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).

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

And Then There Was One

For a great deal of the season, the Tigers were a veritable powerhouse of Venezuelans, so much so that they earned their own nickname of the Venezuelan Mafia (And I can say with certainty that at least one of them knows about the nickname and the picture, thanks to JerseyTigerFan of Bless You Boys). At one point, the Tigers had five Venezuelans on their roster. While Enrique Gonzalez was not particularly prominent (he never even made it into the picture), the other four possessed some strong credentials: several All-Star appearances, a batting title, MVP candidacy, and a perfect game with a whole lotta class. But once the second half began, they started dropping like flies. Magglio’s season ended with a fractured ankle while sliding into home plate on July 24th. Carlos Guillen was lost for good about a month later when Brett Gardner slid into his knee. Enrique Gonzalez was designated for assignment and quietly faded away in Toledo. And now we have an answer to the question we hoped would never have one: Armando Galarraga is the last Venezuelan standing. My mention of high ankle sprains yesterday turned out to be prophetic, as that’s what has knocked Miguel Cabrera out of action for the remaining six games (I also woke up with a killer cramp in my right ankle, and I’ve never had ankle cramps before. I didn’t even know you could have ankle cramps). All I’ve seen as far as a timetable for recovery is that the article mentioned that the MRI revealed no major structural damage, which would seem to indicate a quicker recovery, just not fast enough with so little of the season remaining. Still, it’s not the way I wanted his season to end. As I said, I was excited at the prospect of him hitting forty home runs, and his RBI totals (and he was two away from establishing a career high in that category) might get passed by either A-Rod or Jose Bautista (or both). And these last six games just won’t be as much fun without him.

Okay, there is other business to attend to. Because of the rainout last night, the Tigers and Indians will play a “traditional” (i.e. you see two games for the price of one ticket, so it’s not done as often cuz ballparks don’t make as much money that way) doubleheader starting at 4:00 today. The pitching matchup for the first game is the same as it was last night, so no need to rehash that one. The second game features Josh Tomlin against Justin Verlander (in his last start of 2010, unless he wins tonight and can somehow talk Leyland into letting him start on Sunday). Both of them are coming off complete-game wins. Verlander was brilliant in his last start, and would have shut out the Twins if not for some untimely errors in the ninth that led to an unearned run. That was his second complete game in a row. Tomlin was beaten by the Tigers back on August 21st (I was at that game), but he has pitched decently in September. He has given up exactly three earned runs in every start he’s had this month except one, where he gave up six to the Royals. And so Tigers fans have a big block of baseball in store for them tonight. I do not know how I'm going to do this. I may do a brief post between games or I might do one big post tomorrow on both games.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not a Good Night For Venezuelans

I know, I know. I’m too compassionate for my own good. Strangely enough, I’m not nearly as depressed as I was after Armando Galarraga’s last loss. Still, I said he needed it. He didn’t get it, and as maddening as his struggles can be to some people, I’m sure he feels a hundred times more frustrated about it. Part of the problem (I think) is that it hasn’t been the same problem each time. It’s more like he’s alternated problems in these last three starts. In Texas, his stuff wasn’t there. Against Kansas City, his stuff looked good but he lost his nerve and didn’t trust himself. Last night was more like how things went in Texas. I noticed early on that his pitches just didn’t seem to be moving right (or, to paraphrase Leyland, they weren’t moving much at all). The Indians were hitting a LOT of pop-ups for the first four innings, and I didn’t think he was going to go the whole game without giving up a hit/run, because he normally has a much more equal distribution of ground ball to fly ball outs (maybe a little skewed towards fly balls, but not dramatically so). Once Matt LaPorta broke the seal with a home run, Galarraga was unable to stop the bleeding, which is also unusual, because while he is prone to giving up home runs, he generally doesn’t give up three in one inning. An outing like that makes me suspect a little bit that he’s not being honest about the elbow again. But regardless of the reason, the fact remains that the fifth inning bit him again. At least this time he was willing to talk to the media about it. There wasn’t a lot to be happy about, but it was nice to see him interviewed again. I hadn’t seen one with him in almost three weeks (I hadn’t seen so much as a quote from him in three weeks and I was starting to get concerned; up until then, he’d almost always been willing to talk about his starts, good or bad). He basically rehashed the fifth inning and said he wasn’t sure what went wrong because things went downhill so quickly. He also said he had to figure it out because he’s got one more start to get things right. I just hope he can, and that it’s not too late for him.

Things weren’t any better on the other side of the ball for the Tigers. They stranded a lot of runners early and then didn’t mount a comeback against the Indians’ bullpen. There were a couple of untimely double plays as well as a botched hit and run. I’m not sure how much stock you put into the analysis of Rod Allen, but his assessment was that the Tigers had some nice, patient at-bats when the bases were empty, but once there were runners in scoring position, they swung at bad pitches. Of course, all that pales in comparison to the loss of Miguel Cabrera, who sprained his ankle while trying to make it back to first base on a pickoff attempt from Luke Carlin (between that and the home run he hit off Galarraga, I wasn’t feeling too friendly toward Carlin by the end of the evening). I am unsure of his status other than the fact that x-rays were negative and he is not in tonight’s lineup, but I’m guessing it depends on the severity of the sprain (As an aside, how is it that Progressive Field doesn’t have an x-ray machine? I thought all ballparks had them on-site). Again, my schooling fails me, because we aren’t really taught orthopedics in pharmacy school, but I know of instances where guys suffered high ankle sprains in spring training and then missed the whole season. I suppose this is why it’s taking me so long to write this post, because I’m waiting for further word on whether this is the case for Cabrera, but if he has to miss the remaining six games, that can’t bode well for his MVP chances (let alone my near-certainty that he’d make it to forty home runs), because the Tigers’ most compelling argument was that Cabrera has stayed healthy while Josh Hamilton has missed almost the entire month of September. I suppose, if anything, this’ll help Robinson Cano’s case (that and the fact that the Yankees and Rays have yet to sort out who gets the division and who gets the wild card).

The series continues tonight, Venezuelan-less. Max Scherzer is coming off a strong start against Kansas City, where he shut them out. He beat the Indians the last time he faced them (I was there). That was at Comerica Park. He has not pitched well at Progressive Field so far. Mitch Talbot, on the other hand, has pitched strongly against the Tigers in two of his three starts against them this year (and the one in which he was somewhat roughed up happened all the way back in April). Two starts ago, he left the game without retiring a batter after suffering an injury. In his last start, he gave up three runs in five innings to the Royals and took the loss.

Monday, September 27, 2010

So Long Until Next Year, You Beautiful Ballpark

Photo: AP

It’s kind of sad that there will be no more baseball at Comerica Park when there is still a week left in the season. Nevertheless, they went out in impressive fashion. Rick Porcello had a nice bounceback start after his uneven performance against Kansas City. The only damage was a solo shot by Delmon Young on a hanging slider, but other than that, Porcello was on his game. He was so fluid it was almost subliminal. Before I even knew it, he had gone eight strong innings. Then in the ninth, we had a Jose Valverde sighting for the first time in what seemed like forever. And he looked good with a 1-2-3 inning, even though he seemed a little slower and less boisterous than usual.

