Tigers On Top

In Which the Tigers Show Signs of Being Back (But Could Be Lying)
August 7, 2007, 12:40 pm
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Are they really and truly back?

Last night would seem to indicate that the Tigers we know and love are once again making themselves heard in Detroit.

It looked like it would be another night to make you want to pluck out your eyeballs. Verlander versus this 2-11 schlub from Tampa–should have been a cakewalk, but it seemed like the Devil Rays would extend our excruciating losing streak. To make it worse, half of Jackson’s wins (one) came against us, in Tampa, when he got pegged in the face by a throw from his own outfielder. Ohhhhh, criminy.

And then came the seventh inning, that beautiful inning when suddenly everything clicked. With one out, Sean Casey blasted one of his rare and lovely homers deep to right field–this the night after getting hit on the elbow by a pitch so bad that he had to leave the game. The homer pulled the Tygs within one, and both they and the crowd came to sudden, roaring life. Base hit after base hit came cracking off Tiger bats–a single from Maggs, a crazy fun triple from Carlos, singles from Raburn and Rabelo. Now that expression of “What the HELL just happened? I thought we were winning” shifted from its new home on Jim Leyland’s face to where it belongs–on Madden’s face. The Devil Rays are a team that are supposed to screw up and blow games. The Tigers are most emphatically NOT.

A new pitcher did not really help matters. Omar hit the third straight single to load the bases with just one out. Then Brandon hit a bloop to left that somehow no one got to–though Omar was forced at second, a sixth run scored. Strangely enough, two of the three seventh inning outs were made by our little sparkplug, Polly. But I think of all people we can forgive Polly for having one off night.

The eighth and ninth innings were also very uplifting. Newly returned Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless eighth, just like he is supposed to do. I still don’t trust him or particularly like him, but I want to see him do really well because that’s good for the Tigers. And then my boy Jonesy had an easy breezy 1-2-3 ninth for his 29th save!

I’m kind of wary of declaring the Boys back on track after just one win. Yes, it ended our five-game losing streak emphatically. But they could revert back to these 2003-wannabes real fast, especially considering all the injuries. Speaking of which, Rod and Mario passed it along that Kenny’s simulated game or throwing session, whatever he did yesterday, did not go as well as hoped. That is nooooot happy. I worry. I worry probably more than is healthy. Maybe if they win tonight (come on, Little Nate!) I will declare them officially back.

Ex Tigers-Watch: At the thrilling Giants game last night, I saw three former Tigers–Dmitri Young, Rob Fick, and Nook Logan (who various people persisted in calling Nuke, which is incorrect). DY hit the homer that put the Natties ahead, but thankfully the Giants came back to win. DY and Ficker were playing catch with each other and taking ridiculously easy grounders at first together before the game, which I thought was pretty adorable.

Another ex-Tiger, Eric Munson, had the game winning single for the Astros in their extra-inning victory. And remember that marathon 14-inning game the Astros won a couple days ago? Well ex-Tiger Brian Moehler (one of my all-time faves, as sweet and wonderful a guy as Jonesy) got the save.


Offense is MIA
August 5, 2007, 12:10 pm
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That was positively wretched (except for Magglio’s ridiculous moonshot). We can’t win on the road, we can’t win at home, and everyone’s getting injured. Plus the Extra Innings package was showing the Chicago feed, for some reason, so we all get to listen to Hawk and Darrin make excuses for the White Sox. Thank the gods Jim Leyland does not believe in excuses, though he has a lot of them.

Let us count the handicaps the Tigers are currently enduring. Zumaya is still out. Rogers is out again. Sheffield is now hurting, and as John Lowe pointed out in a recent Free Press article (I would link to it if I knew how), Sheffield is near Polanco-like in how the team depends on his performance. Casey just got hit by a pitch in this game (of course, according to Chicago’s very objective broadcasters, it was entirely Casey’s fault) and had to come out. The Mayor does not come out for things that are piffling. Rodney is back, but he has never inspired a lot of confidence in me, even when healthy; and even an acceptable outing such as today merely makes me scan the sky harder for that other shoe about to fall on my head. And they’re rushing him back a bit, because Chad Durbin probably won’t be available until Monday since he is with his wife and newborn son Cade (as he should be). Zach Miner is supposedly back, but his father is having heart trouble and so we could lose him again (and again, Zach should leave the team if his father is very ill; it’s just not something happy, either for him or the Tigers). Does that about cover everything?

