Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Mess in Texas

That was almost like playing a west coast game, what with all the strange things that happened. There was sloppy play by both teams, but in the end, the Rangers’ bullpen outlasted the Tigers’. Jeremy Bonderman seemed to be fighting himself from the get-go, but looked as though he’d found somewhat of a rhythm when the first of two really questionable umpiring calls happened. David Murphy hit a long fly ball that to me (in real time) looked as though it hooked just foul and bounced off the facing of the upper deck in foul territory. The numerous replays they showed us on Fox Sports Detroit seemed to confirm what I initially saw. However, the umpires upheld their call of home run, saying that it went over the foul pole before it hooked foul. I can’t see any point at which it did that, but regardless, either the call or the long delay seemed to fluster Bonderman because he fell apart after that, hitting Vladimir Guerrero and allowing two more runs after that (Inge made an error that scored the tying run, but Bonderman didn’t help his own case since he had the hit batter and two walks). Robbie Weinhardt became the victim of a Will Rhymes error and ended up being the losing pitcher. He was also victimized by the other really bizarre umpiring call. Ian Kinsler took what appeared to be a pitch down the middle for strike three, so much so that he started walking back to the dugout, but it was ruled a ball (it was a really strange strike zone all night). He promptly singled in a run on the next pitch. Eddie Bonine gave up four runs on a bloop single, two consecutive bunt base hits, a bases-clearing double, a groundout, and a sac fly, but the strange thing is that each of those occurred on the first pitch of the at-bat, so the four runs happened very quickly.

Derek Holland (who I forgot to mention is from Newark, Ohio, which is right near where I went to college) had some wildness problems of his own. For the most part, the Tiger hitters were patient, made him throw a lot of pitches, and scored a few runs off him (a lot of them were of the manufacturing variety). But once Dustin Nippert came in, the offense shut down. They really could not get anything going against him. Miguel Cabrera had a particularly rough night at the plate, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts (he was also not happy with the strike zone). The lone bright spot of the night was that Casper Wells had four hits, although Scott Sizemore looked pretty good at the plate as well before getting pinch-hit for in the sixth. The Rangers had some defensive issues, too, but theirs ended up not hurting them as much.

I would have a discussion of this in its own post if not for the fact that school is getting in the way of blogging, but next year’s schedule has been posted. For the first time that I can remember (and one way or another, I’ve learned all the Opening Day matchups since 2004), the Tigers will face an opponent other than the Royals or Blue Jays on Opening Day. And it won’t be on a Monday. Instead, they’ll open the season on Thursday, March 31st at Yankee Stadium (with all the stress that causes, at least they’ll get it out of the way early). The home opener will be April 8th against the Royals. Their west coast trips are rather spread out, unfortunately. The Interleague schedule is largely against the NL West, with the Pirates and Mets thrown in just for fun. The Tigers will be paying a visit to PNC Park, Coors Field (shame it’s not the other way around), and Dodger Stadium, while the Diamondbacks, Mets, and Giants will come to Comerica Park. The Tigers will get the “long” All-Star Break again, and will be on the road a LOT in August (they’ll only be home for one Saturday in August, much to my frustration). However, they’ll be at home quite a bit in September, and they do end the season at home (on a Wednesday, which seems wrong somehow). I will go into a deeper analysis of the schedule if I can, but it’ll have to wait until my workload gets a little lighter.

This short two-game series concludes tonight. Colby Lewis will start for the Rangers. He’d struggled somewhat in the second half, losing seven consecutive decisions before bottoming out and giving up nine earned runs to the Twins. However, he was very good in his last start, going 6.1 innings against the Blue Jays, giving up only one run and striking out eight. He’s pitched against the Tigers twice this year already and has a win and a loss. In both games, he gave up four earned runs. Meanwhile, Rick Porcello was supposed to start tonight, and probably could have, but with the injured tendon in his finger, they are holding him back until Monday as a precaution (much to the chagrin of the Fox Sports Detroit programming people, who had a story about Porcello’s season for the pregame show tonight). Instead, Armando Galarraga (who was supposed to be skipped) will get the call. He’s coming off a start against Baltimore in which he pitched well but ended up with a no-decision, and this has left him increasingly frustrated (His lament over his lack of wins has drawn the ire of some of the folks at Bless You Boys, which I think was somewhat of an overreaction on their part, and they are now trying to turn it into a running gag, which I don’t appreciate, but I have found over the years that one of the best ways to piss off a sabremetrics geek is to place any sort of value on wins or saves; meanwhile, all the other news sites and blogs have seemingly moved on). It’s true that the Tigers have not scored many runs while he’s been the pitcher of record (though there have been many games where they’ve scored late in a tie game to give a reliever a win or they’ve bailed him out of being the tough-luck loser). I, for one, sympathize with him, but I’m concerned that his frustration over lack of run support will cause him to try too hard to pitch a shutout, which would probably end in disaster. And his old team has given him a somewhat tough time the last couple times he’s seen them. He’s faced them once this year. He went 7.1 innings and gave up four earned runs, although three of those runs came very early and he did settle down and pitch well after that. But the Rangers lineup is red-hot right now and it’s not easy for any pitcher to get through them. He can’t be timid, he has to trust his stuff, he has to go right after the hitters, he can’t pitch to “prevent” runs, he can’t get frustrated over giving up home runs (because odds are he will give up one or two in that ballpark) and he can’t start overthinking (this guy is quickly becoming the poster boy for the impact that psychology can have on one’s baseball ability).    

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