Game 2013.121: Royals at Tigers

71-49, 1st place, 2nd place team too distant to be reliably identified.

Imagine how much better the best team in baseball could be if they weren’t also the worst baserunning team in the history of the game. This has something to do with how a hittable Jeremy Guthrie wasn’t rocked out of the game like he should have been.

Otherwise, the 4-1 win last night was all good. Anibal Sanchez recovered from a 30-pitch first with a had his whole arsenal working, the art of pitching sorta thing. Andy Dirks found his stroke – did you see it? The results were almost incidental. If he can hold on to that, Tui and Donkey are going to fade ever so slightly from the scene… Not only did Prince Fielder hit his first home run since about 1986, but did you see the bat speed? Flashback… Jose Iglesias at SS. Enough said.

Whatever happened to the regularly scheduled doubleheader? They even used to have different kinds of doubleheaders. It made those pocket schedules so much more complicated and visually appealing. Bring back the doubleheader. The baseball season is in need of some Crisco.* Mandatory doubleheaders every Saturday and Sunday. Get rid of the All-Star break. You could fit a 162-game season from April 15 to August 31 with more off days. Make all the playoff series best-of-seven (no days off) and play the World Series the first week of October. That’s what I say. Today.

*Because it’s shortening, of course.

In the spirit of the doubleheader…

Splitting the season to date in halves (by player games as of #117 rather than the calendar):

Al-Al 17G 16IP 27K 16BB 2.76ERA 13/46%IR/IS .226BA .682OPS .517WPA -0.88RE24
Al-Al 18G 16IP 20K 11BB 8.27ERA 6/33%IR/IS .299BA .860OPS -.682WPA -4.79RE24

J. Benoit 23G 25IP 31K 8BB 2.16ERA 5/0%IR/IS .216BA .611OPS 1.560WPA 8.12RE24
J. Benoit 24G 23IP 26K 5BB 1.17ERA 10/30%IR/IS .218BA ,545OPS 1.535WPA 7.91RE24

Phil Coke 19G 19IP 18K 6BB 5.49ERA 12/33%IR/IS .265BA .694OPS -.917WPA -0.69RE24
Phil Coke 20G 15IP 11K 9BB 4.80ERA 5/20%IR/IS .283BA .838OPS -.768WPA -3.86RE24

Doug Fister 12G 77IP 66K 12BB 3.27ERA ,267BA .652OPS -.120WPA 4.21RE24
Doug Fister 12G 78IP 49K 17BB 3.92ERA .268BA .714OPS .781WPA 4.13RE24

Rick Porcello 11G 57IP 47K 11BB 5.21ERA ,272BA ,729OPS .064WPA -3.46RE24
Rick Porcello 11G 68IP 47K 16BB 3.57ERA .268BA .676OPS .462WPA 7.67RE24

Bruce Rondon 9G 8IP 6K 4BB 7.04ERA 1/0%IR/IS .353BA .969OPS -.722WPA -3.39RE24
Bruce Rondon 10G 13IP 13K 3BB 2.13ERA 5/60%IR/IS .171BA .442OPS .760WPA 3.16RE24

Anibal Sanchez 10G 64IP 80K 17BB 2.38ERA .230BA .592OPS .463WPA 11.79RE24
Anibal Sanchez 10G 61IP 59K 21BB 2.79ERA .217BA .615OPS .061WPA 9.24RE24

Max Scherzer 11G 76IP 91K 18BB 3.42ERA .187BA .568OPS 1.078WPA 8.76RE24
Max Scherzer 12G 82IP 84K 17BB 2.30ERA .197BA .557OPS 1.994WPA 19.67RE24

Drew Smyly 22G 38IP 39K 11BB 2.11ERA 8/13%IR/IS .213BA .582OPS .663WPA 11.33RE24
Drew Smyly 22G 25IP 28K 3BB 1.78ERA 6/0%IR/IS .194BA .496OPS .343WPA 8.27RE24

Justin Verlander 12G 73IP 87K 24BB 3.70ERA .263BA .710OPS .143WPA 4.28RE24
Justin Verlander 13G 85IP 67K 33BB 3.47ERA .251BA .695OPS -.121WPA 4.13RE24

Brayan Pena 24G 94PA 295/323/409/732 2HR 12RBI -.624WPA -4.81RE24
Brayan Pena 25G 87PA 300/326/425/751 2HR 7RBI -.096WPA -3.25RE24

Miguel Cabrera 54G 254PA 369/445/676/1.121 17HR 65RBI 2.437WPA 36.56RE24
Miguel Cabrera 55G 236PA 363/475/710/1.184 20HR 46RBI 3.143WPA 29.87RE24

Prince Fielder 58G 264PA 288/398/516/914 12HR 48RBI 1.369WPA 21.52RE24
Prince Fielder 59G 261PA 236/307/354/661 5HR 33RBI .089WPA -3.77RE24

