Video: The Second-best Defensive Play to End a Tigers Game

I’ve decided that yesterday’s play by Austin Jackson and Alex Avila was the most exciting defensive play to end a Tigers game since July 24, 1983 when Chet Lemon stole a homer from Rod Carew at the Big A.

The catch gave the Tigers 4-3, 12-inning win and kept them just a half-game out of first behind the Orioles.

Here’s a WDIV Tigers promo from 1986 that plays off that unbelievable catch.

The Monday Report: A-Jax’s Throw, Ron LeFlore’s Record and Mats Wilander’s Birthday

Welcome to the last full week of August. The Tigers enjoy a 4.5-game lead on the Indians today. The last time they led the A.L. Central by that many games was Sept. 16, 2009.

Leading Off: I’ve watched a lot of Tigers baseball in my time but I can’t recall a more exciting final out sequence as the one we saw on Sunday to preserve a 8-7 Tigers win. Austin Jackson’s flawless throw to Alex Avila. Rick Porcello seemed hell bent to surrender a seven-run cushion but thankfully the bullpen did enough to blow it entirely … The Tigers head to Tampa Bay for a four-game set … They also are looking for their first winning streak of more than three games since June 7 when they had a four-game winning streak snapped.

Around the Central: The White Sox crushed the Rangers 10-0 at U.S. Cellular Field; the Red Sox downed the Royals, 6-1, and the Yankees blanked the Twins, 3-0.

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The Tigers are in first place, 4.5 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers @ Rays — Justin Verlander (18-5, 2.31 ERA) vs. Jeff Nieman (8-4, 3.29 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Verlander has won each of his last six starts for the Tigers dating back to July 21, compiling a 2.36 ERA and 51 strikeouts during that stretch.

In nine career starts against the Rays, Verlander’s 5-1 with a 3.88 ERA.

With a win tonight, he would equal his career high in victories set in 2009. It would mark the fastest a Tigers pitcher won his 19th game of the season since Mickey Lolich did so in the club’s 114th game of the 1972 season.

On this date, Ron LeFlore swiped his 27th consecutive base as the Tigers beat the Twins, 7-3. He began the streak on July 16.

On this date in 1981, the Tigers acquired first baseman Ron Jackson from the Twins for outfielder Tim Corcoran.

On Aug. 22, 1997, The Tigers pounded the Brewers, 16-1, with the aid of 23 hits and an 11- run seventh inning. Bobby Higginson got five hits, while Travis Fryman and Tony Clark drive in four runs apiece.

Happy 35th Birthday to Jeff Weaver. Also celebrating today is Doug Bair; he’s 62.

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  • The Tigers are #10 in ESPN’s Power Rankings, up from nine last week. They trail the D-backs (who have one more win) and this week’s opponent, the Rays (#7).
  • Somehow I missed out on Dave Schoenfield’s reminiscing about Chet Lemon last week:

    If you’re too young to remember Chet Lemon, he was a superb ballplayer. He could them run down in center field — in fact, his 512 putouts with the White Sox in 1977 remains the American League record, not bad for a guy who had converted from third base as a rookie the year before. He hit .300 three times, had some power, drew some walks, got hit by 10 to 20 pitches a season. He did a lot to help his teams win.

    What Chet Lemon wasn’t very good at was stealing bases.

  • This is a topic that deserves more thought than I have time for today but am I the only one who thinks Miguel Cabrera has a profound lack of hustle on the bases, particularly out of the batter’s box?
  • SI‘s Joe Sheehan thinks the stars are aligning in the Tigers favor after sweeping the Indians:

    Jackson’s base-runner kill helped Jose Valverde escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam and convert his 37th consecutive save this season. The Tigers have fended off a series of challenges by the Indians, and after a trip to Tampa Bay get seven games against the Twins and Royals to stretch their lead before six more against the White Sox and Indians. That week may represent both teams’ last shot to keep the Tigers from making September a coronation.

  • Are the Tigers winning with other clubs’ talent?
  • Not a game goes by that I don’t wish the Tigers still had Placido Polanco batting second.
  • It doesn’t matter if the Twins send Jim Thome to the Indians before Aug. 31. The Tigers are set to face both clubs six more times this season so, they’re hosed either way.

Finally, Happy 47th Birthday to tennis hall of famer Mats Wilander who, in 1988, won the Australian Open, French Open and U.S. Open.

The Daily Breakfast: Aug. 3, 2011

Good Wednesday morning, afternoon or evening.

Thanks to everyone who passed along birthday wishes to yours truly yesterday. It was a great day, capped by a soggy Tigers win. The photo here is the cake a friend of mine made for me. It tasted as good as it looks.

Leading Off: The Tigers failed to take advantage of scoring chances aplenty against Colby Lewis, withstood the sudden reappearance of Joaquin Benoit and prevailed thanks to Brennan Boesch‘s heroics to take game one of the three-game set against the Rangers, 6-5. Despite blowing the lead, Benoit did his best Aurelio Lopez immitation hanging around to earn the win. … In the 35 series the Tigers have played this season (not including one-game makeups), the club has won the first game in only 15 of them.

