Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Old Demons Return

Alas, Armando Galarraga’s struggles against the Twins continue. The Twins came out of the chute very aggressive against him, which certainly surprised me (I think it surprised him, too), because part of his problem in the past had been the inability to throw strikes to Twins hitters. This time he was much better with throwing strikes, but the two walks he did give up cost him (and sometimes you can have games where you only walk one or two and all those walks score while the other team walks six or seven and none of them score). I had also said that the two big problem players for him were Mauer and Span. He was able to neutralize Mauer for the most part. He still had no answer for Span, and neither did anyone else on the pitching staff. Span either scored or drove in the first five runs of the game. The killer for Galarraga was the walk to Nick Punto ahead of Span. Galarraga sounded rather frustrated with Punto after the game (Who wouldn’t be?), as well as angry at himself. At least Punto had to work him for that walk (and the full count pitch sure looked like a strike to me). Fu Te Ni came in next inning and walked him on four pitches. I’m thinking Galarraga was yanked a little too early. At the very least, I maintain he would’ve done a better job in that inning than Ni did. Things got totally out of hand once the bullpen came in. And so we never did find out what would have happened if a save situation arose.

I had said that Nick Blackburn was struggling, but I failed to look at his game logs. If I had, I would have qualified that more strongly that he was actually just living up to his normal tendencies of pitching well at home and struggling on the road. In his lone home start in June, he pitched very strongly, giving up only two earned runs in seven innings against the Braves. All his bad starts this month had been on the road, so the fact that he didn’t give up a whole lot to the Tigers’ offense really isn’t that surprising. They had the one inning where they scored three, and they tacked on kind of a meaningless run later, but that’s it.

Today is the day game rubber match of the series, and Andy Oliver will make his second big league start. It’ll be interesting to see what he can do now that there’s at least a bit of a scouting report on him. Also, the Twins’ lineup is dominated by lefties, but a lot of them can hit left-handed pitching real well. The Twins will start Kevin (not Kyle) Slowey. He beat the Tigers back in May despite giving up three home runs (they were all solo shots). Two were to Miguel Cabrera and the other was to Alex Avila (which makes me kind of surprised that Avila’s not in the lineup today, but I’m not going to make a big fuss over it). Magglio is the DH today, and that’s probably a good idea because he wasn’t moving real well in the outfield last night. Other than that, it’s a fairly regular lineup.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doesn't Feel Like It

Photo: Reuters

The Tigers have a knack for doing what you want in ways that leave you feeling disappointed about it. If they go on a six-game road trip, you’d be thrilled if they finish .500 on the road trip, but not if they sweep the first team and get swept by the second (they’ve certainly done that before). Armando Galarraga threw a perfect game, but he’ll never be officially recognized for it, and God knows I didn’t feel very good about it after the last out was made and I’m pretty sure most of you felt the same way. But no one got hurt in that game. Now the Tigers have finally gotten back into first place, but at the price of losing Joel Zumaya. I initially thought he might have somehow broken his arm on the pitch to Delmon Young. I only know of one instance where a guy broke his arm mid-pitch, and other news reports on this story has reminded me that the guy’s name was Dave Dravecky. However, the reason behind Dravecky’s injury was that he had cancer that was weakening the bone structure and he eventually had to have his arm amputated (Dravecky now works as a motivational speaker and I know this because I originally learned of the story from a video our church pastor showed us in Sunday School many years ago). Thankfully, it does not appear that this is Zumaya’s problem. At this point, all we know is that he had an MRI this morning, Gerald Laird heard a pop all the way from behind the plate, the Tigers are describing it as an elbow injury, and Zumaya’s been placed on the DL (which should surprise no one). This makes speculation dangerous (especially since if I do so, we’ll hear something definitive about five minutes after I publish this post), but in general, news of an elbow injury is generally preferable to a shoulder injury because elbows seem easier to fix. The rehab is often lengthy, but guys usually make a full recovery. Tommy John surgery has been floated around a lot in this case, although most cases I know of don’t involve the ligament tearing that suddenly and that dramatically. At the same time, I wonder if maybe this injury wasn’t as sudden of an onset as it seems. I’ve pointed out at least twice that Zumaya had had some control problems recently and that in the past, that has been a warning sign of injury. Perhaps he was already pitching in discomfort or minor pain and that pitch to Delmon Young caused something that was already weakened to snap. But until the Tigers announce something more specific, we have to assume that Zumaya will at least be gone for the rest of the season, and that has some not very favorable implications on the bullpen. We saw in 2007 the type of negative effect that losing your setup men can have. For the time being, Casey Fien, fresh off from playing Ring Around the Waiver Wire in spring training, has been called up, but I’m not sure what they intend for his role to be. Ryan Perry is not that far off from coming off the DL, and if he can return to what he was doing in April and early May, that would be a huge boost. If he can’t, then I don’t know what the next move is.

 There are still other things to talk about with this game. That was the biggest offensive outburst against Francisco Liriano that I’ve ever seen the Tigers have. Granted, most of it was in the first inning when the first six batters reached base safely, and Liriano proceeded to pitch a lot deeper into the game than it looked like he was going to, but the Tigers did manage to tack on a couple of important insurance runs later in the game. And a lot of those were bunts and infield singles (turning the tables on the Twins, for once). All in all, Inge was the only one never to join in on the fun (someone always goes 0-for in these types of games). At the same time, I do wonder when people will get off Laird’s case. He’s been getting hits with a lot more regularity recently, same as Avila. I should note that Magglio was scratched late, partially because of the oblique issue and partially because he was sick. Keep him away from the other Tigers.

And so, high price or no, the Tigers have themselves their first win at Target Field. Thanks to a recent AT&T Trivia Question (I miss the AFLAC duck), I know that in the span of a week, the Tigers have narrowed down the list of ballparks that they’ve never won in from five to three. The three remaining ballparks are New Yankee Stadium, Nationals Ballpark, and Great American Ballpark (and those last two are understandable because the Tigers haven’t played there; yes, it’s really surprising that they’ve never been to Great American Ballpark because it’s been around for about 7 or 8 years now). Now it’s time to get win #2 at Target Field. They’ll be facing Nick Blackburn, who has struggled so much this month that his ERA has gone from 4.28 to 6.10. He did not pitch well on the Twins’ last road trip. However, he has pitched well this year at home, and his career against the Tigers kind of reflects this. For the most part, they’ve hit him real hard at Comerica Park, but in Minnesota, they’ve done next to nothing against him. They did face him this earlier this year at Target Field. Blackburn got a complete game win against them, but not in the way he imagined. He went into the ninth inning leading 3-2 when Brennan Boesch hit a mammoth solo home run against him which tied the score. Blackburn stayed in the game and got out of the inning (only because Alex Avila had rounded third base too far when Santiago hit an infield single), and got the win when Ryan Perry gave up a triple and a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth (That was the night Ernie Harwell died). On the flipside, however, Armando Galarraga has his own issues with the Twins. Even in his good rookie season they got to him early and often (his best performance resulted in a 3-2 loss, and even in that game he walked five). He did beat them last August, but it wasn’t easy and the Tigers had to absolutely nurse him through five innings just so he’d qualify. At this point, I wonder how much of it is mental, because he knows how he’s struggled against them. Looking at the individual numbers, however, I’ve noticed that the bulk of the damage has come largely from only two batters: Denard Span and Joe Mauer (both of whom have punished many a pitcher). Span is 6-13 (.462) with a double, while Mauer is 8-17 (.471) with a double, two home runs, and a whopping ten RBIs. Other Twins (Morneau, Kubel, and Young) have homered off Galarraga, but they haven’t done as much damage in terms of average (Morneau’s home run was a grand slam, though). Somehow Galarraga’s gotta figure out how to stay confident and not overthink things when he’s on the mound. Making things more complicated is that since Valverde had to record a five-out save last night, Leyland has said that he will absolutely not be available tonight, so the Tigers are without their setup man AND their closer.