Omar Infante 38G 154PA 313/344/444/789 3HR 14RBI .035WPA -0.20RE24
Omar Infante 39G 159PA 298/327/437/764 3HR 13RBI -1.013WPA -2.85RE24

Ramon Santiago 24G 62PA 148/233/241/474 0HR 2RBI -.507WPA -6.88RE24
Ramon Santiago 24G 87PA 257/333/311/644 0HR 5RBI -.076WPA -1.11RE24

Andy Dirks 47G 183PA 247/308/373/681 5HR 16RBI -.966WPA -5.20RE24
Andy Dirks 47G 173PA 242/312/318/631 2HR 10RBI -1.065WPA -8.13RE24

Torii Hunter 52G 242PA 305/353/413/765 2HR 24RBI .211WPA 6.32RE24
Torii Hunter 52G 236PA 311/323/527/850 11HR 36RBI -.536WPA 4.95RE24

Austin Jackson 43G 207PA 306/374/409/782 3HR 16RBI .652WPA 8.09RE24
Austin Jackson 43G 207PA 232/302/432/735 6HR 12RBI -1.100WPA -7.90RE24

Don Kelly 40G 88PA 173/295/307/602 2HR 6RBI -.025WPA -2.99RE24
Don Kelly 41G 95PA 313/394/475/869 3HR 14RBI .713WPA 7.37RE24

Matt Tuiasosopo 28G 61PA 327/459/490/949 2HR 12RBI .145WPA 8.28RE24
Matt Tuiasosopo 28G 83PA 254/361/535/897 5HR 16RBI .491WPA 7.45RE24

Victor Martinez 58G 242PA 241/289/355/644 5HR 30RBI -.386WPA -7.29RE24
Victor Martinez 58G 252PA 323/385/460/845 5HR 36RBI 1.004WPA 7.54RE24

Alex Avila 36G 142PA 175/261/286/546 4HR 11RBI -.513WPA -12.94RE24
Alex Avila 37G 147PA 220/315/394/709 5HR 25RBI 1.101WPA 3.27RE24

Go Justin. Go Miggy. Go Tigers. This series is off to a good start. If you should suddenly lose consciousness and come to again Sunday to see Jamey Carroll pitching the bottom of the 8th for the Royals, take it as a sign that the Tigers held down the fort (Fort Detroit?) while you were away.

Game 2013.120: Royals at Tigers

70-49, 1st place, 6 up on Cleveland and 7.5 on Kansas City.

The Detroit Tigers are the best team in baseball. As the sour taste from the last 6 begins to fade, consider how close to 5-1 that 2-4 was.

Having done all within their power to chase off one would-be division challenger last week, it’s time to begin the more daunting task of staring down what many feel is the more legitimate contender: The Kansas City Royals. Beginning with the next 5 games, the Tigers will face the Royals 11 times over the next 43. Thus far the Tigers and Royals have played 8 consecutive close games; by my reckoning, the game has been in hand for one side or the other for all of one half-inning back in April. That’s how close. We could be seeing the beginnings of a serious rivalry that might stretch over the next few seasons.

Detroit v. KC to date:

April 24  TIGERS 7 Royals 5  WRAP
April 25  Royals 8 TIGERS 3  WRAP
June 10 ROYALS 3 Tigers 2  WRAP 
June 11 Tigers 3 ROYALS 2  WRAP 
June 12 ROYALS 3 Tigers 2  WRAP
July 19  ROYALS 1 Tigers 0  WRAP
July 20 ROYALS 6 Tigers 5  WRAP
July 21 Tigers 4 ROYALS 1  WRAP
 

Royals versus Tigers:

Tim Collins 2-10 .585 OPSA, 3 K, 3 BB
Aaron Crow 2-8 .667, 2 K, 2 BB
Wade Davis 16-43 .847, 7 K, 5 BB * 0-1, 4.35 in 2 G / 10 IP
Jeremy Guthrie 16-51 .791, 1 HR, 6 K, 5 BB * 2-0, 5.11 in 2 G / 12 IP
Kelvin Herrera 3-13 .574, 4 K, 2 BB
Luke Hochevar 0-6 .000, 2 K, 0 BB
Greg Holland 1-16 .188, 6 K, 0 BB
Luis Mendoza 1-8 .739, 2 K, 3 BB
Ervin Santana 2-23 .212, 6 K, 1 BB * 1-0, 0.00 in 1 G / 7 IP
James Shields 21-76 .742, 2 HR, 16 K, 5 BB * 0-1, 3.27 in 3 G / 22 IP
Danny Duffy —
Bruce Chen —

Yes, go ahead, weep. It’s OK.

