Tigers On Top

Mmmmm, That Was a Drubbin’!
August 28, 2007, 5:24 am
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Sorry for my recent absence, but I can’t promise it won’t be happening for the next couple days. Everything’s been insane with getting ready to move back to Ann Arbor, and today I’m moving into my new apartment. There will be rampant and delightful insanity probably for the next week. Heehee, I’m home!!

Last night we got off the plane in Detroit and headed straight for the ballpark. Do not pass Go do not collect $200. We (we being me and my parents) spotted Jonesy behind the batting cage, where he and Al Leiter talked animatedly for twenty minutes or so. We’d yell his name whenever he turned sort of in our direction, and getting nothing, we’d almost decided to head up to the Tigers stores to do some bigtime shopping (the only kind I like!). And then Jonesy turned and made a beeline for us! There was this tunnel right next to where we were, so he came into the mouth of it for hugs (me and Mom) and a handshake (Dad). We didn’t get to chat too long but it was so fantastic to see him in Detroit!!! He said something about we should have a good night, and all three of us went, No, you have a good night and we’ll have one. As in beat the Yankees or we won’t be gleeful.

And boy did the Tygs ever give the Yankees a thrashing!!! Even Mom had fun–she absolutely HATES the Yankees. She was doing little dances up in our nosebleed seats, and talking up a storm with this sweet Canadian guy sitting with us. Hits galore and pitching like we love to see from Justin Verlander. We scored one in the first, two in the second, three in the third and Dad said at this rate we were going to beat the Yankees 45-0. Which would have been really cool, but I’ll take 16-0 won’t you? Especially since Cleveland won, so we just kept pace.

It’s hard to decide what to even focus on, there was so much good stuff!!! Verlander went seven fantastic innings on a night when the bullpen really needed a rest; we lit up Mussina, with every starter plus Maybin getting a hit of some kind; Polly hit a homer!!!!; Brandon hit three doubles!!! and wonder of wonders, Casey of all people tripled!!! I saw him make the turn for third and just started laughing–not derisively or anything, of course, cause I love Casey, but when somebody as slow as Sean is about to get a triple off the YANKEES how can you not giggle? Man, the seventh inning was just serendipitous. A lovely little merry-go-round of Tygs trotting around the bases. That bases-clearing double by Brandon was so sweet, since he’s one of our faves and he’s been struggling. And then to see Maybin get to stretch his legs a bit with the RBI double … mmmm.

With Maybin in and a 16-0 lead, Leyland gave him center and put Curtis in left. Can’t say I recall the last time Curtis played left. That could just be because I have a really bad memory, haha. But anyways, hilariously each ball of the eighth inning that became an out was hit to Grandy, who pulled everything in gracefully. Even Mom had to agree with me when I started rhapsodizing about how beautiful he is, whatever he’s doing in the game.

And thus we took three of four from the Yankees, our first series win in a million years. I very much enjoyed the first game (imagine my surprise to get home from a night out on the West Coast and find the Tigers still on!!) and beating the Yankees in 11 innings after a four hour rain delay (they could not in good conscience send all those incredible people who stayed to the end home with a loss), but I think I enjoyed this more. Probably the most of any regular season game I’ve ever attended! Love to see the Tigers win, love to see them beat the living crap out of anyone, but to do it to the Yankees? Oh, paradise.


In Which Little Nate Gets Robbed Again
August 24, 2007, 11:42 am
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And this time not by Jason Grilli. By the Indians. Little Nate just can’t catch a break apparently. Let us review. Eight and two-thirds shutout innings. No walks. Just barely good enough for a no decision, because once again our offense decided to take the day off. And Zoom actually looked like a pitcher who’s been sidelined the past innumerable months.

How big was that collective groan when Mr. Moonshot’s moonshot went foul? With all the Tigers fans in the world, I bet we were heard from space. Well, maybe not that far away. And then we blew a golden shot in the bottom of the ninth. All this after Saturday’s debacle, which after that brief mention I will now put into the Box O’ Repression. Thus we are 2 1/2 back as we head into a four game series with the Evil Empire.

We gotta pull it together and play like it’s 2006. That’s all I’m gonna say, cause I feel like a broken record. Interesting random note: The basic natures of my parents are now at war, thanks to the Tigers. Mom is making gloom and doom pronouncements at every opportunity, and now she’s got ammo, I hate to admit; and Dad of course, who is at heart a delusional Brooklyn Dodgers fan, maintains that the Tigers are in a fine position and will be in the playoffs at the end of the season.