UPDATE: The diagnosis for Zumaya has been announced (and it was actually announced before I published this, but I didn’t feel like changing what I already typed). He has a non-displaced fracture of the olecranon (basically, the tip of the elbow). He is done for the season, but there hasn’t been word on what happens after that. Since it’s a non-displaced fracture, he might not need surgery this time. Unfortunately, they don’t teach a lot of orthopedics in pharmacy school, but from what I’ve read, the fracture itself takes about 12 weeks to heal, but most of the information about how long it takes to return to full strength (I’ve read everything from 4 months to over a year) seems to revolve around patients who have surgery, so that’s still unclear.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bats Finally as Hot as the Weather

Photo: AP

Perhaps a short post, because I didn’t really see this game (okay, I watched the archived game later, but that doesn’t exactly have the same impact). Justin Verlander was perhaps not as dominating as you’d want him to be, but he did give seven innings. And he did make a nice adjustment that allowed him to go those extra two innings. Meanwhile, the offense (which did not include Verlander, and that means that the pitchers did absolutely nothing at the plate this year) pounded out 17 hits, 16 of which were singles. But there were a lot of hard-hit singles in there (as well as a few bloops and seeing-eyed singles). The only extra-base hit was Brennan Boesch’s two-run homer. I know this kid is going to slow down sometime (probably sooner rather than later), but as I’ve said before, might as well milk him for all he’s worth. And it’s nice to see Cabrera had a few multi-hit games on this road trip. His slumps may not usually last long, but they can be crippling for the rest of the team. And so the Tigers finish Interleague play this year with a 11-7 mark, which is one game better than they did last year.

And now the Tigers are once again a half-game behind Minnesota, and that’s where they are going next, so this could be a huge swing for one of these two teams (they’ll have to worry about the White Sox later). The good news is that the Tigers will miss Carl Pavano. The bad news is that they will still have to face Francisco Liriano. Liriano’s not been as lights-out as he was when the Tigers last saw him, but that hardly seems to matter, since he always looks dominant against Detroit. Magglio’s been bothered by the sore side, but he’s got some of the best numbers on the team against Liriano (.333 with 3 doubles, 2 home runs, and 8 RBIs). Cabrera’s done good work against him as well (.333 with 2 doubles and a home run). The rest of the Tigers have not fared as well against him. They’re all batting lower than .250 against him. Meanwhile, Jeremy Bonderman will get the start for the Tigers. He was decent against the Mets, but ultimately took the loss. The three Twins he needs to watch out for in particular: Michael Cuddyer (.310 with a double and three triples), Joe Mauer (.348 with two doubles and a home run), and Delmon Young (.444 with a double). Justin Morneau’s actually fared quite badly against Bonderman (only .185 with nine strikeouts, but he has homered off him). And I’m excited because I’m going to see nearly all the games this week.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Did Atlanta Move to the West Coast When I Wasn't Looking?

More on crappy strike calls in a moment, but first I gotta talk about the pitching (surprisingly, the game was still going on when I got home, but they were in the ninth inning). From what I hear, Max Scherzer did pretty well, although he had some issues with walks near the end of his outing. Walks victimized Joel Zumaya even more (and again, I point out that wildness has been a warning sign of injury in Zumaya’s past), but all I heard from Jim Price the last two days is that Chipper Jones has no batspeed. If that’s true, how was he able to catch up to 100 MPH and launch it? Talk about lack of offense all you want, but once the setup men come in and you have a one-run lead, they’ve gotta protect it, whether the score is 1-0, 3-2, 5-4, 9-8, or 16-15. There’s no such thing as run support for relievers. If you’re eighth inning guy needs a 3-run cushion to pitch effectively, then he shouldn’t be pitching the eighth inning (and I don’t mean that as a knock on Zumaya at all). The Braves somehow got an insurance run in the eighth, which turned out to be big. The offense finally started to rally in the ninth, starting with a long home run by Cabrera. Then the walkathon followed. Everyone keeps complaining that those were gifts and that the Tigers should’ve hit more, but at least give Brandon Inge some credit. That was an epic at-bat, one of the best I’ve ever seen from him. He earned that walk. The walks to Worth and Laird were probably gifts, but the called third strike to Johnny Damon was a gift from the umpire to the Braves. I know it’s probably because I’m a Tigers fan and I watch all their games, but it seems like the Tigers get victimized by blatantly bad calls more than any other team (and I’m not talking about borderline strike/ball calls or bang-bang plays where it could’ve gone either way, but the replay shows that the guy was technically out/safe, and no, the Jim Joyce call is NOT included in that category). They say it all evens out, but I’ve yet to see a blatantly bad call go in the Tigers’ favor. Maybe that Denard Span call, but as I said at the time, Span had his back turned to the umpire, so I’m not sure there was a good way to see that he had caught it.

And so it is time to turn to Justin Verlander to avoid the sweep. He didn’t have it in his last start against the Mets. He’s faced the Braves once before and beat them, with their only run coming on a Chipper Jones solo shot. The Braves will counter with hard-thrower Tommy Hanson, who was lit up even worse than Verlander in his last start, giving up nine earned runs in 3 and two-thirds innings. However, Hanson, like Verlander, is a much better pitcher than that. The only Tiger he’s faced before is Max Scherzer, which isn’t a big help. Maggs is supposed to get the day off today as well, so things get a little tougher for the offense. And I’ll be at work, with no chance of seeing any of this game. Boo again.

Saturday, June 26, 2010


Short post today (again). There are minor league experts out there who could probably tell you what Andy Oliver eats for breakfast any given morning. I’m not one of them, but I thought he did a decent job last night. He definitely could use a bit more polishing, and I didn’t “sense something” like I did with Jair Jurrjens and Armando Galarraga (and only those two), but he looked good. He’ll be in the rotation for at least one more start (that being against the Twins, which’ll be a real test for him), so we should get a good picture of him then. At least it’ll be nice to have a lefty in the rotation for a little while. Speaking of pitching, congratulations to former Tiger Edwin Jackson for throwing a no-hitter (and in the process throwing 149 pitches, walking eight, and ending his former teammate’s fifteen minutes of fame). Meanwhile, the Rays are regarded as one of the best (if not THE best) team in baseball, but now they’ve been no-hit three times in the past calendar year. How weird is that?

This series continues with Max Scherzer going for the Tigers. He was very good in his last start, even considering a rough beginning where he threw a lot of pitches and gave up a run. He did get rewarded for his efforts because the Tigers rallied late. He has faced the Braves before. Yunel Escobar is 5-11 with 3 doubles and Chipper Jones is 4-8 with a home run. Those look to be his two trouble spots. Meanwhile, the Tigers will get their first look at Kenshin Kawakami, who will probably lose his rotation spot once Jair Jurrjens comes back because he’s 0-9. Those guys always scare you a little, especially since Kawakami’s not THAT bad. Johnny Damon’s the only Tiger hitter who has seen him, and he is 0-1 (Max Scherzer is 0-2, but who cares?). And I’d like to complain that this should be a 7:00 game because I would be able to watch that, but instead it starts at 4:00, so I’ll miss it. Boo.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Great Escape

Photo: AP

Going into this series, I said that the Mets were kind of a middle-of-the-road offense, but the Tigers’ pitching staff had almost as much trouble getting them out as they do the Twins. I saw very little of Armando Galarraga (it was the bottom of the sixth when I got home), but it looks as though he did a good job for most of the game (Leyland’s comments indicate as much), even though Pitch f/x indicates a rather tight strike zone. He ran into trouble in the sixth, but his issues mostly centered around the first three batters he faced. The other two runs scored on a very weak ground ball to short and a bloop single. The bullpen had a very trying time with holding the Mets down and it seemed like every single pitch was a pressure pitch. Phil Coke came up big in the seventh against two dangerous hitters in Wright and Davis. And then in the ninth inning, after all the stress that everyone else on the staff has been pitching in during the last three days, Jose Valverde came in, set down Reyes, Feliciano, and Wright in order, and made it look easy. I’m not going to devote a paragraph to the offense because all the scoring happened before I got home, so I really have no insight to give on that.

