Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ninety Degree Marathon

Photo: Getty Images

Wow, Brandon Inge can jump. Anyways, you would have had to figure that the longest game the Tigers played this year would come on the hottest day of the year. This game really reminded me of how the season series has gone between these two teams for the last two years. It really shouldn’t have, because the Orioles’ offense is not as good as it was in 2008 and 2009. It seemed like Andy Oliver was 2-0 on just about every hitter, and on the rare occasion that he was ahead of a hitter, he struggled to put them away (Leyland was apparently annoyed with Avila for not trying to speed up the pace of the game). The onslaught continued against Eddie Bonine, and even Jose Valverde had some problems. I did notice that the Orioles’ hitters had what Rod Allen would probably call “a good approach.” They hit a lot of balls up the middle or the other way. Perhaps this is something to look out for tonight. As for Valverde, it seems counterintuitive that the only teams he’s given up runs to are the Royals, Pirates, and Orioles. On the surface, I’m not that worried. It was a non-save situation and if he’s going to have a rough outing, might as well be then. However, they got Enrique Gonzalez up very early on in the ninth (I think it was once the first two men reached, but at the time it was still a five-run lead), so I wonder if maybe there’s something going on that they haven’t told us about.

The Tigers’ offense, meanwhile, hit Kevin Millwood just about as hard as they did in spring training. His velocity seemed way down. I never characterized him as a hard thrower, but I swear he usually throws harder than 88 miles an hour. At any rate, just about every Tiger in the lineup had a good day. Brennan Boesch was the only one not to get a hit, and he walked four times. Brandon Inge had four RBIs. Guillen and Damon each had three hits (Damon is now one hit away from 2500 in his career). Cabrera had two doubles and reclaimed the RBI lead.

Tonight is the middle game of the series, and boy, I would love to win this one. The Orioles will start rookie Jake Arrieta. Obviously, none of the Tigers have seen him before (and neither have I), but his ERA currently sits at 5.81. Still, this will only be his sixth start. He started his career with two very good starts (against the Yankees and Giants), then struggled for two (against the Padres and Nationals), and then was okay his last time, giving up four runs (three earned) in six innings against Oakland. Meanwhile, Armando Galarraga is probably in need of a good start, even though I don’t think he pitched that badly against the Mets. He did not really pitch that well against the Twins in his last outing, though. He has not pitched well against the Orioles in his career, but a lot of the guys who pounded him in those games are either on the DL or are no longer with the Orioles (though Jake Fox is 4-4 with a home run, and the other four Orioles who have seen him have at least one hit as well; small sample size for all, though). However, in Galarraga’s lone rough start while he was with the Mud Hens, he got lit up by the Norfolk Tides for seven earned runs. The primary contributor to that was Orioles prospect Josh Bell (when I see that name, I think of a violinist named Joshua Bell, but I digress), who tagged him for a three-run homer and ended up with four RBIs against him (I think). Josh Bell is currently with the big club. He left Sunday’s game with leg cramps and did not play yesterday, so I am unsure of his status. He was supposed to be sent back down to Norfolk to make room for Felix Pie (who was supposed to come off the DL today), but last word was that he’s played too well so far, but at the same time, the Orioles bullpen has to be worn out, so they might need to get a pitcher. Still, even though those numbers don’t show up on the official record, Josh Bell knows what he’s done, Galarraga knows what he’s done, and my guess is that Juan Samuel knows what Josh Bell has done to Galarraga. Barring injury or demotion, I’d be a little surprised if he wasn’t in there somewhere. Another thing to consider is that it’s still supposed to be really hot tonight, and the heat has sapped Galarraga of his energy before. I don’t know if there’s any way to prepare for that or not (although he was wearing a sweatshirt during Saturday’s game, which I didn’t understand; he’s not as crazy as Jose Valverde, who was wearing a sweatshirt yesterday).  

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