Here are the pitching matchups for the Yankees series. Tonight will feature the Rocket against the Kid, Roger Clemens vs. Andrew Miller. Rocket’s been at least a little mortal this season (what he’s played of it) but then again Miller’s mortal too. Gods don’t strain hamstrings. Hopefully Clemens still has bad juju when it comes to Comerica Park–remember when he was going for Win 300 in 2003 against basically the Mud Hens, and somehow the Tigers took that game to (many) extra innings and denied him the milestone? Mmmm, good times. Game 2 will be Bondo vs. Wang. Just because Wang annoys me in general, I’ll give the edge to Bondo (with the caveat, of course, that somehow he manages NOT to give up any runs in the first inning.) I drool at the prospect of Game 3, because that could be reeeeeally cool–Phil Hughes, who the Yankees have been high on forever, vs. Jair Jurrjens (who henceforward shall be referred to as JJ, following Todd Jones’ lead). If JJ pitches like he has the past two games (with a bit more resemblance to his second start), that could turn into a big W for us.

Which brings us to Game 4, which has more than the usual significance for yours truly. Verlander vs. Mussina, first of all. Mussina’s been SUCKING, which is highly uplifting, and Justin is Justin. I remember my parents calling me from Oakland when the Tigers came (this was after I’d gone back to school) to tell me how flippin’ impressed they were with Justin. I’ve only gotten to see him pitch once, and that was the second game of this year’s Oakland series. Bleh. I will be present and accounted for at Game 4, hopefully to watch Justin kick some major ass on those pinstripers. Not only that, but Monday will my first day back in Michigan for good!! (For good meaning for my senior year.) I think that even if the Tigers should lose, gods forbid, I will be floating around like a drunken bumblebee (or a knuckleball!) and unable to stop smiling. In case this wasn’t obvious, I can’t WAIT to get home to Michigan!!!!!

In Which I Finally Return From Iowa and the Tigers Return to Detroit and Winning
August 22, 2007, 11:40 am
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Was that a gorgeous pitching duel or what?! All hail Jair Jurrjens. I find it really difficult to reconcile the fact that he’s my age and pitching crazy well in the major leagues. I also find it difficult to pronounce his name. But hey, you gotta love him right now!

The offense showed up juuuust enough for Jurrjens to get the win. Back to back homers from Maggs and Guillen, and there are all your runs, rook. Do what you will. Jurrjens decided the prudent thing to do would be to continue confounding the Indians (while allowing a solo home run for a bit more spice). That was the only hit they got! Heeheehee!

To make everything even more joyous, our beloved Joel Zumaya closed out the seventh, with Rodney shutting them down in the eighth, and Jonesy showing us the Strike Machine half of his nature in the ninth. That is how all games should go. Tygs get at least one more run than the other team, starter goes at least six innings, then Zoom Zoom, Rodney, and Jonesy. Perfect!

Not so perfect was the road trip. As you may have guessed, I was also on the road during the Tigers road trip. I was in Iowa while they were in the grand metropolises of Cleveland and New York, but whatever. As they lost horribly and frequently I went to Field of Dreams, the insane Iowa State Fair, and saw my friend get married. (Yes, the wedding was the purpose of the trip; otherwise you’d NEVER catch me in Iowa … well, except for a gymnastics meet in Iowa City, haha). Then we almost got stuck in Des Moines as we were trying to leave, and got actually stuck in Denver. Add this to the losing and the not pitching and the not hitting and I was not the happiest camper ever.

But once again, all seems to be well! If Jurrjens can beat the Indians, so can Justin! Looking ahead (but trying not to look tooooo closely at the fact that we’re playing Cleveland and the Yankees all week), I shall arrive home in Michigan just in time to see the final game of the homestand! So hopefully the Tygs will be on a huge roll by then and I’ll get to see them sweep the Yankees. (Yeah, I’m a tiny bit over-optimistic sometimes.)

Pitchers and Hitters Show Up Together On Two Straight Days!
August 12, 2007, 3:18 pm
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I feel much better now, don’t you? Yesterday we got what we’ve been so sorely lacking–a quality start from a starter, and from our Stopper, Justin Verlander, no less. I thought the offense was going to screw him over, actually. After the solo blast by Mr. Moonshot, the Tygs sat on that lead like England football. And as so often happens to England, all that sitting led to the other team finally scratching out a lead of their own.

But here came Magglio to save the day, with a big ol’ two run homer! Do I feel sorry for Danny Haren? Nope, can’t say I do. Justin had to overcome two bonehead plays, and did it with the poise and control we’ve come to expect from him. What was Ryan Raburn doing when he just stood by and watched Carlos Guillen smother a hot grounder and then dive feet-first back into second to get the out, just barely in time? If Raburn had covered, it wouldn’t have been nearly so close. And later on, Brandon Inge tagged third base instead of the runner when there was no force, allowing the inning to continue. But Justin picked up his teammates and didn’t allow any runs after said brain farts, as a good pitcher does.

