The Clinch: American League Champions

Magglio's Walk Off
The Tigers had contributions from everyone up and down the lineup, except their big clean-up hitter. I think it’s safe to say that Magglio Ordonez did his part.

When the division slipped away I was disappointed because I wanted this team to have won something. I don’t mean to discount the playoff berth or the ALDS victory, but those things don’t get you a flag. This most certainly will.

I’ll have my thoughts on the game and a lot more stuff later tonight. But for now…

Congratulations to the American League Champion Detroit Tigers

Update: Fox Sports Detroit has extended coverage right now

ALCS Game 4

PREGAME: Could there really be consecutive Saturday’s of cork-popping in Detroit? The Tigers have certainly set the stage for it to happen. They even turn to Jeremy Bonderman (I really thought about calling him Jeremy Wonderman, but I didn’t want to jinx him or anything and it kind of seemed like Wonder Woman. Then again Fox will probably call him Jason Bonderman or something anyways.) who was the clinching pitcher last week.

Bonderman always seems to bring a little something extra against the A’s, the team that drafted him, threw a chair through a wall, and then traded him. He only faced Oakland once this year and allowed 3 runs over 7 innings earning a no-decision in a game the Tigers won.

Now the big difference this week is that instead of Jaret Wright, the weak link on a mediocre staff, they’ll be facing Danny Haren who is arguably the stud on a very strong staff. In other words, Jeremy Bonderman may be able to exert only so much authority on this game.

On July 4th, Haren limited the Tigers to 1 run on 4 hits, no walks, and 7 K’s over 7 innings. Three weeks later though, the Tigers tagged him for 7 runs in 6 innings.

And here are your Neifi free lineups…

Detroit

CF – Granderson
LF – Monroe
2B – Polanco
RF – Ordonez
1B – Guillen
C – Rodriguez
DH – Gomez
3B – Inge
SS – Santiago

Oakland

C- Kendall
CF – Kotsay
RF – Bradley
DH – Thomas
3B – Chavez
LF – Payton
1B – Swisher
SS – Scutaro
2B – Jimenez

Game Time 4:30

POSTGAME: While watching this game I took a ton of detailed notes about situations, and moves, and all the little things. It all kind of seems moot when the Tigers win with a walk off homer in the 9th. I mean I could question why Jason Grilli was left into pitch to Nick Swisher when he’d thrown 8 straight balls, but to what end? I could point out the at-bat that Ramon Santiago had in the 6th inning when he made Joe Kennedy throw 7 pitches, but it just resulted in an out.

But we can’t dismiss all the little things that happened along the way because they set up a moment that will rival Kirk Gibson in 1984.

  • The Tigers went with a patient approach early in the game, and it hurt them. They let a ton of fastballs down the middle go by early in the count. They ended up in a ton of 2 strike counts where they were flailing at the splitter. It ended up being 2 first pitch swings in the 6th inning that chased Harden.
  • Everybody will remember Magglio’s 2 homers, which they should. But how big do you think the at-bat was that came in betwen the 2 bombs? He drew a walk against Calero who had just come into the game. The walk loaded the bases which brought in Huston Street, much earlier than the A’s would have probably liked. Because of that, Ordonez was the 9th batter that Street was facing in the 9th inning.
  • How about Curtis Granderson turning a routine single into a hustle double in the 5th innings. If Granderson doesn’t make it to 2nd, he probably doesn’t score on Monroe’s double.
  • More evidence that things were just going the Tigers way. Twice in the late innings the A’s very nearly hit homers. Mark Kotsay very nearly hit a homer that just hooked foul off of Jamie Walker before he fanned. And Milton Bradley hit a ball to just the wrong part of the park where the wall juts deeper.

ALCS Game 3 Aftermath

After game 2 I was happy, but cautiously optimistic. I knew that while Kenny Rogers was definitely capable of giving the Tigers a chance to win, Rich Harden also had the ability to shut them down. An A’s win on Friday and you’re looking at a whole new series. But then the opposite happened. Rich Harden pitched decent. He was erratic but the damage was kept to a minimum. It didn’t matter because Kenny Rogers was stone-cold money as he has taken a personal vendetta against letting runners into scoring postion let alone touching home plate.