Around the Central: Detroit was the only Central-division team to win on Tuesday night: The Red Sox had a 3-2, walk-off win over the Indians, the Yankees thumped the White Sox 6-0 in a rain-shortened seven-inning game, the Orioles beat the Royals 8-2 in K.C., and the Angels downed the Twins, 5-1 at the Big A.

[callout title=The Rundown] The Tigers are in first place, 3 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Doug Fister (3-12, 3.33 ERA) vs. LHP Matt Harrison (9-7, 2.94 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM & 97.1 FM

Fister, who will wear number 58, makes his Tigers debut tonight.

He suffered the loss in each of his last seven decisions with Seattle, despite posting a 3.42 ERA over the 10-start stretch dating back to June 4. The seven-game losing streak matches a career long for Fister as he suffered the loss in seven straight decisions with the Mariners May 19-Aug. 4, 2010

Also, Fister enters his start having compiled a 2.96 ERA over his last seven starts dating back to June 21. Opponents are hitting .221 against him during the stretch.

Happy 27th Birthday to Matt Joyce. Today’s also the 39th birthday of Wendell Magee. Happy 59th to Dan Meyer. Also born on this date was hall of famer Harry Heilmann (1894-1951). He hit .342 in 15 seasons with the Tigers (1914, 1916-29).

On this date in 1980, Al Kaline was inducted into the Hall of Fame, along with Duke Snider,  Chuck Klein, and Tom Yawkey.

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Messing with Texas: The Tigers enter tonight’s game having won 15 of the club’s last 18 games versus the Rangers at Comerica Park dating back to Sept. 11, 2007.

Streaks: The Tigers’ record in their last five games is 3-2; last 10, 5-5; last 15, 9-6; last 20 games: 11-9.

Random Thoughts: Watching Austin Jackson‘s strikeout total mount, does anyone else fear that he’ll become the next Gary Pettis?

Video: On this date in 1960, the Tigers and Indians traded managers. Here’s a video from ESPN that I tried to embed in the post but to no avail.

Bush League or Not? ESPN’s Dave Schoenfield wrote a post about the Justin Verlander/Erick Aybar broo-ha-ha and, like most observers I’ve read, comes down on the side of the Angels’ shortstop:

Verlander wasn’t too happy with the play.

(snip)

You know what I say?

Give me a break.

Aren’t the Angels trying to win a game? They were down 3-0, the bunt is a big part of Aybar’s game, and they’re in a pennant race. It was 3-0 at the time, hardly a blowout. Aybar’s job is to get on base. And it worked — Verlander threw away the bunt attempt for an error and the Angels went on to score two runs.

I think I agree, begrudgingly.

Need gift ideas? I received this morning an email from the Tigers’ online shop offering Tigers locker name tags, at varying prices. On Saturday I tweeted from the Comerica Park pro shop a photo of a Mitch Meluskey locker name tag that could be yours for $5. Now you can get the tags from more notable players and coachesand former players and coaches. How about a David Purcey, Casper Wells or Rick Knapp tag? They got ’em.

Finally, Happy 85th Birthday to incomparable Tony Bennett.

The Daily Breakfast: July 17, 2011

Good Sunday Morning. How are you enjoying the growing number of Tigers trade rumors? First Ubaldo Jimenez, now Derek Lowe. In this update on the ESPN.com Rumors blog, they float Magglio Ordonez or Casper Wells as pieces going to Atlanta in a potential deal.

Leading Off: What’s the worst part of the Tigers two-game skid?

A) It smells like last year when they were swept by the Indians to start the second half.

B) They’ve lost six of their last eight series.

C) It comes at the hands of the White Sox.

D) A two-game losing streak is cause for concern?

Yeah, it could be all the above. Let’s add another one: they were blanked by Edwin Jackson. Jeez … On the bright side, Carlos Guillen returned to the lineup after 11 months and went one for three … From the AP story: “It’s a tough injury,” Guillen said. “Sometimes you feel good for one week, and the next day you’re sore. Right now, I’m at the point where I’ve been playing 15, 20 days in a row, and I feel good every day.” … Hey, speaking of second baseman, look who broke out of an 0-for-18 slump with a game-winning hit.

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The Tigers are in second place, one game behind the Indians.

Today’s game: Brad Penny (6-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Phil Humber (8-5, 3.10 ERA) | 1:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

There are 14 days left until the July 31 trade deadline.

Fifty years ago today, following a year-long illness, Ty Cobb died at age 74 in Atlanta.

On this date in 2000, the Tigers acquired outfielder Dusty Allen from the Padres for infielder Gabe Alvarez. In 1989 they traded outfielder Billy Bean to the Dodgers for outfielders Domingo Michel and Steve Green. Way back in 1942, they acquired righty Jack Wilson from the Senators for infielder Eric McNair (McNair refused to report).
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Around the Central: The Orioles did their best to blow it but somehow they held on to beat the Indians, 6-5 and end their eight-game losing streak. In Minneapolis, the Twins beat the Royals, 4-3.