George Kottaras 0-0 1.000 OPS, RBI
Salvador Perez 8-28 .705, 6 RBI
Jamey Carroll 7-27 .667, 2 RBI
Alcides Escobar 7-31 .508, 2 RBI
Chris Getz 2-15 .369, RBI
Eric Hosmer 9-31 .698, 4 RBI
Elliot Johnson 0-4 .000
Mike Moustakas 8-28 .783, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Jarrod Dyson 1-5 .400, 2 SB
Alex Gordon 5-33 .536, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 10 K
David Lough 3-16 .610, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Justin Maxwell —
Billy Butler 10-30 .745, 0 HR, 3 RBI

That feels better, doesn’t it? A Kleenex to wipe your tears away.

Tigers versus Royals:

Al Alburquerque 1-9 .384 OPSA, 4 K, 2 BB
Joaquin Benoit 2-12 .333, 3 K, 0 BB
Jeremy Bonderman —
Phil Coke 4-11 .988, 2 K, 6 BB (OK, some were IBB)
Doug Fister 16-58, .662, 1 HR, 8 K, 1 BB * 1-1, 2.57 in 2 G / 14 IP
Rick Porcello —
Bruce Rondon 3-12, .619, 2 K, 1 BB
Anibal Sanchez 5-26 .575, 6 K, 6 BB * 0-1, 1.50 in 1 G / 6 IP
Max Scherzer 11-45 .669, 1 HR, 12 K, 5 BB * 2-0, 5.25 in 2 G / 12 IP
Drew Smyly 3-12 .500, 3 K, 0 BB
Jose Veras 0-6 .000, 2 K, 0 BB
Justin Verlander 19-74 .638, 1 HR, 15 K, 7 BB * 0-1, 2.75 in 3 G / 20 IP

There is nothing to Coke but Coke itself, as FDR (Fernando Delano Rodney) famously said. Unless Downs (13.50 ERA vs. KC, and you surely remember how that happened) is back for this series.

Bryan Holaday —
Brayan Pena 2-6 .750 OPS, 3 RBI
Miguel Cabrera 7-27 .919, 2 HR, 5 RBI
Prince Fielder 7-30 .576, 2 RBI
Jose Iglesias —
Omar Infante 8-15 1.229, RBI
Ramon Santiago 3-11 .545, 4 K
Andy Dirks 6-20 .814, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Torii Hunter 5-33 .353, 2 RBI, 11 K
Austin Jackson 2-19 .348, 8 K
Don Kelly 2-8 .583, RBI
Matt Tuiasosopo 2-6 1.095
Victor Martinez 8-32 .586, 4 RBI
Alex Avila 3-19 .515, 2 RBI

From this it would almost appear that the matchup here is Royals vs. Royals.

Well, the die is cast with Miggy and his assortment of injuries. He’s gonna play hurt the rest of the way. Trundling doesn’t hurt (the team, that is) when you’re hitting it out of the park. It may be true that Miggy at 70% is better than most others at 100%. It’s unequivocally true that Miggy at 100% is way better than Miggy at 70%. But that’s a moot point now.

Somehow, I feel obliged to bring up the Game Poster League standings again, don’t really know why.

Smoking Loon 24-14
Coleman 24-16
Kevin in Dallas 22-19

Oh, right. That’s why.

A word of appreciation: Jason Beck is one of the better mlb.com bloggers. Lee Panas of Detroit Tiger Tales is brilliant. Samara at Roar of the Tigers is simply incredible; I’ll leave it at that before I lapse into proposing marriage. And yet… there’s no commentary on the Detroit Tigers I more look forward to reading than that of Kevin and Coleman here at DTW.

Begin the game with a friendly voice
A companion unobtrusive

If there’s anything we could do to get those two in the broadcast booth in place of Mario and Rod, I’m all for it. On the other hand, I haven’t heard their voices, so don’t hold me to this.

Go Anibal. Go Miggy. Go Tigers. Let the AL Central World Series begin.

Game 2013.119: Tigers at White Sox

69-49, 1st place, 6 games up.

On paper, everything looks good. Danks is 0-4 with a 9.79 ERA over his last 5 starts against the Tigers. Porcello is 4-0 with a 2.33 ERA in his last 6 starts, including 2-0, 1.74, against CWS. But you gotta play the game.

2:10 start today. Pena gets a rest, Holaday in.

Short and sweet for the W.

Today’s Lineup:

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

Game 2013.118: Tigers at White Sox

69-48, 1st place, 7 games up.

Baseball is a long season. There are many, many ups and downs. Rare is the season like the one the Tigers had in 2011 when they didn’t lose more the 2 games in a row all season (am I remembering right? something like that).

Anyway, we’re gonna lose a few more series from here on out, we’re gonna struggle with RISP in isolated instances, and we’re gonna have a few more losses against some bad teams like we did last night. Chris Sale was good last night, he beat us. Time to move on.

