After game 2 I was happy, but cautiously optimistic. I knew that while Kenny Rogers was definitely capable of giving the Tigers a chance to win, Rich Harden also had the ability to shut them down. An A’s win on Friday and you’re looking at a whole new series. But then the opposite happened. Rich Harden pitched decent. He was erratic but the damage was kept to a minimum. It didn’t matter because Kenny Rogers was stone-cold money as he has taken a personal vendetta against letting runners into scoring postion let alone touching home plate.
As you’ll read below, most think this series is over. Things are never over til there over, but when you’ve got the other team practically conceding I think it’s safe to feel confident. Jim Leyland is even managing this series differently now. One part of his decision to use Omar Infante as the DH was that, “Omar needs some at-bats.” How often are playoff managers looking to make sure everybody stays in the lineup?
Yesterday ticket brokers took a huge hit when the game time was moved up. Some combination of the weather and the game time made it one of the coldest tickets in town with seats on StubHub selling 40% below face value. With a potential clinching game today, I don’t think they’ll have any problems.
It’s looking like the Tigers will have less and less of a need for Joel Zumaya in this series. This is fortunate because he’s not looking so available. If the Tigers can close this one out quickly, Zumaya could have an additional week off before the World Series starts. If Fernando Rodney has fixed his control issues, it becomes even less of an immediate need for Zumaya to return.
Sometimes you just have to pause and tip your cap to your opponent. The Tigers have done something in this series that no one expected. They’ve shown patience and have approached the A’s pitchers in a method more reminiscent of the Yankees than the free swinging Motowners from the regular season.
If Haren can come through again, and get the A’s a Game 5, I have a feeling Barry Zito will bounce back from his bad Game 1 start. Everyone keeps saying how brilliant the Tigers game plan was against Zito, but how brilliant is it to score runs against a guy who can’t throw his fastball or his curve for a strike? You sit changeup and hit it. Duh. Zito won’t have that kind of bad control again. He’ll be better. Win those two, and suddenly, you’re back in Oakland again, and things get interesting.
Rogers did what he does, mixing pitches, changing speeds, making the opponent look silly. His Yankees-conquering imbued this team with something extra, and Rogers is showing something remarkable. He was in complete control again, surrendering two hits in another seven-plus shutout innings, and that noise you hear today is the echo of the insistent “Ken-ny!” chant.
I mean, the Athletics got better starting pitching Friday, and it didn’t make a difference. They didn’t leave a metric ton of human beings in scoring position, and it didn’t make any difference. They played better defense, and it didn’t make any difference. Doesn’t leave you true believers with much to go on now, does it?
Kenny was outstanding, bottom line. It’s so fun to watch, you feel like you’re going through every pitch with him, especially being a fellow pitcher on the staff. It’s fun to watch a guy go out there, know what he’s trying to do, executing pitches, doing it with confidence — especially Kenny, who has somehow added to a reputation of the successes that he’s had in his career. These are kind of chapters that are huge. Because these will be the ones that you’re remembered most for. Unfortunately, 200 wins, a perfect game, and all those things that he’s done and achieved, a lot of people don’t remember that he’s done a lot of stuff. But what he’s doing here in Detroit, he’s going to be eating a lot of free dinners here in town for a long time, I’ll tell you that much. He’s been an outstanding leader for the staff, especially the starters, but for the whole staff. Going out there and doing what he’s doing, it’s inspiring. You want so much to able to do that. The guy, in what people think is the back end of his career, looks like he’s right in the middle of it right now.
Everyone’s frothing at the mouth — and it had nothing to do with the numbing cold and wind. There’s a spiritual connection between the city that has learned to take a punch and its stone-jawed baseball team. And Comerica Park has become the revival tent.
I can hear the proverbial fat lady warming up, but I’m hoping the A’s can put off her singing for a game or two more. I’d like to see Haren pitch well tomorrow, and the A’s offense score at least a few runs. A win would allow Barry Zito one more start wearing the green and gold; a chance to redeem himself and go out on a higher note than Game One.
The Tigers are doing the small things. That shouldnt’ surprise people too much. They’ve been doing these things for much of the year when needed, but never really made a religion out of it. Detroit wasn’t winning all those one-run games earlier by accident. It didn’t always work, of course, and at times, the guys failed miserably. But the experience paid off in October. That’s Leyland at work, I think. Maybe. Right now I’d elect him president, of course.