Wow!! That bad omen rain made me sooooo nervous.
The Detroit Tigers (13-10) wrap up their 9-game (less one postponed) home stand with three against the Minnesota Twins (11-10). The Tigers are coming off an exhilarating sweep of the Braves, while the Twins are coming off the AL equivalent, 2 convincing wins in a row over the Texas Rangers. You may recall that the Tigers began the season in Minneapolis with a series loss, and the names that come back to mind as the doers of damage are not Mauer and Morneau, but instead Escobar, Plouffe, Correia, Dozier, and even two former Tigers farmhands in Casey Fien and Wilkin Ramirez. But that was then and this is now. Real baseball weather for this series, and they won’t have to face the de facto Twins ace Correia this time. Detroit area forecast looking good through Wednesday.
Monday. April 29, 7:08 PM ET: RHP Mike Pelfrey vs. RHP Max Scherzer
Tueday, April 30, 7:08 PM ET: RHP Vance Worley vs. RHP Justin Verlander
Wednesday, May 1, 1:08 PM ET: LHP Scott Diamond vs. RHP Anibal Sanchez
SCOUTING REPORT ON THE TWINS: STARTING PITCHING: Not too good, with the exception of Correia. At the bottom of the AL in BAA (.312) and strikeouts (58!). And yet only the Tigers rotation has given up fewer HR. BULLPEN: Very good, quite deep, and to be feared. Tops in AL in WHIP (1.12). OFFENSE: Not so good. Their .362 SLG is lowest in the AL. Fewer HR than Detroit, if you can believe that. If the Tigers regular lineup was so peppered with dismal stat lines, we’d be climbing the walls. Mauer and Willingham are the big guns. The rest seem harmless, until you find out otherwise, as the Tigers did in Games 2-3. DEFENSE: The Twins might have a bit of an edge on the Tigers, not that the clowns don’t come out once in a while. Where they really have an edge is in controlling the running game. Remember how beatable Mauer looked the first time around? No more. OVERALL: So how do the Twins manage to be 11-10? Pretty much the same way they took 2 of 3 from the Tigers last time.
SCOUTING REPORT ON THE TIGERS: Pretend you’re a Twins fan and don’t know all of this already. STARTING PITCHING: Outstanding, well-nigh unbeatable so far. BULLPEN: If trustworthy is good, then not good. And even a little less good than that. With apologies to the reborn Papa Grande. Sorry, Al-Al. You make me as nervous as Villareal did. OFFENSE: Very good
in a small ball sort of way (the times they are a-changin’), albeit prone to inconvenient funks that can last a whole series or more. Delve into the stats if you question the “very good” assessment. At least give me “good.” The base-running and related on-base strategy has been rather smart and aggressive so far, at least by Tigers standards. DEFENSE: Solid. Not a lot of highlight reel stuff, but astonishingly short on Clown Show. OVERALL: The Tigers hover on the brink of very-goodness.
PELFREY vs.SCHERZER: Current Tigers have an OPS of 1.014 in 107 PA against Pelfrey vs. his career .764. Pelfrey pitched fairly well against the Sleeping Bat Tigers (no relation, we hope) earlier this month, his defense letting him down although he took the win (with no ER) in 5.1. Pelfrey has pitched once at Comerica Park, for the New York Mets on June 30, 2011. It didn’t go so well for him. Omar Infante has really hit him in 30 PA. This season, Pelfrey has had a rough go of it after that first promising start against the Tigers. When he pitches well, he gets a lot of ground balls. When not, not. Not a strikeout pitcher.
Max is coming off a game vs. the Royals where he reinforced my impression that a significant lead seems to make him slack off. His strikeouts are off the chart, but I’d like to see him going a little deeper into games than he has been (2 of 4 starts were 5 inning affairs). Current Twins have an OPS of .809 in 96 PA against Scherzer vs. his career .732. The M & M Boys in particular have been scary good against Max. But maybe that was all in Minnesota?
WORLEY vs. VERLANDER: Current Tigers have only 36 PA vs. Worley, so suffice it to say that Game 2013.1 is our history here for the most part. Worley got the loss in a quality start against the Tigers on cold Opening Day, and wouldn’t you know it, he draws Verlander again. A couple bad starts since have his stats looking ugly, but from the last couple , you’d expect that what we saw the first time vs. the Tigers is more like it. He’s a bit tougher on lefties for a righty, and has the stuff to shut down the Sleeping Bat Tigers should they appear again, make no mistake. Worley has never pitched at Comerica Park.