In case you missed Iglesias’ highlight reel play last night: http://www.freep.com/article/20130812/SPORTS02/308120159/detroit-tigers-jose-iglesias-video. Yes, he’s all ours. Until 2019, at least. Though he did sign with Scott Boras last week, so expect the extension talks to start soon.

Last time the Tigers saw Hector Santiago (all the way back to last week), he struck out Miguel Cabrera the first three times Miggy faced him. Santiago looked sharp through 7 and then came out for the 8th. We all thought that Santiago would be on a short leash, but after two outs, Santiago had earned the right to stay in the game even after a Torii Hunter blooper. Miguel Cabrera punished the next, and last, pitch of the evening for Santiago, and Cabrera has hit a home run in every game since that one. I’m excited to see watch this matchup tonight.

A few notes:

– MLB.tv game of the night tonight – free for you non-subscribers.

– Is it time to call up Castellanos? The LF platoon has become the latest whipping boy. Personally, I’d leave Castellanos in Toledo for the rest of the year.

Today’s Gotta Win to Take the Series Lineup:

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

 

Game 2013.117: Tigers at White Sox

69-47, 1st place, 7 games up. Yes, 7.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and my 3 week old son has now witnessed his first series defeat of his young life. He was hysterical about it, btw.

But, as many said in yesterday’s thread, if there’s a good loss, this series was one of them. Two late inning rallies to tie the game off of the greatest closer of all time, and a solid drubbing in between. The runners left on was a little silly (26 total in the 2 losses), but that’s going to happen from time to time when you get on base a lot. The Tigers lead the majors with a team OBP of .347. (Since I already know the follow-up, here it is – .842 – OPS with RISP, good for 2nd in the majors; oh, and 2 outs – .788, 2nd again. So let’s table any of that talk until it’s convenient again).

You know, JV wasn’t all that bad yesterday. He pulled it together after a rough start and gave the Tigers a fighter’s chance. Which they took advantage of. Kind of. But I was very encouraged by JV’s 5th, 6th and 7th yesterday. That’s the JV of old. I think that we impart a super-hero invincibility on him, but he’s just another guy. Who makes $20M a year and dates Kate Upton. In all seriousness, I can’t help but wonder how much his struggles this year have worn on his psyche and caused him to question things that had become instinct to him. So I think there’s a lot of good that can come out of yesterday’s effort.

How about those Miggy bombs? Remember when Magglio won the batting title in 2007? I remember Jim Price mentioning on the air that he asked Magglio if the ball was “slow” during a hot hitting streak. Maggs replied “yes, and big too.” I’m certain that’s what Cabrera is seeing right now. He’s a monster among men.

So now we start a 3 game set against the White Sox which should draw several hundred south-siders over the next few nights. Here are your matchups:

Monday: Fister v. Sale

Tuesday: Scherzer v. Santiago (Hector, not Ramon)

Wednesday: Porcello v. Danks

The matchups don’t exactly lineup to what we saw last week because, well, the White Sox need rest and all that.

Lineups and more thoughts coming tomorrow.

 

Game 2013.116: Tigers at Yankees

Detroit Tigers: 69-46, 1st Place (8 ahead of Cleveland). 

Miggy is unreal.  That pitch was in his batters box and he hit a bomb. He has the cheat codes to this video game.

–Tweet from Max Scherzer.

Max is right on: ESPN had an overhead view of Cabrera’s home run, and the ball was not just inside, it actually crossed the batter’s box. How someone can even hit a pitch like that in fair territory, much less for a home run, is beyond me.

I remember at the beginning of the season that there was a lot of talk about how pitchers had to pitch Cabrera inside to have any success against him. I guess he has adjusted to that. He still seems to have trouble sometimes hitting (or laying off) the high heat; Salazar especially had success against him that way. But I would not be surprised to see him eventually start blasting homers on pitches up around his eyes.

In the past two seasons, Cabrera has hit 20 home runs on pitches outside the strike zone (Zimmerman has the next most at 11), 16 of which have come on inside pitches.

*****

Today the Tigers look to take the series from the Yankees, with Justin Verlander on the mound, trying to build on his impressive last outing and get back to being, well, Justin Verlander.

Of course there is a simple explanation for his struggles this season: he finally stopped taking steroids, says some guy named Jack Clark. Oh wait, you mean that Jack Clark? The one who feuded with teammates, managers, and fans every place he played (he couldn’t even get along with Tony Gwynn. Tony Gwynn!). Yep, that Jack Clark. Well someone thought it would be a good idea to give him a radio show, and he proceeded to tell how he knows a guy who knows a guy, and he knows Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander have been big steroid users. Oh well, it makes for good radio right? Verlander dismissed the comments as “moronic,” but Pujols called his lawyers, and the radio station decided maybe it wasn’t such a good idea after all, and fired Clark.

