A Year Ago on The Fungo

Tigers fans are doing what they can to forget 2008, if they haven’t banished it from memory altogether. But seeing as things are looking much better (at the moment) for the 2009 club, let’s savor these moments even more by looking back on Fungo entries from April 21, 2008:

A Bummer of an Outlook for the 2009 Tigers

ESPN.com’s trip through each MLB team’s roster continued today with write Jonah Keri‘s lens focused on the American League Central and the Tigers.

If you’re looking for a positive outlook to end your week, look elsewhere. Here’s a taste:

Aside from a younger, more athletic band of glove men, the Tigers need about a half-dozen new pitchers. Verlander and Galarraga figure to anchor a rotation that’s woefully shorthanded, with lefties Dontrelle Willis, Kenny Rogers and Nate Robertson turning into pumpkins and Jeremy Bonderman now more of a perennial injury risk than a future frontline starter. The bullpen is no better, with Todd Jones retired, Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney fighting to regain their lost command, and journeyman Aquilino Lopez the best of the 2008 bunch.

Now that hurts.

Catching Up on a Week of News

Catcher.jpgEvery time I sat down to write about a bit of Tigers news in the past five days, another shoe would drop and I’d think “I’ll write about both of those items.” Then another and another, etc.

So, as I wait out this Tigers/White Sox rain delay from bright, sunny Phoenix, it’s time to weigh in on:

  • Todd Jones’s Retirement. The decades-old joke in Detroit is that the most popular person in the city is the Lions’ backup QB and/or the Red Wings’ backup netminder. I think we can now add the Tigers’ setup man to that punch line. Detroit is unusually cruel to its closers. Less than a year after Willie Hernandez won the 1984 Cy Young and MVP awards, he started getting booed and it’s never stopped. Mike Henneman did too, but to a much smaller degree. The Tigers were so unwatchable during Todd Jones‘s first tour of duty in Detroit, that often he was the only bright spot. Come to think of it, he was a welcome sight then because it mean the Tigers were in line for a rare win.

    But what was it about Jones in his second stint as a Tiger? What made it so infuriating? Sure, he got 93 saves in just under three seasons but his ERA was always around four and … ah, what’s the use? Jones is a good guy and I’m sure he’ll be missed by his teammates. I guess. For me, though, I’ll never be able to forgive him for not being Joe Nathan.

    Continue reading “Catching Up on a Week of News”

Game 140: Kenny's Cooked

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ESPN highlights available here.

The Score: Angels 7 – Tigers 1

The Gist: Well, Kenny Rogers certainly looks finished, doesn’t he? At least he lasted this long, which is more than can be said about his teammates who packed it in about six weeks ago. It wasn’t like watching Rick Ankiel lose it during the playoffs but this outing was painful enough. Rogers pitched two innings, faced a dozen hitters, allowed eight hits and six earned runs. At least he was democratic, giving his defense a chance to participate: he allowed no walks or strikeouts. If not for Curtis Granderson‘s eighth-inning homer, his 17th, you would be hard-pressed to confirm the Tigers even showed up for this one. Then again, the seven Angels runs had to come from somewhere.

Bonus Gist: Even with a modicum of luck, the Tigers can’t cash in:

With the Angels leading, 6-0, on their way to a 7-1 victory, home-plate umpire Tim Welke reset the count at 1-2 when the scoreboard showed 2-2 after consulting with Rodriguez and Tigers catcher Brandon Inge.

Rodriguez took two balls to take it to a 3-2 count officially — when he should have walked. He remained in the batter’s box, and on the next pitch, Tigers right-handed reliever Aquilino Lopez struck him out for the second out in the inning.

The Quote: “I’m really getting sick of seeing Aquilino Lopez,” Ian Casselberry in an IM exchange.

The Stat: 10. As in 10th place, the Tigers’ standing in the 14-team American League.

Up Next: Tigers @ Twins

Armando Galarraga (12-4, 3.17) vs. Francisco Liriano (4-3, 3.45)

One Of Those Nights

Livan Hernandez had command of his pitches and the Tigers on this night. Magglio Ordonez hit a long home run in the second, and the team loaded the based with nobody out in the same inning, but then Ivan Rodriguez hit a short fly ball to right on which Miguel Cabrera did not attempt to score from third base. Jacque Jones then hit into an inning ending double play. Hernandez was able to hold off all Tiger threats for the rest of his seven-inning stint.