Justin has been consistently damn good this year (let’s take a break from taking him for granted with “as expected”), but the Tigers have only scraped up an average 2.74 runs in support. Current Twins have an OPS of .744 in 201 PA against Verlander vs. his career .651. You can ascribe all of this to Joe Mauer. He shut the Twins down over 5 innings Opening Day, and the last time at Comerica against Minnesota (July 4, 2012) was a complete game gem. Run support, guys. Let’s have some here and avoid the “Cy Worley” comments.
DIAMOND vs. SANCHEZ: Whatever their record against LHP starters is (1-2? Better?), Detroit is hitting lefties - top of AL in BA, OBP, and OPS (4th in SLG). Current Tigers have an OPS of .543 in 86 PA against Diamond vs. his career .764. His career splits have him better against RHB than LHB (hello, Prince). Only Miggy has had much success against him. Diamond beat the Tigers twice in a row last they saw him, and handily, once in Detroit and once in Minneapolis. But he started this season on the DL and has not looked unusually impressive in 3 starts to date.
Anibal is coming off an astonishing performance against the Braves, but he’s been brilliant all year. He’s got the whole arsenal of pitches working, no doubt. Current Twins have an OPS of .601 in 74 PA against Sanchez vs. his career .708. Interestingly, Josh Willingham has drawn 7 walks in 17 PA. None intentional. Sanchez has never faced the Twins at Comerica, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t deny them like he did in Game 2013.2, even if the Twins did shellack him once in 2012, in his 4th start as a Tiger. Any chance the Twins are the same hackers the Braves were? No. Don’t look for 17.
The Tigers are in 2nd place at the moment, half a game behind the Royals. But let’s have a look at the important standings:
Kevin in Dallas…..7-2
I am well aware that this is the result of a conspiracy against me. But this time I have Max, JV, and Anibal going for me, and nothing less than a sweep will do. If I have to sit Avila all three games and put
Kelly Dirks on the DL to keep him out and Tuiasosopo in, so be it. (The Avila reverse jinx is in effect.)
Is there a bona fide platoon situation shaping up in LF? I think there is. Is Brayan Pena going to start catching about 1 game per series until further notice? I think he is. Is Ramon Santiago, despite kind of being the 26th man at the moment, going to get all the ABs Leyland can give him through May at the very least? I think he is, and really have no quarrel. Should we disregard the current Toledo stats of Quintin Berry and Danny Worth in judging their (by and by) call-up-ability and ability to contribute? Yes, to a degree I think we should. And keep an eye on Jose Ortega.
And now, may we have the starting lineups, O Kindly Person? (Note plural. Or am I pushing my luck? Research has shown that posting the opposing teams lineup bestows a wWPA of +0.667.)
POST-GAME: Tigers 4, Twins 3. A nice come from behind and stay ahead win. After 5, with Kelly stranded at 3rd, I had my commentary on the loss written in my head: “If you’re the Twins, this is how you beat the Tigers. Just like last time.” I’m hoping not to copy and paste this tomorrow or Wednesday.
Elevator going down: For a while there, Max seemed to be working on demonstrating how to lose slowly while throwing nothing but strikes, while the Sleeping Bat Tigers were back in town. Only one scored in the Twins 2nd, but the way it was set up – the errorless error by Cabrera and the Scherzer wild pitch – brought an air of doom to the proceedings. Then in the Twins 5th, Max gave the 4th inning Dirks HR right back by challenging rookie Arcia with the fastball (hit for an RBI double), which seemed contrary to what the first Arcia AB had shown. Scherzer’s K on Arcia in the 7th was either an ingenious adjustment or straight out of the scouting report. Game-changer: The well-executed bunt for a hit by Andy Dirks in the Tigers 6th. Broke the spell. Game-winner: Tigers 6th, Prince Fielder’s first-pitch 3-run HR off of Pelfrey.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Prince Fielder
HONORABLE MENTION: Max Scherzer, Drew Smyly, Andy Dirks