The bullpen, for once, did not suck either. Bobby Seay came in for his one out and was promptly replaced by Lopez (recently called up–now that we’re within shouting distance of Toledo, Mud Hens seem to be flocking to Detroit) who was actually good as well! Then, just like is supposed to happen, Rodney got the scoreless eighth and Jonesy the scoreless ninth (after the Tygs scored two insurance runs for him, one on a triple by Brandon, a daddy for the second time) for his 31st save. Soon Zumaya will be back, and then games will once again end in the sixth inning for all practical purposes.

And then today, Little Nate finally got the win he so richly deserved last time out. This one wasn’t a quality start, but it didn’t have to be. Hard as it is to believe now, the A’s actually jumped out to the lead on a homer by Scooter, who resembles Charlie Maxwell in that he has his best offensive days on Sundays. The Tigers responded to the A’s 2-0 lead in absolutely grand fashion, pounding out eight runs in the second inning alone. Magglio (who else?) led off with a solo homer; many hits and four runs later, he became the first Tiger since Al Kaline in 1955 to hit two homers in the same inning. That second one was a three-run job. Possibly the best part of the second homer was the shot FSN Bay Area then showed of Justin Verlander and Todd Jones in the dugout, doing a hilarious and adorable little dance of triumph. (Dad and I felt the need to replay this several times in slow motion, howling with laughter.) Maggs is totally crazy, and deserving of happy triumphant dugout dances of celebration. He could singlehandedly pull us out of our slump.

The A’s began chipping away–given the way this series has gone, I was a bit apprehensive. But the Tygs managed to hold ’em off, adding runs here and there so that by the end we had eleven runs. The requisite triple today was hit by Ryan Raburn, who scored on a sac fly. We’ve had a triple in every game of the series. The A’s announcers remarked that there’s pretty much no way Neifi can ever wrestle his job back from Raburn. WAHOO!!!!!! Tim Byrdak and Yorman Bazardo provided solid (if not scoreless) relief, and since the Indians lost, we’re back in first by half a game! Yes, I realize it’s not good for us that the Yankees are the ones beating the living crap out of Cleveland, especially since we have yet another four game series coming up in the Stadium. But even so, it feels good to be back in first, even if we’re just hanging on by a fingernail.

Tomorrow will be a delicious Battle of the Chads–Chad Durbin vs. Chad Gaudin. Gaudin was pretty brilliant for a while earlier this season–I got to see one of his very lovely brilliant starts in Oakland–but has since come back to earth a bit. So hopefully our Chad will be the victorious one. I really hope there are no groansome hanging Chad jokes tomorrow night on the A’s broadcast. (Which is in HD, much to my delight–looooove seeing the Tigers in HD, even if it’s the “enemy” broadcast.) It would be great to end the homestand with three straight wins, considering that we immediately head out on the road for two at Jacobs Field and four–gulp–at Yankee Stadium against the suddenly sizzling Bombers.

Makes You Go Blaaarrrrgggghhhh
August 11, 2007, 10:25 am
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Could that game have been any uglier?

Wait, don’t answer that.

Jordan Tata left his Win Mojo in Oakland. Yet the offense somehow kicked it into gear and stormed back from an 8-1 deficit to take a 9-8 lead. Mr. Moonshot announced his return with a very big bang, smashing that grand slam off Joe Blanton. And then … well, I think we all know by now the bullpen sucks. Sometimes I just don’t understand Jim Leyland. I mean, Macay McBride was pretty obviously done, as in STICK A FORK IN HIM, and yet Leyland allowed him to pitch to Jack Cust with the bases loaded? Jack Cust whose nickname is Babe? Jack Cust who has the most insane knack for gigantic dramatic home runs? That Jack Cust? Yes indeed. That Jack Cust.

That Jack Cust hit one of the most impressive homers I’ve ever seen. Straightaway center in any ballpark isn’t easy, but in our ballpark that’s just craziness. Sheer craziness, especially with the crowd being all nutso. And Cust had to feel some pressure, being up with the bases loaded and all A’s fans everywhere expecting a grand slam. He delivered. Man, did he deliver. And then the A’s added four more runs, just to make it hurt some more. At least Grandy got another triple … but man, you just think that when the Boys come back from being down so far, they’ll hang onto that lead like nobody’s business. With the Yankees and Indians playing each other, we’re losing ground on someone every day.

