Game 2014.153: Tigers at Royals

It’s Kansas City again and another three-game “showdown.” I’m not worried about the Royals. I’m worried about the last 4 games of the season.

Pitching. It’s become quite the liability. The next few games might make it look like it’s all better, but then there are 7 more against two teams that can hit Detroit. I’d rather see 10 more against KC, myself.

But it’s September, or Septober, as the case may be, and the Tigers are more than in it. Enjoy the suspense and the possibilities. Every game has that playoff feeling to it already. Not such a bad thing.

Game 2014.146: Royals at Tigers

That last was a mighty fine game. Many good plays, bang-bang plays, on both sides, and fortunately the errors fell KC’s way once again. We can tell what Ian Kinsler eats for breakfast (anyone?), but can anyone leave his feet and then make a throw like he does? Rajai Davis power was the difference in the game, and we know he didn’t really get picked off 1B, either. J.D. Martinez power was the backbreaker. Max had espresso for breakfast himself (4 BB and all agitated and such), but he pitched big. Joe Nathan’s finest hour so far as a Tiger, maybe, in the 9th, where he was a couple eyelashes away from 1-2-3. I have no illusions that the Detroit bullpen won’t continue to live on the edge, but this one didn’t get away. Joakim Soria might be back soon, and he might even be good this time. Kelvin Herrera throws 100 MPH and made a play I’d like to see any Tigers pitcher make, ever. I don’t think that combination is allowed.

There might be more to the difference between an Old Style Porcello struggle and the New (Hitter-) Baffling Porcello dominance than “he is/isn’t getting his sinker down.” Someone should study this. Meanwhile, the Tigers have been known to hit James Shields. No reason they can’t do that tonight.

So, the Tigers are in 1st place again. But so are 6 other teams. It’s ooooooonly Game 146.

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James Shields vs. Rick Porcello

Game 2014.145: Royals at Tigers

What I liked most about last night’s win was how it drove home the point that the Royals just can’t hang with Detroit’s offense. When present, that attack is going to be the death of KC. Really, it was a very solid win overall, though not the kind of stomping it was shaping up to be. However…

Kinsler’s mysterious failure to seize the triple play in the 6-1 win over the Giants left a slightly sour taste, but Kelly running into Hunter on the play that became Lorenzo Cain’s inside the park HR took a lot out of the wind out of this game’s sails as I felt it.

We call every error and anything close to it a clown show, but really, most of that is just physical accident plus happenstance. The essence of Clown Show is lack of preparedness, lack of awareness, and lack of communication. (And sometimes lack of effort; see Infante. Thanks for the big inning, Omar!) You can shrug it off when your team wins, but you can also realize that it might happen again at a much worse time. It could cost a game. It could cost a season. And sometimes, someone could get hurt pretty badly. It really chaps my hide, that Real Clown Show. The Tigers have very little margarine for that sort of error, wouldn’t you agree? In other words: Butter safe than sorry.

Max has been flying under the radar as far as his consistency goes. Here’s to a mammoth outing from him to put him back on the map. We’re taking him for granted just a little bit, what with new kid on the block David Price and all. Go Max.

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Jason Vargas vs. Max Scherzer

Game 2014.144: Royals at Tigers

Don’t worry about whether the Detroit Tigers are going to make the playoffs, because the playoffs have already begun, if not already at the very beginning of the month, then certainly with this 3-game showdown against the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers have already spent the one series loss they can afford; from here on out it’s “brink of elimination” with every series as a game. If they can manage to run this gauntlet, they get to do it all over again in October. But that’s what we want. If we don’t get it, well, at least we had these playoffs, and I would rather that they go on and not fizzle out 2-3 weeks before season’s end.

Does Detroit really belong in the conversation along with Baltimore, the Los Angeles Angels, and Oakland as an AL team that can beat the best the NL can offer? The first two in the Giants series added nothing to my confidence in that regard. Last night… well, that was better, much better. OK, kind of better. I’ll let Coleman have the glowing review of Lobstein for their next turns in the rotation. I’ll only say that Rock Lobster/K-Lob/(ugh)Lobber was impressive and deserves a beach party in his honor for a much-needed apply-the-tourniquet outing.

Tigers pitching/defense Games 126-142: 5.04 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, .292 BAA and 35% of those hits for extra bases. 98 runs allowed, 14 unearned, 1 of 12 CS.

Royals comparison (Games 125-141): 3.04 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, .248 BAA and 36% of those hits for extra bases, 63 runs allowed, 11 unearned (??), 5 of 18 CS.

Tigers offense Games 126-142: 5.6 runs per game, 307/356/444/800. Every Tigers position starter save Eugenio Suarez has a (full season) higher than league average XBH/PA%.  That is outstanding well beyond a comparison with the Royals.

Royals comparison:  3.2 runs per game, 232/284/352/636. 20 stolen bases.

Identical 9-8 records in those spans. We’re afraid of these guys? The Tigers do hold a 9-4 series lead so far. On the other hand, there’s pitching.