Brian Duensing continues to mystify me by not pitching all that badly, but he did hang around long enough to give up five runs, all on home runs. The Twins’ 1-0 lead was short-lived, because in the bottom half of the inning, Ramon Santiago (who has gotten very little playing time recently) belted a three-run shot that probably took Duensing completely by surprise. Miguel Cabrera’s line-drive home run should not have taken anyone by surprise. He has now established a career-high in home runs and has a real strong chance at getting to forty for the season (He’s two away, and Camden Yards in particular is very home-run friendly). I’m kind of wondering if Cabrera’s family was in town for that series. He homered in each game, and each time he did, he would point and wave at someone in the stands. He’s done that before, and each time, he has politely refused to say who it was (That’s okay, though; it’s his right). The “MVP” chants that rang out through the crowd were awesome. After all that Cabrera went through at the end of this season, it is refreshing to see that he’s seemingly overcome his demons and that the city has, in turn, embraced him once again.

The Tigers now finish the season on the road. First up is a stop in Cleveland for three games. If the Tigers win just one of the games in this series, they will have secured a winning record against every team in the Central except Minnesota (against whom they went 9-9, which is a big improvement over the last couple years). The first pitcher they’ll face is Carlos Carrasco, who was the big acquisition in the Cliff Lee deal. The Tigers faced him a couple times late last year and beat up on him each time, but by all accounts, he’s much better this year. He’s gone at least six innings in each of his starts, and he’s not given up more than three earned runs in any start. Meanwhile, do I even have to say that Armando Galarraga needs a good outing? For four innings, it looked like he was going to get one against the Royals, but then everything fell apart for him with two outs in the fifth. And it’s not like the Royals bombed the ball against him in that inning. He basically hurt himself with walks and his own throwing error. At this point, I don’t think there’s any way he can guarantee himself a spot in next year’s rotation, but he can certainly hurt his cause if he doesn’t pitch well. You know by now that I badly want him to be in next year’s rotation but that I don’t think he’ll be with the Tigers for much longer. Right now, having that outlook isn’t making it any easier on me. I have an ability to (subconsciously and uncontrollably) mentally prepare myself for the departure of a beloved player (or, on a different level, the death of a loved one). For instance, I am very fond of both Magglio Ordoñez and Brandon Inge (and remember, I like Maggs better than I like Galarraga). I really, really don’t want to see them go, but I am mentally prepared for the possibility that they might not be back. But this mental preparation doesn’t always take place (and I can’t make it kick in). It didn’t happen with Pudge (even though I sensed that trade coming well in advance), and it’s currently not happening with Galarraga (there are others that it’s not happening for right now either, but those guys are not in danger of departing any time soon). At this point, I would be devastated if he got traded, claimed, non-tendered (which I don’t think will happen, but evidently Lynn Henning has been hinting that it will), or otherwise discarded. All this could potentially be avoided if he could just come up with the courage to trust his stuff (and I guess that is also a reflection of myself, because I also routinely overthink, second-guess myself, and battle confidence issues, so I suppose in some way I’d like some reassurance that those demons can be overcome). His struggles last time out left me emotionally drained and it took Justin Verlander’s masterpiece three days later to bring me out of that funk. But more than just me, I want a strong finish from him for his sake. I like him as a person, and I know he’s disappointed with how things have gone since the perfect game. I realize life’s not fair, but I still hate seeing bad things happen to good people. Hopefully, facing the Indians will give him a confidence boost, because he’s been dominant against them this year. But he’s got to stop being his own worst enemy.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Night of Milestones

Photo: AP

Nothing like a wild win on a Saturday night. There seemed to have been a lot of sentimentality around Jeremy Bonderman because it might be his last home start as a Tiger, but to say he didn’t have it would be an understatement (Bonderman’s not my favorite, but I’m certainly willing to give him his props when he pitches well; I have no props to give him this time). I only missed part of the first inning, but by the time I got home, he had already given up five runs. He did settle down for three innings, but once the Tigers gave him the lead, he served up long home runs to Jason Kubel and Danny Valencia, ending his night. This probably isn’t the best time to say this, and I have no justification in saying this other than player preference, but if Jeremy Bonderman is in the Tigers’ starting rotation next year and Armando Galarraga is not, I am going to be pissed. Anyways, things changed after Bonderman’s exit, because the bullpen was terrific. Even Eddie Bonine pitched better than his line indicates (He gave up three runs, but in that sequence, not a single ball left the infield). Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth were perhaps the most impressive. Perry retired every batter he faced, and Schlereth worked around a single, error, two intentional walks and a double steal to strike out Kubel and Valencia with the bases loaded.

Meanwhile, the Tigers offense hit Carl Pavano like they’ve never hit him before. If they’d have done a little more of that last year, they would’ve won the division. Going into last night’s game, none of the Tigers had ever homered against Pavano. They hit three home runs against him in the fourth inning. Alex Avila led off the inning with a solo shot. Don Kelly later hit a two-run homer, and after a Johnny Damon single, Miguel Cabrera absolutely launched one over the bullpens in left. Once the Tigers came back later to tie up the game against John Rauch, there wasn’t a whole lot of scoring after that. There also weren’t a whole lot of chances until the bottom of the 13th inning. After loading the bases with no out on two singles and an error, Brandon Inge came up the hero on a night where he became the Tigers’ franchise leader in strikeouts (which I don’t really care about as much as the haters do). He laced a single to right to score Cabrera and give the Tigers the win. Also of note is that Austin Jackson scored his 100th run of the season, putting him in rare company for a rookie.

And now for some lighthearted fare. Yesterday morning, a friend of mine and I had a very entertaining discussion on Twitter about which Wizard of Oz characters the members of the Tigers’ starting rotation would be. This is what we came up with: Jeremy Bonderman would be the Scarecrow (for obvious reasons), Max Scherzer would be the Tinman (He seems to be the most emotionless on the mound), Armando Galarraga would be the Cowardly Lion (He needs the courage to trust his stuff), Justin Verlander would be Dorothy (He has twelve wins at home as opposed to six on the road, and his home ERA is over two full runs lower), and Rick Porcello would be Toto (mostly by process of elimination, but he is the youngest of the group). We also decided that the Chicago White Sox would be the flying monkeys, and so by extension, that means Ozzie Guillen would be the Wicked Witch of the West. I want to hear him say “I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too,” just for kicks.

It is a sad day today, because it is the final home game of the season. Rick Porcello gets the ball today. He’s coming off a strange start against the Royals in which it looked like he was cruising and then ended up with five earned runs and a no-decision on his line. He hasn’t faced the Twins since early May, when he gave up five runs (three earned) in a Tigers loss. He’ll be up against Brian Duensing, who continues to pitch well and I don’t know why. He got a no-decision the last time he started against the Tigers in which he did not pitch badly (though he got outpitched by Armando Galarraga even though the Tigers bullpen gave it up later). He also made a relief appearance in an extra inning game in that series.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Justin Verlander Makes Everything Better

Photo: AP

Because I have to make this an abbreviated post (stupid work), there is no way I can do Justin Verlander’s performance justice. He was masterful, racking up eleven strikeouts and walking none. He said he didn’t have his changeup working, but with his fastball blazing and curveball dropping, he didn’t need it. I’ll fret about next year’s rotation later. For now, I’ll just enjoy Verlander.

Meanwhile, the Tigers’ offense took advantage of Liriano’s illness and a jetstream blowing out to left to hang some big-time runs on the board. Miguel Cabrera was the first to ride the jetstream with a two-run homer. After that, Liriano left with the flu or something (or he and Alexi Casilla had had some bad sushi). After that, the Tigers poured it on the Twins’ bullpen. Jhonny Peralta also rode the jetstream en route to a four-RBI night. Casper Wells didn’t need the jetstream. He hit a lined shot that would’ve gone out anyways.

