PREGAME: For everyone expecting fireworks tonight I think you’ll be disappointed. Yes, there is considerable hate and vitriol between the fan bases today, but Jim Leyland and Terry Francona have likely spoken to each other and their teams and have no interest in seeing this continue. Throw in the fact that the umpires are likely on high alert and warnings and ejections would come quickly and most likely nothing happens tonight.
Not to mention the fact that Zach Miner who pitched 2 innings on Monday night is the emergency starter. And Freddy Dolsi who was recalled to take Chris Lambert’s spot pitched 2 innings last night. And Leyland would probably like to give Fu-Te Ni another night off. And the Tigers just don’t have a lot of pitching options at this point.
Oh, and Miguel Cabrera is out of the lineup tonight with Marcus Thames taking his spot in the lineup and Carlos Guillen taking his spot in the field (*gasp*).
And Josh Beckett is starting for the Red Sox. Things certainly aren’t tilting the Tigers way heading into tonight’s game…then again how big would a win be tonight?
POSTGAME: Well we knew this one was an uphill battle from the start. But through 4 innings I actually felt pretty good about things. Zach Miner wasn’t nibbling, and he was battling a small strike zone (more on this in a minute) and for those first 3 innings there were only 2 balls hit hard off of him – they both left the yard – but he wasn’t pitching bad. On the other side Josh Beckett was tossing a perfect game, but the Tigers were putting in good at-bats. After 4 innings Beckett had thrown 69 pitches, and he’d only allowed one batter, meaning the Tigers were averaging over 5 pitchers per plate appearance.
A Carlos Guillen lead off homer in the 5th and I started to dream a little. What if the bullpen can hold them at 3 or 4 runs the rest of the game? What if they chase Beckett by the 7th? Could they get a bloop and a blast and tie it?
Then the bottom of the 5th happened.
It was a brutal, miserable, Metrodome type of inning. With 2 outs the Sox posted a double, then a single. And Miner was done at that point, having gone an inning farther than I thought he would have. Freddy Dolsi got 2 strikes on Mike Lowell, sawed him off, but Lowell placed an infield single between the mound and second base. Then there was a walk. Another single loaded the bases for Varitek who then “walked.”
I mentioned a small strike zone earlier. Here is the gameday image of the “walk” to Jason Varitek. I really don’t know what else Dolsi could have done in that at-bat, but in the end it ended up an RBI for Varitek. Now the small zone wasn’t just an issue for the Tigers, it was pretty uniformly small for both teams. The biggest squeezing just happened to come at the worst possible time for the Tigers.
After the walk things got really ugly. There was a passed ball. And another error. And a reminder why Guillen no longer plays first base. And there were more hits. And then the game was practically over and you just hoped nobody got hurt.
See. There was lots of good news.