the Victor Martinez trade. The Tigers have not seen much of him.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Thoughts on Ernie Harwell

There is no way I can do this post justice, as my experience with Ernie Harwell is severely limited. I didn’t exactly grow up listening to Ernie on the radio during those summer nights. Now I wish I did, but it’s not like anyone told me to, and the odds of a nine-year-old discovering him all on her own is rather remote. Plus, I never understood why you’d listen to something so visually driven on the radio. Even in the past few years, when I started listening to the radio when TV wasn’t a possibility, it took me a little while to be able to follow the game without the benefit of seeing the action. I’m sure I would not have had such difficulties with Ernie Harwell. I did watch some games in the early to mid-90s, and a quick check of Wikipedia does confirm that Ernie Harwell did some TV during that time, but to be honest with you, I can’t remember who was broadcasting the games I watched.

By the time I got re-acquainted with baseball in very late 2006, I knew who Ernie Harwell was, but I had yet to see him. I know he visited the booth at least once during the 2006 ALDS, but I didn’t see any of those games until much later (thanks to the archives). I’d seen bits and pieces of segments from interviews and in Tigers Weekly. The first time that I really got to experience Ernie properly was when Rod Allen had to take two games off to go to his son’s graduation, and Ernie filled in for him. I was a little disappointed that they didn’t have him do play-by-play (which I’d heard so much about by then), but his stories were definitely enough to keep my entertained for those two games. What I wish is for Major League Baseball or the Tigers or whoever owns the rights to those radio and TV broadcasts to release some of them, perhaps the ’84 World Series, just so I and others like me can experience his style properly. After all, it’d be the only way for the next generation of Tigers fans to know him.

As far as I know, I never actually met Ernie Harwell (I suppose there’s an extremely slim chance that I bumped into him when I was an immature 13-year-old running around Tiger Stadium), but those who have all say that he was a wonderful human being. He was welcoming, kind-hearted, charitable, and lived his faith. He certainly lived a good, full, and long life, and right now I’m sure he’s regaling the folks upstairs with his bevy of stories and unique play-by-play.

So goodbye, Ernie Harwell. I just wish I had known you better.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Third Time's Not a Charm

So the Tigers got swept. It sucks and yet it does not carry the emotional hollowness that it should, for some reason (You know that feeling, even though every team gets swept at some point). It’s got more of a “shit happens, let’s move on” kind of feel. This is the third year in a row that the Tigers got swept in their first series in Minnesota. Rick Porcello looked about the same as he did against the Angels, with the exception of the fact that he walked more people (4 walks is excessive for him, so for now it’s an outlier). He was getting plenty of ground balls, but not getting away with any mistakes (Those of you clamoring for Toledo might want to know that Armando Galarraga is currently being shelled by the Norfolk Tides, much to my great sadness). The Boesch error was a costly one, though (Why can’t our corner outfielders catch the ball? I was repeatedly told that Johnny Damon would do that all the time and yet he hasn’t done it yet, but Raburn and Boesch have each done it twice).

On offense it was the Cabrera and Avila show, but there was no one on base to enjoy it. Those of you who live in Michigan can enjoy some free curly fries as consolation. I still haven’t figured out if that promotion is good for Arby’s in NW Ohio. As a minor note, I’m starting to think that abdominal strain is bothering Magglio more than he’s admitted. It just doesn’t seem like he’s hitting as well as he was beforehand.

The Tigers FINALLY got their much-needed off-day today (I was so used to baseball every single day that I wasn’t sure what to do with myself). Now they head to Cleveland for a three-game series to wind up the road trip before a challenging homestand. Cleveland just got swept by the Blue Jays, so one of these teams will be forced to get hot. Jeremy Bonderman still has a rather unsightly ERA, but that really stems from one bad start. He’s done a good job in all his other starts. I did not see his last start against the Angels, but the line score looked decent enough. And he won his other start against Cleveland this year. The Indians will counter with David Huff, whom the Tigers saw in the home opener this year. They beat him, but only because of some major defense fail on the part of the Indians. He had been one of their better pitchers this year but I’ve noticed his ERA has been creeping upwards. As for me, I’ll be at work during the beginning of the game, and I’ll have my (brief) Ernie Harwell piece up tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

But There is No Joy in Detroit-ville...

Or in a great deal of Michigan and parts of Ohio, I would say (and yes, that was a really bad attempt at evoking “Casey At Bat”). The Red Wings (who would have no problem with the San Jose Sharks, or so I was told by a great many people who know much more about hockey than I do) lost and are now on the verge of getting swept (with dire consequences). The Tigers lost and are also on the verge of getting swept (with sucky-but-not-quite-so-dire consequences). And, of course, the passing of Ernie Harwell kind of pushes all that aside (as evidence of that, the Bless You Boys post on Ernie currently has 42 comments, while the post on the game recap has one). I’ll work on my requisite Ernie Harwell piece over the off-day and have it for you on Friday (It’ll be short, as I don’t have a lot of memories of him, regrettably). For now, there is still baseball to discuss.

