Doug Fister to the Nationals

For P Ian Krol, Inf Steve Lombardozzi, minor league P Robbie Ray.

I hate to see him go, but we can’t afford to keep our top 4 pitchers. Or so they say.

Discuss.

Miguel Cabrera Back to 1B

So many thoughts, more coming tonight.

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Fielder and $30M for Ian Kinsler. Kinsler’s big contract is up in 4 years. Fielder’s bigger contract is up in 7.

I’m going to start with Jim’s question below. There’s been a lot of discontent surrounding Kinsler down here, and it’s been rising for about a year and a half. After six years of a .794 OPS or greater, the last two have been rather average for 2B. People think he should be a perennial All-Star. He’s prone to lapses in attention and he may be the most picked off base runner in the AL, other than Elvis Andrus (and Darrell Evans). He’s basically embodying the classic decline you would expect for a borderline All-Star in his early 30s.

That alone was likely enough to put him on the trading block, but this move is being driven by the need for the Rangers to find a place for Jurickson Profar. Profar is the golden child of one of the best farm systems in the league, and the team is anxious to find out what he can do. Realize that the Rangers also lost Nelson Cruz and it’s uncertain whether they’ll pony up what he’ll get elsewhere. Fielder fills that hole nicely.

We all knew that the Tigers over-reached on the last 2-3 years of his contract in order to have Fielder for the first 4-5. Well, the first two were pretty disappointing, and Fielder’s playoff efforts were, well, non-existent. I haven’t done any direct comparisons, but I’m certain that we would have been better off with just about any other 1B in the league in the playoffs, and that’s simply offensively. If you include the poor fielding and base running blunders, Fielder had to have had a net negative effect.

I can’t help but wonder if there is something else going on with Prince Fielder that we don’t know about. Maybe it was the divorce, maybe he couldn’t handle being the 3rd or 4th biggest name on the team, perhaps it was the pressure oozing out of Leyland’s smoke rings. He’s definitely been off since October of 2012, and I hope that heading home to Texas will allow him to return to his Milwaukee self.

Trading Fielder has a myriad of other effects. Here are a few topics for discussion:

– The Tigers just saved about $76M on paper. How much of that does Scherzer see?

– Does Shin-Soo Choo see any of that? Hunter in left, Dirks as the 4th?

– What do we gain defensively by sliding Cabrera to 1B and putting anyone else at 3rd?

– VMart/Cabrera 1B/DH sounds nice.

– I love Brad Ausmus already. Not sure if he had anything to do with this. But I’m looking for an Ausmus jersey.

1. Jackson, CF
2. Choo, RF
3. Cabrera, 1B
4. Martinez, DH
5. Hunter, RF
6. Kinsler, 2B
7. Avila, C
8. Castellanos, 3B
9. Iglesias, SS

2013 Cy Young and MVP Talk

Congrats, Max. Scherzer earned 28 of the 30 first place votes. Even Fangraphs was on board with this. Don’t let this one slip by you – Anibal Sanchez finished 4th in the voting (and had 1 first place vote).

 

(saving this space for tomorrow)

 

In other news, Peralta met with the Mhets yesterday.

The Tigers are going to have to deal either Porcello or Scherzer (or Fister) this off-season, else we’ll all have to pledge to buy Hot N Ready’s until our belts explode. This means Smyly to the rotation, which is less exciting to me now than it was last year at this time.

Joe Nathan is getting a lot of pub as he looks be the early favorite for your 2014 closer. Curious to see how free agent Joaquin Benoit is feeling right now. I mean, he didn’t load the bases. He only gave up 1 of those earned runs.

Brayan Pena’s replacement is Ronny Paulino.

I’ll update this tomorrow.

The Brad Ausmus Era Begins

The Tigers have not officially announced it, but all signs point to Brad Ausmus as your new manager. From what I can tell, this guy out of Houston broke the news.

Though the home opener next March against KC will be the first game that Ausmus ever manages, this is a hire that I’m excited about. Ausmus has a tremendous baseball brain, as he spent 18 years in the majors, including two stints with our Tigers. He was a hot candidate this off-season, making the rounds with the Cubs and Nationals. Some are already drawing parallels to Mike Matheny in St. Louis, a former catcher who was a rookie manager in 2012. All he’s done in 2 seasons with the Cards is go to game 7 of the NLCS and game 6 of the World Series.