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Jeremy Guthrie vs. Justin Verlander

Guthrie can frustrate the Tigers. Coincidentally, so can Verlander (going for career win #150). Justin’s career splits show September to be an outstanding month for him, in line with his overall excellence (April and August seem to be the rough spots). This seems to be talked about every year, with some justification. The old “time for him to step up [again]” thing. Could actually happen, eh?

Miggy and Victor are en fuego, as they say in Washington. What can possibly go wrong here?

Game 2014.136: Tigers at White Sox

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Rick Porcello vs. Jose Quintana

Last night: Once again a rookie starter making his MLB starting debut comes through for the Tigers after a loss. Last time Lobstein, this time Ryan. Sigh of relief. And speaking of relief… sigh. Not “Cy.” Some job by the hitters in the top of the 9th to help Nathan and all of us breathe easier. Good job by the hitters, period, putting up 5 on the rookie Bassitt like they should have.

CLE-KCR in progress as I write late Saturday. Neither possible outcome entirely favorable for the Tigers, if you think about it. But of course if the Tigers just take care of their business and win, there’s nothing more to worry about, or at least nothing more that’s within their control. The season doesn’t end today and won’t any time soon. If the Detroit Tigers was 7 games up or 7 games out, I’d be pay attentions to the standing. As it is, the standings today will be forgotten by tomorrow.

Joba Chamberlain may or may not be Mr. 8th Inning, but we regret to inform you that over his last 13 appearances (before last night, which won’t help the numbers), he’s been hit for a .930 OPS and has a 6.94 ERA and a WHIP north of 2. 60 batters faced and 27 have reached. Forget Sloppy Joe. We’ve got Sloppy Joba on our hands now. So don’t groan if you see Coke making a run at Mr. 8th Inning Guy status.

Porcello has faced the Sox once in 2014. It was in Chicago and didn’t go so well. Quintana has faced the Tigers twice, and has been hittable but not hittable enough to yield more than 5 runs over 12 IP. I won’t be surprised to see “Cy” Quintana comments popping up in-game as Tigers reach and don’t score, but I’m looking forward to a good game from Porcello and a series win in advance of the showdown in Cleveland to come. Or at least a good game from Porcello (see third paragraph and issues pertaining thereto.)

So the Indians pull it out in 11. I suppose it would be good news if those two would just beat up on each other, play long extra inning games, and split their remaining 4…

Funny: A short while after saying that it’s too late for debate on the Cabrera issue, here I am debating it.

Adam Dunn has left the building. Jose Ortega and Justin Miller have been designated for assignment. If you’ve completely lost track of who is in the Tigers bullpen (I have), here’s my latest info on it (it may have changed by the time you read this):

Alburquerque
Hardy
Coke
Chamberlain
Nathan
Reed
Johnson
McCoy

Sorted in August WHIP order. The top three have managed to post something below 1.74. Woo-hoo.

Game 2014.135: Tigers at White Sox

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Kyle Ryan vs. Chris Bassitt

Ryan for DET and Bassitt for CHW will each be making their MLB debuts tonight.

I don’t have the patience to wait for the lineups, so I’ll throw out some guesses as to the changes. Avila will be back at C, of course. Romine at SS, Carrera in CF, Kelly at 3B, J.D. in RF, maybe? Something like that. Hunter might get rest tonight and Cabrera tomorrow, that’s what I’m thinking. We’ll see.

Game 2014.134: Tigers at White Sox

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Max Scherzer vs. Chris Sale

Huh? What? What are they doing starting so early? More later…

POSTGAME: That One Inning. Seems to be a thing lately. Last night in the 7-1 victory, you had to sympathize with the White Sox for how that 4th inning just fell apart even as you appreciated how the Tigers capitalized to the max. Today, first game of the doubleheader, Chris Sale outpitched Max Scherzer, plain and simple. 11 strikeouts and 0 walks are just numbers when you lose it for That One Inning. Great plays from Torii Hunter and Eugenio Suarez, not much else to get excited about after the first inning.

Just like last year, too late for debate on whether to play or not play Miguel Cabrera. Victor Martinez isn’t so good at 1B nor Miggy at DH; think it through and you’ll find that’s no solution, either.

The Dream Rotation (or what’s left of it) has to keep the lead when they get one.

OK, Game 2 of the doubleheader at 6:10 PM. I’ll make a note of it.

Game 2014.133: Tigers at White Sox

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Justin Verlander vs. Scott Carroll

Detroit closes out August and begins their next to last road trip before a home-heavy September with four against the Sox in Chicago, including a Saturday makeup doubleheader (and so far the doubleheaders haven’t doubled our pleasure). The team has yet to put up a calendar month below .500 – let’s see if they can punctuate this one a little more emphatically. Let’s worry less about the Royals and more about how to correct going 17-19 against those other guys in this supposedly “weak” division.