As you’ll read below, most think this series is over. Things are never over til there over, but when you’ve got the other team practically conceding I think it’s safe to feel confident. Jim Leyland is even managing this series differently now. One part of his decision to use Omar Infante as the DH was that, “Omar needs some at-bats.” How often are playoff managers looking to make sure everybody stays in the lineup?

Yesterday ticket brokers took a huge hit when the game time was moved up. Some combination of the weather and the game time made it one of the coldest tickets in town with seats on StubHub selling 40% below face value. With a potential clinching game today, I don’t think they’ll have any problems.

Injury Update

It’s looking like the Tigers will have less and less of a need for Joel Zumaya in this series. This is fortunate because he’s not looking so available. If the Tigers can close this one out quickly, Zumaya could have an additional week off before the World Series starts. If Fernando Rodney has fixed his control issues, it becomes even less of an immediate need for Zumaya to return.

What others are saying

Continue reading ALCS Game 3 Aftermath

ALCS Game 3

PREGAME: I just found out I’m going to this game, so I apologize for the complete lack of anything here. Tickets are still availabe from Ticketmaster and below face value from other outlets.

Game Time 4:30

POSTGAME: I’ll just take all the credit. I’ve been in attendance for 5 Kenny Rogers starts this year. In those 5 starts Rogers has a 5-0 record with a 0.51 ERA,a 0.83 WHIP and has yet to allow a homer. Everybody is looking for reasons why Kenny Rogers has been so spectacular in the postseason. They need to look no further than me.

Of course it helped that the Tigers took advantage of some early Rich Harden wildness to push across a couple runs. Even with those couple runs, I was worried that the Tigers hadn’t done enough. Harden had broke the 60 pitch mark at the end of the 3rd inning, with more balls than strikes and the Tigers only had 2 runs on the board.

Yet Rogers, Rodney, and Jones made it stand up with room to spare.

Other thoughts:

  • The A’s must fear Ramon Santiago. He reached a 3 ball count 3 different times including a walk. Santiago also played very nice defense. He made a play on a ground ball up the middle look very routine. If you saw where he started from, you’d see there was nothing routine about it. He doesn’t carry a big bat but the guy can play defense.
  • As good as Carlos Guillen looked in the ALDS, he’s struggled in the ALCS. He’s swinging early in the count, and without much success. It almost makes you wonder if he’s thinking too much about playing first base.
  • Placido Polanco has been a machine. The way he’s hitting right now, you get the feeling he can place the ball wherever he wants. That’s why it was pretty suprising to see him bunting with runners on 1st and 2nd.
  • Those back to back plays that Mark Kotsay made on both Ramon Santiago and Curtis Granderson were remarkable. I still can’t believe he caught up with Granderson’s shot.
  • It actually wasn’t that cold, at least where I was sitting in the upper deck behind home plate. The wind was only a breeze instead of a gale. I was expecing much worse.

ALCS Playoff Miscellaney

I’m taking advantage of a break in the schedule to get some sleep tonight. But I will share this mish mash of information:

The Zumaya Injury

Detroit Tiger Tales has the Joel Zumaya situation thoroughly covered. Essentially it isn’t that serious, but Joel is worried, and he shouldn’t be out that long, but we don’t know how long that long is. And Carmen Harlen said on tonight’s local 4 broadcast that the MRI was encouraging.

Game Time Change

As you’ve probably all heard the first pitch will now be thrown at 4:30 tomorrow in an effort to keep the rather from being really freaking cold. Instead it will just be really cold. As for how this effects the team, we learned last night that Alexis Gomez likes hitting at 5:00pm.

Billfer on the radio

If you wonder what I sound like, I can be heard on today’s episode of Sports Bloggers Live. I’m on with the esteemed Blez of Athletics Nation.

Oh no, Deadspin likes the Tigers

Way back on the morning of August 8th things were sunny in Tiger Town. They had just knocked off Francisco Liriano and taken a 10 game lead and Deadspin gave the Tigers permission to print playoff tickets. They then went 19-31.

Well today Will Leitch once again endorsed the Tigers.

