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.

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