Dontrelle Willis started off shaky, but finished fairly strong. If that’s going to be a rough outing for him, I’ll take it. He kept the Tigers in the game, as did Zumaya. Meanwhile, perhaps I was wrong about a guy’s sinker not sinking on extra rest, cuz the Tigers sure did pound a lot of pitches into the dirt. Nick Blackburn managed to vulture his own complete-game win. The final inning of this game was characterized by rookie power followed by rookie failure. Brennan Boesch hit one of the longest home runs I have ever seen (398 feet? Really? That thing just about made it out of the stadium). Alex Avila doubled, though I’m not sure why that wasn’t called an error (He hit the ball hard, but Young dropped the ball in a similar fashion to the Raburn clank-job from last week and that was called an error). After that it kind of went downhill. Avila rounded third too aggressively and didn’t see the stop sign when Santiago’s bit for a run-scoring single was snagged by J.J. Hardy and he got trapped off third for the final out of the inning. In the bottom of the ninth, what probably should have been a double by Hardy got played into a triple by Jackson and Boesch, both of whom got too close to the wall (although, in fairness, no one, rookie or veteran, really knows how that wall will play yet). Then came the wild pitch that scored Hardy for the winning run. And it was ruled a wild pitch, but to me at least it looked like it was a blockable ball (Let’s not forget that Avila is still learning the finer points of catching). I’ve seen passed balls charged on tougher plays than that.

Well, if the Tigers don’t want to get swept, they’ll have to get some good work out of Rick Porcello, or else chants of “We want Galarraga” will echo throughout the land (though, to tell you the truth, considering Armando’s bad history against the Twins, he probably wouldn’t be much help in this particular game). Now’s the time for the stat geeks’ predictions to come true. He looked better in his last start, though the final line doesn’t indicate that. He was getting more groundballs, but didn’t get away with any mistakes. However, there seemed to be fewer mistakes. Rick hasn’t pitched against the Twins since game 163, which was one of his best starts. Jason Kubel has mashed against him, as has Delmon Young. Everyone else’s numbers are pretty pedestrian. The Tigers will face Kevin Slowey, and here’s where I give you that warning I give every year: At some point this season I will call him “Kyle.” I don’t know why. I just have an incredible urge to call him Kyle. His mother totally should have named him that. Anyways, Kevin (not Kyle) Slowey is 3-0 with a 6.50 ERA against the Tigers. He must get some massive run support with those numbers (either that or the ERA ballooned in one outing, cuz I really don’t remember the Tigers knocking this guy around). Plus, that damage must’ve been done by guys who have moved on, because the current numbers would not seem to indicate that ERA. No Tiger has homered off him (hell, there are only two extra-base hits off him), and there are several people in today’s lineup whom he has not faced (or has seen very little of). Johnny Damon is 4-for-10 against him, while Magglio is a respectable 3-for-9, but Cabrera’s only 1-for-10. Ouch. The Tigers will begin wearing patches on their sleeves honoring Ernie Harwell starting today (I imagine the patches were made up before the season started; it was just a matter of them getting sewn on).

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bring Out the Dramamine

That wasn’t exactly the game you wanted to happen when you have food poisoning (although I can tell you that my stomach was most assuredly empty before the game even started). That whole thing about Max Scherzer doing worse in a second consecutive start against a team seems to be alive and well. All of his pitches seemed to be up. He settled down in the third and fourth innings and looked as though he’d at least be able to eat some innings, but fell apart again in the fifth (and I was totally right about the Twins not missing Joe Mauer at all). Brad Thomas proceeded to let all the inherited runners score, but he did spare the bullpen by finishing the game.

Well, as I said before, the Tigers generally score between three and five runs against Scott Baker, and they did so again, but three runs was not enough in this game. Austin Jackson ended the game a home run shy of the cycle, and continues defying the stat geeks who say his luck will run out soon (oh, and congratulations to him for being named the AL Rookie of the Month for April). As for Target Field, I noticed nothing quirky except for the cardboard backstop providing an intriguingly strong carom back to the catcher on wild pitches.

Let us hope that tonight’s game brings a much happier ending. Dontrelle Willis was very, very good against the Twins in his last start, but can he do it again so soon? I don’t need to rehash his numbers against the Twins, do I? Meanwhile, the Tigers will get their first look at Nick Blackburn this year. Blackburn has given up five earned runs in each of his last three starts, although the Twins won two of those games. He was scheduled to start last Friday, but did not due to a death in the family or something, so he will be pitching on extra rest (He’s a sinkerball pitcher, and I’ve heard that extra rest isn’t always good for that type because it makes them too strong and their sinker doesn’t sink). If memory serves, the Tigers tend to beat him up when they’re at Comerica Park, but don’t do a lot against him in Minneapolis. Maggs and Cabrera have hit him particularly well (.400 for both of them). Inge has not (.214, but he has homered against him). Everyone else in the lineup is either at .250, .273, or has never faced him. Your Mood Music for tonight: It’s National Star Wars Day (so I learned on Facebook), so why not?