Oh yeah, and we flippin’ can’t WIN.

Jordan Tata started the game today masterfully, throwing ten of his first eleven pitches for strikes. Now if only BONDERMAN could have had such a first inning yesterday, we would have won. To digress, what IS it with him and the first inning? Can’t he just throw an extra, I don’t know, fifty pitches in the bullpen and pretend like the first is already finished? Jordan did an okay job today. Obviously if he hadn’t given up the back-to-back doubles, etc, it would be better, but for the most part he was solid. I was especially proud of the kid when after walking the bases loaded and having to face Jim Thome with only one out, he got the big slugger to ground into a double play to end the inning with minimal damage. It’s rather difficult to win when your team isn’t scoring any runs for you (as one of my hometown guys Matt Cain can attest), so I’m not blaming Jordan for this at all.

The offense is pretty damn anemic. Well, except for Polanco and Maggs, of course. Two absolutely classic Polly at-bats–he works the count so that he’s got two strikes (he just has to have those two strike, it’s hilarious!) then manages to beat out a base hit. And then Maggs hit that homer to pretty much an impossible place–the only homer I can think of that might’ve gone further was when either Eric Munson or Carlos Pena (I think it was Munson, but I could be wrong) hit one into the camera well.

To make things more frustrating, the White Sox broadcasters seem intent on keeping all blame for anything off their team (even as they commend Jim Leyland for refusing to make excuses). When a bloop fell among three White Sox fielders in right, it wasn’t because they failed to make a rather easy catch. It was because that, ladies and gentlemen, was an insanely difficult play that they just can’t be expected to make all the time. If a Tiger got a hit, it was complete luck, a “duck fart” that could not be blamed on the poor luckless pitcher. And of course there was Casey, who was completely at fault for getting hit by Floyd’s pitch. Shouldn’t even get first base for that.

They did give credit where credit was due to Curtis Granderson. Rabelo dove for a ball in left that juuuust sliced past his glove, and off went the runner. Rabelo picked himself up and went after the ball; just as he got there here came Grandy, flying at full speed, to grab up the ball and fire into second, preventing any thoughts of going for third. Even Hawk and Darrin were vastly impressed with Grandy’s presence of mind and hustle. After the inning ended, you could see Ryan and Crutis talking as they ran in; I hope that Ryan’s end of the conversation contained a LOT of thank yous!

Stuff like that will get the Tigers back on track (hopefully sooner rather than later). They’re not going to start lollygagging or giving up out there. They won’t start stabbing each other in the back (figuratively) in the clubhouse. They’re a team of grinders, and they’ll get through this.

To end on a semi-happy note, I attended the A’s game on Friday (that’s four games in one week, hooray!) and would like to point out some big differences between the Angels and Tigers. Every day the Tigers were in town, at least three of them would make their way to the dugout sometime before the game and just sign until no one had anything left to give them. Even Sheffield did this, I’m pretty sure. If a kid called a Tiger’s name, the guy would likely as not at least smile up in their direction and give a little wave. I saw one Angel sign, and I think he was a coach. The rest of them completely ignored all the fans above the dugout.

When players come in from the field in Oakland, the guy who caught the last out usually tosses the ball up into the stands. Knowing this, Nick always gathers a pack of small children before the game and informs them of this. As soon as the final out is made and the visitors come in, the kids will jump up and run down the aisle, standing just above the dugout. And normally the player will either toss the ball into the pack, or point blatantly at another little kid somewhere else and toss him/her the ball. The Tigers were quite good about this.