The Tigers look like they’re not gonna be beaten by anyone, in either league. Before the NLCS has even had a chance to start yet — more on this later — the Tigers have sucked the life out of the A’s and the ALCS like a grizzled, mustachioed, Olmos-faced manager pounding down some Winstons before taking questions for Thom Brennaman.

Festivities

Here’s the scoop on the events at Comerica this weekend:

  • Friday, Game 3: Mickey Lolich throws out the first pitch. National Anthem by The Temptations Review
  • Saturday, Game 4: George Kell throws out the first pitch. National Anthem by Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit
  • Sunday, Game 5: Ernie Harwell throws out the first pitch. National Anthem by Josh Gracin

The gates open at 2pm each day.

The Lions are playing on Sunday as well. If you are a Lions fan with a parking pass for the Tigers garage, you are to park in the Compuware garage and there will be a shuttle available to take you to Ford Field.

ALCS Game 2 – The day after

The Tigers just took the first 2 games on Oakland’s turf. In the first game they won despite a pitching match-up that didn’t appear to tilt their way. In the 2nd game they did it with an unconventional lineup on a night when their starting pitching was merely average. And yet I’m still nervous.

It was only 2 weeks ago that the Tigers played a home weekend series against the worst team in the league needing merely 1 win. They couldn’t do it. Now the Tigers need 2 wins against a team that has proved to be very good, even if they haven’t shown it yet this series. Some people are saying that the Tigers learned from that series, and that it made them a better team. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but as fans it would be silly to forget what went down.

There’s no denying the Tigers are in the best position possible. They’re coming home for 3 games and the A’s needing to win 4 of the last 5 games to knock off the Tigers. They’re hitting well, playing solid defense, doing enough on the mound, and they have momentum. But this series is far from over. We’ve seen how tenuous even a sizable lead can be and how easily things can change. Last night the Tigers had a 3 run lead with 2 outs in the 9th inning having struck out 6 consecutive A’s batters. Five minutes later Todd Jones was throwing a belt high fastball to Frank Thomas with the bases loaded. Be happy, but remember that the Tigers have 2 more wins to go and I’m pretty sure the A’s aren’t just going to lay down.

The Injuries

Joel Zumaya’s absence was definitely conspicuous last night. We saw Grilli, we saw Ledezma, we saw Rodney. All were very good, but where was #54? It turns out that the forearm stiffness he experienced late in the season has crept back. Extent and timelines aren’t available yet. When he does pitch again, I’d be surprised if Leyland went multiple innings with him.

One thing that was not conspicuously absent last night was Sean Casey’s jersey which Fox repeatedly showed hanging in the dugout. I thought was a nice gesture by the team to kind of keep Casey’s spirit around while he was back in Detroit getting treatment. Only he wasn’t in Detroit. He was in the Coliseum. Why they just didn’t show Casey I can’t figure out. In any case he appears to be done for the season with an outside shot at the World Series should the Tigers be participating.

As for Craig Monroe who received some treatment on the field for what appeared to be his calf (what is it with calves in this series), I didn’t see any news this morning. Seeing that he stayed in the game, I’m guessing he’s fine.

What others are saying

Mack Avenue Tigers: A Detroit Tigers Blog » ALCS Game 2: Alexis WHO?

And so Detroit returns to the cold confines of Comerica Park with a 2-0 lead in the ALCS. That’s not insurmountable in its own right. But right about now, it looks like the Tigers are not going let this series even get back to the west coast. I’m starting to get that team-of-destiny feeling. I keep trying to push it away for fear of disappointment. But it’s there. This is getting pretty fun.

Athletics Nation :: An Oakland A’s Blog

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like going down 2-0 at home. The A’s are now officially the underdogs in the series no matter how you slice it, having simply been outpitched, outhit, and outfielded in two home games, off to face their nemesis, Kenny Rogers, in less friendly confines.
But tonight’s game was a microcosm of why there is hope for the series as a whole. Tonight, the A’s looked like they were cooked only to rise up and get Milton Bradley to the plate representing the tying run, only to go a step further and get Frank Thomas to the plate representing the winning run. Perhaps the series will follow the same script and the A’s have some rising yet to do.

