2016 World Series

Well, since everyone seems to be having such a high-quality postseason conversation here, I figured the least I could do was put up a new post. And I always strive to do the least I can do.

What are your predictions?

I would be remiss if I didn’t congratulate our own Michael Fulmer, your 2016 AL Rookie of the Year.

 

2014 Playoffs Thread

The Royals’ run is too incredible not to discuss it. We’ll let this thread serve as your learned DTW discussion thread for the next two weeks.

2014 ALDS: Game 1 Wrap-Up

I’d love to pretend that I can forget last night’s game, and the complete exposure of every weakness this team has. I’d like to act as if I can brush off the concerns that T Smith nailed in his comment last night, as easily I would sweep aside the fall twigs and leaves on my doorstep.

But that’s not going to happen.

Let’s be candid. Last night sucked.

The Tigers played from behind last night all game, Scherzer failed to pitch to the level of an ace, Hunter couldn’t come up with a big hit, and the bullpen got de—-stroyed.

By any interpretation, this was absolutely the worst possible start to a series we could have hoped for.

But it’s just one game.

Remember when we had the best start to a series we could have possibly hoped for? Up 4 runs in the 8th inning with a 1-0 series lead, on the road? I mean, could we have felt any better then?

This is why winning the division was so important. We can stretch the series out. We get at least one game at home.

More coming soon.

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).

Game 2013.Playoffs 6: Tigers at Red Sox

(credit to Detroit News for the image. Note to Detroit News – we’re not making any money off of this. Still, if you want us to take it down, just post here and we will)

3-2, 8 more to go.

Look, I’m happy to be here.

I am.

It’s better than the alternative.

But champagne parties seems a little excessive for one playoff series win. That I can think of, baseball is the only sport that goes to such extremes for advancing in the playoffs.

We’ve been here before. This is our fourth time in eight years to make it to the ALCS. We could be in the midst of a dynasty, to be honest (though we’d need two WS wins I think to qualify). At least perhaps we are building one. But let’s not act as if winning the first round of the AL playoffs means we have accomplished anything. This team was built to do one thing and we’re still 8 wins away.

Tom Verducci of SI had some fascinating stats in the SI playoff preview last week. The gist of the article discussed the whimsical nature of MLB playoffs, especially with the advent of the wild card. I think we’re all well aware of the A’s struggles in recent years, mostly at the hands of the Tigers, but did you know that Atlanta has now lost 7 straight post-season series? Over the past 22 postseasons, only 3 teams with the regular season best record went on to win the WS. In the 22 years before that, 8 teams did it. Last year’s Giants finished last in the majors in home runs…we saw what happened in the World Series. Home teams went 2-5 in elimination games last year, and are 2-3 so far this year.

On to the series at hand. The 2013 American League Championship series pits the top two offensive teams in the Majors, and numbers 3 (Boston) and 4 in terms of payroll. The Red Sox are good, very good. They led the AL with 97 wins this year, and really ran away with the toughest division in Baseball. As one of my friends remarked to me this year, how? How different are they than last year’s last place team?

Well, for one, the entire lineup is solid. Napoli was a steal in free agency. Ortiz has regained his science assisted form, and they still have Ellsbury and Pedroia, two of the better all-around players in the game. Their starting pitching has been solid top to bottom, and their bullpen as been one of the best, ending in the nearly unhittable Koji Uehara. Uehara’s WHIP this year was .565. In 74 1/3. I’m serious. BAA – .130, OPS against – .400. Oh, and Bobby Valentine is gone. Maybe there is something to that morale thing.

Your 2013 AL ERA title holder, Anibal Sanchez, gets the call for game one. Trivia for you – Sanchez started his career in the Red Sox system, before being traded away to Florida, and ultimately stolen by the Tigers. Despite his poor outing against Oakland last week, I love this match-up. Sanchez doesn’t have much of a track record against the current Red Sox lineup, which generally is an advantage for the pitcher.

The Red Sox take more pitches than any other team in the majors. In fact, they saw over 1,000 more than the next most patient team. That can wreak havoc on a staff. The key tonight will be first pitch strikes. Sanchez was 16th in the AL last year,a t 61.5%. That’s good, but it won’t be good enough tonight. Lester was just a few spots behind Sanchez at 60.9%.