*****

.238 / .319 / .345 / .664

Those are Don Kelly’s numbers…er, wait, Ramon Santiago’s? Alex Avila’s? Nope, that is Prince Fielder’s line since the All-Star break. The .345 slugging % is especially baffling (Jose Iglesias has a SLG of .357 since the break).

But what about all of those RBIs? Fangraphs does an analysis of how many RBIs Prince Fielder would have if he were the cleanup hitter on every other team (if Fielder were on the Royals he would have 57).

*****

Today’s Player of the Pre-gamePrince Fielder.  Seems every time I say something critical of him, he makes me look bad by having a big game. Which works for me.

Today’s Tuitastic Lineup:

(Alex Avila a late scratch)

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

Game 2013.115: Tigers at Yankees

Detroit Tigers: 68-46, 1st Place (7 ahead of Cleveland). 

Sneaking under the radar a bit: Detroit Tigers, American League’s Best Record.

Well all good things must come to an end, and the Tigers’ winning streak finally topped out at 12–but not without some excitement.  After failing to take advantage of several early inning opportunities, the Tigers went into the 9th inning down 3-1. A double by Austin Jackson set the stage for a two-out classic confrontation between Miguel Cabrera and the great Mariano Rivera, and after two quick strikes (and a foul shot off of his knee), Cabrera struck, with a massive home run to dead center.

Torii Hunter:  “they should make  movie from that at-bat.”

Unfortunately, the Tigers again failed to take advantage of runners on base in the top of the 10th, and Al Alburquerque couldn’t hold the Yankees in the 9th. Was there any doubt of the outcome once Alburquerque came into the game? Unfortunately the Tigers had already burned through Coke, Bonderman, Smyly, Rondon, and Veras, and didn’t have much choice (although Veras might have been able to handle one more inning).

*****

Cabrera has a bandaged left shin, but will be in the lineup.  Prince Fielder gets a “day off” at DH, with Victor Martinez digging out his glove and taking first. And Leyland is hoping Don Kelly will run into one in the 6th spot.

For the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez gets the day off, with Jayson Nix at 3rd.

*****

Omar Infante’s rehab assignment, finally, is progressing: last night he was 2-for-4. The Tigers are tentatively shooting for Monday for Infante’s return. They certainly could use the punch in the bottom third of the lineup.

Today’s Player of the Pre-gameDon Kelly.  The struggling Andy Dirks gets the day off, and the Donkey takes aim at that short RF porch.

Today’s Let’s Start a New Streak Lineup:

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

Game 2013.114: Tigers at Yankees

Detroit Tigers: 68-45, 1st Place (7 ahead of Cleveland). Winning Streak: 12. 

Sneaking under the radar a bit: Detroit Tigers, American League’s Best Record.

Well, there we go. (Tap). A four-game sweep of the division rival Cleveland Indians, who have now become the “division rival” Cleveland Indians. (Tap). That’s a four-game sweep AT Cleveland. (Tap). The Tigers are now 13-3 on the season against the Indians, including 9-1 on the road. (Tap). (That tapping sound you hear are the nails going into the coffin of Cleveland’s division title hopes). I’m not sure how Cleveland can bounce back from this, but for those who think Terry Francona is the best manager around, it’s time to see what he’s got.

Despite the comfortable division lead, tonight’s game is significant because the Tigers have a chance to extend their winning streak to 13 games. Just kidding: we all know the most important story tonight is the Alex Rodriguez home debut. Will they boo? will they cheer? Will we care? At least the Tigers are playing the Yankees, so they won’t cut away from the Tiger game to show A-Rod bat like the MLB Network did to broadcast Derek Jeter’s First At Bat of the Season live (yes, they did). Hey, the Yankee fans need something to distract then, they have been pretty much eliminated from the playoff picture.

OK, back to our regularly scheduled program. It has been a long time since the Tigers franchise has won 13 in a row; in fact, as ESPN points out, Jim Leyland was not alive the last time it happened (which is amazing, since I was pretty sure Abner Doubleday was his 3rd base coach at one point). 1934 was the last time Detroit won 13 straight. Can anything stop the Tigers right now? Maybe the weather: rain is predicted. [Update: 6:00, light rain, tarp on the field].

Tonight’s game looks as though it may be an unexpected pitcher’s duel.  Rick Porcello vs. Ivan Nova hardly seemed to be a marquee matchup, but look at their records over their past 5 starts:

Porcello: 5-0, 1.87 ERA

Nova: 3-2, 1.66 ERA

Porcello should get an extra boost tonight from the new Jose Iglesias/Hernan Perez infield behind him.

*****

In some ex-Tiger news:  the Chicago White Sox put Caspar Wells on waivers, and he has been claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies in turn cleared a roster spot for Wells by giving the ol’ DFA to…Delmon Young! Wells has now been a member of the Mariners, Blue Jays, A’s, White Sox, and Phillies this season. And also pitched one scoreless inning for the White Sox, a la Ryan Raburn, which I somehow missed.