Baseball Toaster: Catfish Stew : No Satisfaction

Perhaps I felt a sense of redemption, that even though the A’s were losing, they were going down fighting. Things have not gone the A’s way so far this series; the hits aren’t quite timely enough, the defense always seems just half an inch from making a play, and the starting pitchers have let them down. The A’s could have easily rolled over and let the Tigers just walk away with this game, but they slogged their way back into the game, with the help of some home runs by Eric Chavez and Milton Bradley.

Bob Wojonowski: DAZZLING! – 10/12/06 – The Detroit News Online

It’s all working now, all the magical stuff and all the practical stuff, and even the bizarre stuff. Seriously. When a seldom-used hitter bounces off the bench to become the star of the game, the Tigers are living right and playing right, and looking more unbeatable by the inning.

DREW SHARP: Roarin’ home!

The Tigers are very good, but they also understand the importance sometimes of being charmed. They won’t fight it. They’re perfectly content riding this wave of momentum until it throws them.

Ray Ratto: Looks like the end is nigh for A’s

So now the A’s go east to either cheat fate or meet it face first. Teams don’t spot the other team two at home and hit the road thinking that it’s clear sailing and free beers all around. It is not accurate to say that the A’s are finished (Chavez said, “All that stuff is numbers and percentages, but it doesn’t mean anything until we’re eliminated”), but it is fair to say they can see “finished” from here. They have reached this point by being a radically different team than the one that got them here — they are the A’s of April trying to make October last a little longer than two or three days in Greektown.

Inside Bay Area – Strengths shockingly failing A’s

The teams that move on at this time of year are the ones that show themselves best. Oakland is completely out of mulligans. Now it’s time to get it in gear or call it a year.

ALCS: Tigers vs. A’s: Tigers Take Control — The Hardball Times

Detroit is in very good position to take control of this series when Kenny Rogers takes on Rich Harden in Detroit on Friday. Harden has awesome stuff—maybe better than Verlander—but he last pitched on Oct. 1, when he overthrew his fastball and left it up in the zone while struggling with his command. It’s not over for Oakland yet, but Detroit has thus far pitched better, hit better, and fielded better in the series.

FOX Sports – Playoffs – No easy outs in Tigers’ lineup

That’s a long-winded way of saying that you won’t find many easy outs in the Detroit lineup. That’s why the Tigers in the 2006 postseason are averaging almost six runs per game. The rotation and bullpen have been solid since the calendar flipped to October, but mostly it’s because of the offense that the Tigers are two wins from their first World Series since 1984.

The Aftermath: Game 2 « Baseball By Paul

I said before the game that the lineup construction was absolutely awful and I was, of course, referring to Neifi Perez’s presence not only in the lineup, but in the ever-crucial #2 slot! Despite that horrendous error in judgement, the lineup worked, to the tune of eight runs as the Tigers leave the Bay Area with a 2-0 lead in the League Championship Series! One lineup adjustment that did favor the team was the insertion of Alexis Gomez. Gomez took home player of the game honors with a 2-for-4, 4 RBI performance that included a home run. Placido Polanco remained white hot with another three hits driving his postseason average to .440 (11-for-25).

ALCS Game 2

PREGAME: First of all, thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Cory Lidle and the other individuals who were killed today in a plane crash. It’s simply awful news and truly a tragedy.

On to the matter at hand, the Tigers will be playing game 2 tonight against the A’s. The Tigers will send out Justin Verlander and the A’s will counter with Esteban Loaiza.

Last night we saw the Tigers exercise a great deal of patience at the plate. I’m sure that was by design. Like Joe Sheehan, I’m wondering if the Tigers will mix things up by being particularly aggressive on fastballs early in the count. In terms of scouting a preparation the Tigers seem to have had an edge so far in their 5 playoff games. We’ll see if they can continue that trend against Loaiza.

In terms of individual match-ups, Carlos Guillen is 11 for 16 off of Loaiza while Ivan Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson have also had success. Like with Barry Zito, Inge and Monroe have had little to no success against Loaiza. Of course that kind of changed last night for Inge.