Phil Coke was added to the playoff roster today, replacing Putkonen. The reason is likely because Ortiz is a lifetime 2-18 off of Coke, or perhaps Leyland likes to stress everyone out. Probably the former.

Lineup notes: Looks like Leyland is going to stick with Jackson in the leadoff hole. I’m okay with this. If we can win without him going, imagine what we can do when he does get going. And he’s bound to do so, soon. Peralta and Iglesias start today. This makes me very nervous with the Green Monster in left, but with a left-handed pitcher, I get it. What contradicts this is Avila getting the start again despite just 2 hits and a .449 OPS in the ALDS. He’s doing a great job of calling games and I’m sure that’s whey Leyland has him back there, but you gotta give Pena a chance to give your offense some help, especially with the struggles at the 1 & 9 spots.

Tonight’s lineups:

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

 

1. Ellsbury, CF
2. Victorino, RF
3. Pedroia, 2B
4. Ortiz, DH
5. Napoli, 1B
6. Nava, LF
7. Drew, SS
8. Middlebrooks, 3B
9. Ross, C (this is literally the first time I have ever heard of this guy)

Game 2013. Playoffs 5: Tigers at A’s

This falls to me, of all people? I’ve lost four in a row. I’ve been no-hit by the Miami Marlins. Lately, I seem to have inherited Justin “The Better I Pitch, The Less My Team Scores” Verlander from Kevin. My insight and wit have been hampered by an adverbial strain and more recently hobbled with a groan injury; I can’t write for extra bases any more. My typing fingers are suffering from Phil Cokeness.

Oh, all right, then. Our ace Coleman may be called upon to make the first-ever DTW game post relief appearance, though, and on short rest.

Seriously, I and we find ourselves atop one of those Tigers fans pinnacles. Not the ultimate pinnacle, but a good and interesting place to be anyway. Tuesday night, Detroit scored what was obviously the biggest win of the year. It’s worth dwelling upon for a bit.

ALDS Game 4: Tigers 8, A’s 6.

inning 1

Man on 3B tout suite. How does that run not score? In the hole right away. Futility right away in the bottom half. Not an encouraging start. Though Cabrera did hit the ball about as far as he’s liable to these days.

inning 2

Oh my, is Fister skating on thin ice. By the grace of his own defense and that of Hunter, he escapes. Fister is at 53 pitches through two. The urgent need to not allow even one more run is palpable. Fielder makes his usual effort to get out of the way of a pitch, which is a good thing. Martinez striking out on three pitches is a weird thing. Don’t poo-poo a 5-4-3 DP just because it’s against the Tigers; 3B Donaldson starts a nice one. Inning over, runner and false hope erased.

inning 3

Our spirits are lifted with the fine DP that Fielder starts and the strikeout of Moss. Little momentum shift? But the Tigers at bats are poor, the typical poor at bats that these guys have when they have them, aside from Avila at least making contact (only to hit into the shift).

inning 4

Only Grizzly Adams mars a good inning. Fister is settling down a bit, not a moment too soon. The radio guys remark upon how tardy Jackson’s swings are and how he’s (obvi) not picking up the ball well lately. Cabrera’s out is a weak fly. The Tigers have been no-hit through four.

inning 5

Crisp can’t be stopped, but there are two outs. And then the Lowrie HR that just clears RF despite a valiant effort from Hunter. Honestly, after 4½ of this… if wasn’t for the DTW call of duty, I would have turned the game off and gone to bed at this point. 3-0 equals over. Ovah, baby. Then… it all started with a bloop (Dan Dickerson). Peralta was HUGE. Storybook time, ramifications for 2014. Can you believe it? The game is tied at 3! But the Tigers’ 7-8-9  (and why on earth is Avila #7?) essentially repeat their last at bats, and we end up with a reboot rather than a pulling away from. Nervous. Could Fister just please take a seat now, do you suppose?

inning 6

But Fister comes back out and finishes strong (at 103 pitches, he’s gotta be done) with three groundball outs. The all-important shutdown inning. Looking back now, that’s HUGE in an understated way. Cabrera makes a fine play at 3B, not his only one of the game. But Straily strikes out the side around Cabrera’s postseason streak-extending single. It’s the 6th inning. They (Detroit) still haven’t figured him (Straily) out, and you don’t get the feeling they will.

