Game 2013.103: Phillies at Tigers
57-45, 1st place, 3 games up on Cleveland.
Hernan Perez walks, Ramon Santiago doubles, Alex Avila clears the bases – against Cole Hamels. Doug Fister baffles ‘em. That, my friends, is a good win, of a type that will be called for with Mr. Universe out and the other Big Bopper not bopping. Recovery from early stumbling is even more encouraging. That strikeout-CS double play that deflated us was, as Coleman suggests, bad play-calling. If you don’t have the guys on base (not to mention at the plate) who can execute, don’t call it. Either that or go for broke and call for the double steal and look stupid but bold. The mishmash that actually happened was just plain ugly… and unnecessary… and potentially game-costing.
The Tigers may or may not be catching a break by not having to face Cliff Lee tonight, who was evidently “scratched,” which makes me think that the Phillies must be a bunch of big babies if merely being scratched forces you to miss a game. Sensitive skin, I guess. I seem to recall the Tigers having Lee’s number in other times, and current Tigers have hit him well, though one of them is the presumably MIA Miguel Cabrera.
Earlier in the season, I though Joaquin Benoit’s numbers were overstating his case. I didn’t think he was pitching that well – maybe it was just frustration over how he never seemed to have the clean inning I demanded. I thought he was drifting toward the Land Of Valverde, I really did. But in fact, he’s been a consistent standout contributor. I guess those numbers aren’t lying. So, my apologies to Joaquin, with the hope that this isn’t an invitation to slump badly down the stretch.
I noticed how dumb it looked for me to seemingly suggest that Miggy’s hip flexor per se was something to discuss – what do we know about hip flexors? I wondered if the same jokes about trading for some spare hip flexors (Ryan Braun won’t be needing his for a while) occurred to anyone else. Anyway, the real issue is of course Cabrera’s health and presence in the lineup. It’s smart for him to get some time off now, but the issue will probably be with us for the rest of the season – it was there for weeks (possibly many weeks) before he finally had to come out.
The Omar Infante situation has certainly become more acute than we suspected it would be. I miss the glove more than the bat, which is saying something about the glove, because Infante’s absence in the #9 spot is already a glaring weakness. It’s nice to get a look at Perez, but not at this cost.
So, does Bonderman really have a shot at a bullpen tryout? Wonder what the Jurjjens plan is. Long-term reclamation project? Insurance? Shot in the arm for Toledo?
How do we feel about the bullpen now? Me, I’m feeling some confidence that Rondon is in the process of arrival. Not so much confidence in the other 4/7 of the pen. Downs will be back soon, and we’ll see what he can do. I confess to lack of interest in trade rumors involving relievers. I keep hoping that the talent the Tigers already have will finally get it together, piece by piece.
I’ll leave the heavy-duty (and interesting) Verlander analysis to Kevin, but I will mention my thought that if Justin persists in statements about “working on things,” it invites the retort that perhaps he could work on getting guys out one of these starts. That would make a good project. JV has become alarmingly hittable. That’s the rub. The idea that he might start needing to be more crafty rather than relying upon blowing guys away never bothered me – that happens to all good pitchers.
It was predictable that, as we clamored for Matt Tuiasosopo to get more playing time, there would come a time when he did and didn’t do quite as well as perhaps we thought he should. He still looks like a good hitter to me, however. This guy came into the season with a sub-.200 career average. Hard to believe when you watch him at the plate. If someone can turn things around like that, there might still be hope for Avila.
I entertain thoughts of a new direction at C for the Tigers in 2014, but Salvador Perez’s don’t grow on trees. My “hope” for Avila, however, is for next season. I see nothing to indicate the possibility of any breakthrough this season. If there’s a blind squirrel at the plate on this Tigers team, it’s Alex Avila. Please – more starts for Brayan Pena. It’s no compromise defensively, and though Pena might make you think he’s a loose cannon, a hacker, as a hitter, he’s actually more skilled than Avila. The one thing I’ll give the edge to Avila on is eye for the strike zone. Which, unfortunately, is not helping Alex a great deal this season. Seeing it is good. Hitting it is better.
Last 30 (individual) games:
Torii Hunter (hope he’s in the lineup!), team record, HR, RBI, OPS, RE24: 16-14, 7, 22, .936, 9.48.
Victor Martinez (hope he’s at 1B!): 17-13, 4, 22, .929, 8.40.
How good is the above? Miguel Cabrera: 15-15, 13, 27, 1.233, 16.02.
You might say that the Tigers have spent some of June and all of July armed with 2.5 Miggys. A massive improvelence! If you want to be a little more pessimistic about it, look at the team record. Your Honor, I would like to call Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander to the stand.
12 games over .500 is a dizzying height for the Detroit Tigers, in case you didn’t know. It took them until September 29 last season to reach this plateau. Before the season, I called for a 99-63 finish. Reaching that would now require a 42-18 run. Is that possible? With Cabrera out a few more games and maybe a lot more games? With Prince Fielder being Delmon Young? (It would be nice if Fielder turned to Young in October… haven’t forgotten your horrid postseason, Prince, sorry.) With two more weeks – at least – absent Infante-solidity at 2B? With Verlander not merely mortal, but actually struggling? OK, I’ll settle for a more modest 93-69 (while reserving the right to claim credit for the original prediction). 36-24 is way doable. Yes, even with all the above reservations.
Let’s not get overconfident and say that 14-1 Max against the Phillies is going to be like shooting fish in a barrel. Let’s instead rejoice in the fact that Scherzer vs. ANY TEAM can be like shooting fish in a barrel, as good as he’s been and can be. We have the choice of bracing ourselves for a bit of a letdown (aided by the ever-dreaded and ever-possible clown show) or clamoring for the slaughter.
I clamor for the slaughter.