And so we have come to the final Interleague series of the year, and it comes against the Atlanta Braves. They just got swept by the White Sox, and so it is my hope that they will be just as accommodating to the Tigers. However, they have the best home record in the major leagues (they’ve only lost seven games at home all year). They will start Kris Medlen tonight, who took Jair Jurrjens’s spot in the rotation when Jurrjens went down with an injury. Jurrjens is slated to return soon, but Medlen has pitched pretty well in his stead. He gave up four runs in his last start but the Braves won that game. Johnny Damon is the only Tiger hitter who has faced him. He’s 1-2 (Yes, Max Scherzer has also faced him, but he’s not a hitter). And for the Tigers, lefty Andy Oliver will make his major league debut tonight, having been called up from Erie. You can find more detailed scouting reports elsewhere, but he throws pretty hard for a lefty (usually 92-93, but can get as high as 96). His secondary pitches are still kind of a work in progress, and some fear that promoting him now will cause him to go the way of Andrew Miller, but I feel that would only happen if they let him linger in the rotation too long. Two or three starts probably wouldn’t break him, so to speak. And Rick Porcello pitched very well for Toledo last night, so hopefully he’ll be back soon.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Dancing Knuckler

Somewhat short post today (again), because I didn’t see a lot of this game and I’ve got an exam and work coming up today. I suppose Jeremy Bonderman pitched all right, but he could not get Jose Reyes out. It was a rare night where I did have internet access at work, but Yahoo messed up and never indicated that Joel Zumaya was in the game (It also got stuck after the wild pitch, which it said was on the exact same play as the preceding single, and at that point the pharmacy closed so I just went home). When I got to the car, the first thing I heard was “3-2 pitch way out of the strike zone, and you’ve got to believe that’ll be the end of his night,” and I still believed Bonderman was in there. Zumaya had not had a real rough outing up to this point, so the only concern I have is that in years past, control problems have been an indication that he was hiding an injury. And I swear Dan Dickerson later said something about someone (Ike Davis, I think), getting a bunt single on an 0-2 pitch, but I have not been able to verify this. Meanwhile, as I said yesterday, if the knuckleball is working, the hitters are in for a rough night. And with what is now a 6-0 record and an ERA in the low twos, R.A. Dickey’s had it working for a while now. The Tigers are far from his only victim. And this random thought has occurred to me: It’s been a full two weeks since the batting order’s been “normal.” The last time the Tigers had their top four hitters in their typical spots was the final game in Kansas City. Magglio then missed the next six games, and after he came back, Austin Jackson was out. Now Austin Jackson is back, but they’re in National League ballparks and therefore someone gets squeezed out of the outfield every night. And Miguel Cabrera has not hit well in that span. Still, association does not imply causality, but I’m going to have to wait until the lineup is intact before I can figure out if that’s a coincidence or not.

And so the Tigers are in the position where they are trying to not get swept. And so far the only pitcher on their staff who has been capable of getting Mets hitters out without hemorrhaging runs is Enrique Gonzalez. This all adds up to quite a bit of pressure on Armando Galarraga. He had a rough outing in his last start, which was blamed on a combination of tentativeness and fatigue from the heat. Last I checked, it was supposed to be pretty warm in New York today. Galarraga has gotten a lot of attention from the New York media, which seems to have surprised him (It didn’t surprise me; he’s probably going to get extra attention just about every time the Tigers go somewhere they haven’t been this year, so he better get used to it). At any rate, he’s going to have to figure out how to shut down the Mets, because he is in need of a bounceback start and his next opponent will be much tougher. I’m not sure what he’s gonna do against Reyes, who is hitting just about everyone right now, but if he doesn’t have any better luck than his teammates, then it’ll be imperative for him to shut down the right-handed hitters in the lineup (namely, David Wright). Obviously, he’s never faced the Mets before, but he has a brief history with two of their hitters. Jason Bay is 0-2, and Rod Barajas is 1-2, with that one hit being a home run (that I don’t remember). The Tiger hitters (and Galarraga, for that matter), will face lefty Hisanori Takahashi (Wow, there are a lot of syllables in the starting pitcher matchup). He started the year in the bullpen, struggled, was moved to the rotation once John Maine was injured (I think), and has excelled ever since. Obviously, since this is his first year stateside, none of the Tigers have faced him before. And I’ll give you some Mood Music to rally around tonight (I stupidly thought this was a day game and switched shifts with someone, only to find out this was a night game).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hopefully, THAT'S Out of Your System Now

Well, that was a huge pile of lost cause (and this’ll be a short post because I have to go to work soon). I only got to see Verlander for what seemed like a brief cameo (which sucks, because I’ll miss his next start entirely). Then the rain came, and when that was over, a parade of relievers who couldn’t get Mets batters out started. Jay Sborz let nerves get the better of him in his big league debut. I know people like to rag on Brad Thomas, but I don’t think he was given enough time to warm up properly. Fu Te Ni wasn’t hit as hard in terms of contact, with the exception of one or two hits, but they got enough bloops off him to make his line worse than Thomas’s. The offense did come close to making this thing at least a proper slugfest, and they did deny Niese what should have been an easy win. I do wish people would stop complaining about Gerald Laird hitting second. It probably wasn’t the greatest idea in the world (although he did come up with an RBI single), but it’s done, it probably won’t happen again (or rarely will, if it does), and it is certainly not the reason why they lost last night.

Tonight, it’s Jeremy Bonderman’s turn to try his luck against the Mets (and hopefully last night gave both him and Armando Galarraga some insight into how NOT to pitch to the Mets). He pitched very well against the Nationals in his last start, especially in the later innings. He hasn’t seen the Mets since 2007, but he did beat them then. Five of the Mets have seen him before, and the only two with significant plate appearances against him (Alex Cora and Rod Barajas) haven’t done that well (though Cora has hit a triple against him). The Tigers, in turn, will face the knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, who has been really good for the Mets this year. He’s 5-0 and his ERA is under three. And he’s only walked 12 batters, which is an amazingly low total for a knuckleballer. The Tigers have put up good numbers against him in their past meetings. Four different Tigers have homered off him (Maggs, Inge, Guillen, and Cabrera). It’ll be interesting to see if the switch-hitters in tonight’s lineup (Guillen and Santiago) opt to bat right-handed against Dickey (since a lot of switch-hitters like to bat on the same side of the plate that the knuckleballer is throwing from to help them stay back on the ball, and I know I’ve seen Guillen employ this tactic before). However, I’ve also heard that with knuckleballers, that pitch is either dancing or it’s not. If it’s going good, hitters don’t stand a chance. If it isn’t, the pitcher’s gonna get knocked around.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Homestand O'Plenty

Photo: Getty Images

So far, Interleague play has reaped huge rewards for the Tigers in terms of a hot streak. Max Scherzer started off the day by throwing a ton of pitches in the first few innings. Then after that, he found his groove, gave up only the one run, and somehow went seven innings (including striking out the side in order in the seventh). And then the bullpen came in and did nice work. And yes, there was a lot of talk about the war of words between Jose Valverde and Miguel Montero (who didn’t particularly like each other when they were teammates). Just watch the FS Arizona feed of the last couple innings. Darron Sutton and Mark Grace were almost fully expecting Valverde to plunk Montero in the ribs with a 97 MPH fastball and the benches to clear. But Valverde took the high road, made his pitches, and Montero uneventfully grounded out to first (yeah, Valverde did kind of make a show of bowing and tipping his hat to Cabrera on what was a very routine play, but that’s about it). And so that should be the end of that, since the Tigers and Diamondbacks don’t play each other anymore this year.

For the longest time, it looked as though Scherzer would be the tough-luck loser. It looked as though Ian Kennedy had a very effective mix of pitches working. And despite providing the heroics last Sunday, Miguel Cabrera doesn’t seem to have quite busted out yet (This time he’s going to have to do it on his own. I won’t be back to Comerica Park until July 3rd). After noticing that he struck out to end the game Saturday night on a changeup (though I’ve heard from just about every analyst that it was a very good changeup), I paid more attention to his at-bats yesterday. He got a lot of offspeed pitches. I’ll have to see if this trend continues. I took a look at some of his Pitch f/x charts, and the only thing that jumped out at me was that he has been swinging and missing at cut fastballs a lot more than he had last month (30.8% as opposed to 2.9%; he also has swung and missed at changeups about 20% of the time they get thrown to him, but that was consistent over the last month and a half). I’m not sure I have the time to analyze it beyond these few observations (school/exams/work), and hopefully he goes on a tear this week so I don’t have to. At any rate, he did single to lead off the seventh, which turned out to be key, because the next batter was Brennan Boesch, and he absolutely crushed a hanging slider into the right field seats. And Guillen followed him up with a solo shot of his own for good measure. And so like last Sunday, the Tigers provided some late-inning heroics via the long ball.