Ausmus made the All Star team with the Tigers, in 1999 (which means he beat out Tony Clark & Dean Palmer) and won 3 gold gloves later in his career.

 

Jim Leyland Retires

This goes a long way towards explaining how emotional he was after clinching the division.

Discuss.

Game 2013. Playoffs X: Game Over

ALCS: Boston 4, Detroit 2. Game 6: Boston 5, Detroit 2.

Good game. Good series. Good season. No real disgrace in losing your final game to the best team in the American League.

7th inning, bottom half. Detroit up 2-1, somehow. Well, not “somehow.” The lead could have been bigger, maybe, but a big hit from a big bat and an ace starter stamping out every small fire is legit. Could be a Game 7 afoot here. Right? Despite the feeling of doom. A walk to Bogaerts, with a questionable call thrown in, to put men on 1st and 2nd, none out (forgot about Max striking out Drew) one out. Max’s good night is done (I don’t suppose we should overlook the leadoff double by Gomes, which wasn’t cheap). A defensible call to the bullpen for Smyly v. Ellsbury. An improbable error by Iglesias loads the bases, still none out one out (that’s right, and it’s even worse – I guess I forgot that the DP could’ve ended the inning). Veras comes in to face Victorino. Two good curveballs, 0-2. A third curveball. Not sure why. Victorino hits it over the Green Monster. Just like that, a long season is over in a heartbeat.

This isn’t gonna cheer anyone up, I know. Screenshots of all the bad news. I’m not bitter about the final game, though. Really. It truly was a good game, and I’ll remember Victor Martinez’s two-run single off the LF wall that gave the Tigers the lead and big hope, and all of Max Scherzer’s good pitching, just as well as any of the lowlights. It’s just that the lowlights highlight (lowlight?) so well where the wheels have come off – when they’ve come off – the entire 2013 season. Done in by the bullpen, by ____ baserunning  (and the attendant coaching), by defense, and famously by feast-or-famine offense.

Though not bitter, I am most certainly disappointed with how the season ended. I’ll try to get that out of my system with this, and come back with some outlook uncolored by it next time out.

fielder6

miggy6

iglesias 2

jackson6

max6

 

Game 2013. Playoffs 11: Tigers at Red Sox

ALCS: Boston 3, Detroit 2. Game 5: Red Sox 4, Tigers 3. Not as close as the score would indicate… or was it? It doesn’t take much to lose a game, and in this instance I’m not talking about late-inning drama. For a game that looked like it was over after 3 innings, the Tigers had their chances. Upon chances.

Let’s get the hat-tipping out of the way right away, shall we? A. Napoli’s 445′ shot to center. The home broadcasters would be foaming at the mouth about “another planet” had a certain Tiger hit that pitch that far. Let’s give credit to an opponent for awe-inspiring raw power. (I thought it was a blip at the time, a wake-up call that would get Sanchez back on track.) B. The crucial Bogaerts-Pedroia-Napoli DP that killed the Tigers’ 6th. C. Tazawa v. Cabrera. D. In general, the Red Sox were very, very ready for a pitcher who had stumped both them and himself last time out. E. Lester, the guy the Tigers can hit without hitting. I like their chances against Buchholz and Lackey much, much better. F. Smart baserunning by Middlebrooks, the sort of thing you’d see from Hunter or a healthy Cabrera, although perhaps Miggy would have to be unusually healthy to make this first to third on a sac bunt.

The bad: A. No one did more to lose the game than Anibal Sanchez. More bad pitches in one start than you’ll usually see in three from him, and he was lucky to get away with 4 runs allowed. The run-scoring WP in the 3rd pretty much killed the game for me, and in the end, it stood out as the nail in the coffin. B. Miguel’s fielding error was just butt-ugly. Don’t give me “bad hop” or “he’s hurting.” C. I don’t care if Miggy didn’t see Brookens’ change of signal or blew through it. To even entertain the thought of sending Cabrera home from 2B on a sharp single right to the left fielder, a play that will obviously force Cabrera to slide if it’s even close, is egregiously wrong on principle. That is not “aggressive baseball.” That is a losing call. That is fly by the seat of your pants, unprepared, situation-oblivious stupidity. I think we are beyond disbelief of Tom Brookens at this point. I know I am. But maybe that’s just uninformed, opinionated fan talk I’ll regret when I realize the genius of it all.