inning 7

Although the Tigers had had a few guys warm up in the bullpen, it was pretty clear that no one but Max was coming in at this juncture. It was nothing but textbook manufacturing of a run, but in this high-stakes context, a 20-pitch “OK” inning felt like a blowup and a betrayal from Scherzer. One huge run down AGAIN. Were your hopes fading? Mine were. The A’s bullpen was upon us with their biggest arm. But all-fastball Doolittle was in for a surprise. Leading off, second pitch, Martinez hit the controversial opposite field HR to tie it at 4. HUGE. If you saw it and worried about the review, imagine how it was to not see it and worry about the review. But the HR stood. Storybook Jhonny raised the roof with a double. If you thought having Avila attempt a sac bunt was a ludicrous call, I’m with you. Alex can hit a groundball to the right side, Jim Leyland. Have ya noticed? When he’s not striking out, it’s about all he does. Anyway, the rally was fading away when #9 Iglesias drew a walk. How often do we see both Tigers and opponents walk a #9 inexplicably with some big arm on the mound? It’s a kind of syndrome, I’m telling you. Jackson still can’t see the ball but manages to shatter his bat and send a flare into shallow RF. Crowd goes wild, Tigers lead, but Hunter strikes out and leaves us biting our nails.

inning 8

Max was lost to start the inning. Bad leadoff walk to Moss. Hunter, having a busy day, commits an error on the Cespedes single to make it a “double.” Now an IBB is in order. Bases loaded with no outs. Sounds familiar. Is Max really to blame for this unbelievably bad situation? Yes. And he pitches out of it in dramatic fashion. We’ll remember that and forget the rest. High drama against Reddick and Vogt. Tiger-killer Callaspo hits it hard. Without a well-positioned Jackson there to get it… let’s not even think about it. The Tigers come up clinging to the lead. My money would’ve been on continued clinging. BUT THEY SCORED 3 AFTER TWO WERE OUT! Yeah, it was an Oakland bullpen meltdown this evening. But the Tigers weren’t giving that ground back. Infante’s double past a diving Donaldson was HUGE and would get even bigger very soon. Iglesias should bunt more often. Like, all the time.

inning 9

With a 4-run cushion out of nowhere, we can breathe easy, or easier, right? Wrong. Crisp again. Coco Crisp, the guy who doesn’t even need Denard F. Span’s middle initial. Maybe Span should be Denard C.C. Span. It’s always Crisp. Why does he hate us so? Crisp was Crisp. Benoit was not crisp. Two outs, job almost done. Nope. Pitch up, hit through the box, two runs in. It’s unraveling again. Can’t it end well? With Benoit’s strikeout of Smith, some measure of justice is restored to the world. Tigers win. Can we take a Game 5 like this? We might have to. Tigers win and it’s all good. After some rest and perspective, anyway.

* Now, about that Martinez HR controversy. I don’t think it was clear that Reddick would have made the catch without any interference. In fact, I don’t think he would have. I’m relieved, because for me, this sort of thing can cast a pall over a game result. Whichever way it might go. Gift doesn’t sit a whole lot better than robbed with me.

* I think it’s a good move by Bob Melvin to go with Sonny Gray for Game 5. I don’t think it’s gonna work, but in an unbiased way (seriously), I admire the move as I’d admire the same move from Leyland. Not that I find that easy to imagine.

* Too bad about the Pirates. Really don’t want the Tigers to face St. Louis in the WS. Don’t know if it’s a better matchup than the Dodgers or not. Must be the Ghost Of ’06.

* Any Game 5 lineup controversies afoot? Hard to see anything different happening, though Leyland suggests he might be tinkering.

* Any trepidation about Verlander rather than Scherzer for Game 5 starter? None here.

* Any worries about Benoit? No more than usual here. The rest of the bullpen? Well, you know… Why don’t we just have 8 or 9 or 13 innings of Verlander instead?

The Tigers have a knack for the unexpectedly positive, it seems to me. Or is that just because we find the negatives so predictable? They pulled out Game 4. That was really something. Optimism, pessimism, underdogs, favorites – I have no idea. I’m just glad they made it to Game 5.