33-34, 3rd place, 2 games behind Cle (Jake Peavy says watch-out to his CWS teammates)
Justin Verlander was fantastic yesterday. Even though he walked more than he struck out for the first time since June of 2010, Verlander allowed 1 ER on 5 hits over 7 innings. There was that tense moment in the 7th when Berry’s two base error plated two runs, and then a walk loaded the bases, but JV responded with the one of the best sliders of his career to get out of the jam. Before Saturday, the Tigers had won only two games where they led start to finish, got a quality start, and the tying run did not come to the plate in the 9th. They have now won three in a row like that.
Kevin Goldstein of ESPN wrote an article last week (you’ll need Insider) where he asked 12 ML execs who they would pick if they needed a pitcher for just one start. JV dominated the vote totals with 7 votes. The next highest was two.
Verlander was the runaway winner, but some might be surprised to see him get just more than half the votes. “He just walks to the mound like he owns it,” said an American League scouting official. “You’re talking about 95-100 mph to both sides of the plate, a hellacious curveball and a plus change.”
A National League scout agreed, while focusing on the thought of just one game. “He’s capable of no-hitting anyone at any time, in any place,” said the talent evaluator. “Every time you see him you wonder if you’re going to see something special.”
A National League front office member also focused on the one-game aspect but took a different angle. “Verlander has been the most consistent when it comes to maintaining plus-plus stuff deep into games, which for me is really what you ask for when looking for the best player to start one game,” the front office member said.
I love the line about “owning the mound.”
Could there be trouble brewing in the clubhouse? Leyland came out yesterday and said that the team needs more “dirtbags”, Leyland’s affectionate term for players scrappy players. In truth, these guys usually have little major league value and Leyland uses their “dirtbag” role to justify playing them well beyond their expiration date. At the same time Leyland mentioned that his team needs to play with a “mean streak.” I don’t think he intended for them to go Laimbeer on anyone, but rather dive, slide and hustle. But Prince Fielder didn’t respond too well to the comment, saying that he doesn’t have time for that.
The Tigers have been playing their best ball since the beginning of the season, and their playoff chances are looking better every day. That said, their schedule is only going to get tougher, as only 19 games of the remaining 96 are against teams under .500. They still have 31 games against the White Sox, Rangers, Angels, Yankees and Rays. 10 of those are against CWS and I’m guessing that Cle is going to falter, so those 10 against the White Sox could decide the division. Let’s not forget that the Tigers have only finished above .500 post All Star break once under Smokey.
– Smyly is slated to throw three innings in Toledo tomorrow night.
– Valverde is going to rest his sore wrist for 3-4 games.
A few other notes:
– The Tigers have not been shutout in 135 games, the longest streak in club history.
– The Tigers have signed undrafted first baseman Andrew Allen, son of Rod Allen. I see you son.
– Keep an eye out for 21 year old reliever Bruce Rondon, as he was just promoted to Erie.
– Phil Coke drenched a few fans last night. Not everyone was pleased. Though those sitting next to Ashley may have been.
Tonight’s Series Clinching Does Smokey Know that this is the Same Lineup as Last Night Lineup:
1. Jackson, CF
2. Berry, LF
3. Cabrera, 3B
4. Fielder, 1B
5. Young, DH
6. Boesch, RF
7. Peralta, SS
8. Santiago, 2B
9. Laird, C