There is a huge platoon advantage for lefties against Loaiza who have an 886 OPS versus a 684 OPS for righthanders. Sean Casey would have been helpful in this regard and is probably the reason Alexis Gomez is starting at DH in place of Marcus Thames. Of course Alexis Gomez has no track record of success against Loaiza or any other pitcher for that matter.

The Tigers faced Loaiza twice scoring 3 runs in 6 innings the first time and torching him for 8 runs in 3 innings the second time.

Justin Verlander made a couple solid starts against the A’s this year. In the first he was undone by 2 Nick Swisher homers and 2 Carlos Guillen errors. In the second he allowed a single run over 6 innings.

**A note on Neifi Perez**
Neifi Perez is in the lineup. Neifi Perez is hitting second. This is a bad decision regardless of what Neifi does tonight. I can understand having Perez in the lineup, but maximizing his potential at-bats is a poor move. Leyland doesn’t have confidence in Infante’s ability to play short (I disagree with this, but it is what it is). When it comes down to Santiago or Perez, Perez has a better track record against Loaiza (3 for 10 versus 2 for 18). You can place as much value on those numbers as you choose. Perez brings playoff experience (according to Leyland’s presser). That playoff experience is all of 4 plate apperances. And he brings energy and he likes to play the game. That is the Perez reasoning.

On another note, the complete lack of playoff experience for Alexis Gomez doesn’t appear to be a concern.

The Tigers are going to have to make due without Casey so things are going to get shuffled. Perez and/or Santiago will be playing and thus weakening the lineup. That’s the way it goes. But make no mistake, this is bad lineup construction.

Detroit Lineup

CF – Granderson
SS – Perez
2B – Polanco
RF – Ordonez
1B – Guillen
C – Rodriguez
LF – Monroe
DH – Gomez
3B – Inge

Oakland Lineup

C – Kendall
CF – Kotsay
RF – Bradley
DH – Thomas
3B – Chavez
LF – Payton
1B – Swisher
SS – Scutaro
2B – Jimenez

Game Time 8:19

POSTGAME: With an 8-5 win the Tigers are coming home up 2-0. Things look pretty good, but this is far from a done deal. As for tonight’s game, here’s what jumped out at me:

  • That whole patience thing was back to normal tonight. Part of that may have been due to Loaiza. He was continually getting first pitch strikes. As a result he had a couple single digit pitch count innings. Only 6 Tiger PAs resulted in 3 balls, and one of those was an intentional walk to Polanco.
  • Polanco took a first pitch strike each of his first 3 times up and singled all 3 times.
  • Alexis Gomez was quite good today. Even his first out was hit hard. The platoon paid off tonight.
  • Neifi Perez looked awful but got better as the game went on. First was the K, then the ground out to the pitcher, then the ground out to second, and after a sac bunt he got a flyball to the outfield.
  • Todd Jones made things interesting, but to fully appreciate the situation you need to realize what transpired prior. After the Bradley homer Jason Grilli, Fernando Rodney, and Todd Jones fanned the next 6 batters. The benefit was that even after a couple singles, Bradley was coming up with 2 outs. Now Bradley got lucky with his at-bat, and Todd Jones got lucky leaving a ball up to Frank Thomas.
  • I’m concerned about Joel Zumaya. He clearly wasn’t available tonight, and I didn’t even see him in the bullpen. It would be one thing if it were a rest issue, but he’s only pitched once since last Friday and there is an off day tomorrow. Something’s fishy.

I’ll have the “Day After” post up early tomorrow morning. Until then, sleep well. Your Tigers are up 2-0 in the ALCS.

ALCS Game 1 – The day after

News and links from last night’s 5-1 Tigers victory… Continue reading ALCS Game 1 – The day after

Casey at the Bench

In the 6th inning of game 1 Sean Casey’s left calf muscle went all broken-rubber-band. He of course had to leave the game with Carlos Guillen assuming first base duties and Ramon Santiago taking shortstop.

It’s moments like this that make one question the decision to take 3 back-up infielders – none of whom play first base. Chris Shelton would be looking like an attractive option right about now.