Tonight continues the final home series. Jeremy Bonderman starts for the Tigers. The last time we saw him was the Joe Morgan changeup game in Chicago, where he dodged all sorts of baserunners but managed to go 5.2 innings. How he did that I’m not sure. Carl Pavano starts for the Twins, and he and his pornstache have been a pain. Between the two of them, it won’t exactly be an aesthetic pitching matchup.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Scherzer the Terminator

Photo: AP

First of all, I’d like to thank John Parent of Motor City Bengals for his supportive comments regarding my last post. He and I disagree as far as the issue of Armando Galarraga is concerned, but he is a really good blogger and if you’re not reading him, you should be. Last time I wrote about emotional attachments. While I have no particularly strong emotional attachment to Max Scherzer (who I still like, don’t get me wrong), I do enjoy it when he pitches well. And boy, did he pitch well last night. The Royals had put so many hits on the board in the first two games that they tied the Twins and Rangers for the league lead in team batting average. They are a bunch of singles hitters, but they showed in the first two games what they can do when they string a bunch of singles together. Scherzer overpowered them and nipped that in the bud. The only hitter to figure him out was Gregor Blanco, who got two hits off him while his teammates got none (Blanco later singled off Phil Coke and Billy Butler later homered). Now, Scherzer was not immune to the sudden rash of throwing errors that have plagued the Tiger pitchers recently, but he got himself out of it.

As good as Max Scherzer was, Kyle Davies was not bad himself. He was perfect until the fifth inning, when Miguel Cabrera laced a single to right field. That inning was really the only time Davies wobbled. He proceeded to give up a one-out single to Raburn and then a very nice-looking double to Brennan Boesch. He was later singled in by Brandon Inge. Davies then shut the Tigers down again until he gave up an RBI double to Johnny Damon in the eighth.

Sadly, the Tigers are now down to their final home series of the season and it’s against the Minnesota Twins. The Twins have already clinched the division (which is just as well, because I didn’t want any champagne parties in the Comerica Park visitor’s clubhouse). However, the Twins have a shot at the best record in the American League (which wasn’t “supposed” to happen) and so the Tigers still have the responsibility of preventing that. Francisco Liriano starts for the Twins. The Tigers have had a couple of games where they scored a bunch of runs against him, but the last time he saw him, he was typical Liriano against them (he did not win, but the Twins won in extras). Meanwhile, Justin Verlander is coming off a beautiful complete-game win against the White Sox in which he only had one wobbly inning. He was fantastic otherwise. I am really looking forward to his start (since there’s only two left, and this’ll be his last in those lovely home whites before next April).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Sometimes I Hate Blogging

There are times when I wish I didn’t care so much. Contrary to popular belief, I am generally not a very emotional person. Sure, I live and die with my team, but I’m usually able to stay level-headed and calmly assess what is going right or wrong. But perhaps because I’m not an emotional person, when I do emotionally invest in a player (as I do with about five guys currently on the team), it’s incredibly strong and I don’t know how to control it (What really scares me is that if I feel this strongly for guys I have never met, what are my actual personal relationships, platonic or otherwise, going to be like in the future?). As a reference point, the five guys I’m referring to are (in order of preference) Justin Verlander, Magglio Ordoñez, Armando Galarraga, Brandon Inge, and Miguel Cabrera. Emotionally investing in players like Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera comes with a reasonable amount of security because they’re both established as very good players, they’re locked up for the next several years, and the Tigers are not in danger of being in salary dump mode. If Justin Verlander has a bad start (and he does have those), I don’t have to worry about him losing a rotation spot because he’s the ace and everyone expects him to bounce back. If Miguel Cabrera goes into a slump, again, he’s not in danger of getting benched and he’ll get himself out of it. I don’t have to fret over those two. Armando Galarraga is an entirely different matter. He’s an underdog, and there are no guarantees as to his place on this team going forward. In all likelihood, I have set myself up to get hurt very deeply, probably sooner rather than later (Brandon Inge is also kind of an underdog, but his situation is different because there’s a great many Tigers fans who have the same sentiments toward him that I do, if not stronger; with Galarraga, I feel as if I am largely standing alone). I know all these things, but I can’t make myself not like somebody just because the end result is likely to be unpleasant.

However, there are two misconceptions that I have grown extremely tired of. First, I am sick of people thinking that because I am female, my fondness toward these players come in the form of crushes. I am NOT a teenage girl. The only one that I might have some crush feelings toward is Justin Verlander. The other four are more like how I would feel for a friend or a brother (though I’m an only child). The other thing I am sick of specifically relates to Galarraga. I am tired of not being taken seriously because I am the only blogger who seems to like him. I routinely give objective analyses of his pitching performances every time he starts. Last night, he was given a 3-0 and he let it get away. No excuse for that happening, and he’s well aware of that. The wheels came off with two outs in the fifth inning. Prior to that, he’d been pitching well. I’m not sure what triggered the meltdown (though his body language suggested he was agitated about something from the first batter of the night), but once Jarrod Dyson singled with two out, he lapsed into that bad tendency he has of overthinking things, and when he overthinks the situation, he has problems throwing strikes. Plus, he was timid with certain batters from the get-go, especially Kila Ka’aihue, who saw very few strikes from him (I know he’s got good plate discipline and he’s homered off him before, but beyond that I’m not sure why Galarraga seemed psyched out by him). I could be wrong about this, but I don’t remember him ever issuing a bases-loaded walk before last night. In addition to overthinking, he let his frustrations get to him, and that culminated in the awful throw he made on Yuniesky Betancourt’s swinging bunt (unbelievably, Alfredo Figaro made an even worse throw a few innings later). Plain and simple, he let the game get away from him, and he’s got no one to blame but himself. And again, he knows this. I don’t need to hear him say it to know that.

What was discouraging to me was that when asked about Galarraga’s season after the game, all Jim Leyland would say was “okay.” A remark like that doesn’t really speak well for Galarraga’s chances at a rotation spot next year, and though he’s currently on track to have two more starts this year, I’m not sure there’s much he could do to change Leyland’s assessment in the positive direction (though he certainly can hurt his chances even further if he doesn’t pitch well in those starts). I hope I’m just being paranoid, but I can’t help but feel that Galarraga’s tenure with the Tigers is quickly approaching its end. He’s arbitration-eligible for the first time, but I don’t think they would non-tender him, because he won’t be that expensive. However, there’s a real possibility that he could be traded in the offseason. If that doesn’t happen, he’ll go into spring training fighting desperately for a rotation spot. In his time with the Tigers, he has never pitched well in spring training, and as much as I like him, I won’t be able to give a reasonable argument in his favor if he doesn’t pitch well and someone else does. The complication with this is that he will be out of minor league options next year. Therefore, if he doesn’t make the rotation, the Tigers will be forced to designate him for assignment and take him off the 40-man roster, and I’m just about certain that he’d never make it through waivers without getting claimed by someone. I’m hoping none of these things happen. I badly want him to be in the Tigers’ rotation next year. He’s never going to be an ace, but he has the stuff to be a good middle-of-the-rotation guy. I’ve seen too many good things from him to believe anymore that he’s just a fluke. But he’s got to get his head straightened out, so to speak. Most of his struggles this year have been largely mental in nature. I could write about all the good he COULD do until my fingers hurt, but unless he can maintain his confidence, channel his frustration, and not overthink things (I can speak from experience that the last one is VERY hard to do), all it will ever be is potential and his incredible story will be another tragic ending. I’ve seen some columnists and bloggers asking if Galarraga can be counted on to help the Tigers in 2011. They can’t answer that question. I can’t answer it. His detractors and critics can’t answer it, either. The only one who can answer that question is Armando Galarraga himself.

