Monday, August 16, 2010

These Boys Still Have Fight (In More Ways Than One)

Photo: AP

Oh, dear. This sure was a complicated game, wasn’t it? I was able to watch it on the archives (with numerous technical difficulties along the way), but I already knew the final score. Watching it live must’ve been nerve-wracking. I thought Armando Galarraga was better than he had been in his two prior starts. From a pitching standpoint, it looked as though he overcame some (but not all) of those psychological hurdles I discussed (By the way, it looks as though I was right about what was going on, because the Free Press published an article within hours of my post that basically confirmed what I had speculated). He was a lot more aggressive with his pitches, and was good at throwing the first-pitch strikes, and the pitch f/x chart had his slider (velocity vs. spin angle) looking more like it did in June. At the same time, he said he thought his slider was moving a little too well because he was having trouble throwing it for strikes. It’s unfortunate that his outing had to end the way it did. Still, I think there was much more about this outing that was positive than negative. One of the negatives actually happened in the dugout, when Galarraga got into a heated argument with Alex Avila and later Gerald Laird (especially unfortunate because that probably got played over and over on ESPN). The timing of it was particularly odd because the bottom of the first had been scoreless and fairly uneventful. We’re never going to find out the whole story of what was said or what the disagreement was, but I will say it seemed really out of character for Galarraga (and Avila, for that matter). Galarraga is usually known as one of the more easygoing members of the team, but I guess even the most mild-mannered person can only take so much frustration before it boils over and you lash out at someone for something miniscule (and I can speak from experience on that as well; I’ve had occasions where frustration has gotten the better of me and I’ve said and done things I’m not proud of). Still, Verlander and Laird (both of whom seem more fiery than Galarraga or Avila) had a shouting match in the dugout last year and it blew over rather quickly. I expect this to do the same, especially since it was so out of character. I just hope it doesn’t damage his reputation.

The offense was finally not handcuffed by the opposing pitching staff. The Tigers put on a pretty good display of power for a team that had not hit many home runs recently. It’s hard to narrow down some of the highlights. All I got to listen to during my lunch break was the seventh inning and the very beginning of the eighth, and so the only highlight I was able to listen to was Miguel Cabrera’s home run (which was a welcome sound; he’d been on quite a power drought). But he wasn’t the only one to homer on the day. Ryan Raburn went opposite field, and Jhonny Peralta has his second two-homer game in a Tigers uniform. The big blow was actually Johnny Damon’s two-run triple that gave the Tigers the lead for good, however. It seems like everyone (or, at least, every spot in the lineup) contributed to the win.

And just like that, the Tigers have finally won a road series for the first time since May (and the first one of three or more games since the very first series of the year). Now it’s time to venture into that pressure cooker known as Yankee Stadium for what will probably be four very long games. Tonight’s starter for the Tigers is Max Scherzer, who got outdueled by Jeremy Hellickson. Jason Beck had previously mentioned that Verlander would start tonight, leading me to think that they might want Verlander to pitch on regular rest, but alas, that is not the case (I’m going to the game on Saturday, which means whoever pitches tonight will pitch then, and I have nothing against Scherzer, but I like Verlander better). This will be his first ever start against the Yankees, although he has faced several of their hitters before, albeit not for many at-bats (the one who has seen him the most is Lance Berkman, who is 1-for-7). The Yankees will start Javier Vazquez, who has had kind of an up-and-down year, but he pitched well in his only other start against the Tigers this season (he took a tough-luck loss since Rick Porcello tossed a shutout). Since I tortured you with some good numbers that Magglio had against other pitchers, I will mention that he’s only 7-for-39 against Vazquez. The guys who have hit him the best are Cabrera (10-for-26 with three home runs) and Damon (8-for-24 with two home runs). This might be kind of an awkward series. It’ll be Johnny Damon’s first visit to Yankee Stadium since he left the Yankees, and it’ll be the first time the Tigers have to face Curtis Granderson (remember, he was on the DL when the Yankees were at Comerica Park), although it might not be as awkward tonight, since Granderson and Scherzer were never teammates. Granderson has not really had the kind of year the Yankees probably thought he would have. He was actually benched for a couple games recently so that their hitting coach could do some major surgery on his batting stance (I really have not seen much of Granderson at all this year, but I hear from those who have that he had returned to his pre-2006 batting stance prior to this retooling). He has been slightly hotter since, although he has had mini-hot streaks at various points during the season, but they haven’t lasted long and his batting average has hovered around .240 for most of the year. Still, that’s something to watch out for, and that book I had been reading (The Psychology of Baseball) says there is statistical evidence to suggest that players actually do tend to do better against teams that traded them. Your Mood Music for tonight: Ozzy Osbourne.

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