Game 18: White Sox at Tigers
PREGAME The Tigers need this win to salvage a .500 homestand, and to keep their record from sliding back to .500 overall.
One thing that definitely isn’t a key to the game is grabbing the lead early.
Gary Sheffield gets the day off today, so naturally Omar Infante will get the start at designated hitter and bat 3rd. It should be noted that Infante has amassed 32 at-bats against Jon Garland and is hitting .438 against him. Infante won’t be any less productive than Gary Sheffield has been at driving in Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson, but it is a curious decision nonetheless. If Infante comes up with a big hit it is Leyland’s magic touch. If not …
Jon Garland gets the start for the White Sox. The Tigers end out Justin Verlander who’s been great this year. Last year the White Sox were the team Justin struggled with the most posting a 7.84 ERA over 5 starts.
Game Time 1:05pm
POSTGAME: Ah, so many thoughts and so many emotions. To hard to string them together logically, so I’m going bulletized:
- As frustrating as it is to be giving up early leads, at least there are early leads to give up. Yes it led to some agony this week, but never look gift runs in the mouth.
- Games like today are why I find it hard to blame a manager for a loss, or credit them for a win. Jim Leyland made several questionable decisions, mostly around bunting, and yet the team still came out on top. If you want to say the won in spite of Leyland that’s fine. To say a manager cost a team the game gets into the hypothetical. I’ll buy “he didn’t give his team the best chance to win” I’ll grant you that. But you can’t assign wins and losses to managers.
- Speaking of decisions, I liked his bullpen usage today. While turning to Aquilino Lopez isn’t a great move, his options were limited. Joel Zumaya was unavailbable and Fernando Rodney has been unreliable. He could have gone to Wil Ledezma earlier, but the scheduled batters when Lopez came in were Dye/Pierzynski/Crede. I’d have gone with the righty in that situation also.
- Excellent performances by Wil Ledezma and Jason Grilli. Grilli’s numbers aren’t great, but they are also skewed by that nightmare of an inning that he was only partially responsible for.
- Tremendous 10th inning for Brandon Inge. Defensively he started the double play on the bunt, then made a nice play on a slow roller to close out the inning. Then got a pure hustle double on an awful play by Brian Anderson.
- Ah, the 10th inning non-bunt. On Wednesday Leyland brought in Omar Infante to advance a runner to second via the bunt. It reduced the chances of scoring by about 3%. Today, with Inge knocking a leadoff double, he decided not to bunt. Moving the runner from 2nd to 3rd and sacrificing the out actually would have reduced the chances of the Tigers not scoring from 38% to 34.5%. The decision wouldn’t have been as problematic if Granderson could have advanced the runner some other way. So Curtis shares some of the blame. Instead, the base stayed open meaning that Polanco wouldn’t get a chance. I don’t hate the bunt as much as many statheads, I’d just prefer to see it used more logically.
- It was nice to see Marcus Thames make the most of his chance to play. That homer was huge for the team, and the fans. You don’t want to make too much of an April win or loss, but everyone needed a pick-me-up.
- Every position player got in today except for Gary Sheffield. At first I thought that Leyland must really be doubting him. On further reflection, the last thing a guy who is stuggling and pressing needs is to come off the bench with runners on base in extra innings.
- Placido Polanco is on some kind of tear, and is looking much more like the 2005 team MVP edition than the 2006 edition.
- Sean Casey had been in some kind of funk. When he got his first hit Rod and Mario said it broke and 0 for 18 slump. The last hit I remember for Casey was the gift double against the Royals, so the slump was probably worse. It was nice to see him follow it up with another line drive in his next at-bat.