The unfortunate: A. Peralta’s nearly-double deep foul down the LF line with 2 on in the first inning. Oh! Boy, did he smack that one, first pitch. B. Cabrera’s nearly-HR down the RF line later on, also against Lester, also with a man or two on if I’m not mistaken. C. The Jackson GIDP in the 6th. D. The Cabrera DP in the 7th. The latter did score a run, but it could have been so much more. Second pitch. Ouch. Miggy didn’t like it, either. E. Avila getting hurt on the collision at the plate with Ross. I guess I’ll leave not removing him from the game sooner in the “unfortunate” category.

The good: A. The amazing play by Iglesias on the shallow LF popup? I think the amazing part was that the ball stayed in his glove. The long run (from Ortiz shift 2B position) to get there? Well, he’s fast – that’s not so amazing. The quick move to swipe at the ball and glove it? Well, there’s amazing somewhere in there, but the more I watch it, the core of it seems to be in the glove control.The fast reflexes, yes – wow. Holding on to that swiped-at ball. Double wow. B. The Detroit bullpen was outstanding. The Veras curve is a joy to behold, much like the Fister curve and the Verlander curve. Some prefer fastballs. I like a good curve. C. Hey, the Tigers made a game of it, sort of. Even Sanchez recovered, sort of. D. Pena lives. Got himself an RBI.

A play and a call: A. There was that Ross sac bunt that got Middlebrooks over to 3B (from 1B) in the top of the 9th. Good bunt. Very good play by Miggy on it. No flies on the throw to 3B from Prince after the out at 1B. Bit of trouble covering 3B, apparently. Some “umpire interference” at 3B that really didn’t make a difference, in my view. Broadcasters said Pena was to blame for a late break to cover 3B. I’m no strategy expert, but why isn’t Alburquerque breaking to cover the base? The whole play, he’s meandering in the center of the diamond. B. Now, with a man on 3B, only runner, one out, playing to prevent any runs, why the intentional walk? What do the stats guys have to say about this? If you’re the Tigers and the walked batter is Ellsbury, you’ve essentially issued an intentional double, which is exactly what happened. That’s two easily scored runs to worry about when you can’t afford to allow one, and your double play (which was no sure thing anyway, with Victorino batting) down the drain. Pointless. No damage done, thanks to Alburquerque, but I wonder if it’s irksome to a pitcher to have the IBB ordered in a situation like this.

All right. Next.

* Oh: Phooey on the tiresome Cardinals. There goes the Fielder trade. I was hoping for a Tigers-Dodgers WS, just for variety’s sake. Well, at least the Cardinals don’t have silly beards. Or do they? They do have the unknown rookie phenom pitcher going for them, which might be worse. Hmmm. Nah.

* Could there be a slight lineup tweak in the offing? You know who I’m talking about.

I could go on for several long paragraphs with contrasting views on the Tigers’ chances down 3-2 and headed to Boston, but I’ll boil it down.

* The Detroit Tigers can beat the Boston Red Sox any day of the week. However, they might not be able to beat the Red Sox any two days of the week. I’ll go out on a limb and say there’s no way Boston beats Detroit two in a row now.

* That the Tigers can win two in a row at Fenway Park was amply demonstrated in Games 1 & 2. Well, maybe not amply, or even at all, because it didn’t actually happen. But you know what I mean. It was that close. Boston was on the ropes.

* Stats are out the window,  and what’s happened to date in the postseason is out the window. The 2013 regular season doesn’t matter, and looking ahead to 2014 doesn’t matter. The Tigers Universe now consists of two games (or so we hope) against the Red Sox in Boston. All hands on deck. Do it, whoever you may be and at whatever point you may or must, but do it and get it done. Do it or die. Do it or go home to watch the World Series instead of playing in it.

We might have to prepare ourselves for some heartbreak, so let me ask you this: Would you rather have the Tigers go down in 6 and be done with it, or see them take it to a thrilling 7 only to watch it slip away in another 9th inning or extra inning anticlimax? I guess the answer to that is too obvious. So let me rephrase it: Which would hurt more? Which would inspire the more bitter commentary?

Ultimately, what can we be right now but hopeful and happy, happy that there’s hope and hopeful that we’ll still be happy tomorrow?

Scherzer today. That’s good. Verlander tomorrow would be even better. Kevin did promise. After that.. well, what could go wrong?

Game 2013. Playoffs 10: Red Sox at Tigers

First game of a 3-game series.

“My favorite pastime is definitely baseball. We have a star-studded team & it’s going to be fun tonight”

Thank you Calvin (or is it Johnson?). I couldn’t have said it better myself.

