Hey Detroit, baseball is fun again

It’s amazing what a big come from behind victory can do for the spirits of a team, or a fanbase, or a blogger. I was freezing in the stands for this game. Cracking sarcastic remarks about the fates of our Tigers. I saw a glimmer of hope when the team plated 4 runs in the 6th inning to cut the lead to 1 run. I seethed in the top of the 7th as I began to compose my post game report in my head. Needless to say it had a very different working title. But then everything turned around as the Tigers batted around in the top of the 8th inning.

For so much of the game it seemed like just another miserable night of 2008 Tigers baseball. Jeremy Bonderman was pitching good, but his effort was repeatedly undermined by poor defense. A dropped foul ball led to the first two runs. A misplayed ball in center field led to two more. And as has happened so frequently to the starters, he was left in a little too long (the velocity crapped out around 90 pitches again – this stamina thing is worrisome), and he left a few too many runners on base, and they all scored courtesy of the bullpen.

I’m not going to kill Bobby Seay. He’d been pretty rock-steady and he just didn’t have it tonight. But it looked to be another loss for a team that had grown accustomed to losing. Could a team coming off of back to back shutouts really claw back from 5 runs down?

Then a funny thing happened. Pudge Rodriguez, who had made a run costing error earlier and who also had hit a couple of balls square down the right field line with nothing to show for it, hit a 342 foot homer where the fence was 345 feet away. The Twins right fielder was kind enough to ‘Canseco’ a drive to the wall over said wall. Albeit with more grace than his Juiced-ness.

And then things got really crazy after Francis Beltran escaped with a scoreless top of the 8th inning. Detroit started pounding line drives. Sheffield banged one into the left corner for a double. Ordonez hit a missile to center field that missed clearing the fence by a matter of feet resulting in another double. A weak grounder to Adam Everett, one of the most sure handed fielders in the game, became a gift of an E6. Carlos Guillen’s third hit of the night plated another run and brought the tying run to the plate – with nobody out.

But here’s the thing. Pat Neshek, he of the freaky side arm moving all over the place delivery, was coming in. After an Edgar Renteria ground out, Pudge Rodriguez found the right-center gap for the Tigers first triple. A game tying hit. The comback was complete. But things weren’t done. The much maligned Jacque Jones was squaring off against his old team. He hadn’t found a way to get a ball out of the infield, yet somehow he needed to muscle one deep to put the team ahead. He fought off a couple tough pitches before lining a ball to left field that Delmon Young made a fine running catch on. But it was deep enough, and hit where Young’s momentum wasn’t carrying him straight home. The result was a close play but ultimately a Tigers lead.

Clete Thomas and Placido Polanco would tack on an insurance run on a night when everyone picked up a hit – except for Jones who still managed the go ahead RBI.

With that the team has some life. I don’t know if it carries over, but for one night we saw the offense that we knew had to be in there somewhere. The All Star lineup finally turning RISP into R instead of GIDP. It wasn’t a matter of worrying about working the pitcher as much as it was about pounding pitches. Many of those bullets came on first pitch swings which no one seems to complain about when they find a gap.

It wasn’t a complete game by any means: three errors, more bad bullpening, bad managing, etc. But it was life, and energy, and smiles, and fun.

27 thoughts on “Hey Detroit, baseball is fun again”

  1. Apparently the same things happened to Mark Mulder before being shut down with his arm problems. He missed sometime in a season, couldn’t keep stamina/velocity up, and eventually had TJ surgery I believe.

    Not saying that Bondo is heading down the same path but it’s food for thought.

  2. That said about Bondo’s velocity being a little down late in games, he was dealing tonight. I don’t know if you could tell from up there, Billfer, but he got several swings and misses on his 2 seamer. He usually doesn’t miss bats with his fastball, but he did for the first several innings tonight.

    I also wonder about some pitches that pitch tracker calls splitters. There were several of them tonight. I wonder whether some of them were changeups? You classified the few splitters in the last pitch f/x post as sliders, but tonight it would be worth taking a look if any of the ‘splitters’ had non-Bondo-slider movement. I think it’s possible that at least a few of them were changeups that were misclassified.

    Great game. I’m not worried about Bobby Seay. He doesn’t blow up often.

  3. Great Game and retold nicely again by an almost put away wet Billfer.

    Kids are off from School this week, My son says he wants to watch the whole game. I say OK, after 7 innings he wants to bail. I said true fans stick it out until teh end and he says OK! your right.

    Tigers make a great come back and Jones comes in. Looks good initially but with two out and two on my son says: Dad what do we do now Jones is doing it again. My response is well we could both start smoking… Mom is already asleep. Jones get the final out and we are both saved a trip to the drug store.

    I actually think that as much as I would have like to see Maggs get a homer on his hit in the 8th… I think it left the guys fired up because there were still men on base.

    Great win……… Can we string a few?



  4. Concerning the endurance of the starting pitching.

    At first I felt like the weather might be the determining factor in our starters short outings. After sitting through Saturday’s freezing away game, I think its safe to say (for Verlander at least) that maybe it has less to do with weather and maybe the combined weight of keeping the other team at bay (no run support) and going deeper into games (taxed bullpen) is wearing these starters down. I think we might have to wait until the team starts having some consistent offensive success and a couple good relief outings (like last Friday vs Chicago) before the mental burden comes off our starters. I know these guys are supposed to be pros and used to handling pressure, but I think we all know how mental this game is.