There were other issues from the bullpen and some (but not many) offensive highlights to speak of (In particular, Miguel Cabrera hit a home run that was absolutely crushed and very enjoyable), but I’ve already taken up enough of your time and there’s still a game to be played tonight. Max Scherzer is coming off a great start against the White Sox in which he went eight innings and only allowed two solo home runs. He hasn’t pitched particularly well against the Royals this year, although a lot of that came early, before his trip to Toledo. He’ll be facing Kyle Davies, who on any given night seems to either completely shut down the Tigers or get completely lit up by them.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Dom Perignon and Circus Plays

Photo: AP

Again, this was kind of a strange game, but the Tigers pulled out a win in the end, which is the important part. Rick Porcello was on cruise control for the first four innings. It looked like he would have no trouble whatsoever. Then all of sudden, he gave up six straight hits to lead off the fifth inning. The first four were all hit very hard. The rest of the hits in the inning were bleeders and infield singles that happened to be bunched together. Jim Leyland said that Porcello was having trouble keeping his pitches down. I’ve heard that can happen with a sinkerballer on extra rest because he feels too strong (although the pitch that Yuniesky Betancourt hit out of the ballpark was a hanging slider). We’ll have to see what Porcello does in his next start (which won’t come on regular rest, either, but it’ll be closer than the long layoff he had this time). After some serious struggles in that last game in Chicago, the bullpen was much better this time. They got helped out by some good defense. Casper Wells made a terrific throw from the outfield to cut down Kila Ka’aihue trying to leg out a double, and Alex Avila made an even more entertaining play, falling into the Royals’ dugout to catch a popup (He nearly did it twice, and it was certainly nice of Ned Yost to catch him both times).

Scoring six runs off Zack Greinke is no easy feat (unless you’re the Minnesota Twins, in which case, it’s quite simple). I thought the four runs they got off him early would have to be enough, but they were able to fight back. In addition to his circus catch, Alex Avila had a terrific day at the plate. He had a two-run single early to pad the Tigers’ lead (a padding that they would end up needing). He also had two other hits, including a home run (opposite field shot into the bullpen that Phil Coke caught barehanded). Meanwhile, Will Rhymes became the first player in history to have his first major league home run called via instant replay. Congratulations to him. Not only that, it put the Tigers in the lead for good. And I don’t think Miguel Cabrera has broken out of his slump, but he did have an RBI single.

The series continues tonight, and the Tigers will be facing Bruce Chen yet again. It feels like they’ve faced him fifty times this season. Actually, it’s just three, and he has a win, a loss, and a no-decision. The no-decision came the last time he faced the Tigers, which was at Kaufmann Stadium. He went 4.2 innings, giving up four runs on six hits and three walks (the Tigers probably should have scored more against him). He is coming off a win against Oakland, however. And maybe he’s just the person to get Miguel Cabrera out of his slump, because Cabrera’s got some gaudy numbers against him (.583 with two home runs). Meanwhile, Armando Galarraga is coming off a very rough start against the Texas Rangers. I never did figure out what his problem was. I sense that he is very, very frustrated right now because things are not going the way he wants them to. And I’m not sure how many of you picked up on those shots of him in the dugout on Saturday, but I’m guessing he’s resorted to drastic superstitious measures to change his luck, because he’s shaved his head (or close to it) and it looks really bad. Galarraga’s looks were never one of his strong points, but still…yecchh. Now, normally that’d be more than enough to get me pissed off (and I would not want a superstition like that reinforced; I was about ready to strangle the mohawked bullpen earlier in the year), but for some reason I’m not this time. I guess I just feel so bad for how things have gone for him that I just really want him to pitch well and get a win regardless. It still looks terrible, though. Anyways, enough about personal grooming. The last time he faced Kansas City, he was battling elbow soreness and ended up walking five but only giving up one run in five innings, which he later attributed to pure luck. However, he’d strung together several good starts before his last disaster, so I’m really hoping he can get that confidence back, trust his stuff, and either channel or set aside that frustration (I’ve noticed that when he’s going good, I sense an air of calmness about him; he needs to find that). Your Mood Music for tonight: I was never able to find a decent copy of the song that I think best describes Galarraga’s feelings toward his situation, so I’ve got the next best thing, which is a song from my favorite band. It is quite fitting to the situation, as well.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Joe Morgan's Changeup Fantasy

Photo: AP

I did say that crazy things happen on ESPN, didn’t I? Having had to get up at 6 AM this morning, I didn’t appreciate the length of the game, but the Tigers did win. Jeremy Bonderman looked kind of the same way he did in Texas. He didn’t really have good stuff, leaving him to kind of gut his way through it, and as a result he allowed at least two baserunners in each inning and threw 121 pitches, a career high. And that was in 5.2 innings. After a cameo from Brad Thomas and two very good innings from Ryan Perry, the rest of the bullpen had a complete meltdown. Phil Coke was handed a comfortable four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and proceeded to allow a whole lot of baserunners and only get one out. He was pulled in favor of Robbie Weinhardt, who looked good until he hit Alex Rios with an 0-2 pitch. He kind of fell apart after that and allowed the tying run to come in on a wild pitch. He did end up vulturing the win by throwing a scoreless bottom of the tenth. Eddie Bonine got one out in the bottom of the eleventh, but came within a heartbeat of giving up a walkoff three-run homer to Paul Konerko (the ball hooked foul by about five feet at the last second). Daniel Schlereth finally got the last two outs for the save but took it right to the edge before dropping a called third strike on Manny Ramirez with the bases loaded. I have no idea what the issue was with any of these pitchers because none of the quotes about them made it into the news stories (since the Tigers won), but when all was said and done, the White Sox left twenty-one men on base. And through each and every one of them, Joe Morgan rambled on and on about changeups, slowly draining his audience of the will to live.

This started out a typical John Danks outing against the Tigers, wherein they did not get many good swings off him at all. For five of his first six innings, he retired the Tigers in order. All of his baserunners came in the fourth inning, with a home run, a double, and a walk. Then all of a sudden, once he got Miguel Cabrera on a popup to lead off the seventh (Cabrera went 0-for-5 yet again, and finishes the season series against the White Sox having only hit .152 against them), he never recorded another out. After walking Jhonny Peralta, Casper Wells hit a two-run home run to tie the game. It was a steady stream of baserunners for the rest of the inning. Gerald Laird (who could have been pinch-hit for with the righty J.J. Putz on the mound) hit the go-ahead double and the Tigers added on from there. Then the offense went quiet again until there were two outs in the top of the eleventh. Fittingly, Brandon Inge reached on a strikeout-wild pitch and made it to third on AJ Pierzynski’s throwing error (It would have been even more fitting if he had struck out on a changeup, but according to Inge, it was a slider). An intentional walk to Boesch brought up Gerald Laird again. And Laird once again put the Tigers ahead, this time with an RBI single. Austin Jackson added an RBI double for insurance, but this time the lead held (barely).

After a nice end to the road trip by getting a rare sweep of the White Sox, the Tigers return to Comerica Park for their final homestand of the season (very sad). The Kansas City Royals come to town for one last go-around, and they tend to be a pain in the ass to the Tigers at season’s end (It’s happened for years). And they’ll be stuck facing Zack Greinke tonight. He’s coming off a win against the A’s in which he went seven innings and gave up three runs. The Tigers scored four runs against him last time they saw him (and it happened in an out-of-the-blue fashion similar to last night). I’d still say the odds of that happening again are slim. Rick Porcello gets his first start in almost two weeks. He had his start skipped because of an injury to the flexor tendon in his right index finger. From what I’ve heard, he’s good to go and his finger feels fine. He made two starts against the Royals in the past month. The start at Comerica Park was very good. The start at Kaufmann Stadium was not as good, but he got victimized by some bloops and bleeders. Hopefully he, like the other Tiger pitchers, can finish the season strong.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Getting Eliminated, But Looking Good Doing It

Photo: AP

With the Twins and Rays both winning yesterday, the Tigers’ playoff aspirations for this year are officially impossible, as they were mathematically eliminated from both the division race and the wild card. However, they still played a damn good game. Justin Verlander was tremendous (I watched the end of the game when I got home, and then I watched the archived game later). He has been doing some really sexy pitching recently. He ran into trouble in the fifth, against the bottom of the White Sox lineup, but proceeded to retire the final 13 batters he faced. It’s hard to believe he’s only on track to have two more starts, but at least I’ll be able to watch the next one.