And now, after a very successful homestand, the Tigers hit the road again, and this road trip is a doozy. No more last-place NL teams to feast on. These next nine games are against three teams who are definite contenders and who play very well at home (and they’ll have to say goodbye to the DH for the next six games). And I’m not happy about the timing of yesterday’s announcement of Rick Porcello’s demotion, which happened about five minutes before yesterday’s post went up, but I didn’t bother to check Twitter beforehand. At any rate, the Tigers will need another starter Saturday at the latest, but the pitching matchup for this upcoming series with the Mets should remain unaltered barring something strange. At any rate, the Tigers will get their first look ever at Citi Field. And I don’t think most baseball people expected the Mets to be doing this well right now. They have been a really streaky team this season. They’ll rattle off eight wins in a row, then lose five in a row on the way to losing 10 of 12 or whatever, and then have another long winning streak. They just had an eight-game winning streak snapped on Saturday, and they lost yesterday, so hopefully that means they’re due for a low point. Their offense hasn’t put up numbers that’ll pop up at you (except for the fact that they lead the NL in stolen bases). Jose Reyes is hot right now, and David Wright is among the league leaders in RBIs. Their pitching has been pretty good, though, especially since they don’t have John Maine and Oliver Perez in their rotation right now. All their current starters have been pitching very well. The Tigers will not get Santana or Pelfrey, but the other three have been no picnic. The first one they’ll see is lefty Jon Niese (who I thought was a righty until I checked the game preview, so it’s a good thing I checked). He struggled in May but has had a very good June so far. In three starts this month he has only given up four runs in twenty-three innings. Two starts ago he threw a complete game one-hitter against San Diego. His last start was against Cleveland, where he gave up three runs in seven innings on his way to a win. Now, without really delving into numbers, I’d say that while the Tigers don’t have the most spectacular offense in the world, they are better than the Indians or Padres (Niese’s other win was against Florida where he gave up one run in seven innings; the Tigers have a better team batting average but the Marlins have scored more runs, so I’d say those two offenses are fairly comparable). Other than that, I’ve never seen Niese pitch, so I can’t tell you what he features or anything like that. He’s never faced the Tigers before, and none of the Tiger hitters have seen him before. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander had himself a really good game against the Nationals and got his strikeout groove back (He attributes it to finally throwing his curveball the way he wanted to). He’s never faced the Mets before but he has seen five of their hitters (who were previously with other teams) before. It’s a small sample, but Jeff Francoeur is 2-3 against him, while Jason Bay is 0-3 with a walk and three strikeouts. Now, I’m looking forward to seeing Justin Verlander pitch. I’m not really looking forward to the humiliation of watching him bat. He’s just so bad at it (It might help if he stopped looking like he’s trying not to laugh whenever he’s in the batter’s box). He insists he can hit, and some footage I’ve seen of him taking batting practice has shown me why he thinks that way. He hit a home run in this batting practice footage, and looked really good doing it (He also got a base hit in a spring training game this year). However, in the game, I’m just hoping he comes up in bunting situations and doesn’t hurt himself.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oh, Those Damn Inherited Runners

The streak had to end sometime, I guess. Rick Porcello seemed better than he had been before having his start skipped, but not quite there yet. He says the problem pitch for him was the four-seam fastball and not the sinker. It’s hard for me to agree or disagree with him because I haven’t yet figured out the exact speed differential for him (other than knowing the 4-seamer is harder). His final line probably looked worse than he actually pitched. The Miguel Montrero home run was wind-aided, but the big backbreaker was the two extra runs that Fu Te Ni allowed to score by giving up the triple to Gerardo Parra. He’s had issues lately with allowing inherited runners to score, after being pretty good at stranding them before then. Of course, that essentially was the difference in the game. However, for purely selfish reasons, I don’t want Porcello sent down (or skipped again) just yet (because essentially, if he got sent down, they would take advantage of the off-day and just bump everyone else up until they absolutely needed another starter, and I don’t want that because Verlander is currently on track to start the July 3rd game). Give him one more start, and then go from there. Enrique Gonzalez pitched a few quite effective innings before tiring a little in the ninth, but got bailed out by Brennan Boesch.

As I said yesterday, Tigers fans know how good Edwin Jackson can be, and he looked on top of his game yesterday. And yet they still managed to score four runs off him. They mention that bases-loaded, none out situation in which the Tigers did not score (a run had already come in at that point), but again, Jackson can certainly get strikeouts, and he showed a knack last year for getting double plays when he needed it, so it was not like it was anything out of the ordinary. Probably the big mistake of the game was letting Jackson hang around too long, because it didn’t give them enough at-bats against the Arizona bullpen, and they ran out of outs before making the full comeback. You had the situation you wanted there in the ninth inning: Tying run at second with Miguel Cabrera at the plate, but Cabrera struck out on a changeup. He also did that in Chicago (that time, the bases were loaded with two out and he swung and missed at a 3-2 changeup). I’ll have to see looking forward if changeups from right-handed pitchers continue to give him problems.

The homestand concludes today, Father’s Day. And after two days of awkwardness for the Tigers, it’s time for the Diamondbacks to feel awkward because Max Scherzer will face his old team for the first time. He did okay against the Washington Nationals in his last start, but he can do better. Obviously, he’s never faced the Diamondbacks before, but he has seen two of their hitters who were on other teams last year. Kelly Johnson is 3-10 with two doubles, and Adam LaRoche is 2-4 with a home run and 3 RBIs. Meanwhile, the Tigers will face former Yankee Ian Kennedy. He was also involved in that trade, and he’s done a decent job for the Diamondbacks, putting up a respectable earned run average in the process. The Tigers have seen him once. It was back in 2008 and they beat him en route to a 3-game sweep of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium (and forgive me, but I don’t remember if it was the first game or the last game in that series; I know it was not the middle game). Only five guys from that game remain with the Tigers. Who had good swings in that game? Well, Magglio went 2-3 with a double, Cabrera was 1-1 with a triple, and Ramon Santiago was 1-2 with a double.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Force is With You, Brandon Inge

Photo: AP

I completely forgot it was 80s Night at Comerica Park, otherwise I would have played something 80s for the Mood Music last night for you. At any rate, I got home during the sixth inning, and by then both starters had departed, so I was able to sidestep that little bit of awkwardness (Unfortunately, I apparently also missed something funny that involved Rod Allen and Chewbacca). Shame about Galarraga, though. Obviously, I did not see him, but Leyland says he was too tentative with the lefties (and there were a lot of them). Galarraga says the heat sapped him of his energy (I’m inclined to believe him, because it looks as though he started out okay). I don’t see why both explanations can’t be true, and that he was tentative because he was too tired to make his pitches. Heat sure has been a big problem for the Tigers. In fact, at some point or another it has gotten the better of three out of the four Venezuelans on the team (You’d think they’d be used to hot weather). And for most of the game last night we thought all four were included in that, but it turns out Miguel Cabrera’s dizziness was due to a different problem. But Eddie Bonine, Phil Coke, and Jose Valverde did a terrific job out of the bullpen.

As I said, I did not see Dontrelle Willis, so I can’t comment on the Tigers’ approach against him, although considering they got five runs off him, I’d say it was a good one. I know Magglio hit a two-run homer off him, and that was the first time he’d ever faced Dontrelle as an opponent. But once it became a battle of the bullpens, the numbers clearly favored the Tigers. And with two out in the bottom of the eighth, Arizona’s bullpen finally got that memo. Brandon Inge has been hot recently, and last night he finished a home run shy of the cycle. And of course, the big blow was the RBI triple. Others who had good games included Danny Worth and Alex Avila, who wasn’t even supposed to be in the lineup in the first place (so much for all my ponderings on how Armando Galarraga and Gerald Laird would work together).

The series of awkwardness continues tonight, and we get to see another former Tiger on the mound in the person of Edwin Jackson. Jackson has not really delivered for the Diamondbacks, although he has been better recently (I know that simply because at one point his earned run average was over eight and now it’s 5.18). However, every Tigers fan knows what he is capable of, and there have been a couple starts this year where he’s shown that brilliance, one being a complete-game, three-hit shutout against the Dodgers, another being a very strong game against the Marlins where he eclipsed his career high in strikeouts (the previous career high was actually set against the Tigers). It’s been quite a while since any of the Tigers have faced him, but Maggs is 5-8 with a home run. Cabrera (who is back in the lineup tonight) is only 1-6. The Tiger who has faced Jackson the most times is Johnny Damon, but he’s only 3-22. For the Tigers, Rick Porcello will get his first start in a while. He had his last start skipped so that they could work on some things in the bullpen, and now they’ll see if that paid off. He needs to get his sinker sinking again, basically. He’s never faced the Diamondbacks before, and the only Diamondback who has seen him is Adam LaRoche, who saw him last year when he was with the Pirates and he went 1-2 off him.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sweep Times Two

Photo: Getty Images

I couldn’t find a really funny picture for this one, so I’ll just give you the postgame high fives. Apparently Jeremy Bonderman’s day began with some really loud outs, although at the time I did not know this, since Gameday’s description of “Ryan Zimmerman flies out to center fielder Don Kelly” doesn’t tell you a whole lot beyond that. Luckily, class ended early and I was able to listen to or watch most of this game, and by then Bonderman had made an adjustment and settled in. Tigers pitching sure did rack up a lot of strikeouts in this series. And Valverde got a bit of a break, so I’m guessing he should be fresh and ready to go tonight if he’s needed.

