Video: Today in Tigers History: McLain Wins #31, Surrenders Mantle’s #535

On this date in 1968, Denny McLain earned his 31st win and along the way, grooved nothing but heat* to Mickey Mantle, helping The Mick hit his 535th career homer.

Five years ago, in a nod to the 40th anniversary of that 31-win season, The New York Daily News caught up with McLain:

Who has only two of his own teeth, could pass for a sumo wrestler and yet still eats a pack of Twinkies most every day?

Turns out that Dennis Dale McLain is still pitching after all these years. It’s just not fastballs and curves anymore, and not with his signature leg kick.

“I am who I am,” McLain says. “I’m not going to change after 64 years. I get up every day and do Denny.”

On that night 45 years go, before just 9,063 at Tiger Stadium, McLain went the distance in the Tigers’ 6-2 win – the club’s 99th of the season.

Here’s Mantle telling his side of the story:

*From Baseball-Reference: McLain allegedly calls catcher Jim Price** out and tells him to inform Mantle he’s throwing the slugger nothing but fastballs. The home run gives Mantle undisputed hold of third place on the all-time home run list. Mantle tips his cap to McLain as he rounds third base. Joe Pepitone, the next
batter, signals where he would like the ball, and McLain dusts him. The Tigers win the game, 6-2, the 12th straight complete game for the Tigers staff.

**Price went 0 for 4.

 

A Look Back on Tigers’ Last 10-Game Winning Streak (Actually 11)

The Tigers tonight notched the club’s longest winning streak since 1968 when the eventual World Series champs won 11 straight. Thanks to the wonder that is Baseball-Reference.com, here’s a game-by-game look at that ’68 string.

The Friday Breakfast: Adios to the Twins

There’s no shortage of joy when the Tigers face the Twins for the final time during a season. Yes, 2009 included – outcome notwithstanding. And just think, a week from now we can say the same about the White Sox.

[callout title=The Friday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 8.5 games ahead of the White Sox.

Magic Number: 12

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Twins – Brad Penny (9-10, 5.13 ERA) vs. Kevin Slowey (0-4, 5.31 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Notes on Penny

Penny enters his start this evening having lost four of his last six decisions dating back to July 23. He has compiled a 6.85 ERA over the eight-start stretch.

He’s 2-2 with a 6.31 ERA in seven career starts against the Twins. In 2011, he’s 0-2/7.13.

Penny posted a 4-6 record and 4.54 ERA in his previous 17 starts at Comerica Park.

Notes on Slowey

Slowey’s making his eighth career start and ninth career appearance against the Tigers. Career versus Detroit he’s 5-0, 4.93 in eight games (seven starts).

He started the season in the Twins bullpen, making six relief appearances, posting a 4.91 ERA; He’s 0-4 with a 5.55 ERA in four starts this season.

Slowey’s last start against Detroit was a win on June 30, 2010 at Target Field, allowing one run on four hits in 6.0 innings with one walk and four strikeouts as the Twins won 5-1 over Andy Oliver.

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Leading Off: The Tigers enter tonight’s game against the Twins having won 16 of their last 20 games dating back to Aug. 19, an .800 winning percentage – which leads the majors during that stretch … Detroit’s hitting .333 with runners in scoring position dating back to Aug. 11, second-best in the A.L. clubs over that period. The Tigers lead all clubs with a .284 batting average with RISP this season.

Around the Central: The White Sox and Indians are, theoretically, beating each other up this weekend in a four-game series in Chicago. The Sox took the first game last night, 8-1. The Royals are in Seattle this weekend, in a battle of clubs churning toward 90 losses. The M’s won last night, 4-1.

With a win tonight, Penny would join Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello to become the first quartet of Tigers pitchers with 10-or-more wins in the club’s first 144 games of the season since Verlander, Kenny Rogers, Nate Robertson and Jeremy Bonderman did so in the first 144 games of 2006.

Keeping that thought for a moment, right now Verlander, Scherzer, Porcello and Penny have combined for 58 wins. (Trust me, I’d much rather include Doug Fister in this year’s numbers, but Penny’s been around for the whole year.) In 2006, Verlander (17), Rogers (17), Bonderman (14) and Robertson (13) combined for 61. And in 1984, Jack Morris (19), Dan Petry (18), Milt Wilcox (17) and Juan Berenguer combined for 65. Does the ’11 foursome have enough wins in them between now and Sept. 28 to meet or pass the ’84 rotation?

On this date in 1970, commissioner Bowie Kuhn handed Denny McLain his third suspension of the year, this one for carrying a gun, plus other unspecified charges, and ended McLain’s season with a 3-5 record.

