Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tigers at Indians game blog July 31


After playing into the wee hours of the night yesterday, the Tigers and Indians suit up for an early high noon game on the banks of Lake Erie – Detroit looking to take three of four from Cleveland, attempting to claw back into the A.L. Central picture.

Justin Verlander takes the hill for the Tigers, who are fresh off the heels of a thrilling 13-inning victory last night, and he faces the recently activated Fausto Carmona – a notorious Tiger killer that was sidelined for two months before returning in a not-so-grand fashion four days ago.

Carmona was tagged for nine earned runs on seven hits in just over two innings on July 26 in his first start off the disabled list against Minnesota. At first glance, one would assume the Tigers high-octane offense, hitting as well as at any point this season, would be a recipe for disaster for the Tribe.

But ever since 2006, when we saw a young Carmona raise his hands in disbelief as he watched former Tiger Pudge Rodriguez take a first-pitch fastball over the left field wall for a walk-off home run at Comerica Park, he has had the Tigers number, with a 4-2 record and 3.05 ERA.

Verlander looks to rebound from last Saturday’s shellacking at the hands of the White Sox, who dealt him his shortest out of the season en route to allowing seven earned runs. Verlander hasn’t fared well against Cleveland early in his career, with his ERA hovering over six.

Tigers lineup: CF Granderson, 2B Santiago, 3B Guillen, 1B Cabrera, RF Joyce, DH Thames, SS Renteria, LF Raburn, C Sardinha

Indians lineup: DH Sizemore, CF Gutierrez, LF Francisco, SS Peralta, RF Choo, 3B Marte, 1B Garko, C Fasano, 2B Cabrera

Top first

Granderson leads the game off with a single up the middle on a 2-2 count, Carmona’s fifth straight fastball of the at-bat.

With Granderson on first, Santiago squares to bunt and Carmona’s high fastball slips by him, off the catcher Fasano’s glove, and square off the shoulder of home plate umpire Wally Bell. Fasano can’t find the ball as Granderson rounds second and heads to third, but the Tigers bat boy grabs the ball while Garko marches in from first.

Initially, Granderson heads back to second. But after both managers convene with the umpiring crew, Granderson is awarded third. Although the bat boy touched the ball, Granderson would have easily made it to third because the Indians couldn’t find the baseball.

After the short delay, Santiago lines out to third base followed by Guillen sacrificing home the first run of the game on a fly out to center field.

The hot-hitting Miguel Cabrera grounds out to short to end the inning, but the Tigers put one on the board in the first frame.

Bottom first

Verlander retires Sizemore and Gutierrez to start the game, the latter sent down swinging at a 98 MPH fastball on the outside black for strike three.

Ahead in the count against Francisco – who hit two home runs in last night’s marathon – Verlander elevates a fastball that Francisco puts in the right-center gap for a two-out double.

Peralta follows with a second consecutive Indians double that bounces on the warning track just inside the foul line in left field and bounces into the stands. Francisco scores and ties the game.

Verlander strikes out Choo to end the inning, not being able to finish the deal on the Indians in the first after jumping out to two quick outs.

Jacobs, er, Progressive Field has been a house of horrors for Verlander, where he made his professional debut way back in 2005. He is 1-5 with a balloon-like 8.91 ERA in Cleveland.

Top second

With one out, Thames hits a scorcher to left field that appears headed to the wall but is nabbed by Francisco in an absolutely great catch. He was sprinting left-to-right towards left-center and laid out, making the grab in mid-air for the second out.

Renteria walks and Raburn grounds out to third to end the top of the second for the Tigers.

Bottom second

Verlander induces two lazy pop outs by Marte and Garko and strikes out the much-traveled Sal Fasano with a nasty curveball in the dirt that Fasano just throws the bat at.

Verlander is still running too deep into counts – his pitch count sitting at 39 after two innings – and will need to extend deep into the game today as the bullpen is depleted from last night.

Top third

With one out, Granderson rolls a grounder to first base that is played by Garko and shuffled to Carmona, who drops the ball as Granderson is bearing down on first base. Granderson – who hustles out of the box equally as fast whether it’s a groundout to short or a liner down the right field line – looked to have been safe without the Carmona mishap. The play is ruled a single and Granderson is 2-2 on the day. He’s now 10-16 in the four-game set so far.

Santiago grounds out, moving Granderson to second, and then Guillen gets ahead 3-0 and finds himself walking back to the dugout after Carmona climbs back and frames a 93 MPH sinker on the outside corner that Guillen takes for strike three.

Bottom third

Asdrubal Cabrera – a Carlos Guillen look-alike and play-alike – draws a leadoff walk off Verlander to open the bottom half of the third. Up next is the ever-dangerous Sizemore.

During the Sizemore at-bat, which Verlander was in relative control of, jumping ahead early, Verlander reaches the half-century mark of pitches. That means barring an unforeseen increase in command and control, he’s headed for a sixth, maybe seventh, inning exit today. Sizemore flied out to the warning track in left for the first out.

Gutierrez follows with a warning-track fly out of his own, in right-center and with Granderson and Joyce converging on one another, with Granderson finally taking charge and catching the ball all the while barely avoiding a collision. Two outs.

Verlander strikes out Francisco on a nasty curveball to end the inning, his fourth strikeout of the game. Game tied at one after three.

Top fourth

The Tigers go down quietly in the third as Cabrera whiffs on Carmona’s high heat followed by a pair of groundouts off the bats of Joyce and Thames.