It was a good day for just about everyone in the Tigers lineup. Every starter except Don Kelly got multiple hits. For the first time on the homestand, no one hit a home run, but they didn’t really need to. Two Tigers hit doubles right to the wall. One was Alex Avila who drove in two, and the other was Miguel Cabrera, who added to his league-leading RBI total with three on the day (which is good, because Vladimir Guerrero was starting to catch up again). And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Ramon Santiago, who had himself a 4-hit game.

And so this has been a very good homestand so far. Next up: The last-place Diamondbacks with a slew of former Tigers. This has the makings of one very awkward series, especially considering that tonight’s matchup essentially features the guy the Tigers cut loose against the man who replaced him. You didn’t think we’d see Dontrelle Willis again so soon, did you? Since departing for Arizona, he’s made two starts for them. In the first, he pitched quite well, throwing six shutout innings. In the second, he gave up two runs in four innings and walked six (also had two wild pitches and two balks). Do I even need to tell you what the game plan should be? A word of caution, though: Those of you who have watched all season know that Dontrelle has been quite good at getting himself out of trouble, usually in the form of a key double play. There’s no reason to think that won’t continue (It has to stop sometime because allowing that many baserunners will catch up to you eventually, but it hasn’t yet). And there actually are a few Tigers with history against him (Johnny Damon, Carlos Guillen, and Brandon Inge), but it’s been several years. Meanwhile, since replacing Willis in the rotation, Armando Galarraga has pitched three really good games, but has only come away with one win (no points for guessing which one that was). The Tigers have won all three of those games, but for the most part they have taken the lead very late in those games (This is a very plausible scenario for tonight because the Diamondbacks’ bullpen has been awful this year). He faced the D’Backs once before, back in 2008. He got the win and gave up only one hit, but he walked five in that game (That was a very strange game for all sorts of different reasons. That was the infamous sock rally game, Galarraga drew a walk when he was at the plate and actually scored the first run for the Tigers, Pudge made one of the most heads-up defensive plays I have ever seen late in the game, and the starting pitcher for Arizona that night was Max Scherzer). The only current Diamondback with a hit against him is Adam LaRoche, who is 2-2, but as I said, several of the others have at least one walk. One thing to watch for is that with the lefty starting for Arizona, Gerald Laird will likely be behind the plate tonight. He has only caught Galarraga once this year, and it was the one bad start against the Dodgers. Now, I’m a firm believer that both catchers should be able to catch all the pitchers, but Galarraga and Avila have had a nice rhythm going during these past three starts (and even last year, Avila seemed slightly better at keeping Armando focused and not overthinking). Still, I don’t mean that as a knock on Laird, and I would hope the two work just as well together. It’s just something to look out for. But you’ll have to do the looking out because I’ll be at work.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Cure for What Ails You?

Photo: Detroit News

Yeah, I had a nice, AP photo all set to go, but this one was too funny not to use. I missed most of this game due to work, so forgive the really superficial analysis. Justin Verlander continued his dominance of the National League, and finally got himself a double-digit strikeout game in the process. He also gave up a couple of very long home runs (although I’d like to point out that Alex Avila’s home run on Sunday went into the shrubbery and stayed there, while Adam Dunn’s merely bounced off the shrubbery). But Verlander settled in and he says his curveball was working real well. I won’t argue with that. He also gave up an RBI single to Pudge (which would’ve caused more internal conflict if I had seen it; and as an aside, I’ll spare you the fashion police rant), though I don’t appreciate FS Detroit repeatedly showing footage of him striking out (Seriously, Verlander had 11 strikeouts and Pudge only struck out once. Show someone else). And the Tigers honored my wish of scoring enough runs to give Valverde a night off, so Enrique Gonzalez wrapped things up for the Tigers. I can’t give much of an assessment of him, but he did retire the side in order.

It’s a testament to the kind of year you’ve been having when you give up eight earned runs and your ERA only goes up to 2.95. Maybe Livan Hernandez was simply wild, or maybe he had a game plan that blew up in his face. Having Gerald Laird in the lineup against the righty paid off, because he hit a two-run single that gave the Tigers the lead for good. Brennan Boesch was the big contributor of the night. I was in the car when he hit his home run, so I settled for the replay, but that was a bomb. And I have no idea why Livan Hernandez was left out there long enough to give up eight earned runs, but that’s not my problem.

If you have some spare time (and I know you do), I’d recommend checking out the transcript from Armando Galarraga’s online chat yesterday. There’s some real interesting tidbits in there (as well as Galarraga flashing his sense of humor). Some of the questions/answers were in Spanish during the live chat and have since been translated (If you want to view the original Spanish, click here). And oh, by the way, I make a brief cameo in that transcript.

The Tigers will go for the sweep in today’s day game. Jeremy Bonderman pitched well in his last start but came away with a no-decision as it took until the tenth inning for the Tigers to win that game. He has faced the Nationals before, back in 2007 in what was eventually an 8-4 Tigers victory. The two current Nationals who have hit him well are Adam Kennedy (.364) and Cristian Guzman (.385). And because I’ve highlighted him in my other two game previews in this series, I will mention that Pudge has never faced Bonderman (although with it being a day game after a night game, I doubt Pudge will be in the lineup). The Nationals will start rookie Luis Atilano. I don’t really know that much about him. His starts have all been either really good or really bad with not a whole lot in between. In his last start, he gave up six runs to the Indians, but only three were earned. Being a rookie, he has never faced the Tigers before, and none of the Tigers have ever seen him. Leyland has already said that Austin Jackson will not be in the lineup today, so I’d imagine we’ll see either Don Kelly or Ryan Raburn in the leadoff slot. Johnny Damon will also get the day off, supposedly. And I’d imagine that Alex Avila will catch (although in his limited sampling, Atilano has been better against lefties than righties).  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hello Again, Old Friend

Photo: AP

Here we have conclusive evidence that Pudge Rodriguez should NOT stand next to Miguel Cabrera. Seriously, that looks Photoshopped. Could there be a bigger contrast in height? (I have been told by those who have met Cabrera that you don’t realize just how huge he is until you stand next to him). At any rate, it was real nice to see Pudge again (and I was thrilled that the public address announcer still calls him “Pudge” even though he’s now a visiting player), and he got a real nice reception from the crowd. And I can’t say I’m really that disappointed that he got a single. Perhaps it’s not so great that it drove in a run, but that’s only because Adam Dunn was standing on third. At any rate, Max Scherzer pitched a decent game. It looked to me like he was fighting the command of his fastball (both in terms of not throwing it for strikes and giving up 0-2 hits), but his slider and changeup were working really well, as he got several swings and misses on those pitches, plus they allowed him to throw fastballs for called third strikes in areas where he normally might not get away with them. The bullpen did a terrific job, although Jose Valverde made things a little nervous in the ninth with a hit batter and a walk. I wonder if he might be tired, because he’s now pitched in the last four games (with an off-day mixed in). It’d be nice for him if the Tigers could score lots of runs tonight, enough to make it a non-save situation.

As expected, there was a lot of complaining about having Ryan Raburn in the leadoff slot, but it paid off, because he had two hits and four RBIs. Basically, he was the difference in the game. It was also good to see Magglio back in the lineup, and he responded by getting four hits (important since the Nationals have decided that Miguel Cabrera is getting nothing to hit in this series). The other offensive leader of the day? Gerald Laird, who finally shook off his bad luck for at least his first three at-bats and got three hits. He could easily have had four, but had to settle for a lineout to center instead. As an aside, I’d like to mention that the production truck was one big pile of fail last night. There were at least two shots where the camera was out of focus, there was an unnecessary lingering shot of the Nationals’ dugout, and several lower thirds and graphics were displayed at the wrong time.