The Twins were able to get to Armando Galarraga for four runs on six hits which was enough to hand him his first loss of the season. Galarraga also gave up a bases loaded walk with nobody out and a RBI double play ground out which accounted for two of those runs. Aquilino Lopez came on in the seventh and got the first out of the inning, but then surrendered four runs on six hits before giving way to Denny Bautista who got the Tigers out of the inning.

I thought the tough night was over, but in the eighth, the Twins were able to get three more runs off Bautista. He allowed a walk, a wild pitch, and a single to score one run which was followed by a passed ball by Brandon Inge. The Twins then got the other two runs in the inning on a double to deep right field and an infield single to first. This was followed by another infield single to first before Francisco Cruceta came on to strike out Mike Lamb to end the inning.

A lot of the Twins 16 hits in this game were legitimate, but they also got a few strategically placed balls that the Tigers just could not field. This was just a game that happens to even the very best teams on occasion.

We’ll just chalk this one up as one of those.

A Look Back at April

WeeklyPlannerPenXSmall.jpgTigers April Record: 13-15

Individual Batting Leaders (minimum 20 games, my totally subjective criteria)

  • Average: Carlos Guillen, .321
  • Home Runs: Miguel Cabrera, Magglio Ordonez, 5
  • RBI: Cabrera/Ordonez, 19
  • OBP: Guillen, .414
  • OPS: Guillen, .938
  • SLG: Guillen, .524
  • SB: Guillen, Pudge Rodriguez, Gary Sheffield, 3

Individual Pitching Leaders

  • Wins: Five pitchers tied with two each – Jeremy Bonderman, Armando Galarraga, Aquilino Lopez, Clay Rapada, Kenny Rogers
  • ERA
    • Starter: Galarraga, 1.50
    • Reliever: Rapada, 0.00
  • Saves: Todd Jones, 5
  • Strikeouts
    • Starter: Nate Robertson, 24
    • Reliever: Lopez, 14

Team Rankings

  • Team Batting: .267, fourth in American League (ninth in majors)
  • Team Pitching: 4.88 ERA, 13th in A.L. (28th in majors)
  • Team Fielding: .984, seventh in A.L. (tied for 13th in majors)

And now the random stuff: Tigers Day-by-Day Record

  • Monday: 2-1
  • Tuesday: 3-1
  • Wednesday: 4-1
  • Thursday: 1-3
  • Friday: 2-2
  • Saturday: 1-3
  • Sunday: 0-4

Game 25: Hmm, Maybe This Was the Best Game of the Year

ESPN highlights available here.

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The Gist: Armando Galarraga continues to wow and the Tigers’ Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco and Magglio Ordoñez each knocked two hits in a 6-4 win over the Angels. Galarraga took a no-hitter into the sixth but ended up without a decision. He allowed three runs (one earned), three hits and two walks in six-plus innings. Aquilino Lopez, who’s been nothing short of nails so far this year — try a 0.49 ERA — got the W.

The Quote: “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.” — Jim Leyland on the fate of Galarraga when Dontrelle Willis comes off the DL.

The Stat: 102.4%. That’s how full Comerica Park was on Saturday for a 3:30 p.m. start time that coincided with the Wings/Avalanche game at Joe Louis.

Up Next: Angels at Tigers

Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN

Justin Verlander (1-3, 5.93) vs. Jered Weaver (1-3, 4.95)

Game 10: Bully!

ScorecardXSmall.jpgThe Gist: The bullpen reversed its recent trend of hideous performances and bailed out the now officially gimpy Dontrelle Willis to beat the White Sox 5-2 in Reykjavik. Aquilino Lopez shut down the White Sox over four innings and Clete Thomas (2-5 and a rifle throw to cut down Jermaine Dye at second) continues to make a name for himself on this team.

The Quote: “I’m all right.” — the wobbly Willis, moments before Jim Leyland removed him from the game after only 14 pitches.

The Stat: 0. The number of hits allowed by much-maligned Jason Grilli.

Bonus news nugget: Macay McBride out for the year.