Carmona is throwing everything hard, his fastball in the 94-95 MPH range, with a moving sinker that comes in around 92.

Bottom fourth

Verlander is absolutely cruising, striking out the side in the bottom of the fourth. He nailed Peralta and Choo swinging and left Marte talking to himself on his trip back to the dugout after pulling an Uncle Charlie out of his back pocket and twirling it into the inside corner for strike three.

After last night’s hit fest, today’s game has belonged to the men on the rubber early on.

Top fifth

Carmona’s power sinker is on, making the Tigers hitters beat the ball into the ground for easy outs. He retires the side on ground outs, the last of which was a very nice play by Marte at third. Renteria lined one of the dirt and Marte took one step to his left and made a good scoop on the hard liner.

We head into the bottom of the fifth and these two pitchers are really making this blog a breeze today. Three outs, a few sentences, three outs.

Bottom fifth

Verlander has seven strikeouts heading into the inning, three shy of his season high.

Garko weakly grounds out to Verlander to open the inning. Verlander has now retired seven straight.

The streak comes to an end and Verlander’s control – or lack thereof – catches up to him once again. On a 2-2 count, he runs a fastball in too tight to Fasano and hits him. It was a close call – the replays don’t show any clear evidence of ball making contact with player, but Fasano is standing on first either way.

Verlander follows the hit batsmen up with a walk of Cabrera, his second of the game.

Well, that’s what happens when you walk the No. 8 and 9 hitters with the Indians most dangerous hitter coming up. Verlander grooves a first-pitch fastball right down the pipe and potential 30-30 hitter Grady Sizemore disposes of it into the Tigers bullpen in right field for a three-run home run. The home run is Sizemore’s 27th of the season and it’s his second straight game with a three-run jack. Indians lead 4-1 heading into the sixth.

Top sixth

Santiago reaches base for the first Tigers baserunner in ten at-bats after Carmona plunks him on the right foot with one out. To this point, the sinker-baller has retired 10 Tigers hitters on ground ball outs.

Guillen follows Santiago’s hit-by-pitch with a single into left field and for the first time all game, the Tigers have something brewing here in the sixth.

Cabrera swings at Carmona’s first offering and pops it straight up to second base. The other Cabrera – Indians second baseman Asdrubal – loses it in the midday sun and it falls behind him. The infield fly rule is called and Cabrera is out, but Santiago advances to third. Runners on the corner, two outs for Joyce.

Joyce grounds out to Cabrera, who misplays the backhand. The ball squirts a few feet behind him and Guillen beats the recovery throw to the bag. Santiago scores and the Tigers trim the damage from Sizemore’s home run to two.

Bottom sixth

Shin Soo Choo – I just had to type that out – singles to right with one out followed by Marte fouling out high down the right field foul line, a play where Joyce had to make a sprinting basket catch.

With Choo on first with two outs, Verlander walks Garko on four straight pitches. Leyland makes a trip to the mound but doesn’t pull Verlander – newly recalled lefty Clay Rapada is warming in the bullpen – and on his very first pitch, the fu manchu’ed Fasano softly singles to left, scoring the Indians fifth run.

Verlander is yanked and Rapada comes in from the bullpen. Cabrera singles to right – the big boy Garko is held at third – and Sizemore is up with the bases loaded. This could get ugly in a hurry.

Rapada hits Sizemore – home plate umpire Wally Bell says it hit him but I don’t think it did – and a run comes home. 6-2 Indians.

Gutierrez grounds out to short with the bases juiced to end the inning and the Tigers head into the seventh facing a four-run deficit.

Top seventh

Verlander’s final line: 5 2/3 IP, 5 HA, 6 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 1 HB. Something not recorded in the stat line: 114 pitches. In just over five innings. That’s just not going to get it done, especially on a day where the bullpen is thin.

The sun in right field has shown its ugly face yet again, this time on a Renteria fly out to Choo, who loses it while the ball drops behind him. Renteria gets second on the error that’s called a double.

Ryan Raburn singles through the hole into right and the Tigers now have runners on the corners with no outs. Carmona’s sinker doesn’t have as sharp of a bite as it had earlier and he looks to be tiring just a bit, with a few recent pitches up in the zone.

He unleashes a wild pitch that ricochets off the dirt, off Fasano and drops right on the “I” of the Indians script logo behind home plate. Renteria scores easily while Fasano tries to pitch the ball backhand with his glove to home plate. He misses the backhand, overruns the ball and Raburn advances to third. That was a horribly stupid play by Fasano, as he had no chance of getting Renteria at home.

Eric Wedge trots out to the mound and lifts Carmona, bringing in the left-handed Rafael Perez.

On the first pitch Perez throws, Granderson drag bunts down the first base line. He gets the ball up and it floats right past first base in fair territory. Garko is in position to field the ball and have a footrace with Granderson to the bag but the ball skips off the top of his glove. Granderson on first with one out.

After a handful of two-strike foul balls, Santiago finally puts one in play and through the hole into left field. Again, the Tigers brew up some sixth inning offense. Runners on first and second with one out.

Guillen hits a chopper to short and the Indians execute a difficult 6-4-3 double play as Santiago takes Cabrera out at second. The throw is strong and on line though, and Guillen is called out by a step. A missed opportunity by the Tigers to really get back into the game.

Bottom seventh

Rapada breezes through the bottom of the seventh, striking out two. Indians lead 6-4 heading into the eighth.