It’s nice to see some of the rest of the Tigers picking up the slack while Miguel Cabrera seems to be trying to work his way through a slump (he went 0-for-5 yesterday after striking out four times on Friday). Ryan Raburn and Will Rhymes both knocked in runs early in the game, and Brandon Inge had two hits. The offense kind of quieted down after that until the top of the eighth inning in a tie game. Chris Sale has been devastatingly good in his other appearances against the Tigers this year. It’s been scary just how bad the Tigers’ swings have looked against him. However, he’d never pitched to Scott Sizemore before. Sizemore pinch-hit for Rhymes, found a pitch to his liking, and bombed a three-run homer way into the seats. With Carlos Guillen likely to miss the beginning of next season, I’d like for both Rhymes and Sizemore to finish up the season strong and get set for spring training.

The road trip and the season series wraps up tonight on ESPN (blech). Jeremy Bonderman is coming off a rather rough start in Texas (though he was victimized by errors). He had one of his best starts of the season the last time he faced the White Sox. They’ll be facing John Danks, who was defeated by Jeremy Bonderman, but he usually does not give the Tigers much. Plus, they’re on ESPN, and crazy stuff tends to happen then and the Tigers don’t play well.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Luck of the Irish

Photo: AP

This is going to be a REALLY short post because I have to be at work soon. Max Scherzer was very, very good last night. The only mistakes he made were the home runs to Manny Ramirez and Brent Morel. For the longest time, it looked as though not only would he be the tough-luck loser, but that the Tigers were going to get no-hit in the process. Once they finally got on the board in the hit column, though, the floodgates opened. They took advantage of Edwin Jackson’s leg cramps to ambush him and tag him for four runs and the loss. Alex Avila dealt the big blow with the tie-breaking double, which Austin Jackson followed up with a two-run homer. If there was anything bad about the offense last night, it was that Miguel Cabrera struck out four times, only the second time he’s done that in his entire career (the first being during his rookie season in 2003).

Today, the Tigers are on big Fox for the afternoon game. Justin Verlander is coming off a win against the Orioles, and he pitched well against the White Sox last time he saw them. Freddy Garcia was supposed to start for the White Sox, but he’s been bothered by back problems so Lucas Harrell will start instead. The Royals tagged him for six earned runs in a game the White Sox eventually won. The Tigers scored four unearned runs off him back at Comerica Park. I’ll be at work today, so I’ll probably miss the bulk of this game.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I Wish I Could Forget That One

Oh, I hate blogging stuff like this. That was painful to watch. I suppose that after several good starts in a row, Armando Galarraga was due for a bad one, and this one was really bad. I can’t quite nail down the precise reason as to why. I don’t think he talked to reporters after the game (since I can’t find a quote from him anywhere). It was another really strange game, and he was not immune to it (Neither was I; afterwards I had a dream about the perfect game and then that I was trying to break him out of jail, although I know where the last part of that came from because before the game started I was watching a movie where the heroes had to break out of jail). This doesn’t seem like the other times he’s struggled. Those were more of a mental thing. He got too timid with his pitches and ended up falling behind hitters and walking people. That didn’t really happen last night. I didn’t get the sense that he was overthinking, and he threw plenty of strikes, but it just looked like he had nothing to draw on (Leyland, who was really pissed off after the game, but not necessarily about Galarraga, said he “didn’t have anything,” while Rick Knapp didn’t sound too happy). He got victimized a little bit by some ground ball singles, aggressive baserunning, a questionable checked swing call that didn’t go his way, and errors (including his own), but the two home runs he gave up were absolutely crushed (one on a fastball, one on a hanging changeup). I guess it’s quite possible that he just “didn’t have it,” and evidence of that could be that it was only the eighth time in his career that he gave up a three-run homer. He’s normally pretty good at limiting the damage via the long ball. Almost two-thirds of the home runs he’s given up in the majors have been solo shots. At any rate, I hope the fact that he’d pitched well for a month prior to this start will be enough to give him a mulligan, but either way, it’ll be a long wait until next Tuesday.

This game had to be especially painful for Galarraga because his teammates finally scored some runs for him. Colby Lewis wasn’t at his sharpest, but because the Tigers’ pitching staff had a complete meltdown, he didn’t need to be. The bullpen in particular had issues with shutdown innings. Whenever the Tigers scored, the Rangers would score in the bottom half of the same inning (once the bullpen came in, that is; Galarraga was kind of the opposite. He shut down the Rangers 1-2-3 in the inning that the Tigers scored, then gave up in the innings in which they didn’t). Miguel Cabrera had a couple of sacrifice flies but still didn’t seem to be quite centering the ball. Ryan Raburn had a nice night with a couple of doubles and a home run, though.

And so here we are with yet another off day (Is that really necessary?). Tomorrow night begins the final series of the season with the White Sox, who could find themselves out of the race by then if they lose tonight (the Tigers, meanwhile, will probably be mathematically eliminated in the next couple days, possibly as early as tomorrow). Max Scherzer will face Edwin Jackson again. They’re both coming off rough starts, and they pretty much matched each other the last time they squared off against one another. Scherzer was tagged for four runs against the Orioles. He hasn’t pitched particularly well against the White Sox this year, but he’s starting to get better. I’ve rehashed the individual numbers a bunch of times by now so you probably don’t need them.

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).    

Monday, September 13, 2010

Miguel Cabrera is a Beast and Justin Verlander is the Man

Photo: AP

First of all, I’d like to thank the Tigers for timing their rally so that it happened during my lunch break, so I at least got to listen to it on the radio. I sort of watched the archived game last night, so I have a general idea of what went down. Justin Verlander was “his bad self,” to paraphrase Rod Allen. He had eleven strikeouts and it looked as though all his pitches were working. The fastball was blazing, the curveball was diving, and the changeup was baffling. His only mistakes were an RBI triple to Jake Fox (who I didn’t think could run that fast) and a wild pitch. Leyland said that Verlander had “shutout stuff.” I can’t say I disagree.

For most of the game it looked like Verlander would suffer the same fate as Armando Galarraga and Max Scherzer: Lack of run support. The Tigers only managed one hit off Chris Tillman, although they did draw six walks (three to Brennan Boesch and surprisingly none to Miguel Cabrera). I have no idea what made him so effective, since I only kind of half-paid attention to the archive and they didn’t really talk about him after the game (I did watch the replay of the postgame show this morning). However, once Tillman was out and the bullpen came in, the bats woke up (sounds like the beginning of the season). Will Rhymes and Ryan Raburn led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and a double, respectively. The key at-bat was the walk to Austin Jackson (and the 3-2 pitch looked close enough to me that it might have tempted him). That loaded the bases with nobody out for Miguel Cabrera in a one-run game, meaning they had to pitch to him. And Cabrera came through by hitting a bases-clearing double into the gap (the funny thing was that I somehow knew he was going to swing at the first pitch). Brandon Inge later hit a two-run homer to tack on some insurance.