It was a small thing really: take one guy from the front of the lineup, move him to the back, move everyone else up one. Could it really make that big of a difference? It could. Austin Jackson was struggling mightily, historically: he had struck out in over 50% of his at bats in this postseason, and it was weighing on him, it was bringing down the team, and it was upsetting the fans. So Leyland pulled the trigger, and decided to see if batting lower in the order would take some pressure off.

Austin Jackson is a very good professional baseball player. Austin Jackson has skills, and it is unlikely that those skills suddenly left him. But baseball is a game played partly in the head, and it was worth a shot to change his perspective a bit, and boy did it work.

But nobody, least of all Jim Leyland, expected this: Austin Jackson’s first at bat in his new spot in the lineup comes up in the second inning with the bases loaded and 1 out. This after losing the night before partly because the Tigers failed to score a run on two tries with a runner on 3rd and 1 out. Talk about “taking the pressure off” backfiring. But then Peavy did Jackson a favor: a pitch too far outside the strike zone for even the struggling Jackson to swing at. And then another. Suddenly Jackson was in a favorable 2-0 count. Then 3-0. The 4th pitch was close, but in a take-all-the-way situation, all Jackson had to to was watch ball four, take first base, walk in the first run of the game, and soak in the applause.

It was only the 2nd inning, but I think that was the at bat of the game, and in its own way may contend with importance with the Ortiz at bat in Game 2, albeit in a way not tailored to highlight. I’m not sure what Peavy was doing, or trying to do, but I think the whole game turned on that at bat. The Tigers ended up scoring 5 in the inning; if Jackson had struck out there, not only do the Tigers probably not score, but Jackson is probably back in his funk. And it was only the 2nd inning, not a dramatic 8th inning home run, but I think scoring early is the key to beating Boston in this series, and the second inning outburst of runs was huge.

That wasn’t Leyland’s only move with Jackson of the game though. In the 4th inning, probably encouraged by his 2nd inning RBI walk, Jackson singled Infante in from 2nd. Two at bats, two RBI. Now Jackson is probably really feeling good, right? So Leyland sends him, and Austin has his first stolen base since September 17. The stolen base was useful: Jackson came around to score. But don’t think the gamble Leyland was taking here had nothing to do with taking Jackson’s energy and bumping it up a notch. Leyland at his best.

The other, probably unintended effect of the lineup change is that it gave the Tigers a slow half/fast half of the lineup setup: with Infante/Jackson/Iglesias/Hunter all batting together, we were treated to a burst of base running/bunting/infield hit action that Tiger fans haven’t seen in a while. I’m not sure why the change tonight (Avila moved up one spot).

*****

Then there is Prince Fielder. Kevin mentioned that T Smith and KW had already dealt him before yesterday; it seems StorminNorman$ has also dealt him today. With Jackson having a good day, Prince takes the hot seat. Fielder had a mildly disappointedly regular season, but the disappointment is hot and spicy for his postseason. Which seems familiar…oh yes, the same thing happened last year.

In fact, Fielder’s career postseason OPS is now .701. Oh wait, that’s Don Kelly’s. Prince’s career postseason OPS: .632.  I’m not sure what is going on with Prince. Last month I talked about how much I liked Prince, even while being disappointed with him: he tried hard, ran hard, put his body in front of balls, anything he could do to help. Not so much right now. I’m not a fan of the facial expression analysis school of baseball fandom–it’s too easy to read things into expressions and body language through a lens of disappointment (in Cabrera’s first year in Detroit he looked “disinterested,” “lazy” and one commenter kept insisting he would “be out of baseball in 3 years”).  But he sure doesn’t scare anybody on other teams, say the way Ortiz scares us when he steps up to the plate.

A year or two back I read a good analysis about the difference between the Yankees and the Tigers–the Tigers were giving out some big contracts, but all of the Tiger big contracts were good big contacts: the Verlanders and Cabreras were actually worth the money, while the Yankees were stuck with a bunch of big contracts that were dead money. Did the Tigers pull a “Yankee” with Fielder? Is it too soon to tell?

*****

Well, here we go: last game at Comerica, until the Dodgers or Cardinals stop by. Which would you prefer? When it looked like St. Louis would sweep, I was all for St. Louis–let them sit for a week until this thing is over. Now, I may have changed my mind. At any rate, this is my last ALCS post. I hereby turn this thing over to the capable hands of Kevin and Loon. It has been quite the postseason so far.

