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).  

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