This is a really weird week in which the Tigers have two off-days, today being the first. Tomorrow night marks the start of a brief two-game series in Texas, where the Rangers are red hot after sweeping the Yankees. There is some question as to whether Rick Porcello will actually start on Wednesday (he has an injured tendon in his right index finger), but we’ll deal with that when we come to it. In the meantime, Jeremy Bonderman is coming off a really good start against the White Sox in which he went eight innings and gave up only one run. He’s made two starts this year against the Rangers, and neither went all that great. He gave up four runs in 5.2 innings in Arlington back in April, and then gave up five runs in 5.1 innings at Comerica Park in July. He’s handled Vladimir Guerrero in his career, though. Vladdy’s only 5-for-26 with ten strikeouts against Bonderman. On the other hand, Ian Kinsler is 4-for-7 with a double and a home run. Lefty Derek Holland gets the start for the Rangers. He’s bounced back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, but he’s pitched decently for the most part. He’s coming off a win against the Blue Jays in which he struck out eight in five innings. The only Tiger who has faced him before is Johnny Damon, and he is 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Counterintuitive Pitching

Sorry, I don’t have a song for you this time. Suffice it to say, Max Scherzer really didn’t have it this time. He was able to dance around danger for five innings, but the Orioles are hot right now, and you can’t get away with that against a hot team forever. He threw plenty of strikes, but he had problems putting guys away, outside of a span of batters in the fourth and fifth innings. Twelve hits is the most he’s given up all season, and that includes his pre-Toledo struggles. Meanwhile, the offense couldn’t get anything going against Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie fell behind a lot, actually, and they still couldn’t get good swings off him. They did mount a rally in the bottom of the eighth, scoring three runs, but the deficit was too much to overcome, I guess. Peralta was the big offense highlight with two hits including a 2-run double. Don Kelly had the other RBI.

The series and the homestand concludes today. Justin Verlander is coming off a spectacular performance against the White Sox (which I didn’t see). He hasn’t faced the Orioles yet this year. He’s had some difficulty with them in the past, most recently at Comerica Park last year where he gave up five runs early but stayed in the game and settled down from there. He is not immune to Luke Scott, either. Just a word of warning. Meanwhile, the Orioles are starting Chris Tillman, who has a very high earned run average but that’s inflated because of two really bad starts he’s made. Apparently he’s one of their more highly thought of prospects. He nearly no-hit the Texas Rangers back in July. Looking at his game logs, his tendency is to follow up a good outing with a poor one. He had a good outing in his last start, so let’s hope that pattern holds true.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Doing What I Always Said I Would and Yet I Feel I Haven't Won at All

In case you don’t know, that’s a line from a song, and oddly enough, I was going to use it for Mood Music last night but I couldn’t find a decent version of it on Youtube (the song is called “Where I Want to Be” and it’s from the musical Chess; it’s a good song from a good musical; you should try looking it up yourself and see if you have better luck than I). Shame, because it would have been a very appropriate song to describe what Armando Galarraga seems to be feeling right now. He pitched well last night. The only mistake he made was a hanging changeup to Jake Fox, who did what you’re supposed to do with hanging changeups and hit it a long way. Other than that, he did a good job, but only came away with a no-decision for his efforts. After the game, he lamented the fact that he only has four wins despite being in the rotation since mid-May and pitching fairly well in that span, especially recently. I know (and he probably knows) that wins aren’t all that important when you look at raw stats, but at the same time, they’re given quite a bit of weight by the mainstream media and the average fan. Plus, they serve as a sort of reward or recognition for your efforts. It’s probably not the correct way to look at it, but it is the conventional way. Maybe he was being a little selfish in his laments last night, but I can’t say I blame him, especially when he had just watched his teammates strand a leadoff triple in the bottom half of his final inning of work. Galarraga has eleven no-decisions this year in twenty starts, and a lot of those no-decisions are due to a combination of very little run support and the bullpen blowing late leads or ties. If the Tigers had been winning those games, he probably wouldn’t be so depressed about it. But in his last four starts, he has left either in a tie or with the lead, and the Tigers have lost all four, largely in part to bullpen meltdowns. So I understand his frustration and I think he just felt the need to vent a little. Once he got that off his chest he seemed much more relaxed in his postgame interview. I just hope he continues to pitch well and do what he needs to do to claim a spot in the rotation for next year. That’s all he can control right now. Galarraga’s comments did leave me wondering who holds the record for most no-decisions in a single season. I wasn’t able to find an answer on a source like Baseball-reference or the Baseball Almanac, but I did find one website which mentioned that Bert Blyleven had twenty no-decisions in 37 starts back in 1979 (He went 12-5 that year), so I’m going to go with that for now.

The offense has been odd recently. They surprisingly chugged along just fine without Miguel Cabrera for two games (actually, three, since he didn’t contribute much in the game where he left with the biceps tendinitis). Last night, Cabrera returned to the lineup and he basically WAS the offense. It was nice to see him back in there producing, though. He hit his first home run at Comerica Park since July 19th (another welcome sight). Outside of that, though, there wasn’t a lot going on. I already mentioned stranding the leadoff triple by Austin Jackson (who had three hits, actually). Will Rhymes struck out on a bad pitch to swing at. Johnny Damon popped out (though, in fairness, I thought that ball would bloop into shallow left; then again, my depth perception sucks). Then, after an intentional walk to Cabrera, Ryan Raburn had an absolutely terrible at-bat, swinging at two pitches that bounced into the left-handed batter’s box (And I’d have the same opinion of that at-bat no matter who was hitting). They also had a situation earlier where they had runners at second and third with one out and couldn’t get the run home. And I suppose I should mention that the Jim Joyce thing was a non-issue, just as I expected. I’ve always enjoyed his strike call, and I don’t remember ever taking issue with his strike zone. I honestly do think he’s one of the better umpires in the league, despite the blown call heard ‘round the world. Not that I familiarize myself with all the umpires in baseball.

The series continues with Max Scherzer taking the hill for the Tigers. He hasn’t fared much better than Galarraga in terms of getting wins recently, despite being one of the best pitchers in baseball since the All-Star Break. He’s got a 1.98 earned run average in that span, but the Tigers are only 4-6 in his starts. He’s coming off two consecutive no-decisions in which the Tigers have lost the game. He wasn’t as sharp as he has been in his last start, where he gave up four runs to the White Sox, but he lasted into the eighth inning. He’s beaten the Orioles already once this year, but as I’ve mentioned, the Orioles have been playing much better recently. Their starter tonight is an example of that. Jeremy Guthrie has pitched almost as well as Scherzer in the second half, to the tune of a 2.10 ERA. And so we’ve got two hot pitchers opposing each other. Something’s gotta give.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Another Speedy Victory

Photo: AP

The Tigers were very obliging in winning this game before I had to go to work. Rick Porcello was once again very good, making it two good starts in a row against a team that had previously beat him up. During the postgame interview, Leyland seemed to think that Porcello had lucked out a little, in that he left some balls up but for the most part the White Sox hitters swung through them or popped them up or whatever (I suppose that makes up for him getting blooped to death against Kansas City). The only damage to him came from an Alex Rios 2-run homer and a series of wild pitches or passed balls (not sure what the ruling was) that scored Paul Konerko. And apparently Jose Valverde was unavailable with elbow soreness (and I know Jason Beck has said that’s a recent thing, but I still wonder), so Ryan Perry got the save.