The series continues tonight with Justin Verlander on the mound. Verlander beat the Pirates in his last start despite the fact that his fastball was “horrible” (his words, not mine). He’s never faced the Nationals before, but he does have some history against a few of their hitters, one of whom is Pudge (1-4 with a double). The Tigers will face Livan Hernandez, who you could describe as a crafty righty. Jim Leyland says he one of the smartest pitchers in baseball, and I’ve already said how to defeat smart guys. The Tigers last saw him in 2008, where they got a lot of baserunners against him but not much in the way of runs, and you got the sense that Hernandez was firmly in control the entire time. Miguel Cabrera has a whopping FIFTY-SEVEN plate appearances against him (I didn’t even know that many were possible). He’s 14-53 with 5 doubles, a home run, 10 RBIs, and 12 strikeouts, so it’s not like he owns him. Some of the other Tigers have faced him before as well, but Johnny Damon is the only other one with significant history against him (but he’s only 2-13). Gerald Laird is 2-4, and maybe that is why he is in tonight’s lineup (plus the three hits last night couldn’t hurt matters).

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

I am Miguel Cabrera's Slumpbuster

Photo: ME!

Not bad for my first day game. I was kindly invited by Detroitchik from Bless You Boys and we had a blast, heat and all. Armando Galarraga got a big reception when his name was announced, just as I predicted (although the video graphic they have of him when they show the lineups on the scoreboard has his name spelled wrong). And he turned in a very good outing. It was probably the best outing by any starting pitcher that I’ve been present to watch (including Galarraga himself, because I’ve been to one of his games before). He said after the game that his slider wasn’t working all that well, but his changeup was, although I know I saw at least a few good sliders that he got swings and misses on (No, I’m not that good at pitch recognition, especially in person; I mostly determined what he was throwing by the miles per hour on the radar gun). However, he was very effective with throwing strikes and getting quick outs, only walking one. He didn’t strike anybody out, which is a bit odd, even for someone (like him) who isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but he certainly pitched well enough to win (as a matter of fact, none of the Tiger pitchers struck anyone out in this game). It’s a shame he didn’t get the win, but a no-decision is better than a loss, and if he continues pitching the way he’s done in his last three starts, he’ll win plenty of games. As for the bullpen, well, I had said the night before that I wanted to see Jose Valverde pitch, and I got my wish. Unfortunately, I also saw the end of his scoreless appearances streak, but it would have been impossible for him to go the entire season giving up only one run, and it’s not like he got lit up.

It was frustrating to watch the offense for most of the game because they were getting handcuffed by Jeff Karstens. It wasn’t like Saturday when they kept stranding runners. This time, they didn’t really have many threats. And for some reason, when I’m at the game, it’s usually home run derby. That’s how the Tigers scored all their runs in this game. Alex Avila opened the door by homering to dead center, the first one of those that I’ve been present for (and it should be noted that my streaks of having a different starting pitcher, catcher, and shortstop in every game all came to an end). The real fun was in the eighth inning. After a pinch-hit single from Carlos Guillen, Raburn tried to bunt, couldn’t do it, and flied out to the warning track. Guillen did get to second on a wild pitch, but Santiago struck out (I know it looked very borderline on TV, but from where we were sitting down the first base line, it looked like he went too far). Now, the key to this whole sequence was the walk to Johnny Damon (who reached all four times in this game), because they brought in the lefty to get him out, and the lefty failed to do his job. And that brought up Miguel Cabrera in just the situation you want to see him in. Cabrera had been struggling throughout the series (and didn’t have that great a road trip, either) to the tune of a 1-11 when he came to bat (though he had been robbed earlier in this game). I don’t know why, but it seems like Cabrera saves some of his best work for when I’m there. In the two previous games I’d been to since he became a Tiger, he was a combined 6-9 with three home runs and 7 RBIs. And he didn’t let me down this time, homering to the deepest part of right center field. Not surprisingly, everyone went nuts when that happened. It was a sight to behold. By the way, the above picture is NOT of the at-bat in which he homered, and if you’d like to see more of my pictures of this game, my Facebook album is here (I’d like to do a Flickr album as well, but the total file size of pictures is over the monthly upload limit, so I’m still trying to figure out what I’m going to do).

So after a very productive sweep of the Pirates, it’s time to welcome in the Tigers’ next Interleague opponent: the Washington Nationals. They are also a last-place team, but they are a lot better than they were last year, and I daresay they are better than the Pirates. Their offense is actually pretty good. They rank fourth in the NL in team batting average, although they’re only tenth in runs scored. Ryan Zimmerman, Adam Dunn, and Josh Willingham make for quite a decent 3-4-5 combo. Their pitching isn’t quite there yet, although Livan Hernandez has given them quite a lift, and Scott Olsen’s been decent for them as well. And then there’s Steven Strasburg, who is not pitching in this series and I’m really not that disappointed (I do want the Tigers to win, after all). Of course, the thing that’s most important to me is that Pudge will be there and I will be thrilled to see him (I really have come a long way since not being able to bear to watch that makeup game against the Yankees). I’m not sure how much he’s going to play, since I think he rushed himself back from the DL in order to catch Strasburg’s debut. They have been taking it easy on him (I think they’ve been alternating him and Will Nieves, their other catcher, although I expect them to slowly increase Pudge’s playing time), but they will have the DH at their disposal in this series should they want to use him there. He’s been hot since coming off the DL, and he’s been hot pretty much all season (he has the highest batting average of any of the Nationals). At any rate, Max Scherzer will be the one to face him tonight. He had his start bumped up when they announced Rick Porcello would have his start skipped. He pitched well enough to win in his last start against Chicago, but the Tigers were shut out. He doesn’t have much history against any of the Nationals (4 plate appearances at most), but Adam Dunn is 3-3 with two home runs (in case you’re wondering, Pudge is 0-2 with a strikeout, and I know for a fact that those at-bats came when Pudge was still with the Tigers). The Nationals counter with lefty John Lannan. He has an earned run average over five, but he’s never faced the Tigers before. In fact, the only Tiger who has faced him before is Johnny Damon, who is 2-4 with a double and a home run. And I’d appreciate a win because this is the last full game I’ll be able to watch until Saturday at least.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

No Matter the Name...

Photo: AP

It was an exciting game as the Stars downed the Crawfords in extra innings. I thought Jeremy Bonderman did a real nice job in his seven innings of work. Joel Zumaya got hung with the blown save, though that was more a direct result of getting outhustled by Jose Tabata, who showed a lot of guts in that inning. The rest of the bullpen was pretty much smooth sailing, with Jose Valverde especially looking impressive by striking out the side.

For most of the night the offense had issues getting runs home. Some of it was due to inconvenient strikeouts. Some of it was not their fault. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Gerald Laird crushed a ball to deep right center that got run down by Ryan Church. It scored a run, but Guillen got thrown out at third. So after kind of killing that rally (and hitting into a double play with the bases loaded later), Guillen ended up the hero with his walk-off shot (good timing, because I had just mentioned the walk-off home run he hit against the Yankees at 3:30 in the morning).

Back to being the Tigers and Pirates, the boys in the home whites will try to go for the sweep this afternoon. Armando Galarraga makes his first home start since his perfect game, and I’d imagine he’ll get a really warm reception. He certainly pitched well enough to win his last start. He came away with a no-decision, but it was a Tigers victory. He also provided the most entertaining moment of last night’s game, after the Tigers scored the two runs on the error (jumping up and down and pounding Jeremy Bonderman on the head). He faced the Pirates last year, and it wasn’t pretty. He gave up four runs on eight hits in just two innings of work. It looks as though most of the guys that did the damage in the game are now gone, because there aren’t many current Pirates with hits against him (The most anyone’s seen him is six times, though). But, as usual, I’m nervous for him, because again, I want him to do well. The Pirates counter with righty Jeff Karstens, who had the dubious distinction of going up against Steven Strasburg in his debut. Karstens actually was in line for the win until he gave up some late runs to the Nationals. I don’t know much about what he features, but I do know that he’s just about a complete unknown to Tiger hitters. The only Tiger he’s faced? Max Scherzer. And I’m pretty sure we will not be seeing Scherzer in this game. There’s a very good chance that Magglio will not be in the lineup again, as the current plan is to rest him until Tuesday. I would imagine Alex Avila would be back in there (which isn’t all bad, since he and Galarraga have worked very well together). Oh, and by the way, I AM GOING TO THIS GAME! Your Mood Music for today: Well, I can’t have the Pirates come to town and not play this. Enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Outsmarting the Smart Guy

Photo: AP

While most of you were stuck in a soccer hangover, I was enjoying a Tigers win. I’ll believe Justin Verlander when he said his fastball command was all over the place. He walked quite a few and there were some loud outs, but combine the fact that he has some of the best raw stuff in baseball with the fact that the Tigers have been playing defense the way I know they’re capable of playing and it only added up to giving up two runs, one of which came after Phil Coke gave up a base hit. Austin Jackson made a spectacular catch in deep right center, and Don Kelly made a nice catch in the seats against Neil Walker (His brother-in-law later returned the favor).