Top eighth

Perez dominates the Tigers in the eighth, striking out Cabrera, Ordonez (pinch-hitting for Joyce) and Thames swinging.

Bottom eighth

Garko singles off Rapada to center with one out and while lurking on first base, Rapada throws one between Cabrera’s legs and Garko advances. For the life of me I can’t understand why he cared about Garko on first.

Fasano then doubles off the wall in left to put an insurance run on the board in the form of the fleet-footed (sarcastic) Ryan Garko. Indians lead by three, 7-4.

After two more Rapada walks to load the bases, Leyland comes out to bring in reliever Aqualino Lopez. This inning is taking way, way too long.

Gutierrez drives in a run by sacrificing to center and scoring Fasano and the Indians lead by four. Lopez strikes out Peralta to finally end this inning and we go to the ninth.

Top ninth

Cleveland brings in Masu Kobayashi – no, not the hot dog guy – and he shuts the door on the Tigers in the ninth, retiring them in order. Indians win, 9-4.


So after today’s loss, the Tigers split the four-game series with the Indians and don’t make up any ground on the White Sox and Twins, now sitting at six games behind first place with both of those teams facing off against each other tonight. Splitting isn’t going to get the job done. They need to beat the teams they should beat if they want any chance of getting back in the race, especially with the difficulty they’ve been having with Chicago and Minnesota.

After 22 hits last night, the Tigers could only muster six today, as Fausto Carmona shut them down for the most part. The sinker-baller, in his second start off the disabled list, looked like his old self, his velocity was high and he was keeping the ball low, inducing a bunch of ground balls.

Justin Verlander continues to take us on a Todd Jones-esque roller coaster ride. He consistently gets ran in the fifth and sixth inning and he doesn’t have the control to go deep into games. He falls behind hitters way too often and sure, he struck out nine today, which is fine and dandy, but he walked two batters he shouldn’t have and made a big mistake to Grady Sizemore in the form of a three-run homer.

Now the Tigers travel to Tampa Bay to face the upstart and A.L. East-leading Rays. They will be facing the teeth of the Rays pitching staff, facing both lefty Scott Kazmir and right-hander James Shields.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tigers at Royals game blog July 23


The Tigers look to prolong their post-All-Star Break winning ways with a sweep against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium – a stadium notoriously recognized by its outfield fountains – in Kansas City, the City of Fountains. Anyone else think there’s a direct correlation between the two?

Detroit rookie Armando Galarraga (7-4, 3.41 ERA) takes the hill against Kansas City’s Zack Greinke (7-6, 3.90) – whose baby face seems to indicate he’s the rookie in this matchup, rather than a 24-year-old veteran who has battled through a history of personal barriers in his five-year career.

Something has to give in today’s pitching duel, with Greinke’s 3-0 home record and 2.39 home ERA – about 2 ½ points lower than his road splits – facing Galarraga’s 5-2 road record and 2.85 road ERA – about 1 ½ points lower than his respective home statistics.

Greinke is 1-0 in two starts against the Tigers this season with an ERA just a shade above two and Galarraga hasn’t faced the Royals but has been dominant in matinee games, with a 3-0 record and 1.17 ERA in four daytime starts.

The Tigers have been beating the pulp out of Royals pitching – not even a two-hour rain delay could dampen the offense – and have gained three games on the Minnesota Twins after they have dropped three in a row.

Both Minnesota and Chicago have already kicked off and I’ll keep you updated as the games progress.

Tigers lineup: Granderson CF, Polanco 2B, C. Guillen 3B, Ordonez RF, Cabrera 1B, Joyce LF, Sheffield DH, Renteria SS, Inge C

Royals lineup: DeJesus DH, Aviles SS, Grudzielanek 2B, J. Guillen LF, Gordon 3B, Teahen RF, Olivo C, Gload 1B, Gathright CF

Rod Allen comments on Greinke’s home prowess by simply stating, “He’s comfortable at the crib.” I couldn’t have put it any better.

Kansas City is donning their sexy, 1980’s-style powder blue uniforms. And when I say sexy, I mean it. If I didn’t have a personal rule that restricted me from sporting any other A.L. Central colors, it’d be in my closet as we speak.

Top first

Granderson leads off the game with a hard-fought walk, fouling off two high fastballs in a 2-2 count, before watching the last two pitches all the way to first base.

Leyland is immediately putting the pedal to the medal, employing a hit-and-run on the very first pitch with Polanco, who slaps it through the right side of the infield. The play looks executed to perfection, except Granderson doesn’t get a read on the ball, instead standing a few feet past second base with his hands outstretched, taking a look to the outfield then to third base coach Gene Lamont then back to the outfield, as if to say “What in the world?” Oh well. I can live with a Granderson gaffe once in a while, especially if it doesn’t result in an out.

Guillen, up to the plate with two on and no out, chases a high Greinke fastball and heads back to the bench for strike three. Three fastballs, two fouled off and one big strikeout.

Magglio Ordonez picks up right where he left off in last night’s three-hit affair, singling to right on Greinke’s second offering, scoring Granderson from second. Cabrera up with runners on the corner and one out, a big swing away from opening that cut from the first two games very early.

Greinke challenges Cabrera with a steady dose of high fastballs – two of which he fouls off – before striking him out swinging on a full count, with Ordonez running at first. The throw comes down to second on a line, but Ordonez is nowhere in sight. The second baseman Grudzielanek looks home – where Polanco scores – before Ordonez is tagged out in a run down. An absolutely brilliant play by both Ordonez and Polanco, who basically stole a run from the Royals with great baserunning.