*****

We have Anibal tonight. The Red Sox couldn’t hit him last time. They have Lester. The Tigers couldn’t really hit him. It’s playoff baseball, fasten your seat belts, and pack plenty of provisions, it will probably be a long one!

*****

Quote of the day goes to Don Kelly, via Jerry Crasnick: “I’d have a hard time if I played for the #redsox. I would have had to start my beard 3 years ago.”

Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Austin Jackson. Is there momentum in baseball?

Today’s Score Early Lineup:

  1. Hunter, RF
  2. Cabrera, 3B
  3. Fielder, 1B
  4. Martinez, DH
  5. Peralta, LF
  6. Infante, 2B
  7. Avila, C
  8. Jackson, CF
  9. Iglesias, SS

Whatever happened to Brayan Pena? Just wondering (I think I can make this line into a template).

Game 2013.Playoffs 9: Red Sox at Tigers

Wrong side of 2-1, 7 games left to go.

So, my intention was to just post a “short and sweet for the W” and then let the chips fall. It worked pretty well back in the day (meaning 2011 – 2012).

Well, I’m glad I put something up last night. There has been (understandably) so much chatter pre-game on the Relaxing post from last night, that even if I did want to get into things, there is not much to cover.

I have noticed that the DTW is calmest between the hours of 11 pm and 1 am central, which are prime reflecting hours for me. It gets a little lonely,I must admit. Refresh. Refresh. MLB network is too painful, so I pass the time on the Golf Network. Their late night show is actually pretty awesome.

Then I step into one little meeting during the day, get back to my desk, and bam, T Smith and KW have already dealt Prince Fielder. Interesting topic. That and Max Scherzer. But we’ll discuss that in November.

For those of you who haven’t yet seen it, Jim Leyland has made some radical changes to the lineup. Not only did he bump the leadoff hitter, a surprising move for loyal Leyland, though not surprising in light of the situation, but he also moved up everyone else in the order. I LOVE the move. Leyland recognizes that this is win or go home (basically) and that it is imperative to have his best hitters hit more often, conventions be damned.

1. Hunter, RF
2. Cabrera, 3B
3. Fielder, 1B
4. Martinez, DH
5. Peralta, LF
6. Avila, C
7. Infante, 2B
8. Jackson, CF
9. Iglesias, SS

Beyond the relief to Jackson, this also it presumably gives one of the guys at the top an extra AB. And if anyone can handle leadoff in a crucial game like this one, it’s Torii Hunter.

Honestly, I don’t know what to expect, other than thrilling baseball between two of the best teams in the Majors. It’s hard to fault the hitters while we reap so much praise on the starters. Shouldn’t we acknowledge how dominating two of Boston’s starters have been? And Uehera? Good night. He’s throwing golf balls to guys trying to hit with pencils out there.

I will readily admit that I expected a deep playoff run this year. In fact, I felt entitled to it. What I forgot was the anxiety, heartache, and frustration that comes with it. I know, I want to scream “it’s just not fair” as badly and as loudly as you do.

But this is the playoffs. We’re all in this together.

I’ll be back here for game 7.

Relax

It’s just 2-1. We’re playing the best regular season team in baseball, not Minnesota.

There’s no home field advantage in MLB playoffs.

We have the best rotation in baseball, and the best hitter too.

Big game tomorrow.

We’ll be alright.

More to come.

Game 2013. Playoffs 8: Red Sox at Tigers

ALCS: Detroit 1, Boston 1. ALCS Game 2: Boston 6, Detroit 5.

Painful. The loss Sunday night is one game I will not review in its entirety. During the regular season, there was at least one (Toronto 8, Detroit 6) and probably a couple other games I forget where a sizable lead vanished and left us with a kicked in the gut feeling. Those games pale by comparison. I will focus on the positive. Most of Game 2 was the story of a win in the making, a win that would have sent us into a stratosphere of dizzy optimism. Let’s not deny that it was a very nice ride.

* Max Scherzer had a game for the ages. 7 IP, 2 H (5.2 of no-hit ball), 13 K, and 1 cheap run (unfortunately one that would prove costly, depending on how you look at it). Don’t file this one under “no decision,” but under “seven innings of dominating WIN where he positively baffled the best offense in the American League, in the playoffs, on their home turf.” If there was any debate about the AL Cy Young, it’s over.