The Tigers couldn’t do much against Ross Ohlendorf early, and then a solo shot by Brennan Boesch that went a really long way kind of opened the flood gates. I knew very little about the stuff that Ohlendorf features, but I do know that he’s smart, and the way you defeat smart people is to get them to overthink the situation (I think this is what got Galarraga in trouble a lot last year; you could tell that’s what he was doing whenever he got really slow on the mound). I know this because I myself am prone to this weakness. Just about every smart person has this weakness. At any rate, the Tigers were able to do that in the sixth inning. They had him making multiple throws over to first and taking a long time on the mound, and he finally made a mistake to Santiago and paid for it. All the Tigers runs scored with two outs and there was a lot of contribution from the bottom of the order. Miguel Cabrera went 0-4 again, which wasn’t real pleasant to watch, but his slumps usually don’t last too long. I think he misses having Magglio in the lineup, though.

Tonight is the Negro Leagues Tribute game, and so it’ll be the Detroit Stars against the Pittsburgh Crawfords (or, if you’re Ryan Field, the Pittsburgh Keystones). It’s been a really long time since Jeremy Bonderman pitched with the throwback uniform. I’m pretty sure he had it in 2005, then Justin Verlander had it for three straight seasons, and then last year it was Armando Galarraga (and I’d like to point out the irony of having a white guy be the starting pitcher for the Negro Leagues game in at least 5 of the last 6 seasons). Bonderman got lit up in his last start, which was against the Royals. He last pitched against the Pirates in 2006, but he’s only seen four of the current crop. Meanwhile, Pittsburgh sends their ace to the mound in lefty Paul Maholm. And he is a very good pitcher. The Tigers probably won’t have such an easy time of it tonight. The only two who have seen him before are Miguel Cabrera and Johnny Damon.  

Friday, June 11, 2010

I Still Feel Shortchanged

As it turns out, I finished my exam early enough that I was able to get home in time to watch the game, although it didn’t exactly bring the thrill I was looking for. Max Scherzer had an outing very similar to Jeremy Bonderman’s last week against Cleveland. He looked real good, but his downfall was the inability to keep the ball in the ballpark. Then there was the matter of the squeeze play pitchout that he didn’t pitch out on (Seriously, I knew the squeeze was coming there. Scherzer should not have been caught off guard by the call). However, his outing was real encouraging (and to tell you the truth, Omar Vizquel’s home run probably would not have reached the warning track at Comerica Park).

I was a little surprised by the fact that John Danks had not beaten the Tigers since 2008, since he usually pitches well against them. That was certainly the case yesterday. There were only three hits, singles from Guillen, Laird, and Inge. There were quite a few walks, however, but nothing ever came of them. I mean they had Miguel Cabrera in the right situation, with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth with a 3-2 count, and he struck out on a changeup in the dirt. Cabrera only ended up with one hit in the entire series (and again, for his sake, he needs to do better against White Sox pitching). I think the absence of Magglio from the lineup hurt them a lot, especially yesterday, because he had insane numbers against Danks. The last report on him was that he was going to be examined by the team doctor once he got back to Detroit. And according to Mario and Rod, this all started back in Kansas City, where it was really hot and he didn’t drink enough fluids. And dehydration is bad for muscles. Sadly, all this trouble could have been avoided with some simple Gatorade.

And so now the Tigers head home and Interleague play starts up again. First up are the last-place Pittsburgh Pirates. They seem to be in the midst of another losing season, but the Tigers will face their best pitcher in the series. That’s tomorrow, though. Tonight they’ll see Ross Ohlendorf, who has pitched reasonably well recently but still has yet to get his first win of the season. The fun fact they like to spread about him is that he’s smart (I still say that Galarraga is the smartest Tiger pitcher, though I have no definitive evidence to back that up). He did beat the Tigers last year. And the individual pitcher vs batter matchups aren’t all that encouraging. Granted, no one has more that five at-bats against him, but only two Tigers have hits against Ohlendorf. Miguel Cabrera has a single, and Don Kelly has a double. It looks as though everyone else got outsmarted. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander was sensational against Kansas City, and he’s been sensational in Interleague play to the tune of a 9-1 record. He has never faced the Pirates before. He has seen three of their hitters, all of whom spent time in the American League: Akinori Iwamura, Bobby Crosby, and Ronny Cedeño. Your Mood Music for tonight: It seems that the World Cup is starting and there are more American soccer fans than there should be, leading Tiger fans everywhere to utter such blasphemies as opining that soccer is better than baseball. To me, soccer merely exists, though it was kind of fun to play on my friend’s Super Nintendo when I was a kid. Nevertheless, I’ll be nice and play “Cup of Life,” which I’m pretty sure is about soccer, even though you really can’t tell from the music video (and the song is different from the mp3 I have of it, oddly enough).

Thursday, June 10, 2010

That Didn't Take Long

Short post today because I have an exam in two hours that I still have to study for. I am amazed at the speed at which this game tanked. Shortly before I left work, I checked in on my mini-radio. The game was tied 1-1, Boesch had just been robbed of a home run and Guillen had just singled. I then helped close up shop and headed out to my car. That took no longer than five minutes. By the time I got to my car, the score was 7-1. Seriously, how do you give up that many runs in less than five minutes? Generally, if you’re going to give up six runs, it takes twenty minutes at least. And there’s usually walks involved. But this time there weren’t. And Rick Porcello’s balls-to-strike ratio was excellent. So anyways, all I got of his outing was the Gordon Beckham double that chased him, but all signs were good for the first three innings. I wonder if something changed in his delivery that caused the fourth inning to be disastrous. A lot of people have called for him to be sent down, although with the off-day next Monday, the Tigers could conceivably skip his next start and have him work through a couple of extended bullpen sessions like they did with Galarraga (Hey, the guy threw a perfect game after those extended bullpen sessions, so don’t knock ‘em). And call me crazy, but I actually thought they had a shot at overcoming the deficit up until the bullpen implosion of the eighth inning. It think it might have been the Miguel Cabrera home run that gave me that outlook, since he rarely ever homers in a blowout loss (I don’t know why; it just seems that way, so I’ll have to look that up later).

Today the Tigers wrap up the road trip, and they’re facing John Danks, who has been the best starter for the White Sox, although he has struggled in his last two starts. The Tigers usually don’t do much against him, though they have beat him in a couple of pitching duels before. There are a few Tigers with good numbers against Danks, particularly Magglio, who is back in the lineup today (14-for-23 with four doubles and 2 home runs). Guillen and Laird have also hit him well (though they don’t have nearly the number of at-bats that Maggs does). Max Scherzer will be making his first start ever against the White Sox. He did really well against the Athletics, and then not so well against the Royals. The only two White Sox batters he’s faced before are Juan Pierre and Mark Kotsay, and they didn’t see him that much. One other note from last night is that Ryan Perry has been placed on the DL and the Tigers have called up Enrique Gonzalez, who is a starter in Toledo. The only reason I would think they’d call up a starter and not a reliever like Jay Sborz is that Eddie Bonine is not going to be available for several days and they used Brad Thomas on Tuesday, so they may be in need of a long man. Meanwhile, I will be taking an exam when this game starts, so I will be baseball-deprived again.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Follow-Up

Photo: AP

Any thought of a repeat of last Wednesday’s performance vanished with the first batter of the night for Armando Galarraga, but I thought he more than held his own in this game (By the way, I'd like to congratulate the AP for getting a decent photo of him, because that doesn't happen very often). It’s a shame he couldn’t go one more inning and get himself the win (And he certainly pitched well enough to win). I think the 10-pitch at-bat by Mark Kotsay that resulted in the two-run homer took a lot out of him, because after that he wasn’t quite as sharp and his pitch count got up quickly. He gave up seven hits, but I’d say only about three of those were hit hard. All in all, I’d say it was a good start. And I don’t think the hoopla over his perfect game is done just yet. I’m guessing he’ll get quite a reception when he makes his next home start (speaking of which, I give lots of props to the White Sox fans who gave him the standing ovation when he took to the mound). And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the good work put in by the bullpen, which had started to slide a little in recent weeks. Brad Thomas, Joel Zumaya, and Jose Valverde all did their part in this Tigers win (And the pitchers used certainly represented a multicultural affair: Venezuela, Australia, the United States, and the Dominican Republic all made an appearance).