Happy 28th Birthday to Edwin Jackson, and a Happy 41st to Dan Miceli.

Finally, happy birthdays to Adam Sandler (45), Cliff Robertson (88) and Topol (76).

Have a great weekend.

The End of Denny McLain’s Career Began in 1966

A couple weeks ago, friend of the Fungo Lynn Henning wrote why it made sense to give Justin Verlander an extra day of rest heading into the three-game weekend series against the Indians.

In the column, Henning pointed to specific examples in Tigers history where heavy workloads resulted in truncated careers – among them Mark Fidrych.

Here’s the gist:

[L]et’s talk about some past Tigers history that might help put the Verlander decision in better perspective.

(snip)

Denny McLain won 31 games in 1968 — the only man in the past 77 years to have done so — and 24 the following season.

He won two Cy Young Awards during those two seasons. He won Most Valuable Player in 1968.

He pitched a combined 661 innings — no misprint — during those two campaigns.

He was 25 years old at the end of the ’69 season.

He won 21 games, total, the remainder of his career. His arm had been fried during those two colossal seasons.

I knew pitchers 40 years ago regularly went deep in games and threw a lot of pitches, but McLain’s output in 1966 was staggering.

On Aug. 29, 1966, McLain threw 229 pitches in the Tigers’ 6-3 win over the Orioles. He gave up eight hits, walks nine and struck out 11 Orioles to notch his 16th win. According to the Baseball Reference.com box score, McLain faced 43 batters in the game.

He was just 22 at the time.

In that game, McLain set the Orioles down in order only one time, the bottom of the second. In every other inning he faced, on average, about five hitters per inning.

Did I mention he was only 22?

Three days later, on Sept. 1, McLain faced the Indians in Cleveland and again went the distance, facing 39 batters. He retired the side 1-2-3 twice in the game but otherwise had a similar pattern to his previous start. (The Tigers won, 4-2.)

[callout title= McLain By the Numbers]

13-4 – McLain’s record in the first half of 1966

7-10 – His record in the second half

.214 – Opponents’ batting average against (lefties hit just .199 off him in ’66)

21 – The number of starts McLain made (out of 38) on three-days rest

1.13 – His ERA in the one start he had on two-days rest (one ER over eight innings)

6.16 – His ERA in the first inning

2.52 – His ERA in the ninth inning

8 – The number of starts to begin the season in which McLain pitched seven or more innings

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On Sept. 6, McLain pitched nine innings, allowed 11 hits, two runs and struck out six, in an 8-2 win over Washington at Tiger Stadium. He faced 38 Senators hitters in this game, his 18th win.

McLain’s 1966 campaign concluded with him making three starts in the span of eight days. On Sept. 23, he didn’t make it out of the third inning, surrendering eight earned runs on seven hits.

Three days later he went eight innings, allowed one run on four hits against 30 Angels batters on the way to his 20th win.

On Oct. 1, the next-to-last day of the season, McLain would pitch 3 2/3 innings, allowing four earned runs on seven hits. He took the loss, his 14th, 5-2 to the A’s.

Fourteen and a third innings in three days. Totals like that can certainly make it a bit easier to appreciate today’s pitch-count obsessed mindset in baseball.

All told, McLain threw 264 1/3 innings in 1966. Forty years later, a 23-year-old Verlander threw a comparatively meager 186 innings – and there was talk then that he was approaching overworked status.

There’s no chance the Tigers would put such a ridiculous workload on Verlander – or, in a more apt comparison, Rick Porcello, and Lynn Henning’s column makes a good case for why pitch counts matter, even though I admittedly roll my eyes when I hear them mentioned during games.

And a closer look at a season from 45 years ago explains Denny McLain’s precipitous fall from a 31-game winner at the age of 24 to the loser of 22 games three years later, and his departure from baseball when he should have been entering his prime.

The Daily Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

BreadcrumbsWelcome to the weekend.

Leading Off: The Royals or the Tigers’ bullpen, depending on your point of view, did their best to ruin another terrific outing by Rick Porcello – but neither was up to the task. The Tigers came back, after leading 3-0, to win 4-3 in 10 innings. Daniel Schlereth (1-1) earned the win in relief for Detroit, while Jose Valverde notched his 31st save … Porcello went 6 1/3 allowing seven hits and three runs. He was pulled in the seventh and Jim Leyland explained why … With last night’s win the Tigers are 7-3 against the Royals this season and now 27-27 on the road this season.

Around the Central: Michael Young and Rangers spoiled Ubaldo’s debut with the Indians, defeating Cleveland 8-7 in 11 innings, the five-games-under-.500 White Sox beat the 10-games-under-.500 Twins 5-3 at Target Field.