On the replays, they show Ordonez coming to a halt after the ball is sent to second, retreating and glancing at Polanco, who trots home.

It’s your run-of-the-mill 1-4-3 double play to end the inning, but the Tigers score twice in the opening frame and it’s 2-0.

Bottom first

Galarraga sets down the Royals in order, throwing a dandy of a breaking ball to the leadoff hitter DeJesus, who loses his bat to the backstop before he lines out to short.

After a seven pitch at-bat with DeJesus, he retires Grudzy – sick of typing out Grudzielanek, so get used to it – and rookie Mike Aviles in four pitches, on a weak groundout and fly out, respectively.

2-0 Tigers after one, 2-0 Yankees over Twins in the bottom of the sixth, and 3-1 White Sox in the top of the second.

Top second

The sweet-swinging Matt Joyce reaches to lead off the second on a ball down the left field line that has three Royals converging, with major-collision-and-injury written all over it. The shortstop Aviles misses the ball amidst the chaos and Joyce ends up standing on second.

Sheffield puts a charge into a 94 MPH fastball and it’s deep and looking like it will drop on or before the warning track in left center, but is tracked down by the speedy Joey Gathright for two outs. Joyce fails to advance to third …

… but does advance two pitches later when Greinke skips a wild pitch past his battery, Miguel Olivo, all the way to the backstop.

Royals manager Trey Hillman decides to move in the infield, with one out and a man on third in the top of the second. Not a bad idea because the way the Tigers have been scoring and the lack thereof for his club, runs are at a premium.

Renteria punches a bloop base hit into left field, scoring Joyce and giving the Tigers a 3-0 lead.

Inge and Granderson are retired on a pop out to short and a sharp grounder to the first baseman Ross Gload, who makes a nifty play, much to Granderson’s despair. Tigers out in the second but up 3-0.

Bottom second

The G-Train – I didn’t want to use Galarraga to start off a sentence again – keeps rolling, freezing the temperamental Jose Guillen with a slider right down the pipe for strike three, and inducing ground balls to the left side of the infield off the bats of Alex Gordon and Mark Teahen.

Six up and six down for Galarraga through two, throwing only 18 pitches so far.

Your personal A.L. Central out-of-town scoreboard: Yankees score three in the bottom of the sixth, leading the Twins 5-0, and the Rangers score two in the top of the second to tie the White Sox at three in the Windy City. So far, so good.

Top third

The well-oiled machine that has become the Tigers offense just keeps chugging to start the third. Polanco drops one perfectly between Gathright in center and Grudzy at second and the batting-gloveless Guillen draws a walk to put two on with no outs for the hit machine Ordonez.

Mags grounds out softly to Gordon at third, whose only play is at first, advancing both runners for Cabrera.

Cabrera has been hitting ropes as of late. This at-bat is no different, smoking Greinke’s first-pitch fastball offering into left field, scoring two runs and the Tigers now lead by a handful.

This could get ugly really fast, which means this blog could get really boring fast.

Greinke shows flashes of his once-effective stuff – and by once-effective I mean before today and his last start against Chicago, where he was shelled for seven runs – striking out Joyce and Sheffield on good breaking balls to end the Tigers half of the third, stranding Cabrera at first.

Bottom third

Well, that didn’t take long. Galarraga strikes out Olivo swinging on the first three pitches of the inning, all sliders, all swung on, and all missed.

Gload bounces one over a leaping Galarraga, into the glove of Renteria, positioned just behind second base for the second out of the inning.

Galarraga’s stuff today is nasty. He’s throwing his slider at two different speeds and getting swings like Gathright’s on a 0-1 pitch. You can almost hear him talk to himself as the pitch comes: “Should I … I mean … No, don’t … But … Ah!” That conversation producing a half-hearted swing that looked u-u-ugly.

Two strikeouts in the third, three on the game for Galarraga.

I’m late in submitting this so no out-of-town scoreboard this inning.

Top fourth

Apparently the guys in the booth are reading today’s blog. First, today’s AFLAK trivia question: What’s the only city that has more fountains than Kansas City? Then they head into a long rant about the Royals sexy jerseys. Both guys kind of like them but kind of don’t. Thanks for reading guys.

Inge singles through the left side of the infield with one out, but nothing is doing after Granderson lines out to second and Polanco pops out to short.

Tigers out in the fourth, leading 5-0.

Bottom fourth

Rome. I knew it. I knew Rome had more fountains than Kansas City. “At first, I thought it was Italy. But Italy isn’t a city,” Mario says.

You know, I’m starting to like Galarraga today more and more after every inning. You know why? I have to type less and less.

This is how the bottom of the fourth went: Out. Out. Out.

Sure, Aviles might have fell down out of the box on the second out and Renteria bobbled the third out – eerily reminding me of Guillen’s errors at short last year – but that’s just splitting hairs.

He’s pitching good. Very good, to be exact. 12 up, 12 down. Tigers lead, 5-0.

A.L. Central out-of-town scoreboard: Yankees still lead the Twins by five in the middle of the eighth and Texas goes ahead, 4-3, on a David Murphy RBI groudout.

Top fifth

Greinke strikes out the Detroit side in the fifth, which, by my calculation, was Guillen, Ordonez and Cabrera. He’s got seven strikeouts, and that would be impressive if he hadn’t given up five runs earlier in the game.

Greinke’s a strikeout pitcher with good stuff, coming into the game with 106 strikeouts, good for 24th in the league.