…Evan Reed returns…. Imminent roster shuffle could leave someone on the 40-man to be DFA, or…  Sanchez might not be back, Tigers seem prepared to roll the dice with rookie fill-ins, but are they really?… Avila continues to be the terrible hitter with the knack for the big hit, thunder he stole from Kelly… Kinsler’s drawing ire with the bat and raves for the glove, team could really use both… #CastellanosInLeft2015… Hunter’s energy is energizing, gotta hand it to him. He’s our Derek Jeter, sort of…. There’s no problem with Miggy, except that there is, but really there isn’t, although there might be. 3 HR in 220 PA is a little unusual, that’s all, even with 400 doubles. He’s been great at 1B, though, no lie… Suarez plays with a lot of swagger, which is annoying when he swaggers something stupid (would someone teach him how to slide, please?), but enjoyable otherwise. He is as good as it gets for any homegrown middle infield talent you’ll ever see under current ownership, so enjoy it… Chambermaid! Brilliant, Stormin.’ Tuck or no tuck? Tuck, tuck! How much do you tip a Chamberlain?… You’ve gotta tip it (the cap) to Phil Coke – he never stopped shrugging. Violently. We all need to eat some crow and acknowledge what he’s done over the past couple months. I always wanted to keep him as bench coach, but now I think I might let him pitch once in a while, too… I wonder if Victor Martinez might get some consideration for MVP if the Tigers went all the way… I don’t know why I find it so hard to forgive J.D. Martinez when he grounds out to 3B. Again. Look at those numbers. Holy cats. Where would we be without him?

Oh, right. The other team, the White Somethings. Well, they’re really struggling of late and not that good, neither of which strikes me as good news (see Twins). We must not allow Jose Abreu to shame us again. Chicago plays better against Detroit, and that’s a natural fact. Recent memory suggests that this holds less true late in the season.

Irrelevant Factor Of The Day: Until the most recent Tampa Bay series, I hadn’t won a series since June and Texas. That’s got to bode well for this series and the stretch. Somehow. Doesn’t it?

Game 2014.125: Tigers at Rays

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David Price vs. Alex Cobb

GREAT game last night. There’s something to be said for dinosaurs and pitchers written off as perpetual #5 starters. Not only did Ricky P toss his third complete game shutout of 2014 (a feat that has never been accomplished before in baseball’s 900-year history), but he was also part of a couple nicely turned plays where he covered 1B, and almost part of what was almost a double play except for his part. And don’t forget Rajai Davis, Center Fielder of the Future.

Good times. I can see the Kansas City whatever-they’re-calleds in the rearview mirror already.

David Price facing the Rays. Hmmm. I like it. I like it a lot.

Game 2014.124: Tigers at Rays

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Rick Porcello vs. Jake Odorizzi

Don’t mind me, just throwing this up early in case I work late tomorrow and/or the random word generator breaks down again. Carry on.

Say, how about some lineups, early birds?

…..

So, good win last night. Down but not out. Bend but don’t break. Runs are runs, and 5 to 8 of them is a very good thing. Aren’t the Tigers about due for a winning streak?

Hey, where did Melvin Mercedes go? Ah well, it’s almost September.

Wil Myers makes his return for the Rays.

Game 2014.123: Tigers at Rays

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Max Scherzer vs. Chris Archer

Things aren’t going well for the Detroit Tigers these days. Not only are they not playing well as a team, but in addition to the DL-injured Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria, and the non-DL injured Justin Verlander, now speed demon and dropper of fly balls Rajai Davis is day to day with a bruised thumb. Sunday’s 8-1 loss to the Mariners was another notable low point in a season with too many already. It was a drag to watch that literally put me to sleep. Yes, there have been both ups and downs, to wit:

27-12
9-20
17-6
13-18

… and we currently find ourselves in a down. What’s next? Up, maybe?

Melvin Mercedes and Jim Johnson are the latest efforts to shore up the bullpen. We’ll see, eh? The Tigers are up to 26 pitchers used this season, and not a lot of that can be chalked up to injuries.

There was a bit of initial buzz about the opportunity for Ezequiel Carrera, and I kept an open mind myself. He is quite a good defender, and on top of that, well… um…  he really is quite a good defender.

No one’s on fire*, and no one is going down in flames. We can blame whoever – it’s really quite the team effort at failure when they fail these days, isn’t it? And is 66-56 so surprising? When you consider how little has changed over the course of the season? Bullpen the same, offense the same, defense the same, starting pitching about the same (a bit challenged by injuries lately, but not such a big factor in the post-break funk). Maybe Detroit’s streaky way of getting to such a pedestrian record is the surprising thing. I suppose it will take some kind of magic to again rise above. Not a question of “going out and getting someone” anymore (such as Nathan? Soria? Price? Johnson?). No. Team magic.

In the meantime, I like Vince’s idea of pondering the rebuilding – or the retooling, or whatever you see fit – ahead for 2015. I think it would make a good off day discussion in advance of Tuesday’s game. Let’s fire ’em and unload ’em in the offseason now and get all that out of our system in advance of the new 2014 season that begins August 19.

*Well, OK, you could say that Max has been on fire – in a good way – and David Price ain’t been too shabby himself. Victor keeps rolling. The rest of  ’em need to pick it up in a big way.

Game 2014.115: Tigers at Blue Jays

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David Price vs. Mark Buehrle