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.

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