The Tigers, thanks to 9th inning heroics by Ian Kinsler, now have a chance to take the Astros series today, despite the Cabrera-Martinez heart of the order still being 0-for-Houston (0-for-18).
The game did not start promisingly, with Max being dinged for 2 runs in the first, but Max, along with Jeff Jones and Bryan Holaday, figured out they were sitting on his off-speed stuff and changed the game plan (Good camera work catching the confab, by the way). 6-innings later Scherzer had 13 strikeouts in his pocket and had the Tigers still in the game.
In a “that’s baseball” moment, I admit I was grumbling about Kinsler swinging for the fences, when a simple single would tie the game or give them the lead. Oh. Sometimes when you swing for the fences, they actually go over (413 ft.). And we needed the extra run, since Joe Nathan was a good sport and gave Houston a home run too.
Where would the Tigers be this season with an injured (or even uninjured) Prince Fielder instead of Ian Kinsler? If you are a believer in the WAR rating, Kinsler is the most valuable player on the Tigers this season. Of course, if you want to watch him this afternoon you are going to have to peek in the dugout (see below).
Lost in all of the excitement last night was the interesting move Bo Porter made in the 8th. With Cabrera-Martinez-Martinez due up, the Astros sent out their Closer, Chad Qualls, using the logic that he wanted his best guy pitching to Detroit’s best hitters. It didn’t work: while Qualls got through the 8th, Williams got beat in the 9th, but I like the move. I wouldn’t have used it yesterday, since Cabrera and Martinez were struggling and all the action was coming from the bottom of the order, but under normal circumstances it might be a good move. They could have always left Qualls in for the 9th too, but two innings for a Closer is apparently still illegal.
Today’s Go Deep, Take a Seat Lineup:
Austin Jackson gets a shot at the leadoff spot…ah, the good ol’ days. Ian Kinsler gets to watch from the bench and contemplate last night’s game-winner, as a bag of lettuce roams his spot out at 2nd.
Drew Smyly takes the mound with a 1.44 ERA over his last 4 starts. Scott Feldman will try hard not to poke the sleeping Cabrera bear.
Well Feldman apparently did let sleeping bears lie, as Miguel Cabrera finished hibernating his way to a perfect 0-for-Houston. The rest of his cohorts at the top of the lineup didn’t do much better. For the series, the 1-4 spots in the lineup went a combined 7-for-49 (.143). And 5 of those 7 hits belonged to Ian Kinsler, who sat out today’s game (that adds up to 2-for-39, .051 with Kinsler’s numbers removed). Ausmus tried Austin Jackson in the leadoff spot to “get him going” (yes, he really said that), and Jackson promptly ran off to the golden sombrero table at the local flea market.
It came out after the game that Drew Smyly was seriously ill yesterday, but said he was good to go today. He wasn’t. The illness explains the uncharacteristically quick hook by Ausmus.
Houston’s “8th Inning Guy” did so well against Ian Kinsler that Bo Porter let him pitch the 9th too, giving him a save of over 1 inning. Brad Ausmus filed an official protest for illegal use of relief pitchers.
The Tigers head back to Detroit to take on the Oakland A’s, otherwise known as the Best Team in Baseball. With Oakland’s league-leading team ERA of 3.18, the Tigers could be in for a very long week if the top half of the order continues to struggle.
(Photo from The Golden Sombrero, who sadly stopped tracking golden sombreros in 2012).