PREGAME: When one looked at the Tigers early schedule, it was full of teams that finished in the bottom half of their divisions in 2008. The Blue Jays, the Rangers, and the Mariners. So far some of those teams have been pretty good, including the Mariners that are 7-3 and the run-preventingest team in the American League.
The Mariners are only allowing 3.2 runs per game. Their pitching staff is headlined by Felix Hernandez (more on him in a minute) but he’s backed up this season with Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard. They were there last year, but not so much effective. Between the staff and an outfield defense featuring Endy Chavez and Franklin Gutierrez gaps are hard to find and opposing teams are only slugging .316. Now those teams have been the A’s, Angels, and Twins. Make of it what you will, but basically we don’t know a lot yet.
Tonight’s match-up is ace on ace with Justin Verlander taking on Hernandez. Verlander is looking for some efficiency after getting knocked about before the 6th inning in his first 2 starts. The Mariners see only 3.61 pitches per plate appearance, the lowest in the AL, so he may find some. In 7 starts against Seattle Verlander has a 1.252 WHIP and 2.91 ERA.
Hernandez has fanned 14 in 13 inning this year. In terms of Tigers with Success, Granderson and Polanco have both hit well against Hernandez in limited at-bats. It would be nice to get off to a quick start on the road trip with those two at the top of the order.
Kenji Johjima has hit the DL, but Ichiro is back from his ulcer issues.
Game Time 10:10
POSTGAME: Ugh. If you went to bed and didn’t watch this one, you wouldn’t believe how good Justin Verlander looked by looking in the box score. If you watched the whole thing, you wouldn’t believe how things unraveled in the 5th.
Verlander retired 12 straight and fanned the side in the 4th. But then the Mariners started swinging at first pitches. They had runners on 2nd and 3rd, one out and one run in. Yuniesky Betancourt hit a ground ball to third and Russel Branyan broke for home. He was out by a mile, or would have been if Brandon Inge hadn’t bounced the throw. Instead of a 3-1 game with runners at the corners and 2 outs and the number 9 hitter up, it was 3-2 with runners at the corners and 1 out. A suicide squeeze went for a hit and tied the game. Then there were more hits and 5 runs scored. Four of the runs ended up being earned, but the error completely changed the complexion of the inning and subsequently the game.