Verlander better be good today. The starting pitching is getting to be almost as awful as the bullpen.

The Tigers Will Make Me Bipolar
August 9, 2007, 2:07 pm
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One day, it seems like the Tygs can’t lose. They (well, Raburn) just won’t let it happen. Then you get days like today and yesterday where you wonder exactly how the playoffs ever seemed like a realistic idea.

The offense has gone silent again, never a good thing, and the pitching is suddenly mushy as well. Bondo didn’t have all that bad of a first today, shockingly, but he had a painful outing in general. The Tygs blew what scoring chances they had, and lost the final two games of the Devil Rays series by an aggregate score of 15-2. At least we didn’t get shut out. At least Marcus Thames is back. At least in someone’s mind, Shields and Kazmir are star pitchers in the making.

Somehow, this doesn’t make me feel any better. Nor does the idea that the A’s are coming in for four. Sure, the Greenies don’t have the most potent offense, but they do have a crazy pitching staff, despite being decimated by injuries. And a great pitching staff is not just what the doctor ordered for our offense. Neither, for that matter, is the general patience of the A’s hitters. Normally for me (as a Bay Area native) this patience is delicious–not so when the A’s are playing my Tigers. Then it’s just infuriating.

Anyways, we absolutely must get going against the A’s. Whatever it takes, get the bats hot and the pitching hotter. We must continue to breathe down Cleveland’s neck, even as the Yankees and Twins pant down ours. (Okay, that image was not very pleasant.) We still have the best damn team out there, no matter what anyone says.

Nate Gets Shafted, Jason Screws Up Royally, and the Tygs Still Win
August 8, 2007, 1:11 pm
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Well, I think we can safely say Little Nate Robertson is back. What a performance he put on last night! I can’t remember the last time I felt that confident in one of our starting pitchers. He pitched 7 and two-thirds beautiful innings, and I was most confused when Leyland lifted him in the eighth. One out to go, come on! Nate should’ve at least gotten one chance to get said final out. He’d come that far, hadn’t he? With NINE strikeouts! And NO walks! What more could you ask of him? And for once he’d gotten support from the offense!

Nate left with a 6-2 lead and a runner on; my beloved Jason Grilli came in and by the end of his outing even I wanted to give him a swift shake and go, “What the hell are you doing?!” I would ask the same question of Jim Leyland, who normally I view as practically infallible. One, why was Nate even taken out in the first place? Two, why was Grilli allowed to pitch to Jonny Gomes, who had tripled in his last at bat (yes, Curtis lost the ball in the clouds, but still), with the bases loaded when Jason had shown that he could not throw a non-gopher strike? Three, after the freaking grand slam to tie the game, why did he KEEP GRILLI IN THERE? Only after he gave up yet another base hit–my buddy got no one out–did Leyland finally go, “Oh yeah, Byrdak’s been warm for about two innings, let’s give him a try.” Byrdak, of course, immediately got a ground out to end the inning.

At this point, I had pretty much decided that the Tigers were in fact lying on Monday. But Ryan Raburn, definitely my favorite of the Tiger Cubs, proved me completely wrong!!! The delightful boy led off the eighth with a double, and we quickly scored three runs to snatch the lead back from the nasty Devil Rays. Then my boy Jonesy came in and got his thirtieth save. Just gave up the one harmless single, and fittingly Carlos Pena made the final out. If Jonesy can get thirteen or more saves over the remainder of the season, he’ll break his own record for most saves by a Tiger in a single season! How about that?!

It was a great night for pitching and hitting alike, except for Jason’s horrific appearance (which I hope hasn’t scarred him for life; he’s a good pitcher, just had a bad night). Poor Little Nate didn’t get the win he so richly deserved, but he’s a great ballplayer so the Tigers win was plenty for him (especially since the Indians and Yankees continued to roll. Feh.). Everybody but C-Mo got a hit; Raburn, Polanco and Maggs had three apiece! Maggs’ average is up to .354, heeheehee. I would very much like it if he and Polly (.346) finished 1-2 in the AL batting race. Brandon Inge also was thiiiiiis close to a homer, which instead became an RBI triple. Gotta get his average up a bit, because for some completely inane and invalid reason, one must have a good batting average to win a Gold Glove. (How, exactly, does a defensive award have anything to do with offense????) And Brandon MUST win the third base Gold Glove, given Eric Chavez’s chronic absences from the A’s.

A good night all around, in conclusion, and we better keep it rolling tonight because our rivals show absolutely no sign of letting up. Chad Durbin will hopefully make a triumphant return to the rotation–a win would be a nice Welcome To The World gift for his new son Cade, would it not?