The White Sox, by the way recalled Avisail Garcia today.

*****

Jose Iglesias is now a REAL Tiger–he has changed agencies and will now be represented by Scott Boras. If anyone is interested in who represents who, MLBTradeRumors has an Agency Database. How about that!

*****

Today’s Player of the Pre-gameAlex Avila. Alex was sent back to Detroit, rather than traveling with the team to New York, for observation, since he had complained of dizziness and nausea after taking a shot off the mask which left him with a bloody ear. He was cleared, and has caught up with the team. Alex Avila takes more abuse than other catchers, maybe more than any other catcher, and it has been going on long enough that it is hard to brush it off as bad luck. Is it the way he sets up? Is there a catching coach who could help him? Is it the way the Tiger pitchers pitch? Would it help him to have a goalie-style mask?

[Update: Avila was originally in the lineup, but has been scratched for Pena. Let’s go with AJax as POPG, 5-for-13 off Nova]

Today’s Baker’s Dozen Lineup:

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

Game 2013.113: Tigers at Indians

67-45, 1st place, 6 games up on the Cleveland Indians. It appears that the Tigers have won some games recently.

Some game last night. Some EXHAUSTING game. I think I would enjoy a game like that more if I was a pure baseball fan and not one so wrapped up in the fortunes of one team. You could write a book about that game. I’ll keep it brief. I know it’s sacrilege, but sleep is even more precious than baseball at my advanced age.

After striking out 3 times against the sensational Danny Salazar, Miguel Cabrera’s first pitch 2-run HR the fourth time up to put the Tigers ahead was a fine, fine moment. I think we all kinda knew it wasn’t yet won, however… Bruce Rondon – outstanding. Jeremy Bonderman – especially outstanding. Talk about mound presence. I felt intimidated, from a distance of several hundred miles… The low point – for me – of the Bad Baserunning Clinic put on by the Tigers was the pathetic slide by Brayan Pena, who might have scored had he known where home plate was, as you might expect a catcher to do… Dog Fister (Doug’s twin brother) was not good, but he gutted it out, and should maybe buy Jose Iglesias dinner some time. Salazar was the third straight Indians starter to own or mostly own the Tigers and by far the best of them… I had conflicting thoughts with Prince Fielder at the plate in the 14th, men on 1st and 3rd: a) Prince stinks. b) No, Prince doesn’t stink, and I still have faith in him. I was on “b)” just before he did what he used to do more often and obviously still can, whatever it is that has been bothering him physically or mentally or both (at the plate, I hasten to add – I’m loving him at first base) for so long now.

This has been some series, eh? Can’t remember another one quite like it this season.

Go Max.

Game 2013.112: Tigers at Indians

66-45, 1st place, 5 games up on the Tribe.

Well, that was nice. Justin Verlander started out looking a bit uh-oh, but put together the strongest 8 innings we’ve seen from him since… when? Velocity, command, breaking ball working – what more can you ask? Justin Masterson actually pitched as well or better than Verlander most of the game. All it took was that 5th inning, and my favorite part was that both hit – and hurting – Tigers batters eventually scored. Gotta love Ramon Santiago busting it from 1st to 3rd after taking a pitch on the knee. Don Kelly had himself a game. First time I saw Jose Veras as a Tiger, and the breaking ball is as advertised. A few pretty good plays on foul pop-ups, and Miguel Cabrera even managed to snag one.

The Tigers starting pitching has been very good all season, and remarkably free of injuries, and now it’s on one of those epic rolls we’ve seen more than once over the past three seasons. I like the way the rotation was reset after the break, even if I don’t know if that really matters. You know, mixing up pitcher type game to game. With a starting five like the Tigers have, does it matter so much who follows who? I don’t know. Maybe. It’s not something immediate like batting order, which may be a bit overrated itself. Still… I like the way the rotation was reset after the break.

Pitching, pitching, pitching. Pitching wins. Perhaps all the more so with a guy like Jose Iglesisas at SS. We’ll see. Certainly all the more so when part of the pitching is the bullpen. It’s all clicking now. Even in the games where the Tigers hitters are mostly baffled by the opposing starter, as they have been the last two games, they’re pulling it out, one way or the other. Big difference from earlier in the season, when Detroit always seemed to be running on three, even when winning. I hope that there’s either a lot of this magic left in the tank or that they save some of it for the postseason. You’d hate to see the Tigers become the 2013 version of the 2012 Yankees.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves with “postseason.” 51 games left. A lot can happen. The Cabrera situation remains troubling to me. It’s nice that he can still hit. But you still have to run after you put the ball in play. Miggy is hobbled and playing. Tell me how this is good. Tell me how this is not going to end badly at an inopportune time. Maybe I’ll believe you. Meanwhile, the Tigers have a few other guys who can hit home runs and doubles for a couple weeks. Who can move around at 3B, run the bases, get down to 1B in under 2V (two Victors, standard unit of measure in snail racing). Hear me now and believe me later.

