Monday, August 30, 2010

Cruising to a Split

Photo: Reuters

After only seeing every other game in this series, I’m glad I got to see a win. Rick Porcello pitched very, very well. Actually the pitching staff as a whole did a good job holding down the Blue Jays’ offense, with the exception of Alfredo Figaro. Even Jose Valverde didn’t pitch as badly as his final line indicated. Sure, he hung a splitter that got clobbered for a three-run homer, but the two hits that preceded it consisted of an Astroturf-aided infield single and a broken bat bloop (the hit that followed the home run was also a bloop). Sometimes the box score doesn’t tell the whole story (a lot of times, actually).

Runners in scoring position weren’t exactly a problem in this game. Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI double in the first inning and then they scored a bunch of runs late. Ryan Raburn led the way with two home runs and four RBIs. Casper Wells also had a big day with three RBIs including a big two-run double with the bases loaded to blow the game open a bit. Brandon Inge homered as well, which is what led to the strange-looking picture I posted for today.

The Tigers are off today, but tomorrow the road trip shifts to Minnesota, and the Twins have decided not to lose ever again. For the second year in a row, Justin Morneau has missed significant time with an injury and the Twins have defied logic and played better without him. At that rate, their whole team could go down with injury and their single A team would come up and win a hundred games. But if the Tigers want to make some noise, they have to win as many games as they can against them. That’s not going to be easy. All three games are going to be difficult, but the first will probably be the most challenging. Armando Galarraga has now had two very good starts in a row, but his struggles against the Twins are well-documented and he knows about it more than anyone. And I think that may be half his problem at this point. Because he’s aware of his bad history against Minnesota, I think he has a tendency to psych himself out before he even takes the mound. A lot of the Twins have good numbers against him (Joe Mauer’s got a whopping ten RBIs) and one of his big problems is not throwing strikes, because he’s given up quite a few walks to Twins hitters. Somehow, he has to figure out how to build on the confidence he’s gained from his last two starts and push the team he’s now facing out of his mind. Meanwhile, Brian Duensing is one of those pitchers I just can’t figure out. He doesn’t seem to have lights-out stuff (although his velocity is decent for a lefty), but his ERA is ridiculously low. I haven’t gotten a good scouting report from anyone telling me he has a wicked slider or changeup or anything like that. Pitch f/x suggests that his pitches have a lot of movement on them, so it could be that. My only other theory at this time is that like Galarraga, Duensing is very smart (and though I’ve pointed out the psychological weakness of smart pitchers, it doesn’t look as though Duensing’s done a lot of overthinking in his career).

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