The Angels on the other hand threw maybe two balls the whole game. And rather than throwing it to the pack, Chone Figgins casually tossed his ball over to our right. Two adult Angels fans, who had come to the game looking ridiculously formal, leapt in front of two little boys, maybe six years old, to snag the ball. Did Chone come back to say give it to a kid you schmuck? Did any other Angels try to get a ball to the kids later? No. And you KNOW that never would happen with the Tygs. The moral of the comparison is Appreciate the Tigers. They’re nice to an insane level, and most teams don’t even begin to match them. 

6th Annual Tiger Pride Series in Oakland–Day #3
August 1, 2007, 6:11 pm
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Yes, we lost. But I am still completely on Cloud Nine.

Who is responsible for this, you ask?

The usual culprit: Todd Jones. Along with his sweet henchmen, Jason Grilli, Curtis Granderson and the rest of the bullpen.

The day did not begin auspiciously–we were late getting on the road, Mom was in a bad mood because of baseball in general, and I was figuring that we wouldn’t see anyone at all on the field, since there would probably be no batting practice. Boy was I wrong!

I made an immediate beeline for the bullpen as soon as I got in the stadium; Joel Zumaya was throwing and literally, the ball was sizzling through the air. Not two minutes after I staked out my spot, here came Todd Jones! Shockingly I was less of a blithering idiot than usual. My buddy Mark, one of my favorite security guards, was hanging out with me so both of us chatted with Jonesy, rehashing last year’s trip onto the field and talking about the World Series. Jonesy couldn’t believe it when I told him I’m going to be a senior.

“Did you know she was gonna be a senior?” he asked Mark.

“I couldn’t believe it either,” Mark said, grinning–he’s known me since I was about fifteen.

“My mom’s here today,” I told Jonesy, waving at my parents to come over. “This is a momentous occasion. She hates baseball.”

Jonesy of course proceeded to turn all his considerable charm on my mom, trying to explain how great baseball is and how much fun it was going to be to watch the Tygs play on such a gorgeous day. “Give baseball a chance, all right?” he said with a smile as he went off to play catch in right field.

A little while later, I spotted Jason Grilli along the right field line. I’d liked him before Jonesy introduced me to him last year–he was, after all, the MVP of the 2005 IL champion Toledo Mud Hens–and after I met him I liked him even more. I yelled his name, just hoping for a wave, which I got. But instead of heading back to the dugout, where he’d been going, Jason looped around Jordan Tata, who was now doing his side session, and came straight over to me!

“I remember you from last year!” he said. We talked about Michigan a bit and then he too met my mom. It was adorable watching these ballplayers trying to convince her that baseball is good. Jason just hung around for what seemed like forever, completely content to sign autographs for all the little kids and chat with us. We told him we’d be out in Detroit for a game against the Yankees, so maybe we’ll get to see him then too! How cool would that be?

Vance Wilson was again at the game in civvies with wife and kiddies in tow. All his teammates kept coming over to hug him and take ridiculously adorable pictures with his tiny children. When another Tigers fan and I approached Vance, he greeted us like long-lost buddies he was expecting to run into, and gleefully told us how he came to be there (his family was planning to travel out before he got hurt, so even when his season was over, he figured why not?) and that rehab was going well and he’ll get cleared for lifting and throwing around November, which he believes will be here before we know it. Total sweetie pie, although why that should surprise me anymore I don’t know.

Mark told me to stick with him, and set me up with a seat in the row directly behind the bullpen. For anyone who’s never been to the Coliseum, the bullpens are pretty minor league. There’s an aluminum bench, a water cooler, and a warped dark green wooden roof. The fans are sitting right behind the players, and when they stand up they can’t really help but make eye contact. Hardly anything separates the fans and players, which is pretty cool most of the time. For a little while, I could see in; when Jose Capellan came in and sat down, he saw me sitting right there in all my Tigers stuff and smiled at me. He has a very lovely smile.

And except for that damn Ellis homer, the game only got better. Jonesy and Jason both waved when they came down to the bullpen. After my parents had joined me, and right after the Ellis homer, Jonesy popped up over the roof and looked straight at my mom.