When were the Tigers last 21 games over? September 10, 2011 (Brandon Inge walkoff HR against G. Perkins and the Twins), in the middle of reeling off 12 straight, and it only got better after that (12-5 finish).

How were the 1968 Tigers doing at this point? 70-41, 1st place AL, 6.5 up on the Orioles. 1972 Tigers? 59-52, 2nd place AL East, 1.5 back of Baltimore. 1984 Tigers? 73-38, 1st place AL East, and yet “only”  9 games ahead of a superb Toronto team. 1987 Tigers? 65-46, 2nd place AL East, 1.5 behind the Blue Jays. 2006 Tigers? 75-36 (BETTER THAN 1984!!), 1st place AL Central, 9 games ahead of the White Sox. You may notice something all these Game 111’s – including last night’s – have in common.

Pitching, pitching, pitching. Doug Fister up next. The unknown rookie opposing him. Uh-oh. Time to break another habit.

When was the last time the Tigers had a starting rotation this good? Prior to last season with the addition of Sanchez, let’s say. That’s the question of the day. 2006 was kind of flukey, wasn’t it? I think you have to go back farther. Will 2013 prove flukey? How long does any starting 5, or 4, or even 3, stay strong together? Even in the olden days, it probably wasn’t that long. Enjoy it now. You’ve gotta believe that it’s capable of carrying the next two games, eh? And don’t stop there.

Game 2013.111: Tigers at Indians

64-46, 1st place, 2 games up on them Indians. In the Elbow Room series, things have gotten a bit more cramped.

About last night: I’m sorry. I was really tired, and I guess my mind was elsewhere. Oh, sorry. Wrong speech.

About last night: Sanchez was good, but Kluber was better, even though a number of Tigers seemed to have a line on him the first time through. That 8th inning rally that could have turned the game, well… what’s worse, Jackson asleep at the wheel for out #2 or the lame grounder from M. Cabrera that would have killed it anyway? 2-0, something like the 16th or 17th shutout for Cleveland in 2013. Hunter cost the Tigers one run, and Michael Bourn cost ’em another – wait! Stop the presses!

65-45, 1st place, 4 games up on them Indians. In the Elbow Room series, things have gotten a bit less cramped. Wow wow wow!

When all seemed lost in that eleventh hour, Prince (who I had traded for Jason Kipnis straight up earlier in the game) started the rally, Victor spoiled the shutout, and then Alex won it all (as it turned out, as we hoped, as we all but knew – anticlimax would have had some nerve to show up last night). All against Chris Perez on the very anniversary of his famous 2012 meltdown against your very own Motown Bengals. Prince even batted again in this 9th inning, with the bases loaded for him instead of empty this time, and I wanted those insurance runs, believe me. ‘Twere not to be. But Joaquin was no-drama. A win! All is forgiven. Almost.

Even a big fan of Torii Hunter has to admit that his erratic judgment and impulsiveness has cost the team more times than you can count on your fingers and toes.

DL Miguel? The guy can’t run or field his position, and the Tigers already have a DH. Eh? What do you say? Should this go on for the next 50 games? Didn’t I just beg to have him reinstated in the lineup? No. That never happened, and anyone who says differently is lying.

So Jhonny is suspended for 50 games and possibly done as a Tiger. That’s a drag, even if Jose Iglesias is already paying dividends. One question for Jhonny: Why the denial this past spring? Why not a simple “no comment”? Why do people do this? Lie, then stonewall, and then admit it.

Tigers vs. Indians in 2013 (coming into the series):

Verlander: 3 games, 17 IP, 11 ER, 23 H, 22 K, .311 BAA, .810 OPSA
Fister: 1 game, 6 IP, 6 ER, 6 H, 3 BB
Scherzer: 3 games, 23 IP, 7 ER, 0 HR, 21 K, .175 BAA, .447 OPSA
Benoit: 4-20, 488 OPSA
Smyly: 9-29, .858
Rondon: 2-8, .583
Veras: 1-4, .500
Coke: 3-14, .714
Alburquerque: 4-12, 1.054

Jackson: 5-27 (10 K), .493 OPS, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Hunter: 17-51, .919, 2 HR, 10 RBI
M. “DL” Cabrera: 15-47, 1.129, 5 HR, 14 RBI (no further comment at this time)
Fielder: 10-47, .744, 2 HR, 7 RBI
Martinez: 17-46, .980, 1 HR, 8 RBI
Dirks: 18-50, .916, 2 HR, 6 RBI
Avila: 4-24 (10 K, 7 BB), .552, 0 HR, 4 RBI
Iglesias: 4-8, 1.170, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Santiago: 3-22, .356, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Tuiasosopo: 1-7, .821, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Pena: 8-18, 1.088, 1 HR, 5 RBI
Kelly: 4-14, .944, 1 HR. 4 RBI

Don’t stare at these stats too long, lest the word “sweep” should come to mind.