* Miguel Cabrera hit a home run over the Green Monster, and crushed another pitch that would have been a home run anywhere else but dead center. His power stroke has returned at a most opportune time, not a moment too soon. If it’s back to stay, there’s no need to ask if it will make a difference.

* Jhonny Peralta hasn’t missed a beat. Quite remarkable. There has to be some question, to my mind at least, that the Tigers might want to consider making room for Peralta in 2014. I don’t think a “thanks for October, so long” (a la Delmon Young) is in order here. It’s neat that the big generators in the postseason to date have been the two Comeback Kids, Victor and Jhonny.

* Alex Avila certainly has a knack for “running into one” – if that’s what it is – at some of the bestest times. Evidently the receiver of choice for the best starting rotation in Tigers history, it would also seem that we can’t write off that kind of power (his first pitch, two-run blast to RF was Ortiz-caliber stuff) even if he does spend the rest of his career around .225. Avila might end up being Brandon Inge Revisited; unquestionably strong at his position but leaving you guessing whether he’s an underachieving average hitter or an overachieving total hack. I’m not even being negative here.

* For one shining inning we saw the Tigers offense at its best, striking quickly and devastatingly against a fading Buchholz. That’s the offense Mike Illitch paid for, and the one we pay to see. They padded a slim lead and put the game in the bag for Max. Unfortunately, that bag was placed on a counter slick with bullp-  well, bull-something – and the bottom got all soggy.

From the Numbers Speak Louder Than Words Dept.:

ALDS

alds batsalds pitch

 ALCS

alcs bats

alcs pitch

* A bunch o’ links to pass the time until game time (you’ve already read ’em… read ’em again to qualify for valuable cash prizes). I should say “until game day”; with a 4:00 EST game time, Tuesday, there won’t be time to pass for many of us. I’ll be watching the game after the game, safely sequestered from spoilers by geography and… well, circumstance:

Torii and the cop

Torii and the tumble

You don’t say – how perceptive

Score one for “bizarre last paragraph”

Wow, such a heartwarming human interest story, or .222 of one

The old “what can you say?” (no hat-tipping, thank goodness) in Beck’s “Anatomy of…”

Forgiveness and responsibility and other stuff

The Monster Mash

Stunning insights into JV – like no article you’ve ever read before

Justin Verlander had a great September and an outstanding, indispensable ALDS. How many times have the Tigers turned to him over the years to stop the skid, to right the ship, to win the game that had to be won? (Last time was only last Thursday. Sheesh. Leaning on the guy pretty hard.) This skid is only one game, but it was some steep game. Now they and we turn to Verlander again, to turn back the clock on two innings where the Red Sox became the Red Sox again instead of wind-up strikeout toys. (Yes, Boston hitters have been known to strike out some… but not at a rate of 2,592 a season.) Would it surprise you to see JV carry a no-hitter through 5 with the Tigers clinging to a 1-0 lead? It would not surprise me at all, which is not to say I wouldn’t be absolutely freaking out with the same tortured mix of delight and dread that have characterized most of the first two games of the ALCS.

My plea to the Tigers hitters and the Tigers bullpen: Don’t let this season of unparalleled starting pitching go down in flames. Don’t. There’s never been a better time for a number of stellar players to get what might be the only World Series Championship ring of their careers.

If the third game of a best-of-seven can ever be an “elimination game,” this Game 3 in Detroit is it. Mark my words. No? Then I’ll mark my own words: If the third game of a best-of-seven can ever be an “elimination game,” this Game 3 in Detroit is it.

Rise to the occasion, Tigers!

 

And now, the entirely fictitious Series-Turning Lineup, POPGs highlighted:

LF Dirks
2B Infante
1B Fielder
3B Cabrera
DH Martinez
SS Peralta
RF Hunter
CF Jackson
C Avila

SP – Verlander
Setup Guy – Verlander
Closer – Verlander

Game 2013. Playoffs 7: Tigers at Red Sox

One down, three to go.

That makes it sound a lot easier than it will be. Once the celebrations subsided after last night’s thrilling, nail-biting victory, the questions crept back. Are the Tigers back to their frustrating habit of the all-or-nothing, feast-or-famine offense? It was a classic famine game: a bunch of base runners, most of whom were left hanging out in scoring position or thrown out on the base paths through a combination of bad luck, untimely strikeouts, failed sacrifice attempts, and whatnot.

And Boston was not the AL leader in runs per game and team OPS for nothing: their bats won’t be held down forever.