Strikeouts or no strikeouts, Tigers lead by a handful.

Back to the Armando Galarraga show in the bottom of the fifth …

Bottom fifth

… and he picks up right where he left off, with Alex Gordon flailing at a full-count slider that started at the bottom half of the zone and ended up an inch off the ground for the second out of the inning.

Galarraga has been masterful the first half of this ballgame, throwing 14 first-pitch strikes to the first 15 batters.

He’s recorded five strikeouts – mostly on sliders – eight groundouts and only two fly outs. 15 up and 15 down so far. Tigers lead, 5-0 after five.

Top sixth

Nothing doing for the Tigers in the sixth, as Greinke officially establishes an impressive rhythm of his own, now retiring 12 straight after a weak groundout, his eighth strikeout – Sheffield’s the victim – and a weak popout.

Bottom sixith

Galarraga opens the Royals half of the sixth with yet another first-pitch strike, a slider that Olivo swung on top of, followed by a biting slider out of the zone that Olivo merely waves at. Three balls later, Olivo swings and misses at, you guessed it, a slider.

Today’s Belle Tire pitch-by-pitch is simply titled “Filthy,” followed by a series of wanna-be swings by the Royals on Galarraga fastballs. Nice touch, guys.

Gload is retired on a threatening bloop that settles into Joyce’s glove in left, followed by the speedy – and I swear I’ve called him this three times now – Gathright nearly beating a slapper up the middle, but Renteria fires to Cabrera and beats him by half a step.

18 up, 18 down for Armando Galarraga. He’s been efficient, dominant, and, not to be too cliché, filthy so far.

Top seventh

Greinke is relieved by Horacio Ramirez, who I believe played for Atlanta back in the day. In times like these, is a man’s best friend.

Granderson triples with one out, and I just have to wonder if everyone is guilty of taking Curtis Granderson for granted the way I am. Each and every time he finds the wall or gap, I think triple. Some of the time he gets it, some of the time he doesn’t. But I’m jaded and now it’s expected of him. But something tells me it’s expected of himself as well.

With the infield drawn in, Polanco hits a sharp grounder, corralled by Grudzy at second for the second out of the inning.

The batting-gloveless Carlos Guillen is batting-gloveless no more. He appears at the plate with two outs and a runner on third with his mitts on for the first time this game, trying to punch across another insurance run.

The gloves play no part, as Guillen walks.

A batter later, Ordonez drives in that all-important sixth run of the game when you’re ahead by five. He singles to left field, scoring Granderson. Guillen advances to third.

The ever-hot Miguel Cabrera then singles opposite-field over the head of Grudzy to drive in Guillen from third. It’s Cabrera’s third RBI of the game and his 71st of the year.

A.L. Central out-of-town scoreboard: Yankees defeat Minnesota, 5-1, and Texas leads the White Sox at Comiskey – yes, Comiskey – 6-4 in the bottom of five.

This means with a win, the Tigers creep closer to Minnesota – to the tune of three games – with each team having a four-game streak in opposite directions. Key words: With a win.

Bottom seventh

Well that’s a downer. I suppose I can pull out my phone from underneath the couch and call my friend Verm back and ask him “Why would you call me to tell me he’s throwing a no-hitter? No. Seriously. Why?”

David DeJesus singles on a full-count inside fastball into left field and the possibilities of both a no-hitter and perfect game have disappeared.

The words of wisdom from one Mr. Allen still ring in my head as Aviles flies out to right, “Make ‘em beat you with your best pitch.” But hindsight is always 20-20 and the battery probably figured DeJesus would be sitting slider.

After a one-out walk, Jose Guillen grounds one past an outstretched Renteria into center field and DeJesus scores.

Naturally, there has to be a massive letdown after pitching perfect through six innings and letting it go. These guys know what’s going on. The adrenaline simmers and the focus dimmers. It’s called being human.

Right after a mound visit from pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, Alex Gordon singles into left on the first pitch of his third plate appearance, loading the bases with one out.

After allowing three hits in the seventh – three more than he had allowed the first six innings – Galarraga buckles down and tosses another trio of unhittable sliders, striking out Teahen for the second time this game and inducing a fly out off the bat of Olivo.

Fairly disappointed that I can’t put “21 up, 21 down” in this spot, we go to the eighth inning with the Tigers ahead, 7-1. And I can call my friend back and give him an earful.

Top eighth

Sheffield pops out to first amidst FSN highlights of Jon Lester’s no-hitter from earlier in the year, Verlander’s from last year and Jack Morris’ no-no at Comiskey in 1984, followed by a list of Tigers no-hitters. There’s nothing like pouring salt into the wounds of what could have been, right?

Renteria singles, Inge grounds out and Granderson flies out to end the Tigers eighth inning.

Before cutting to commercial, Casey Fossum emerges from the Tigers bullpen to relieve Galarraga, who turned in quite the performance today.

A.L. Central out-of-town scoreboard: Jarrod Saltalamacchia – he of the longest name in baseball history, with 14 letters – delivers a two-out two-RBI single to put Texas ahead by four, 8-4, over the White Sox, going into the bottom of the seventh.

Bottom eighth

As the southpaw takes the hill, Galarraga’s final line looks like this: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. The seven strikeouts are a career high for the rookie.

Fossum navigates through the bottom of the eighth with only one blip on the radar screen: A double by that guy. DeJesus, who broke up the no-hitter just an inning earlier.

Through eight frames, Tigers lead, 7-1.