“Are you having fun yet?” he asked playfully.

“I was,” she said. “Until that.” She waved her hand in the direction of the homer.

“Need anything?” Jonesy asked. “Bubble gum? Water?” Mom allowed that she was a bit thirsty, so like it was totally normal Jonesy went over to the water cooler and filled her up a cup. I practically died!!! “Go over with her,” Jonesy said, pointing at me. Mom was sitting with our cousin Amy, an A’s fan. “She’ll show you all the little stuff. That”–he meant the homer–“was a big thing. But you gotta watch the pitcher throwing over to first, the catcher giving signs … watch the umpires, they’re always fun.”

A little later, Chad Durbin came out. He winked at someone behind us, and all of a sudden this tiny little kid came toddling down the stairs toward the bullpen. Chad grinned and placed a ball in his two hands, which still were barely big enough to hold it. Cutest thing ever.

Around the sixth Jonesy talked to me and Dad by the water cooler. “You get royalties from all the jerseys she buys?” asked my dad jokingly. Jonesy smiled and shook his head.

“Am I your favorite now?” He knew all about Mikey from last year. I nodded gleefully and Jonesy went, “Yessssss!” and pumped his fist. “Used to be Damion Easley a while ago, right?” Not exactly, I explained, but I was flabbergasted that he remembered the game about two years ago when he, in typical Jonesy style, delivered my sketch of Easley to the man himself for an autograph, who was at that moment taking grounders at short before the game. Dad said something about Jonesy being my favorite current Tiger, which I thought might make things awkward, since of course Jonesy then asked who my favorite all-time player ever was. The fact that I said Steve Sparks only seemed to please Jonesy more, and he agreed heartily with us that Sparky is one classy guy.

Grandy kept coming over to the bullpen, preparing to go in the game, and he would chat with us a bit too. They were so nice and personable it was like being in a dream or something.

The very best moment came in the eighth, when suddenly Jonesy popped up yet again and handed me a baseball before disappearing like the periscope of a submarine.

“To Colt,” it said. “You might be the biggest Tigers fan I know. Good luck in college and in life!” He’d signed it on the sweet spot. On the other side of the sweet spot, the writing continued. “P. S. Thanks for letting me be your favorite Tiger! Although Steve Sparks ain’t too bad either!”

Thus, despite the painful 3-2 loss (WHY couldn’t Maggs have gotten a HIT with the bases loaded?! WHY?!), I had a most marvelous day with my Tigers. Nicest ballclub on the face of the earth, and don’t let anyone tell you different.

6th Annual Tiger Pride Series in Oakland–Day #2
July 31, 2007, 10:34 pm
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Not quite as gleeful as yesterday.

Today we lost Danny and Jeannette to Santa Barbara, so they were replaced by Yazan’s little brother Gabby as well as my buddy Hugo, who has attended at least one Tiger Pride game every year since the tradition began, something no one else outside of my family can claim. Other than that, the crew from yesterday were back and ready to go.

Tigers fans in general did not turn out in the same huge unbelievable numbers as yesterday, possibly because many A’s fans were enticed by the free A’s poker set giveaway. No Jonesy sightings during BP, but I did see John Lowe and Vance Wilson. John Lowe, in case you didn’t know, is the Tigers beat writer for the Detroit Free Press. He is also a huge mentor for kids at the Michigan Daily–he read practically every men’s gymnastics story I wrote last year. He’s the kind of guy who can make you feel like you’re the best writer in the world. He was pretty busy today what with the trade deadline stuff (even though the Tygs didn’t do anything) but he still chatted a bit–well, more like yelling back and forth since I was above the dugout. Vance Wilson I found when I mistook Little Nate for Jonesy (his back was to me, they’ve both recently gotten haircuts, and Nate was hugging someone in the stands–typical Jonesy behavior). So I scampered over and discovered the someone was Vance Wilson! Very exciting. He was there with his little boy, and it sounded like he was heading to Detroit to catch some games there. Well, not literally catch, of course. It was pretty weird seeing him in civvies on my side of the fence, I’ve gotta say.