Man. Hell of a win last night. These are the days. Time for Justin – the Verlander one – to join the party.

OK, I admit that I made a mistake. I want to apologize to [everyone] for asking for Miggy back in the lineup, when he really belongs on the DL, as long as he can still pinch hit from there. I fully accept my 24-hour suspension.

Game 2013.110: Tigers at Indians

64-45, 1st place, 3 games up on Cleveland. That last is simply not possible. I’m sure the lead is really 7 or 8 games by now, but I’ve got to pay lip service to the dubious standings information over at mlb.com.

If my speech seems a little garbled, it’s because I have no jaw. It didn’t just drop. It fell off over the weekend as the Tigers took 3 from the White Sox to extend their winning streak to 8. I found it on the floor today, but then Rick Porcello walked off with it. He gave it to Bruce Rondon, who then handed it to Torii Hunter. It’s OK. I don’t need it. The Tigers have a bullpen. The Tigers have defense. The Tigers have clutch hitting. The Tigers are winning close games. The already great starting pitching has now gone completely off the charts – and it’s not being wasted. All this magic is taking place without… well, you know the story. And taking place with a suspension (for something – if anything – that I have to believe is well in the past) hanging over the head of All-Star SS Jhonny Peralta. (Kevin’s right – nerves of steel there.)

So… it’s time for the Showdown in O-Town*. The Motown/O-Town Showdown. Which would make this the Lowdown on the Motown/O-Town Showdown. If this series should give us cause to celebrate, be here Thursday for the Motown/O-Town Showdown Hoedown (and Friday for the ensuing Lowdown). No, nothing about the AL Central is going to be decided in early August, but it’s still pretty big.

* “O” for Ohio, of course. I’m pretty sure “O-Town” is the hip local insider slang term for “Cleveland.” Though I could be wrong.

The Tigers have won 9 of 12 against the Indians. 5-1 at Progressive Field, 4-2 at Comerica Park. Study up:

May 10, Tigers 10-4
May 11, Indians 7-6
May 12, Indians 4-3
May 21, Tigers 5-1
May 22, Tigers 11-7
June 7, Tigers 7-5
June 8, Tigers 6-4
June 9, Tigers 4-1
July 5, Tigers 7-0
July 6, Tigers 9-4
July 7, Indians 9-6
July 8, Tigers 4-2

Obviously, Detroit has found its way around a few bothersome things about the Indians: a) When hitters reach base, they tend to steal, and then score; b) They hit home runs, which is annoying; c) Their starting pitching is often better than it’s supposed to be, which is very annoying, and; d) Ryan Raburn. That last actually counts as something the Tigers haven’t found their way around, while remaining bothersome.

Some 2013 vs. Tigers stats to chew on (tomorrow it’ll be vs. Indians):

Kluber: 3 games, .320 BAA, .976 OPSA, 5 HR & 22 K in 17 IP
Masterson: 2 games, .283 BAA, .732 OPSA, 7 BB in 12 IP
McAllister: 1 game, 6 IP, 3 ER, 8 H, 3 BB, 5 K
Perez: 4-16 .583 OPSA
Shaw: 7-30 .636
Hill 5-22 .761
Smith: 5-15 .874
Hagadone: 2-10 .685
Albers: 6-24 .774
Allen: 2-17 .463

Bourn: 11-50 .475 OPS, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Brantley: 12-42 .810, 2 HR 11 RBI
Kipnis: 10-50 .533, 0 HR, 5 RBI
Reynolds: 7-37 .457, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Santana: 10-42 .772, 2 HR, 5 RBI
A. Cabrera: 8-32, .726, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Chisenhall: 6-24 .792, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Giambi: 1-18 .404, 1 HR, 3 RBI
Stubbs: 7-26 .709, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Raburn: 4-14 1.340, 3 HR, 6 RBI
Gomes: 6-18 .924, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Aviles: 4-25 ,360, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Swisher: 10-37 .846, 1 HR, 3 RBI

Don’t stare at these stats too long, lest the phrase “piece of cake” should come to mind. But I’m hoping that Anibal sets the tone right away. Sanchez has been excellent of late, though not the strikeout king he began the season (rather unexpectedly) as. One start against Cleveland this season, a reasonably good limited pitch count outing on July 6.

We will probably see the re-debut of Jeremy Bonderman as a Tiger this series, out of the bullpen at some point. Cool, and good luck to him, of course. This pales next to the pending news on Peralta, which everyone seems to be taking as a foregone conclusion. We’ll see. Losing Jhonny will not be good, but the team has prepared itself as well as it can. Will Miguel Cabrera please return to the lineup ASAP and make us all feel a little bit better, preferably with a 3-HR game?