Monday, August 23, 2010

The Little Second Baseman Who Could

Photo: AP

Say what you will about sweeping a last place team, but isn’t that what you’re “supposed” to do? Justin Verlander was very, very good. I got the feeling that he wasn’t quite as sharp as his line may indicate, but it didn’t really matter. Also, I think the radar gun was a little slow all weekend. When I was there on Saturday, I didn’t see a reading above 92 MPH (granted, I didn’t look at every pitch), and Scherzer, Coke, and Valverde all throw a lot harder than that. Even on Friday, the TV radar gun was routinely clocking Armando Galarraga at 87/88 MPH, and he’s generally 90-91 with the fastball (Seriously, he wouldn’t have had such a good outing if his fastball was 87 and his slider was 86). That slow radar gun continued yesterday with Verlander on the mound. Slow radar or not, he went eight strong innings and looked impressive nonetheless.

After being victims to Jeanmar Gomez’s first major league win, the Tigers became the first team to truly victimize him. Granted, the offense got quite a bit of help from some bad play from the Indians’ defense (a lot of miscues went as base hits, but they could very easily have been errors), although Jayson Nix made two annoyingly spectacular catches (robbing Don Kelly both times). The star of the show was Will Rhymes. He had four hits and is quickly becoming a fan favorite, judging from the online reactions. I’d watched him quite a bit with the Mud Hens, and he’s doing pretty much what he’d been doing with them. He’s certainly got spunk (and there’s no way he’s 5’9”. I’ve stood close to him at Mud Hens games before. I am 5’8” and I am definitely taller than him). It was somewhat disappointing that they stopped scoring once the Indians’ bullpen took over, though.

With one sub-.500 team swept out of town, another sub-.500 team arrives in the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers haven’t seen them since early June, but those high hit totals the Royals put up against Detroit’s pitching staff is apparently no fluke. The Royals are still second in the league in hitting. However, they are only tenth in the league in slugging percentage and tenth in runs scored, which means that they hit a lot of singles. And they are the toughest team to strike out in the American League (granted, their offense is only 13th in walks drawn, so they truly do hit their way on). On the flipside, their pitching staff is dead last in team ERA, and the Tigers will not have to face Zack Greinke nor will they face Tiger-killer Brian Bannister, who is on the DL right now. Tonight, the Tigers will face lefty Bruce Chen, who beat the Tigers back in June. He’s been okay in most of his starts (with a few blowups mixed in there), but he usually only goes five innings, maybe six. Most of the Tigers haven’t seen much of him, and they haven’t done a lot in those limited meetings except Damon (10-for-19 with two home runs) and Cabrera (5-for-8 with two home runs). Jeremy Bonderman is coming off a rough start against the Yankees. He’s now had issues in three straight starts, and in his last two, he’s had a big problem keeping the ball in the ballpark (granted, those two starts were on the road in very home run-friendly parks). He’s only faced the Royals once this year, and gave up seven earned runs in 5.2 innings. The Royals who have given him the toughest time through the years are Yuniesky Betancourt (10-for-21 with two doubles) and Willie Bloomquist (5-for-9 with a triple). Also, Casper Wells is being called up, but there has not been an announcement yet of who he's replacing (word is that it is NOT trade-related).

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