For the second game in a row, the Tigers managed to score a respectable number of runs without the help of Miguel Cabrera. The stars of the show were Johnny Damon, Will Rhymes, and Jhonny Peralta. Johnny Damon had four hits, Will Rhymes had three hits, and Jhonny Peralta had two RBIs. Peralta’s name has been popping up a lot in the discussion for next year recently. Most of the online Tiger fans (and I’m not talking about those morons on Facebook or MLive comment section) don’t seem to be all that enthusiastic about him. I’m actually not sure what I think of him. Once he moved back to shortstop, I was expecting a redux of Edgar Renteria, but it really hasn’t been like that. He doesn’t have the greatest range in the world, but he’s made nearly all the plays and Brandon Inge makes up for the range issue. Whether he’s the best man for the job next year probably depends on what shortstops are available in the offseason, although I have grown somewhat trade-weary. Therefore, at this point, I am undecided.

So as it turns out, the Tigers were a hanging slider away from sweeping this series, but taking three of the four is nothing to sneeze at. Now comes a three-game series with the Orioles, who have been playing a lot better now that Buck Showalter is their manager (they are seven games over .500 since he took over; I’m not sure if he has anything to do with it or not, though). They just took two of three from the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, not an easy thing to do. The Tigers swept them back in July, but it was a really hard-fought sweep. Tonight’s starter for the Orioles, Kevin Millwood, pitched in that series and only lasted an inning (that game turned into an absolute slugfest on a VERY hot day). He’s currently got a 3-15 record with an ERA over five. Now, I’d definitely say he’s overpaid and was a little overrated in years past, but he’s not THAT bad. I’ve seen him pitch some games against the Tigers where he’s totally shut them down. I’ve also seen games where he got lit up by the Tigers. There doesn’t seem to be any in-between. Armando Galarraga also pitched in that series. It was a fairly decent start, but he was pitching through traffic for his entire outing before finally yielding a two-run homer to Nick Markakis. Prior to that, he had not had good numbers against the Orioles. He is coming off a shaky start in which he walked five but gave up only one run to the Royals (and that was only because a ball in the outfield was misplayed), although after the game he said he got lucky. It’s a distinct possibility that the command problems were related to elbow soreness and stiffness he was experiencing. He says his elbow feels fine now, and I hope he’s being honest (after all, he hid an elbow injury for a significant portion of last season), because he’d pitched very well in the previous three starts and I want him to finish the season strong in order to have a fighting chance at being in next year’s rotation. He’s not going to get that many chances to prove himself, though. Leyland has already announced that because of the two off-days next week, Galarraga’s next start after this one will be skipped (although I have not seen the specific reasoning; it could be from injury concern or it could be the “skip the fifth starter if you can” mentality). Not surprisingly, I’m not happy about this, for two reasons. One, I like watching Galarraga pitch. Two, I have missed Verlander’s last two starts due to work. I will miss his start on Sunday due to work. And now, thanks to skipping Galarraga, work will cause me to miss the start after that one as well. That will make FOUR consecutive Verlander starts I won’t see. That’s a long time to be deprived of Justin Verlander. Don’t get me wrong, I like Porcello and Scherzer (Bonderman I root for because he’s a Tiger, but that’s about it), but it gets old seeing only them over and over at the expense of two pitchers that I like better. But I suppose that’s something to complain about later. And in case you wanted some more intrigue, well, Jim Joyce will be the home plate umpire tonight. The media has certainly taken this story and run away with it (I saw one Free Press headline that made it sound like Galarraga and Joyce were members of a band on a reunion tour). Jim Joyce has been quoted as saying he’s glad he’s scheduled to work home plate and not first base. Galarraga has said it’s no big deal. And yet tonight’s game has kind of spurred a retrospective of sorts. Hopefully this one has a positive outcome.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Now That's Making Quick Work of It

Photo: AP

I can honestly say that was one of Jeremy Bonderman’s best performances this season. And it was certain one of the quickest of his entire career. That game absolutely flew by. I do believe it was the second-shortest game the Tigers have played this year (Who could forget the shortest?). The only White Sox batter who really did any damage to him was Omar Vizquel (who is 168 years old, according to Ryan Field). Other than that, he made it look effortless, really. It was the type of performance one has come to expect from Justin Verlander or Max Scherzer, really. I’m still not all that enthusiastic about re-signing him, but if Bonderman can pitch like that for the rest of the season, I’d certainly appreciate it.

The offense didn’t have Miguel Cabrera, but luckily, they didn’t need him. The only Tiger with more than one hit was Ryan Raburn, but the others made their hits count. Brandon Inge hit a two-run single with the bases loaded to give the Tigers the lead, and Alex Avila hit a two-run double in the same inning to break it open. Casper Wells added an insurance run with an infield single in the following inning. It’s definitely not a lineup I’d like to have out there long-term, but it came through for one night, at least.

The series concludes today with Rick Porcello on the mound for the Tigers. He got nickel-and-dimed a bit by the Royals in his last start (as the cliché goes), but did a decent job. The White Sox have been his own personal nemesis until the last time he faced them, when he pitched very, very well but came away with a no-decision (The Tigers did win that game, though). The White Sox are starting Gavin Floyd, who has also pitched very, very well this year and usually pitches extremely well against the Tigers. Despite that, there are three Tigers with really good numbers against him. Ryan Raburn is 10-for-25 (.400) with two doubles, Jhonny Peralta is 8-for-21 (.381) with two doubles and two home runs, and Johnny Damon is 6-for-11 (.545) with a double and a home run. With numbers like that, it’s amazing that Gavin Floyd has shut down the Tigers like he has (granted, the last time they faced him, it was back in June, Peralta wasn’t a Tiger yet, and Ryan Raburn hadn’t started hitting). Miguel Cabrera is still out of the lineup (no further update as of yet), but if it’s any consolation, his numbers against Floyd are downright dismal (6-for-29, only good enough for a .207 average, though three of those hits were doubles). Yeah, I know it’s not much of a consolation, but I thought I’d throw that out there anyways.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

In Case You Forgot, Justin Verlander is Awesome

Photo: AP

I’m not going to be able to do this post justice because the game was in the bottom of the seventh by the time I got home and an early wakeup this morning meant that I did not have time to watch the archive. That means I missed Justin Verlander’s entire outing, but by the sounds of things, there was a lot to like about it. Verlander said he finally found his curveball for the first time all season (a bit surprising, considering that even though he hasn’t been quite as lights-out as he was last year, he’s still had a pretty good season). I’ve mentioned (not on here) that Verlander has kind of flown under the radar recently. Most of the media attention has been focused on the other four in the rotation (for various reasons), especially Scherzer and Porcello. If he pitches strong down the stretch, Verlander will become a main attraction again, as well he should be.

The offense, meanwhile, didn’t so much get to Freddy Garcia as they took advantage of some sort of injury. Johnny Damon hit a two-run homer off Garcia to give the Tigers an early lead, and then once Garcia was out, they feasted on some of the White Sox’s September call-ups (otherwise known as Charlotte Knights). I know Don Kelly is far from the ideal candidate to bat behind Miguel Cabrera, but he’s come through quite well so far. Granted, at this point they don’t have an “ideal candidate” (they don’t have Miguel Cabrera either right now, but I’ll talk about that later), so they might as well just stick the hottest hand behind him and see what happens. Jhonny Peralta had a big night, breaking the game open with a bases-clearing double. And Brandon Inge capped off the scoring with a long three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth.