A-Jax Still Hurting: Austin Jackson has missed the past five games with a sore wrist and seems likely to miss today’s game too. Speculation here is that if Jackson goes on the disabled list, Clete Thomas might be first in line for a call up. It sure would be nice to see ol’ Clete back in Detroit.

For Me, It was the Jason Thompson Trade: This blog post in the New York Times asks a terrific question: When Did You Lose Your Fan ‘Innocence’?

As we are constantly reminded, major league sports are, at heart, a business. Many personnel decisions are based on dollars and cents, not legacies and fan favorites, and it is often the fans who take these decisions the hardest.

What about you? What trade hurt you the most (and it doesn’t have to be a Tigers player)? Or maybe it was a work stoppage or something else.

Finally, Happy 94st Birthday to Phyllis Diller. Yes, she’s still alive.

Pondering a Mid-Week Pounding

Thinking ManI’ve never been fond of that old baseball chestnut, attributed to long-time Orioles manager Earl Weaver, “Momentum is tomorrow’s starting pitcher”, but how else can you characterize the atrocities at Comerica Park this week?

Fresh off a once-in-a-millennium sweep of the White Sox, the Tigers, well, got smoked by the lowly Mariners thanks to three more or less devastating pitch performances. Smoked.

There were so many moments and plays during this series that could’ve turned a game in Detroit’s favor but went the other way — big time.

If I had to choose the turning point in the series, it had to be the top of the fifth in game one on Tuesday night. The Tigers clawed back to tie the game at three — a major hurdle when facing Felix Hernandez — only to watch Phil Coke hand the lead and the game back to the Mariners by allowing four runs.

Talk about a momentum killer.

And then there were the errors: five in three games, four on Wednesday alone.

And, how about that bruising top three spots in the lineup for Thursday’s finale? Austin Jackson, Ramon Santiago and Magglio Ordonez amassed an average of .180. In fact, five players in Thursday’s lineup finished the game with an average of .200 or lower.

And, how about Ryan Raburn’s performance — any facet you choose?

Right now, things look bleak for the Tigers’ offensively and it appears they now lack any momentum.

Then again, tomorrow’s starting pitcher is the Indians’ Jeanmar Gomez, whose record is 0-1, 7.36.

Maybe I like that old adage after all.

Identity Crisis

The best teams in any sport have an identity.

Even the teams who do everything well, that’s their identity.

The Tigers don’t have one. They’ve won and lost games with pitching. They’ve won and lost games with hitting. They’ve won and lost games with defense. For now, they don’t know who they are, and, if they don’t develop something soon, something like the Giants did last year, it’s going to be terminal.

Continue reading “Identity Crisis”

Monday Mankowskis: Optimism, Jackson’s Woes and Bonus Baseball Cards

This is one of those rare and delightful days of spring in which I get to flip back and forth between a Tigers West Coast game and a Wings playoff game. April in the D, indeed.

  • It’s always interesting to see how even a small winning streak can stir optimism among Tigers faithful. To wit: this past weekend’s series in Oakland. Buoyed by wins in the first two games, I was completely confident the Tigers could — would! — come back in Saturday night and Sunday games. A week prior (against the Royals at home) I had no such optimism. All in all I’m feeling good about their chances in Seattle, and not just because they’ll miss Felix Hernandez.
  • On a tangentially related topic, we’ve taken a few jabs this week at Fungo Intergalactic Headquarters over a perceived sense of doom and gloom expressed by yours truly and my profound lack of wisdom. I don’t pretend to have an always-objective (or even rational) view of the Tigers and my opinions on specific players (Brandon Inge, Ryan Raburn, Will Rhymes) seem to irk Fungo readers. If you’ve read this site over the past six years, you know I view this as an outlet to discuss the Tigers and consider it a single point in time — that is, Raburn, for example, might drive me nuts with his iron-gloved D, but I’ll give him his due when he earns it. (As of this writing, Raburn is hitting .231 and 1 for 4 in the game against the Mariners.)
  • What to do about Austin Jackson? You have to wonder how long the Tigers will let his numbers and confidence nosedive, especially with Casper Wells sitting on the bench as a capable replacement, before they send him to Toledo. Sure, Wells is hitting just .250 but that’s 90 points higher than Jackson. Don’t the Tigers have to at least consider, even if only for a couple of weeks, providing Jackson with a mind-clearing session or two with Mud Hens’ hitting coach Leon Durham?
  • I suppose you have to think that if Jackson heads south on 75 then Rhymes can’t be too far behind, not with Scott Sizemore hitting .375 for the Hens.
  • A friend at work has been sending me home with boxes and binders filled with her husband’s baseball card collection. He collected them as a kid but never really had much affinity for the cards or baseball in general. So, they’re leaving it up to me and my friend Len Gutman to sift through the cards — most of them from 1984 through 1993 — and see if there’s anything of value. My reward? In addition to the joy of a trip down memory lane, I’m able to keep any Tigers cards I find in the collection. So far I’m making out like a bandito. My coworker’s hubby isn’t making out too poorly either; so far he’s got two Barry Bonds rookie cards and one Pudge Rodriguez card. More to come on this gold mine.

Finally, in addition to Miguel Cabrera, today’s the birthday of Rick Moranis. He’s 58.