The Detroit Tigers (23-19) travel to Cleveland (28-15) for a two-game set and a veritable rematch in several ways beyond the obvious: The Indians are hot (still); the Tigers are coming off two consecutive losses to another “red team” (again), and; the pitching matchups are also reruns. This time, the Tigers find themselves looking up at the first-place Indians in the standings from 2.5 games back and are just trying to keep pace rather than pull away.
Tuesday, May 21, 7:05 PM ET: RHP Max Scherzer vs. RHP Corey Kluber
Wednesday, May 22, 7:05 PM ET: RHP Justin Verlander vs. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
There is a good chance that thunderstorms and rain forecast for the Cleveland area may affect both games.
Last time around, the Tigers hit LP Kluber early and often. Avila and Miggy were the stars of a 15-hit attack that didn’t stop, even against the Indians bullpen. The Indians managed to wring 4 runs out of 5 hits (and no walks) against WP Scherzer, who seemed within reach of a complete game after a strong 8th. High hopes after that 10-4 win. The next day, Verlander set the tone for his 5-inning outing by walking in a run in the 1st, while Jimenez shut down the Tigers. Detroit battled back, with little thanks to their own bullpen, against Cleveland’s to make it a thriller, but two late rallies died courtesy of Tuiasosopo and (final out) Miggy. JV might want to study up on Max’s game plan this time around. Or just pitch better.
Evan Reed has been optioned to Toledo and Luke Putkonen again called up. Not a move against Reed so much as a move for Putkonen, aided by technicalities. No complaints about Reed, who looked pretty good. Nor about Putkonen. Keep making those moves until it comes together.
[Miguel Cabrera] became the first player in Major League history to go 4-for-4 with three home runs, five RBIs and four runs scored in defeat.
Remarkably, the Tigers also lost — 5-4 to the Athletics — in Cabrera’s first career three-homer game, and he is the eighth player in Major League history to belt three long balls in defeat more than once. It happened to Johnny Mize four times and to Babe Ruth, Ernie Banks, Dave Kingman, Glenn Davis, Joe Carter and Sammy Sosa each twice.
I’m as quick to shout “clown show” as anyone, but if the shoe had been on the foot of the Rangers in the 11-8 loss, we’d probably be talking more about how the Tigers capitalized or made it happen than “lack of baseball fundamentals” on the part of Texas. The clutch sinking liner (that some guy misplayed into a double), the great bunt (that baffled the other team’s infield), etc.. That said, a whole lot sure did go wrong for one game. Or one series, for that matter. It’s really too bad that it overshadowed Miggy’s monster game Sunday night.
First 10-10, then 19-11, now 23-19. Ups and downs. Seems like we’re on the down elevator, until you realize that 13-9 is a .591 win %. All in how you look at it. Also, those past 22 games have seen a number of hot starts turn into slow fades (Jackson, Hunter, Fielder.. and dare I say Verlander?), and yet the team hasn’t really faded. Miguel Cabrera’s Triple Crown start is all the more remarkable for its consistency through 25% of the season. It’s really quite amazing.
A sustained 13-9 pace would take the Tigers to 88-64 with 10 left to play. If Miggy were to finish the year at his subpar (ha ha) 2012 clip, he would finish at .352, 47 HR, 152 RBI.
What’s up with Victor Martinez? I don’t think you can call it “rust” at this point. More like decline. Bat speed? Not seeing the pitches like he used to? Temporary or the first sign of a permanent decline? What to do? Well, you can hardly bench a full-time DH. That would be to exchange low value for no value. But it would be nice to see more ABs in Victor’s stead from guys who are hitting. Like maybe every other day. I’d like to see Tuiasosopo and Dirks in the same lineup once in a while, for a while. It’s simply not the case that Tui needs to be protected from RHP or Dirks from LHP.
While there are practical reasons Avisail Garcia can’t stick around when Austin Jackson returns, it occurs to me that if the idea is to give him regular ABs… how about starting now? Having an OF who can play all three positions with aplomb – that would be Don Kelly – is a good thing. You can bat .200 under these circumstances and still be valuable to a hitting-laden team like the Tigers. That’s still no reason to start Kelly over Garcia in the brief time Garcia will be up. Is it? Is Garcia not the better hitter? There have been some hiccups in the starting rotation lately that I suppose you could call a bit of a “correction.” All the more reason to help the offense rise to the occasion and carry the team for a spell.
Would more playing time for Pena and less for Avila help? Would it hurt? It’s hard to watch Avila at the plate sometimes.
The Tigers have demonstrated an admirable “pitch or switch” policy so far. Villareal, Alburquerque, Rondon – all relegated to Toledo until further notice, and rightly so. Coke and Dotel were, in my view, “optioned” to the DL. Maybe it’s time for hit or sit, at least for guys in 42-game slumps. I don’t know. Getting a little restless.
I haven’t heard a word about when or if Octavio Dotel will return. Have you? To be honest, I kind of forgot he was on the team.
Stay tuned for the post-game. Refreshments will be served.
POST-GAME: Tigers 5, Indians 1. Thanks. We needed that. The game started with a familiar feel. 1st inning, good hitting opponent with speed gets things cooking against a good Tigers starter (as if there were another kind). Then Max Scherzer turned in the finest Tigers pitching performance of 2013 to date. Sorry, Anibal, but those Braves were hacking. These Indians were not. After 2 hits and a walk in the 1st, Scherzer recorded the better part of a perfect game – 22 consecutive batters retired. Still, it was 1-0 Cleveland until the 6th, courtesy of a fine performance by Corey Kluber, who was outdueling Max until he was done in by the long ball. I had a feeling the Tigers would break through, and Andy Dirks tied it with a solo shot to RF. A Torii Hunter double later, Miguel Cabrera made it look easy (like you or I could do it) to reach for a ball low in the zone and knock it out of the yard to dead center. Has anyone ever made it look that easy? 3-1 Tigers. At this point the bullpen worries start to creep in. But Scherzer only grew stronger, striking out the side in the 8th, and again there was hope that Leyland might let him stay on for his first MLB complete game. Barring that, there was prayer for insurance runs, and the Tigers did not disappoint in the 9th. It started with an Avila walk, and ended with 3-hit Victor Martinez taking a called 3rd with the bases loaded, but in between there were clutch knocks and RBIs from Dirks and Fielder (delivering after the IBB to Miggy, thank goodness, after a near-repeat of his 5 strikeout Mariners game). 5-1 Tigers, Valverde on the mound in the bottom of the 9th. Bourn singles, steals 2B. Have we seen this movie before, or something like it? Valverde. How does he do it? Nothing but a fastball, nothing that works, anyway. No denying that the velocity is back, however. Two popups and a deep flyball later, it was over, two Indians stranded.
There was a fine catch in LF by Tuiasosopo. There was a good read and good baserunning by Avila going from 1B to 3B on the Infante single, good for an important 9th inning run. I’m not sold on the lack of range case against Peralta this season, but the Bourn single up the middle against Valverde was an argument in its favor. There was a funny instance of Prince trying to get the call on an inside strike (called 3rd) by sticking his elbow out. Didn’t work.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Max Scherzer, Andy Dirks, Miguel Cabrera
HONORABLE MENTION: Victor Martinez, Corey Kluber, Cody Allen