Tonight was quite migratory–bleachers to bullpen and finally back to Nick, where we belong. The game began with Jack Cust showing exactly why the A’s use him mostly as a DH, flubbing a ball in left and allowing Curtis to get all the way to third on the error. The Tygs took a 3-0 lead on some nice timely hitting, and then it all went to shit. A sloppy game all around. Errors all over the place. What was Carlos THINKING, triple clutching like that?! That keyed the whole ugly A’s rally.

Our migrations tonight unfortunately did not take us near a lot of other Tigers fans, and thus I had to listen and stew furiously as the A’s fans chanted exceedingly witty things such as, “Detroit sucks!” (And Oakland is such a shining example of a thriving city?) or “Hey Jones, at least you won’t have the chance to blow the save tonight!” Made me remember why I spent the first fifteen years of my life hating the A’s with a fiery vengeance (now I root for them when they aren’t playing the Tygs).

I couldn’t believe how long Leyland left McBride in. Actually I was trying to send ESP signals not to put him in at all. But I guess my boy Jason Grilli (still got a soft spot for him) didn’t do too much better. It just seemed like no one could throw strikes tonight, not consistently anyways. So much for the grand pitchers duel. Tonight was more of a slop fest.

Thankfully, the Indians lost so they didn’t gain on us. Tomorrow it’ll be Dallas Braden against Little Nate. If Nate’s on his game, as we all know, no one can beat him. However Braden has been doing quite well of late–the last game I saw him pitch, he was pretty brilliant and just lost because the A’s didn’t score for him. Kid can’t curve a cap brim to save his life … but that is a rant for another day. Gotta take the series tomorrow, not just cause it’s bloody CRUCIAL, but the Mom is coming. And if the Tigers don’t win, I’m not gonna hear the end of it.

6th Annual Tiger Pride Series in Oakland–Day #1
July 30, 2007, 10:37 pm
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What a way to put that hideous weekend behind us, eh? A beautiful win in my favorite ballpark with all my favorite Tygs!

 A brief history of Tiger Pride: When I was sixteen, I came up with the crazy idea of getting all my friends to go to Oakland for a Tigers game wearing matching Tiger Pride t-shirts of my design. To my extreme shock, my parents thought this was a good idea. Thus, in 2002, about twenty of us showed up at the Coliseum in Tigers gear. The security guards (who are all now my buddies) still talk about it. Tiger Pride was very teeny in 2003, as you might expect, but we did witness Jeremy Bonderman’s first major league win. In 2004, Tiger Pride got a huge boost as I convinced twenty-five seniors to skip out on a Thursday of class for a day game in Oakland. It’s now a big tradition with us, and at least some of my friends make sure that their summer plans don’t conflict with Tiger Pride.

Tonight’s game featured some Tiger Pride veterans–my dad, me, and two of my best friends, Danny and Will. We also got some newbies in Danny and Will’s roommate Jeannette, Danny’s sister Serra, and Serra’s best friend Yazan (who kept acting like he might root for the A’s). As always, I decorated my car in Tigers stuff–the back window is full of stuffed tigers, a Tigers license plate is propped against a speaker, the license plate frames are Tigers-themed, and the actual plates read TGSONTP. I do not half ass Tiger Pride Day.

Upon arriving at the Coliseum, we were delighted to discover a horde of Tigers fans already waiting patiently at Gate C. We outnumbered the A’s fans easily, and to our surprise it stayed that way all night. Supposedly 18,000 or so fans were in attendance; at least 10,000 had to have been Tigers fans. It was pretty sweet to see that almost every regular was represented on someone’s t-shirt–people had Ordonez, Monroe, Polanco, Verlander, Sheffield, Inge, Guillen, Pudge, Jones (that would be me, haha), Zumaya … you name a Tiger, and someone was probably wearing his jersey.

Thanks to my longtime friendship with Nick, the usher right behind the visitors dugout, all of us Tiger Priders were able to stay in his section about five or six rows up (with a bit of migration here and there). All the security guards were glad to see us–they all look forward to Tiger Pride Day even though most of them are A’s fans (Nick, on the other hand, confessed that he was secretly rooting for the Tigers last year in the ALCS).

