Thursday, September 30, 2010

Limping Out of Cleveland

That wasn’t exactly how I wanted our top two pitchers to end their seasons. Max Scherzer didn’t have very good command. He had quite a few three-ball counts and threw a lot of pitches in five innings. Travis Hafner certainly proved in this series that he could hit hanging changeups. He homered off both Galarraga and Scherzer, both of whom threw him a hanging changeup, and if he’d been in the lineup for the night game and Verlander had thrown him a hanging changeup, he’d have homered off that too (as it was, Verlander threw a hanging changeup to Jayson Nix, who hit an RBI single off it). On a side note, the fifth inning was a problem for all three starting pitchers in this series. Anyways, Jim Leyland said that Scherzer was rusty because he was pitching on eight days’ rest. There’s no way to test that theory, because the next time we see Scherzer (other than in the background of a shot of the dugout), it’ll be spring training, so we’ll have to take his word for it. Meanwhile, Justin Verlander had good stuff, but the mistakes he made were capitalized on and he got outdone by the suicide squeeze. I’m not sure how. The Tigers sniffed out the squeeze, Laird got out of his crouch, Verlander threw a 97 MPH fastball that was nearly over Trevor Crowe’s head and Crowe was still able to get the bunt down. However, Verlander did leave me with some good memories of his seventh inning. With the bases loaded, he struck out Crowe and Choo rather impressively. His last seven pitches were all at 100 MPH or higher. As he said, no sense in leaving anything in the tank (and by the way, it’s moot now, but had Verlander won, Leyland said he would have indeed considered letting him start Sunday on short rest, but that won’t happen now).

There was not much to speak of in terms of offense, and maybe the absence of Miguel Cabrera had something to do with that, but the others have shown that they can score runs and win games without him in the lineup (they can’t do that for a sustained period of time, of course, but they could certainly do it sufficiently for a week-long stretch or so). Ryan Raburn did a nice job in the cleanup spot, going 4-for-8 with an opposite field 2-run home run, but obviously he is nowhere near anyone’s first choice for an ideal cleanup hitter. Cabrera’s not even with the team anymore. He apparently got sent home early yesterday afternoon, and that makes sense. There’s no point in him traveling around with the team right now. But without him, it seems like the team’s soul is gone. I’m just not sensing a lot of passion or fire from the other guys. Still, life has to go on. I did notice there were a lot of instances in the series where the Tigers ran themselves out of innings, oddly enough. There was that botched hit and run in the first game of the series, then yesterday there was a line drive double play with the runner going, as well as a couple of caught stealings. They did hit the ball harder against Josh Tomlin than they did against Mitch Talbot, but they didn’t do anything against the Indians’ bullpen.

The Tigers’ final series of the year will have to wait, as game one of the series in Baltimore has already been rained out thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole. They will play yet another straight doubleheader tomorrow (personally, I don’t care what gets played when so long as I get to see Galarraga’s start). Jeremy Bonderman will start the first game. It could well be his final start as a Tiger (there might be a couple of those in this series). His last start didn’t go so well. He gave up three home runs including a grand slam, and seven runs overall. He has not faced the Baltimore Orioles since April of 2007 (I actually remember that game. He got into a shouting match with Miguel Tejada, the benches cleared, and Gary Sheffield later hit the angriest home run I have ever seen). Rick Porcello, who starts game two, is coming off a terrific start against the Twins (he ended up bookending the home portion of the schedule, as he started the home opener and the final game).

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