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).

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