Tonight marks game three in this series. Jeremy Bonderman started off very shaky in his last start, but then found a way to stay in for 7.1 innings, and actually left in a position to win before the bullpen gave up the tying run. He got lit up the last time he faced the White Sox, giving up two home runs and six runs overall. He’ll be opposed by John Danks, who is pitching on short rest and handcuffed the Red Sox in his last start. The Tigers will be without the services of Miguel Cabrera tonight and probably tomorrow. After that, it’s a crapshoot. The shoulder/biceps tendinitis is still bothering him. I wonder when they reach the point where they’ll do an MRI just for precautionary measures (after all, he is their highest-paid player). It drives me crazy when I can’t offer an informed opinion on health matters. Back when Cabrera had the kidney infection, I could tell you with about 95% certainty that he’d be on Cipro or Levaquin for two weeks. Unfortunately, they don’t teach a lot of orthopedics in pharmacy school, so I couldn’t even tell you if a cortisone shot would help (although a corticosteroid does help relieve inflammation, but I know there’s a whole bunch of MLB policies surrounding stuff like that). At this point, both Cabrera and Leyland seem more concerned with the shoulder impeding his ability to swing the bat the way he wants to than with the injury itself. I will tell you this, though: If he has to miss more than a couple games, you can kiss any remote chance of a miracle comeback goodbye. It goes without saying that Cabrera is the lifeblood of this offense (and that’s going to be true next year as well, no matter who they sign or trade for). Granted, he might not be missed that much tonight, as his career numbers against Danks are only so-so (.250 average). In fact, the only Tiger not on the DL who has good numbers against Danks is Gerald Laird (3-for-6 with a double). Unfortunately, it seems his back still is keeping him out, because Alex Avila is starting for the third straight day. I kind of wonder why Max St. Pierre isn’t getting the start against the lefty. As a matter of fact, there are four lefties in Leyland’s lineup tonight, some in place of available right-handed bats. However, a quick look at Danks’s splits may reveal why. Righties have only hit .206 against him, while lefties have hit .285 (now that I think about it, I seem to remember Danks featuring a really good changeup, which may explain the counterintuitive numbers).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

To End Opposite of Where We Began?

Back in the early part of the season, the bullpen was the strength of the team while the rotation faltered. Now, those roles seem to have reversed. After the hype brought up about the Scherzer, Jackson pitching matchup, they pulled out just about even. Each one didn’t have their best stuff but managed to sidestep major trouble. Their lines were nearly identical. They gave up the same number of runs on the same number of hits. The only difference was that Scherzer walked one more batter. So it became a battle of the bullpens, and the Tigers’ ‘pen wasn’t able to hold onto the lead. I have no insight to give on Valverde, since it looked like the splitter had been working early in the inning and the hits he gave up were on fastballs. And so that leaves Ryan Perry and the hanging slider. I’m not an expert on mechanics, but Jim Leyland’s postgame comments suggested that the hanging slider was well within Perry’s control. He seemed to hearken back to that “lack of urgency” that he thinks Perry has. I’m not sure if that means Perry is too casual or what, but if he wants to remain the setup man, he can’t continue throwing hanging sliders, if indeed that is something he can control.

The offense didn’t fare all that badly against Edwin Jackson. I thought there’d be a bunch of complaints about Don Kelly batting right behind Miguel Cabrera, but I didn’t see any. Still, I’m sure there were some, but Kelly had quite a good day with three RBIs including a two-run homer. The problem for the Tigers was once they got into the White Sox bullpen, they didn’t do anything. Is it supposed to be that easy for a guy who was just drafted (It’s not just the Tigers, though; Chris Sale has been shutting down just about everyone since his call-up)?

The series continues tonight and the Tigers will be facing Freddy Garcia. His ERA at Comerica Park is barely over two and the Tigers usually have a tough time being patient against him. They did get to him for five runs the last time they saw him, but in their two previous meetings, he shut them down. Meanwhile, it’s September, and yet this will be the first time this season that Justin Verlander has faced the White Sox. He hasn’t faced them since game 162 last year. Historically, the White Sox have given him fits, but he handled them well last year. He even had two complete game wins against them. AJ Pierzynski (who is hot right now) has been a thorn in his side in the past, going 14-for-42 (.333) with three home runs and twelve RBIs. Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios also have good numbers against him.

Monday, September 6, 2010

All Banged Up

Everything about this game seemed just a little bit off. Armando Galarraga had problems throwing strikes throughout his outing, but it seemed like there was something else going on. As it turns out, he wasn’t able to get his arm loose while warming up and was suffering elbow stiffness throughout the game. That explains why Brad Thomas was warming up in the first inning. It may also explain Galarraga’s command problems. It does not explain why Jim Leyland had to have Jhonny Peralta present during his lengthy conversation with Galarraga (It’s not as if Galarraga needs an interpreter). At any rate, I hope this elbow problem clears up before Galarraga’s next start. He’d been pitching so well recently. It’d be a shame for something like that to hamper him for too long. As for Brad Thomas, well, it’s a bit unsettling to have the eventual winning run score just barely after they come back from commercial. There wasn’t a whole lot going on offense. Leyland seemed to not like the effort, and several of the Tigers were quick to credit Kyle Davies (He did seem to be throwing harder than I remember, but then again, so was Galarraga, who got clocked at 95 MPH at one point. I’m thinking the gun was a little hot). Casper Wells, with two hits including a home run, was pretty much the only one who did anything. Miguel Cabrera insists that if his shoulder was healthy, that deep fly ball he hit in the eighth inning would have been a home run.

The kind of sucky thing about all this is that the Tigers actually had one of their most productive road trips of the season, going .500, but everyone seems to insist that it’s not enough. Whatever your opinion is, I hope you will engage in watching the homestand same as me. First up is a four-game series with the White Sox. Today they’ll face Edwin Jackson, who has been almost lights-out since joining the White Sox (which doesn’t make much sense). However, Max Scherzer has been just about as lights-out. And I believe that this is the first time that the two (who were traded for each other) will go face-to-face.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rookie Rally

Photo: AP

This is one of those games where I think Rick Porcello pitched better than his line would indicate. He gave up four runs, but a lot of those came on hits that were not hit hard. The Royals just somehow managed to get them in the right spot and string enough of them together to score runs. Even the home run from Kila Ka’aihue seemed to just be flicked down the line (I wish he wouldn’t feature so prominently in these games, mostly because typing his name is annoying).

However, the offense was once again up to the challenge. It was so nice to see Miguel Cabrera back in the lineup, and it looks as though the biceps tendinitis isn’t affecting his swing anymore because he laced a two-run double in his first at-bat that nearly cleared the wall. He also had a line drive single later in the game. The rookies really came through late. The heartwarming story of the night was Max St. Pierre, who not only got his first major league hit, he started the rally that ultimately got the Tigers the lead. Will Rhymes followed with a single, and Austin Jackson (who had a big night with three hits) knocked in the pinch-runner Boesch with the go-ahead run. Will Rhymes would later score on a passed ball. And props goes to the Royals fans who gave Max St. Pierre a standing ovation when he got that hit (I actually talked to the Baseball Guru last night and he thought it was a wonderful thing that the Tigers were doing for him). He looked totally in awe of the whole thing. And thumbs down to the AP for not getting a picture of him.

The series and the road trip concludes this afternoon. Armando Galarraga has been very good in his last three starts, which included his last start against the Twins, who are normally his own personal hell. One word of caution is that both Bonderman and Porcello didn’t pitch quite as well against the Royals as they had back at Comerica Park. Hopefully Galarraga does not suffer that same fate. I’m also noticing he runs into a wall a little bit once he gets to 85-90 pitches. Other than that, it’s the same pointers I always give when he starts. The Royals will start Kyle Davies, who has an ERA approaching six, but I’ve seen occasions before where he’s shut the Tigers down.