Now the impact of Casey’s loss could certainly be tempered if Omar Infante were slotted into the starting shortstop role. Infante is capable of providing Casey-type offense and is slick enough defensively to compensate for Guillen. However, like when Polanco was injured, we know how much Jim Leyland is fond of Neifi Perez. Perez of course is a switch-batter (notice I said switch batter instead of hitter) and Leyland loves platoon advantage – even if it isn’t an advantage. I fear that Perez who is inadequate defensively and poor offensively will get the bulk of the playing time.

Now if the Tigers survive the ALCS and make it to the World Series, Chris Shelton could be added at that time. But he wouldn’t be replacing Sean Casey, he’d be replacing Ramon Santiago. Only one of Santiago/Shelton can be on the roster at a time because they are using the Tony Giarratano exemption as neither was on the 25 man roster until after September 1st.

ALCS Game 1

PREGAME: It’s 1972 all over again as the A’s and Tigers hook up in the American League Championship Series. Tonight will feature Nate Robertson taking on Barry Zito and his curveball of doom.

Nate lasted 7 innings in each of his 2 starts against the A’s this year. In one game he surrendered 5 runs on 7 hits and 4 walks while taking the loss. In the other he surrendered 4 runs on 5 hits and no walks.

Barry Zito only faced the Tigers once this year and held them to a single run before his bullpen let him down by surrendering 3 runs in the 9th inning. Brandon Inge, Craig Monroe, and Magglio Ordonez are a combined 8 for 66 off of Zito. Fortunately Placido Polanco and Pudge Rodriguez don’t seem to be at all bothered by him.

The umpiring match-up – yes the umpiring match-up – would seem to favor the A’s. Homeplate umpire Jerry Crawford’s games have seen an ERA substantially higher than the league average and there tend to be more walks in his games. This would seem to favor the more patient team. (Hat tip Knuckle Curve)

And because this doesn’t fit anywhere else, Placido Polanco turns 31 today. (funnily enough, Ramon Martinez who was part of the trade to acquire Polanco from the Phillies has the same birthday)

Detroit Lineup

CF – Granderson
2B – Polanco
1B – Casey
RF – Ordonez
SS – Guillen
C – Rodriguez
LF – Monroe
DH – Thames
3B – Inge

Oakland Lineup

C – Kendall
CF – Kotsay
RF – Bradley
DH – Thomas
LF – Payton
3B – Chavez
1B – Swisher
SS – Scutaro
2B – Jimenez

Game Time 8:19

POSTGAME: One of baseball’s least patient teams took on one of baseball’s most patient teams. Yet it was the Tigers who found themselves regularly in hitters counts and full counts forcing Barry Zito out in the 4th inning. The Tigers made it all the way through the lineup the first time with every hitter seeing at least 4 pitches. Granted, it was a tight strike zone and Zito got a raw deal on a full count pitch to Polanco. But Nate Robertson was working with the same strike zone and didn’t reach his first 3 ball count until the third inning.

Robertson picked up where Kenny Rogers and Jeremy Bonderman left off and he attacked the strike zone. That wasn’t to say it was an easy go. Once again, started and failed to make it through a single inning without pitching from the stretch. And for what seems like the 6th or 7th time this season Nate Robertson put a man on third with nobody out and pitched out of it.

Now the Tigers did quite a bit right. They had a great approach at the plate, they played solid defense, and took advantage of their opportunities. Some of those opportunities were gift wrapped by the A’s. They didn’t field the ball particularly well and hit into 4 double plays.

The end result is the Tigers take an early 1-0 lead in the series and pick-up homefield advantage in the series. It also shows that Leyland must have known something by starting Robertson.

World Series Ticket Information

I’m not sure how this ties together, but there appear to be 2 methods to get World Series tickets.

One method is to register in a lottery for the right to buy tickets. That registration can be done online at tigers.com but must be completed by 5:00pm today. I’m sorry about the late notice. This one totally slid by me.

But fear not. There will also be a regular public sale. Those tickets will go on sale October 16th at 10:00am and will only be available online (tigers.com) or over the phone (248-25-Tiger). You’ll be allowed to buy a maximum of 4 tickets with prices starting at $90.

ALCS Predictions and Previews

Once again the blogosphere has already done most of the heavy lifting on the season previews. I’ll mooch off of their work in a condensed preview edition.
Continue reading ALCS Predictions and Previews