Were you disappointed by the short series against the Nationals? I sure was. Sweep the Astros, fall flat against the Washington National Angels (can’t they beat teams that wear red?)…what does that spell? It spells O-V-E-R-R-A-T-E-D. Until the next bout of euphoria, anyway.
Friday, May 10, 7:08 PM ET: RHP Corey Kluber vs. RHP Max Scherzer
Saturday, May 11, 7:08 PM ET: RHP Ubaldo Jimenez vs. RHP Justin Verlander
Sunday, May 12, 1:08 PM ET: RHP Zach McAllister vs. RHP Rick Porcello
WEATHER: I’m sorry I didn’t get this up right away as I’d intended. Rain could be a factor Friday and Saturday evenings, and even on Sunday. Game time conditions are, in any event, not likely to be pleasant tonight and on Sunday. Winds will be getting stronger over the course of the weekend, and Sunday is going to feel like early April.
This is the first real divisional showdown of the young season, which kind of makes you wish Kevin Verlander in Dallas (7-3) or Coleman Scherzer (8-5) was on the game post mound, but Smoking Rick Loon (4-5) will give it his best shot. Cleveland is only a game behind the Tigers at this point and it’s really no fluke, but on the other hand, their recent history is to start strong (18-14 in 2012, 20-12 in 2011) before eventually fading with a vengeance. Sweeping them out of town could put them out of sight for a bit, but not out of mind. Recall that they were an early pain last season – the Indians took the first 5 games. And 10 of 18 overall.
Anyway, we Tigers fans find ourselves in an odd position for the month of May: No positional controversies. Aside from a bit of bullpen sorting out that remains to be done, the pieces are largely in place. For once, the focus is on execution on the field. That’s refreshing. And, by and large, with a 19-13 record to back it up, the Tigers are getting it done. It took Detroit 96 games (and the departed Jacob Turner’s first MLB win) to get to 8 games over .500 in 2012; it took 30 games this year, shaky bullpen and all.
KLUBER v SCHERZER: Current Tigers have done rather poorly against Kluber in a small-sample 44 PA. (BENCH ALERT: Kelly could start in place of Dirks. Actually, this could be the day to “rest” Cabrera as the DH and start Tuiasosopo at 3B. But 3 days off in a row for Victor? OK. maybe not.) Last time Kluber pitched at Comerica was September 3, 2012; he held the Tigers down and outdueled Anibal Sanchez for the win. Current Indians are at a disadvantage vs. Scherzer, with a .664 OPS in 134 PA. Last time out against Cleveland at Comerica (August 5, 2012), though, they hit him hard, and he only lasted 5 innings. Prediction: Runs will score in this one, most of them for Detroit. I cannot guarantee that the bullpen will hold onto the lead.
JIMENEZ v VERLANDER: Everything about Jimenez’s considerable history against the Tigers and current Tigers and at Comerica says Detroit has his number. (BENCH ALERT: Outside chance of a Pena start.) In 232 PA, current Indians are no more successful vs. Verlander than anyone else is. Michael Brantley’s numbers are so good that we can expect JV to hang a golden sombrero on him. (Any and all predictions I make from here on out on these matchups will be of the stray from the norm/regress to the mean variety. These predictions are silly, and I should really give them up.) Justin did not face the Indians at home in 2012. Prediction: Pitching duel.
McALLISTER v PORCELLO: 52 PA is not much history for current Tigers against McAllister, but Austin Jackson might be looking forward to it. (BENCH ALERT: Santiago could get the call, not that I advocate resting Peralta or Infante at home.) McAllister faced the Tigers twice at Comerica in 2012, pitching fairly well in both Cleveland wins. Current Indians have Porcello’s number in 159 PA. 7 HR in there, too. Porcello’s last time out against the Indians at Comerica (September 4, 2012) was your typical OK/living on the edge outing for Rick, winnable but for a little more run support. Prediction: Porcello doesn’t go more than 5, but the Tigers put such a beat-down on McAllister and even the Indians bullpen that it doesn’t matter.
The Indians lead the AL in HR, paced by Mark Reynolds and Carlos Santana, and are one of the top 3 in hitting overall. Best on the road, incidentally. CF Michael Bourn will be returning to the lineup for the series as well. The fair-to-middlin’ starting pitching has exceeded all expectations, and their 4th-best BAA of .238 compares favorably to Detroit’s .249. Their bullpen is top-tier and arguably what the Tigers might have the most cause to fear. Scoring early is recommended. At least the Tigers won’t have to face Vinnie Pestano this time (out with injury). Actually, Pestano and Chris Perez are the only guys with frightening stats against current non-Cabrera Tigers. So why am I thinking Cleveland’s bullpen has been such a pain?
It might be more pertinent to consider how the Tigers bullpen matches up against current Indians. Detroit heads into the first game with everyone in the pen available except (probably) Smyly and Benoit. Let’s see… Nick Swisher is hard on Valverde. Benoit, gets hit by A. Cabrera and Swisher. Not enough PA for the other guys, unless Coke comes back… OK, Coke shouldn’t really pitch against the Indians.
The ever-controversial (for us) Ryan Raburn, recent AL Player of the Week, makes his unexpectedly triumphant return to Detroit as a Cleveland Indian. I expect every AB, every pitch, every play in the field, to be seen as vindication of opinions for and against him. In reality, there’s no bad blood or “extra incentive” at play here, of course. Raburn was well-liked on the team and has earned Rod Allen’s seal of approval as a “good dude,” and I believe everything Rod Allen says. So I hope the fans at Comerica are nice about it. I also hope that Raburn goes 0 for whatever and commits as many errors as possible. Good dude and all. With Bourn back in CF, it remains to be seen how much we’ll see of Raburn. Some, surely.
Tonight’s “Doug Fister is available to pinch hit for Alex Avila” lineups:
The usual “A-team” lineup you know by heart
SS A. Cabrera
POST-GAME: Tigers 10, Indians 4. Max seemed quite hittable at first, but that didn’t last, aside from the new prospective Tiger-killer candidate Nick Swisher. Still, I can see Scherzer winning 20 games this year with a +4.00 ERA. Kluber was hittable right away, and it was only a matter of time. Prince’s first-pitch bomb in the bottom of the 3rd was the exclamation point on that, and Miggy’s 3-run shot in the 4th put this one away. If there was a turning point, it might have been the Tigers not getting doubled off from 1B on two early IF line drives. Torii Hunter had the unusual experience of canceling his own RBI by getting tagged out at 1B on a single in the 2nd inning – big heads-up play by cutoff man Mark Reynolds at 1B. That changed 4-1 to 3-1 and ended what could have been a devastating inning; this could have been bigger than it turned out to be. Hunter also played a part in another (shallow RF) gaffe scored as a hit; on Hunter, not Infante, as I saw it. And then there was the Swisher RF double turned triple…
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Max Scherzer, Miguel Cabrera
HONORABLE MENTION: Nick Swisher, Alex Avila, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta
NOT SO GOOD: Corey Kluber, Torii Hunter, Michael Bourn