Dash the questions though–there was just so much to enjoy about last night’s game, which leaves the Tigers in a best case scenario, up 1-0 on the road with Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander lined up.

And despite the frustrating inability to score, there were some positive signs from the offense: Torii Hunter finally got a hit;  Alex Avila got a hit and hit the ball well; Austin Jackson struck out twice, but when he did hit the ball, hit it well; Omar Infante continued to hit the ball hard without any luck (the luck will come), and Peralta continued to be Jhonny on the Spot. And how about the much-maligned bullpen? 3 innings pitched, 0 runs, 0 walks, 1 hit, 5 Ks.

The real story of the game was Anibal Sanchez, who was unhittable.  The Red Sox had a plan for Anibal, and it worked: take as many pitches as possible, drive up his pitch count, and get an early stab at the bullpen. The Red Sox do that well: they saw more pitches this season than any other team (1500 more than Detroit). It is a concerted team effort, up and down the lineup.

For the game, they took 29 of 35 first pitches. That’s dedication to a game plan.

Anibal never got frustrated, despite all the 3-2 counts, the walks, the rising pitch count. When an early strikeout turned into a safe-on-a-wild-pitch, a stolen base, and a subsequent walk, he just methodically struck out Ortiz and Napoli (Ortiz would have 3 checked-swing strikeouts on the day). It’s as if he threw random pitches until he got into a 3-2 count, then threw the last pitch they were expecting.

And in doing so, he tied a record, becoming just the 2nd person to strike out 4 in a postseason inning (and the first Tiger in any game), joining ol’ Orval Overall, who did that on the way to clinching the last ever Cubs World Series title against the Detroit Tigers (one of his 4 victims was Ty Cobb).

  • The Tigers also became the first postseason team to ever have back-to-back no-hit bids beyond 5 innings.
  • The Tigers also became the first team to shout out the Red Sox at home in the postseason since 1918.
  • Anibal Sanchez also became the first pitcher in postseason history to be pulled with a no-hitter as late as the 6th inning.
  • The Tigers as a team also tied a postseason record with 17 strikeouts, tying The Cardinals, who, in the person of Bob Gibson, struck out 17 Tigers in the 1968 World Series.

*****

Jim Leyland seemed to make all of the right moves yesterday, from starting Peralta in left to pulling Sanchez after 6. Alburquerque blew through the 7th inning in impressive fashion (maybe starting the inning instead of coming in with runners on helped out here), and even more impressively is what happened in the next inning: Jose Veras was brought in to replace Alburquerque. Al has had a number of frustrating outings this year when he pitches a shutdown inning, only to fall apart in the next inning. Leyland learned from that:

“If you try to send him back out there [for a 2nd inning], things normally don’t work out so good.” (Jason Beck tweet).

The one head-scratcher of a move was pulling Peralta for a pinch-runner in the 7th (Santiago), and replacing him in left with Don Kelly. It makes sense if (and only if) Leyland had already decided that regardless of the outcome of the inning, that Cabrera was done for the day, and Peralta was done in the field (not that anybody was hitting any balls anywhere last night). With Cabrera’s spot coming up the next inning, the double-switch allowed Leyland to get Kelly batting in that spot, who was presumably a better bat at that point than Santiago.

*****

Anibal set the bar pretty high. Let’s see what Max can do tonight. The key to the game will be keeping the first two hitters, Ellsbury and Victorino, off the bases. They have been hitting over .400 each in the postseason, and when they do get on they will steal. They were a combined 73-of-80 in the regular season, and that is against a bunch of teams that are all better than Detroit at stopping the running game. The one time either of them got on base last night was when Victorino struck out on the wild pitch, and he promptly stole 2nd.

*****

Tonight Leyland is going with Peralta at SS. “This guy’s no donkey.” Well, how dumb does he think we are? We all know that Don Kelly is The Donkey, and he will be playing left.

Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Omar Infante. With Peralta getting on base a lot and Omar hitting the ball hard (although with nothing to show for it) I am predicting Infante will come through with a big RBI.

Today’s Who’s the Donkey? Lineup:

  1. Jackson, CF
  2. Hunter, RF
  3. Cabrera, 3B
  4. Fielder, 1B
  5. Martinez, DH
  6. Peralta, SS
  7. Avila, C
  8. Infante, 2B
  9. Kelly, LF

Whatever happened to Brayan Pena? Just wondering (I think I can make this line into a template).