Every year it’s the same. I can’t quite believe those are actually my Tigers out there on the field, and I feel like I’m living in a fantasy. Every year, it’s like mythical heroes come to earth. Nothing seems quite real, and it’s blissful. Especially when the Tygs win!

Though I was sad to see Kenny go back on the DL, I was pretty excited to see Jordan Tata pitch. I liked him last year but had never seen him pitch in person. And he didn’t disappoint at all (though I admit I lost faith a bit when he gave up the two runs). Seven innings, two runs. I’ll take it! He got some extra special stellar defense from Brandon Inge. All of us went berserk when he made that crazy hopping catch over by the tarp. Those plays and Tiger runs were good for figuring out where our brethren were. All you had to do was stand up, and check out who else was up and screaming their heads off. I have never seen Tigers fans so numerous in Oakland. Normally it’s just us Tiger Priders and about three other lonely Tigers fans. But not this year, oh man.

Grandy and Polanco had themselves a night. Grandy was three for five with three runs scored and an RBI. Serra is hoping for a proposal tomorrow, haha. It was fantastic to be so close and get to watch him run–he’s just poetry in motion, if you’ll excuse the cliche. Placido, as usual, was a little hitting machine. His double in the seventh after a drawn-out battle with Kiko Calero was especially lovely. The most satisfying hit, however, was probably Pudge’s double in the eighth, even though nothing came of it. A guy across the aisle from us had been yelling about how Pudge sucked etc. for a while (because Kurt Suzuki is a surefire shot for the Hall of Fame. Psh.) Then Pudge blasted that shot to center and we yelled back, “Who sucks NOW?!” Heh heh. Yazan really got into it with a bunch of girls–he kinda doesn’t know when to shut up, and loves to heckle and be heckled. It helped that if they ever got on his case, he could respond,”I’m sorry, I couldn’t hear you over the SCOREBOARD.”

Chad Durbin was pretty lights-out in the eighth, striking out the Pizza Man and Mark Ellis before getting the A’s Mr. Clutch, Marco Scutaro, to pop out to Casey. Yes, it was an extremely awkward looking put-out. But an out nonetheless.

As you would expect, I went completely crazy when Jonesy came in for the ninth. I hadn’t been able to get his attention before the game, but in the fourth inning when he moseyed back to the dugout from the bullpen, he saw me and Dad waving and waved back at us enthusiastically. (That put me into a bit of a tizzy for a few innings!) I got all the kids going for Jonesy too. Of course he had to give up the single for a bit of spice, but then he got the nice double play and the flyout.

All the Tigers fans on the first base side immediately swarmed the dugout, but very gently. There was no jostling of small children or anything of the sort, just a huge crowd of absolutely delighted people waiting to shower their heroes with appreciation. As the Tygs came in from the high five line, the crowd would greet each of them by name. The guys would wave or tip their caps, almost shyly, acknowledging the crowd. Jonesy saw all of Tiger Pride standing at the top of the dugout and waved to us.

Jordan Tata was the interview of choice for FSN, which fit in quite well with the diabolical plans of Todd Jones and Kenny Rogers. As Tata began talking, Kenny and Jonesy got together at the other end of the dugout. Todd held out a towel in two hands, and Kenny carefully filled it with shaving cream. The fans all began giggling and laughing; Jonesy grinned wickedly and shushed us. It was pretty funny how everyone got quiet all at once. Tata had to know it was coming. One of the FSN guys directed Jonesy, creeping up behind Tata–finally Jonesy pounced and mushed the shaving cream all over Jordan while simultaneously bear hugging him. I was thankful he wasn’t wearing that awful sleeveless thing from when Verlander got the no-hitter. Everyone laughed uproariously as Jonesy scampered away and Kenny, chuckling, helped Jordan get cleaned off.