  5. Wow, was Pudge fired up last night, or what? Thats good to see someone get excited. Now hopefully that lights a fire under the rest of this team.

    I am hopeful for at least one day now.

  6. It was almost as if you could actually see them say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”.

    I’m with Rod Allen on this one. It’s starting to come together. They might not be a cohesive unit just yet, but I think it finally started to click last night.

  7. Just to note it… I’m not a fan of Cabrera already having 4 errors at third in only 13 games, good for an .882 fielding percentage.

    While it’s very crude extrapolation, that comes out to a projected 50 errors for the season.

    Inge had 18 last year, with a .959 fielding percentage.

  8. I’m glad to see Bonderman striking out some guys again. What did he have – 5 K’s in 6 1/3? That’s more Bondo-like. He wasn’t putting guys away in his first couple starts, which kind of worried me.

  9. Unfortunately, I missed the complete comeback. I had to go to work at 10:00 last night but stayed in the parking lot until the very last second. I left just after Guillen’s hit that brought the tying run (Edgar) up to the plate. I didn’t find out the result until this morning, but I just knew – I could feel it in my soul – that my Tigers had finally rediscovered their baseball souls and would be victorious! All night I kept thinking about Leyland’s verbal thrashing of the team and kept hoping that the tongue-lashing plus a big come-from-behind-win would be the catalyst to a successful season. Let’s all hope that it is!

  10. I loved the move of Inge to 3rd in the 9th and Mig to 1st. That just felt like a more confident infield. How about making it permanent?

    What to do with Guillen though?

  11. It’s obvious that there are several guys on this team who should be resting or on the DL, but these are proud guys who don’t want to pull themselves out.

    Cabrera needs a week of R&R, at least. He was very ginger last night, trying to stretch inconspicuously between pitches, and looked very uncomfortable after the 3rd inning. And my wife thinks it looks like he’s nursing a tweaked groin, not a sore quad. Guillen should also be off for a week at least — probably two, as hamstrings don’t repair as quickly as you’d like on the far side of 30 years old. Polanco could use a couple days off, with plenty of spa treatments for that stiff back. And Renteria doesn’t look right either. He’s taken a couple hard knocks at second already. So that’s pretty much the infield.

    I’d send Cabrera to the 7-day DL, DH Guillen and play Sheff at first until Guillen’s legs look better. Polanco might have to gut it out.

    In any case, you have to find ways to play Inge and Clete Thomas right now. THey’re hot, they’re healthy and they’re showing some fire.

  12. I loved the move of Inge to 3rd in the 9th and Mig to 1st. That just felt like a more confident infield. How about making it permanent?

    When Inge is being selective at the plate he can be an effective hitter. If he reverts back to the 2007 Inge, the team can’t afford to have him in the lineup on a regular basis.

    If you play Inge at third, Cabrera should be in left field. That’s where he’d lead to a net offensive gain over Jacque Jones.

  13. I guess it all goes back to that leg of his. He can’t play left if he can’t run. Is it also the reason he looks so bad at third right now?

    I’m with those who say he needs some healing time.

  14. Agreed that, in the long run, if Inge plays third, Cabrera should be in left. Since we have so many people hurting right now, though, it makes sense to me to put Shef in left for a while and let one of Cabrera/ Guillen DH while the other plays first. As far as I know, Shef is pretty much healthy now, yes?

  15. Sheff has made some solid contact the past couple of games. He looks like he’s swinging the bat fine to me. I was most impressed by the *foul* ball he hit in Chicago on Sunday. That was an a-bomb.

  16. **Many of those bullets came on first pitch swings which no one seems to complain about when they find a gap**

    Sure, if a pattern develops and the team begins mashing off first-pitches from a guy, and if it’s working, by all means — if you see your pitch, go for it. I, for one, only complain about first-pitch swings when the pitcher seemingly owns the lineup. That’s when you need to be selective and do whatever you can to wear the pitcher down and increase the likelihood that he will make a mistake.

    No worries about Bobby Seay — yet — although I wish he didn’t walk the first guy he faced.

    Bondo did fine. I’m personally very happy with the way he pitched last night. Even with the errors and multiple four-out innings, he still had a low pitch count into late innings. If the Tigers’ defense showed up, I say he goes eight innings, easy, and doesn’t get into the trouble which led to the last set of earned runs. All things considered, it was a quality start, without being a quality start.

  17. On the postgame last night they said something about Sheff actually tearing loose some scar tissue from the shoulder surgery on Sunday, which had been holding his swing back, now the result is to free up his swing. It sounded painful to me but if it helps . . .!

  18. I sat down to start my write up on this game before it was even over. I remember thinking that if I was at that game I would have left after we coughed up four runs after scoring four, that was killer. Huge win though.

  19. I admittedly was very frustrated by this game and had the Tigers written off after the top of the 8th. Too bad Charter in Clio doesn’t carry FSN+, because I would have LOVED to had seen the bottom of the 8th.

    Let’s keep up the momentum boys! forget about the first two weeks of the season and start kicking some serious butt!

  20. Hey Bilfer, where were your seats last night? A buddy and I suffered through the cold as well. Sure glad we didn’t pack up and leave after that 7th inning!

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