Top ninth

The Tigers load the bases in the top half of the ninth – Polanco led off with a walk, followed two batters later by Ordonez cashing in his second straight three-hit game – but fail to push a run across after Sheffield pops up to Gordon at third.

Tigers up six going into the ninth, with Todd Jones entering the game to get some work in before their weekend showdown with the White Sox at Comerica Park.

Bottom ninth

Jones comes in and breezes through an inning of work but doesn’t escape without a scary moment – a high and inside pitch that tailed into Jose Guillen’s left shoulder, just missing his head.

A groundout off the bat of Mark Teahen, scored 4-3, ends it, and the Tigers sweep the Royals, 7-1.

And for the last A.L. Central out-of-town scoreboard: Chicago tallies a run in both the bottom of the seventh and eighth, now trailing Texas by two, 8-6. Hold your breath, Tigers fans.


The Tigers did what they needed to do in Kansas City – and then some. After a four-game split in Baltimore, where they put up 45 hits, they come to the City of Fountains and put up 43 in three games, outscoring the Royals 33-6.

Since the downtrodden start, the motto has been to win each series to get themselves back into the race, but when faced with an inferior opponent, they need to capitalize and sweep series more times than not. That’s exactly what they did here.

The offensive juggernaut we expected at the start of the year has finally come to form, with almost every player firing on all cylinders, but not to be ignored is the consistent and solid starting pitching that we’ve seen in the week since the break that saw the Tigers go 5-2.

Miguel Cabrera is on track and is primed for a post-All-Star Break explosion. His average is again creeping towards .300 – Miggy’s at .290 right now – and he’s smacking the ball around with authority.

Now down three games to Minnesota – and possibly shaving a game off Chicago’s lead depending on today’s finish at U.S. Cellular – this weekend’s series with the White Sox looms large.

The surprising Gavin Floyd takes on Nate Robertson Friday night, John Danks takes on resurgent ace Justin Verlander on Saturday night and Javier Vazquez duels with Zach Miner on Sunday.

Clearly, the Tigers need to take the series to inch even closer to Chicago in the standings, hopefully replicating the last time the White Sox took a trip to Comerica – a three-game sweep in mid-June.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Tigers vs. Twins game blog July 2


Two rookies take the slab this afternoon at the Metrodome in the rubber game of this midseason A.L. Central battle, a clash of two winning clubs that have cruised through the recently-ending month of June.

Minnesota, currently standing in second place in the division, 2 ½ games back of the Chicago White Sox, went 17-11 in June and have won 12 of their past 14 games.

Three days ago, Detroit finally found themselves hovering over the .500 mark for the first time this season, after posting an 18-8 record in June and winning their last six series.

The two teams split the first two games, Detroit taking the opener in late-inning comeback fashion and Minnesota taking last night’s contest with tough starting pitching, fending off a late Tigers run.

Eddie Bonine (2-0, 3.98) will battle Nick Blackburn (6-4, 4.05), and neither of these rookies has faced the other team.

These two teams meet for a four-game set at Comerica Park next Thursday but don’t renew acquaintances until early September.

Detroit: Granderson CF, Polanco 2B, Guillen 3B, Thames 1B, Joyce RF, Sheffield DH, Thomas LF, Renteria SS, Sardinha C

Minnesota: Gomez CF, Casilla 2B, Mauer C, Morneau 1B, Kubel DH, Young LF, Buscher 3B, Punto SS, Span RF

Former Tiger Craig Monroe, simply mashing against his former team this season to a tune of a .421 batting average with two home runs – including a key three-run shot last night – is not in the lineup today for Minnesota.

Before the game, it was announced that the Tigers optioned reliever Zach Miner, who walked four batters last night and has a 4.23 ERA, to Triple-A Toledo for right-handed reliever Aquilino Lopez. Lopez was up with the big league club earlier this year and since his demotion to Triple-A has sported a nice 2.67 ERA.

And now, right before the first pitch, some breaking news just into the Non-Baseball-Related-Information-Yet-Still-Relevant-To-The-Detroit-Sports-Fan Department: The Red Wings have signed forward Marian Hossa – seen recently in the Stanley Cup Finals with Pittsburgh – to a one-year deal worth $7.4 million.

Top first

Granderson leads off the game with a swinging strikeout, offering at a Blackburn fastball off the plate outside. Polanco follows with a line-drive that is snagged in mid-air by a leaping Brian Buscher at third base – a certifiable Web Gem right there – robbing Placido of a single.

Running the count to two strikes on each of the first three hitters, Blackburn strikes out Carlos Guillen on a slider that nabs the outside corner, Guillen unable to move the bat off his shoulders. Three up and three down for the Tigers in the first.

Bottom first

Carlos Gomez leads off for the Twins and he is quickly becoming much of a paradoxical player for me: I love him and I hate him. He seems to bunt every single time he’s at the dish. This at-bat is no different: He drags a bunt down the first base line that is fielded by Thames, but Thames is unable to beat the speedy Gomez to the bag, who is nearly a full-body’s width out of the baseline and extends his left hand to touch the base during a head-first slide.

“Come on Julius,” Rod Allen says, referring to first base umpire Chuck Meriweather’s real first name, playfully needling him as Allen doesn’t believe he touched the bag. Thames puts the tag on while pleading his case, but replays confirm Chuck – or Julius – made the right call.

Runners on first and second with one out after Alexi Casilla sacrifices Gomez to second and Bonine walks Mauer. Lurking on deck is 2006 A.L. MVP Justin Morneau.