So, a 5-2 win, a gain of half a game on Cleveland, and to me it feels like the world has settled back on its axis. I’m definitely stoked for tomorrow’s matchup of Justin Verlander and Danny Haren. And tonight, three brand-new Tigers fans were created. Hooray! Happy Tiger Pride, everyone!!! 

What Happened to Intensive PFP?!
July 27, 2007, 11:41 am
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The Tygs blew another one to the White Sox, and this one brought back memories I’ve been trying to repress about the World Series. Of all pitching staffs, ours should now be the very best at throwing to various bases. I mean, didn’t they see what screwing that up did last season? Apparently Zach Miner didn’t get the memo. Thanks to the bullpen, even though we finally got a quality start out of a starter, we still didn’t get a win. Argh.

At least we did get the quality start–that’s encouraging. And Omar Infante hit his second homer of the season, hurrah. Can’t say I’m sorry the boys are leaving Chicago. I sincerely hope that Anaheim treats us a bit better. It would be tremendously sweet if Little Nate beat the crap out of Jeff Weaver’s little brother Jered tonight, eh?

I’ll be away for the weekend–finally, I get to go up to Tahoe with my buddies! Should be a lot of fun. Danny (our ringleader) has promised we’ll be able to check on the Tygs every night but there’s no Internet up there. Surely I will make up for this absence by writing mini-novels about Tiger Pride in Oakland!!! Coming up Monday, the best three days of the baseball season! (Well, unless we get to the postseason, of course.)

All Hail the Tiger Cubs
July 27, 2007, 12:02 am
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They tried their best but couldn’t pull out a win in Game 2 of the doubleheader. But last night, the bats of the young Tigers weren’t taking no for an answer. And Ryan Raburn led the charge. No one can argue anymore (not that anyone was) that Neifi Perez is more valuable than Raburn. In an excruciating 13-9 contest, Raburn was key to the Tigers’ victory, going 4 for 5 with two homers and seven, count ’em, SEVEN, RBI. And he wasn’t even supposed to play! I don’t think even Sheff could have pulled off a night better than that, do you?

The pitching was pretty unwatchable on both sides of this game, hence the ugly final score. Well, not as ugly as it could’ve been–at least we won! Raburn’s fellow “cub,” Rabelo, was 3 for 4, and I’m willing to bet Mike Hessman would have had a couple hits had he played. The bullpen makes me ever more nervous with each appearance, but I can’t do anything but smile when I see the guys coming up from Toledo. Say what you want about championships at the minor league level being meaningless. I think that’s totally missing the point. These guys–Rabelo, Raburn, and Hessman–all know what it feels like to WIN. They know how a winning team plays, how a winning team acts. They’d still be good ballplayers if Toledo hadn’t won the past two IL championships, but not THIS good.

Everyone was hitting the ball last night–Brandon Inge, probably overflowing with pent-up energy from sitting through most of the nightcap on Tuesday was three for four. (Rod Allen remarked before game two, as the camera focused on Brandon chattering away like a squirrel in the dugout, that he was going to annoy a buttload of people before the night was done. I think Brandon hates sitting even more than Pudge does. But it must be noted that in his stead, Mike Hessman acquitted himself nicely at third.) Grandy, Casey, Guillen and C-Mo all had two hits apiece. We just gotta get the pitchers going!

The pitching woes are spreading, it seems, to the starting staff, which is quite worrisome. We’ve gone an entire rotation without a quality start. Hopefully this will change today with Verlander, who considers himself our stopper. Basically I can’t wait for them to get the hell out of Chicago. It might be my own paranoia, but it feels like we don’t play consistently well at New Comiskey or whatever they’re calling it this week. Then again, Anaheim isn’t the most fun place either. Either way, each day brings the Tigers closer to Oakland and my beloved Coliseum. Tiger Pride has gathered (well, mostly; there are a fair number of people who just didn’t come home this summer) and is primed for a great series. If you’re a Bay Area Tigers fan, come out and join us! We’ll have a marvelous time, and according to the ushers there’s not supposed to be a real big crowd for either of the first two games, so maybe we can overpower the A’s fans!