True to form, the Tigers didn’t really do a lot against Gavin Floyd. I mean, I can’t remember many times that they did get to him. But things changed once the bullpen was brought in, and all of a sudden it was like we were back watching the beginning of the season. Things weren’t looking too positive before the game once Magglio Ordoñez was scratched with a sore oblique, but Ryan Raburn came up big, hitting a double off Floyd (one of the few Tigers with good numbers against him, as I pointed out) and scoring the first run, and then knocking in the game-tying run and setting up the error which scored the go-ahead run. After that, Boesch and Guillen teamed up to pour it on. Boesch has been impressive in that a lot of his best swings have come against hard-throwing lefties. I remember him doing damage against Jon Lester and CC Sabathia and now he’s touched up Matt Thornton.

Tonight the Tigers will turn to Rick Porcello as they attempt to take the advantage in this series (and assure themselves of at least a .500 road trip). Porcello got into the six inning in his last start but he had given up six runs (though only three were earned). His sinker is still not sinking with consistency, but he has been better recently at pitching around the extra baserunners. He has not had much success against the White Sox in his career, though this will be his first time pitching at the Cell. The White Sox will counter with Freddy Garcia, who has actually been their most reliable starter recently and whom the Tigers rarely solve at the best of times. No word on whether or not Maggs will play tonight, and I’ll be at work so I’ll have to find out once I’m home.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Armando Galarraga Link Page

For interested parties, here is a list of news stories, audio clips, and video clips related to Armando Galarraga’s 28-out perfect game from June 2, 2010. This is an incomplete list (I’ve scoured as much as time will allow me, even finding stuff in shows I don’t watch or like, such as “The View,” but I know I didn’t get everything; for instance, I know Galarraga was on “The Early Show” but I can’t find video of it), and it will be in the order in which I found the links, not in chronological order (I will try to make note of the date of the story or interview wherever possible). Also, there are certain video or audio clips that I just can’t link to because there is no permanent link. I will update this page as I find more stuff, and if you find something that is not on this page, please leave a link in the comments. Please let me know if a link is broken as well.

Fox Sports Detroit “Perfect Game” page (Lots of stuff here!)
DetNews: Tigers to Send Items to Hall of Fame (6/5)
Galarraga’s phone interview with ESPN (6/2; video)
NPR’s Interview with Drew Sharp (6/3; transcript + audio link)
NPR Interview with Don Denkinger (6/3; transcript + audio link)
Galarraga and Leyland Interviews the next day (June 3; DetNews video)
Discussion on “The View” (6/3; video; It’s the very first thing they talk about)
Keith Olbermann interviews Jennifer Granholm and Ken Burns (6/3; video)
NPR: Give Galarraga His Perfect Game (6/3)
NPR’s Scott Simon on Weekend Edition (6/5; transcript + audio link)
Bill Geist on CBS Sunday Morning (6/6; transcript)
Galarraga is in Baseball Almanac’s list of unofficial perfect games (6/3)
Freep: Senate Majority Leader Praises Galarraga, Joyce (6/7)
Galarraga’s Interview on CNN (6/5; article + video)
Galarraga Named AL Player of the Week (6/7)
Freep: Hall of Fame Happy to get Armando Galarraga Artifacts (6/7)
Freep: Galarraga, Joyce offer “teachable moment” (6/8)
DetNews: Armando Galarraga seeks to stay good (6/8)
Freep: State House honors Galarraga (6/8)
Galarraga honored by Congressman John Dingell on the House Floor (6/9; video)
Freep: The Mistake that keeps on giving (6/10)
ESPN: Galarraga Ready For the Next Chapter (6/9)
Transcript of Galarraga's Online Chat with Fans (6/16; he answers my question)

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Oblivious Weekend

Okay, the “game recap” part of this post will be short, because all I saw was the ninth inning. The “next game preview” part of the post might not be (for obvious reasons; it depends on how much I feel like rambling). At any rate, I did not see much baseball at all over the weekend (and I didn’t see any winning baseball, for what it’s worth). I did learn that AM 1470 has an incredibly weak signal. Most Toledo radio stations can be picked up as far as Carey, Ohio (which is about an hour from where I live), but I got nothing but static out of 1470 until I was about 20 minutes away from home. By then it was the bottom of the seventh and everything was pretty much a lost cause. Therefore, I can’t tell you anything about what Jeremy Bonderman did. I’m also not sure if there’s anything to extrapolate from the offense. I mean, when was the last time they actually scored a bunch of runs off Brian Bannister? Bannister was hot already (this was his fifth straight win), and they can’t do anything against him when he’s not, so that seemed like a lose-lose scenario from the get-go. If there’s something to complain about, it’s that they didn’t do anything against Bruce Chen.

So after having virtually no baseball for an entire weekend, I now have to sit through an off-day. I don’t find the draft to be all that interesting (therefore, expect little to no discussion of it on this blog), and I find discussing the departure of Adam Everett to be even less interesting (though I will give him props for taking the news exceptionally well). So I’m not gonna get much until tomorrow. The Tigers will be in Chicago for a three-game series that I completely skipped over in my mind until the road trip started (Seriously, I thought the next series was at home against the Pirates). Hopefully that’s not some sort of premonition that this series will be “forgettable.” And tomorrow night is the moment that everyone’s waiting for, as Armando Galarraga makes his first start since his perfect game (I can call it that if I want to). Since I liked Armando long before it was cool to like him, I’m going to be really nervous for him. I’m somewhat concerned that all the media coverage he’s had over the past week will negatively affect his performance (That many TV and newspaper interviews probably aren’t part of his normal routine). At the same time, I’m still enjoying the outpouring of love for him and the example that he’s set. As for this start, well, he’s not going to pitch a perfect game. That much is certain. He will give up some hits, and he will likely give up some runs, and as long as he doesn’t give up too many, that’s okay. The White Sox offense has struggled all year with the exceptions of Alex Rios and Paul Konerko, but I’m not going to delve into that beyond mentioning it because they have no problems scoring runs against the Tigers, no matter who the pitcher is. Galarraga’s got a very strange line against them. His ERA is over five, but as a group, White Sox hitters are batting .196 against him (Paul Konerko has given him the most trouble, hitting at a .429 clip). He faced one batter in a relief appearance in 2008, walked him and ended up taking the loss. His first start against them in 2009 was stellar, shutting them out. That was at Comerica Park. He’s made two starts at U.S. Cellular Field, one bad, one okay. The last time he saw them he was pitching out of the bullpen near the end of last season. He gave up a couple runs, but if I remember correctly, they were mostly on jam shots that were muscled into the outfield. The Cell might not be the best place for him to pitch, though, simply because he’s prone to giving up home runs and that’s a very homer-friendly ballpark. One interesting thing to note is that prior to Wednesday, Leyland was going to skip Galarraga through this turn of the rotation because of the off-day. Obviously, there’s no way he can do that now. On the other side of things, the White Sox rotation has one of the worst ERAs in baseball, but I’m thinking that’s deceptive because their rotation should be far better than it has been (kind of like the Tigers). Gavin Floyd is one of those pitchers. His ERA is over six, but he’s 5-0 career against the Tigers and they’ve really only gotten to him once (that was all the way back in 2007, the first time they faced him and the Tigers still lost that game). He was the Pavano Effect before there was a Pavano Effect. Miguel Cabrera does not hit him well (.231), and neither does Brandon Inge (.167), but Ryan Raburn (.391) and Johnny Damon (.625) do.

Also, I’ll give you a heads-up: I’m going to be compiling a list of links to various stories and interviews related to Galarraga’s perfect game (I should have done this after Verlander’s no-hitter as well, but I did not). That post will be up either tonight or tomorrow before the game (because if he doesn’t pitch well and I post it after the game, it kind of loses steam).