On a 1-2 slider, Morneau bounces a perfect-hopper to Edgar Renteria, standing a handful of feet to the left of second base when he receives the ball. Renteria takes two steps, tags the bag and throws to Thames to complete the double play. Bonine tip-toes around Morneau with runners on and the Tigers escape the inning unscathed.

Top second

Blackburn works his second economical, shut-down inning in the second, challenging the hot Marcus Thames with a full-count slider high and right down the middle, inducing a pop out to second, followed by a fly out and groundout off the bats of Joyce and Sheffield, respectively. Blackburn has thrown 26 pitches through two innings.

Bottom second

Bonine responds with a quick and easy inning of his own. He strikes out Jason Kubel and gets both Delmon Young – younger brother of former Tiger Dmitri Young – and Buscher to weakly pop out.

Top third

Clete Thomas leads off the third with the Tigers first hit of the game – a patented opposite-field slapper that feeds off the turf and fills the hole between shortstop and third base.

With a man on first and nobody out, Renteria shatters his bat – that resembling a Red Orange or Orange Red Crayola crayon – to Gomez, sprinting inward from center field. Discussing the point of those two colors in the same box of crayons is for another time and place … but clearly I don’t get it.

Dane Sardinha follows with a soft liner into the glove of Nick Punto at short for the second out, but then Granderson puts a charge into a full count changeup, placing one into the right center gap. At the crack of the bat it appears Thomas will score from first, but the speed of Denard Span in right negates the run. Thomas advances to third and there are runners on the corner with two outs for Polanco.

Wow, that was a sick play. Absolutely sick. Polanco grounds a 1-2 Blackburn offering up the middle, only to be stopped by Nick Punto on a dive. Punto, lying on his stomach, then flips his glove and rolls the ball to second base, where the sprawling second baseman Casilla makes the catch for the force out. Blackburn and the dome are fired up. I’m still in amazement of the play. Unbelievable.

Bottom third

Usually, the story goes as follows: Player makes an unbelievable play in the field, leads off the inning with a home run. This time, a slight change. Punto walks. A batter later, Span lays a bunt down to sacrifice him to second, but the bunt dies a few feet in front of the plate and is pounced on by Sardinha, who delivers a laser to second for the out. A very nice play by the relatively unknown backup catcher.

With Span on first, that pesky Gomez guy is up again and this time rockets one off the turf just inside third base, past Guillen who is playing in for the bunt. Rounding second, Span looks ready to score, but after a quick corral by Thomas in left, he’s held up at third. Runners on second and third, one out.

After Casilla pops out to Renteria at short for the second out – a pitch that off the bat looked like it could bloop over Renteria’s head – Joe Mauer nearly takes Bonine’s head off and singles to center, scoring two runs. Mauer advances to second on the throw from Granderson.

With Mauer at second, Morneau hits one off the back of the plate that trampolines sky-high. Guillen camps under the ball to the back left of the mound, but fumbles it and he is charged with an error. The error is iffy, as the ball hung so high I don’t know if Guillen had a legit shot at Morneau at first.

Runners are on the corners and Jason Kubel takes aim at Bonine’s melon again, singling Mauer home with a liner to center. Bonine’s pitches are high in the zone and the Twins are making him pay. 3-0, Twins.

Chuck Hernandez takes a stroll to the mound to calm Bonine, but to no avail. It looks like somebody put a quarter in the merry-go-round: Following the mound visit, Bonine allows line-drive RBI singles to Young and Buscher, a harmless-looking inning suddenly turned into a five-spot for Minnesota.

Leyland has seen enough and the southpaw Casey Fossum is summoned to take on the bases loaded from the bullpen, Bonine failing to get out of the third for his first bad start with the big league club.

In what seems like a recurring theme this inning, Span hits a line drive to Guillen at third, whose knees buckle while making the catch for the third out in the inning. The Twins put up five runs on six hits – seven if you’re scoring with my discretion – and are delivering clutch hit after clutch hit, going 5 for 9 with runners in scoring position thus far.

Top fourth

Guillen grounds out to short to open the fourth and Thames reaches on an error a batter later, after Buscher makes a diving stop to his left but makes an errant throw to Morneau at first base. The ball tips out of Morneau’s glove. Again, I don’t like the error call. It was a diving stop!

Joyce grounds into a fielders choice and Blackburn strikes out Sheffield on a low fastball to end the inning. Give it a couple of innings and the Tigers will knock home a couple of runs, kick-starting their comeback trail, as they have the first couple games of the series.

Bottom fourth

My, my, my, Joe Mauer has such a beautiful swing. He lines one to the right of Guillen – who is playing near his old shortstop position in a shift – for his second hit of the game, with two outs in the fourth. He’s also one of the best looking guys in the league, but, uh, I feel weird writing that.

The back end of the “M&M Boys”, Morneau grounds out to second to end the inning and we head to the fifth with Minnesota leading, 5-0.

Top fifth

I guess if I had to make a choice, I’d say Renteria’s bat is Red Orange. It’s kind of different that such an even-keel personality has such a flamboyant bat color. It’s also amazing that with the personalities we have in the game today, that we don’t have guys strutting into the box with a lime green bat.

Anyways, Renteria’s Red Orange Crayola bat produces a fly out to left field for the second out, sandwiched between a Clete Thomas strikeout swinging and Sardinha groundout to shortstop for the final out.

