Friday, September 3, 2010

Good, Bad, AND Ugly

Photo: AP

Perhaps the fact that this was a night game (as I had discussed yesterday) made it destined to be strange. I have no idea what to make of Justin Verlander’s performance. For one thing, I only saw half his outing (it was the bottom of the fourth when I got home). For another thing, he didn’t really get any help from his friends. The defense on both teams was terrible, especially when it came to trying to turn double plays. Verlander got victimized by it and ended up surrendering three unearned runs. Jose Valverde later got hung with a blown save that really wasn’t his fault (he got really squeezed on the leadoff walk, and once he struck out Joe Mauer, he got two consecutive game-ending double play balls that weren’t turned). However, after that Valverde pitched really well without incident, although he probably won’t be available for the next couple days.

The Tigers offense likewise took advantage of some defensive miscues by the Twins. They had two RBI groundouts on what should have been double play balls. The second of the two came off the bat off Miguel Cabrera, who left the game shortly thereafter with biceps tendinitis. He doesn’t seem to think it’s serious, but it was adversely affecting his swing, and he is not in tonight’s lineup. The guy who replaced him in the lineup was Casper Wells, who did his best job impersonating Cabrera and picked a good time to hit his first big league home run. Just about everyone in the lineup contributed at some point, whether they started the game or came in later (and almost everyone was in the game at some point; Max St. Pierre was the lone Tiger remaining on the bench). The Tigers ended up hitting five home runs (in contrast, all the Twins’ hits were singles). Gerald Laird ended up being the final hero of the night by hitting the home run that put the Tigers in front for good. He now has more home runs at Target Field than Joe Mauer has. And they did a nice job screwing up the Twins’ pitching staff, because the Twins lost Scott Baker after two innings, so they burned their long man early, and they had two use two of their other starters in extras, including Nick Blackburn, who was supposed to start tonight. The Texas Rangers should be thanking them.

Tonight the road trip moves on to Kansas City and the Tigers can avoid Zack Greinke no longer. They haven’t seen him since Opening Day. He’s not had a particularly strong follow-up to his Cy Young year, but he’s pitched well in his last four starts and has gone eight innings in three of them. He may be finding his stride again, and without Cabrera in the lineup, it’s going to be even harder for the Tigers to get to him. The only two in the lineup with good numbers against him are Damon (7-for-20) and Laird (6-for-20). Jeremy Bonderman is pitching for the first time since the series with the Royals in Detroit. He suffered a ribcage injury and Alfredo Figaro took his spot for the last turn through the rotation. He won that start against the Royals rather easily, since the Tigers scored a bunch of runs for him.

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