Through five frames, Blackburn is dealing. 77 pitches through five innings, four strikeouts, no walks and only two hits allowed. Much like the first two starters this series, Glen Perkins and Scott Baker, Blackburn has been solid.

Bottom fifth

Minnesota puts up another run in the bottom of the fifth, Delmon Young scoring after his one-out double squeezed just inside the bag and to the right of Guillen at third. Young was then knocked in by Punto with two outs, who singled to left but was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double by Clete Thomas in left. Minnesota up by a touchdown – that of the missed extra-point variety – going into the sixth.

Top sixth

The Tigers enter the sixth being out-hit 10-2. They have recorded 10 hits in each of their last seven games, so if they are to prolong that streak, a comeback has to be in order.

Granderson leads off with a seven-pitch at-bat, resulting in a walk, followed by Polanco slapping a liner up the middle for a base hit. The Tigers are stringing some offense together for the first time today …

… but then there’s that Gomez guy again. With two on and no out, Guillen drives a pitch to center that looks like a hit but is taken away by Gomez’ speed, making a nice diving catch for the first out and a punch to the Tigers gut.

Thames flies out high to left-center a couple pitches into his at-bat, fielded by Gomez in center after he lost it in the dome. He camped under what he thought was the ball then had to switch directions quickly and made the catch, cracking a laugh after.

Gomez was the key piece in last winter’s Johan Santana deal with the New York Mets. He’s a very young player that has come onto the scene quicker than most expected, looking like a young outfield version of Jose Reyes.

Joyce grounds out to end the inning, an inning that saw a Tigers rally killed before it even started with Gomez’ diving catch in center.

Bottom sixth

The bottom of the sixth starts off in debacle-fashion: Span doubles opposite field to left-center, followed by that guy Gomez again, grounding one to the left of Renteria at short, who shuffles it to Ryan Raburn – a defensive sub for Guillen at third. The ball beats Span but he somehow gets his foot to the bag, much to the dismay of Raburn, who is trying to sell the tag that came too late.

Next up with runners on the corners, Casilla grounds to Renteria – the infield playing in – who pauses a second to hold Span at third then flips to Polanco at second. Right when he flips to Polanco, Span takes off for the plate and scores, and Casilla advances to second on the throw home. 7-0, Twins.

Mauer and Morneau each pop out with a man on second to end the inning.

Top seventh

Three up, three down, three pop outs. Thomas, Sheffield Renteria. Questions? No. Good. At stretch time in the Metrodome, it’s 7-0 Twins.

Bottom seventh

Nothing doing in the bottom of the seventh for the Twins besides Young’s second one-out double – and third hit – of the game. He is stranded on second after a Nick Punto groundout.

Casey Fossum has thrown over 50 pitches – he was starting in Triple-A Toledo – and he has done as good a job as you can ask for entering his situation. His innings-eating is helping Leyland, allowing him to rest some of his relievers for the upcoming series in Seattle.

Top eighth

Jesse Crain enters the game in the top of the eighth for Nick Blackburn, who pitched magnificently. His final line: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 BB, 4 K. No runs scored on Blackburn’s watch today.

Just when it looks like the Tigers are going to turn in another trio of fly outs, Polanco pulls a Justin Morneau from earlier in the game and slams one off the plate for an infield single. Polanco is replaced at first by Michael Hollimon.

Raburn follows with a line drive to the right-center gap that is cut-off just before the wall by Span. It’s the second time this game Span has saved a run with his speed, forcing Hollimon to pull up at third.

And with the Tigers first run of the game 90 feet away, Crain challenges the mighty, powerful, country strong Marcus Thames with a 94 M.P.H. fastball at the letters that Thames swings through for a strikeout.

Bottom eighth

Fernando Rodney replaces Fossum and strikes out that guy Gomez, seemingly keeping him off the base for the first time all series. Alexi Casilla then slaps one to Raburn at third and beats the throw.

It’s now no secret to why the Twins are a good baseball team: Speed. Their speed, from Gomez to Casilla to Span, puts so much pressure on opposing defenses and gives their pitchers an extra level of support. Minnesota has 102 infield hits this year, leading the A.L., 23 more than second-place Kansas City.

Rodney overthrows a fastball to Mauer, which Sardinha completely misses and ricochets off the padding behind home plate. The ball caroms all the way to first base, and Casilla, not missing a beat, advances all the way to third.

Mauer grounds out to end the inning.

Top ninth

Joyce, Sheffield and Thomas to start the ninth. Maybe they’ll start a seven-run rally. Probably not though.

Joyce grounds out to second and home plate umpire Tim Welke gets drilled by a Sheffield foul ball – the second time this game he’s taken one square off the mask. Umpires are underrated. Always have been, always will be.

Thomas flies out foul to Young just in front of the Twins bullpen mounds in left field to end the game and the series. Minnesota rocked Detroit for seven runs on 14 hits to the Tigers zero runs on five hits – four of them being singles.


As for the postgame analysis: The Tigers didn’t hit. That’s basically what it comes down to.

It’s not a sign of panic like earlier in the year, not when they have put together a handful plus two games of 10-hit baseball. Blackburn came out and executed his game plan and shut down the Tigers on a getaway day to Seattle.

Minnesota’s five-run third inning proved to be the undoing of today’s game, unraveling Tigers starter Eddie Bonine and giving Blackburn more than enough run support to win the series.

The Tigers now travel to Seattle for the final of their four trips to the West Coast. The Tigers are 5-1 against the lowly M’s and need to take care of their business to make sure they don’t fall any further behind Chicago and Minnnesota.