[callout title=The Morning Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 4 games up on the Indians.

Today’s Game: Justin Verlander (15-5, 2.24 ERA) vs. Danny Duffy (3-4, 5.05 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. ET | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Verlander enters his start this evening versus the Royals leading the American League with 178 strikeouts and a .186 batting average against, while he is second with 15 wins and 6.02 hits per nine innings, third with a 2.24 ERA and fourth with 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings and 1.8 walks per nine innings.

He’s 12-2 with a 2.31 ERA in 18 starts during his career against Kansas City (7-2 with a 1.62 ERA at Kauffman Stadium). He leads active pitchers since the start of the 2006 season with 12 wins, a 2.31 ERA and 110 strikeouts versus the Royals.

With seven more strikeouts, Verlander will match Denny McLain for ninth place all-time in franchise history.

On this date in 1938, the Tigers fired manager Mickey Cochrane.

On Aug. 6, 1947, Skeeter Webb of the Tigers pinch runs for Fred Hutchinson against the Indians and scores. Detroit bats around, and Webb lifts a flyball that scores a run in the nine-run eighth. Stubby Overmire wins, 13-6, in the first game of a doubleheader. Detroit sweeps, winning the nightcap, 7-5 behind Hutchinson.

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More on JV’s Mastery: Buster Olney today writes that Verlander has started to consider adding another pitch to his arsenal: a split-finger fastball.

The suggestion amused Avila. Verlander, after all, already has refined four pitches – his fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. “The way he’s been pitching this year,” Avila said, “he’ll throw almost any pitch in any count.”

That’s no lie. Hitters’ batting average against him in the 2-0 (and beyond) hitter’s counts? .171, that’s third in the bigs behind Cole Hamels (.170) and Ricky Romero (.157).

Against 3-1 and beyond counts he ranks tied for eighth overall (with Matt Cain and Matt Garza) with a .161 average against.

Betemit: The 46-percent Solution? When the Tigers traded for Wilson Betemit last month the hope was that he’d be an upgrade at the plate over his predecessor, Brandon Inge. Sure, he’s hitting .281 in his 12 games in Detroit but in 39 at bats he has 18 strikeouts. Even Inge was better than that (60 strikeouts in 215 at bats, or 27 percent.)

The Odds are Good; the Goods are Odd. As of this writing, Baseball Prospectus has the Tigers’ playoff odds at 80 percent … or to be more specific: 80 percent to win the division, 0 percent to win the Wild Card spot. Sadly for Indians fans, BP has them with the third-best odds (6.9 percent). The White Sox are second with 11.5-percent. Take heart, Twins fans. BP says your club still has a 1.6-percent chance of taking the division.

Draft-pick Signings: The Tigers today announced they’ve agreed to terms with two players selected in the June draft: shortstop Brandon Loy from the University of Texas (fifth round) and righthanded pitcher Chad Smith from the University of Southern California (17th round). The Tigers now have agreed to terms with 30 of the club’s selections from this year’s draft.

Finally, Happy 39th Birthday to outfielder Duane Singleton who appeared in 18 games for the dreadful 1996 Tigers. He hit .161 with 15 strikeouts in 61 plate appearances.

The Daily Breakfast: July 27, 2011

A good Wednesday to you.

The Leadoff: Adam Dunn gave the White Sox 2-0 with a moon shot off Justin Verlander, so Verlander simply fanned him the next three times up. Detroit’s ace gutted out eight innings for his 14th win of the season, 5-4 over Chicago. The Tigers chipped away at the Sox, withstood another blast by Paul Konerko and watched Wilson Betemit drive in the go-ahead run in the eighth.

Around the Central: The Indians lost to the Angels 2-1, the Red Sox trounced the Royals, 13-6, and the Twins outlasted the Rangers in Arlington, 9-8.

[callout title=The Rundown]

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

There are four days left until the trade deadline.

Today’s game: Birthday Boy* Max Scherzer (11-5, 4.35 ERA) vs. John Danks (3-8, 3.92 ERA)| 2:10 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1

*Scherzer’s 27 today.

On this date in 1938, Hank Greenberg, who had hit home runs his last two at bats the day before, homered his first two times up to tie the major-league record of four in a row. Greenberg had a record-setting 11 two-home run games during the season.

In 1958, the Tigers and Phillies swapped catchers with the Tigers picking up minor leaguer John Turk and cash for Jim Hegan.

Ten years later, Denny McLain shut out the Orioles, 9-0, for his 20th win of the season for the first-place Tigers. McLain is only the third pitcher in the 20th century to win his 20th this early: the others were Rube Marquard on July 19, 1912 and Lefty Grove on July 25, 1931. His record is 20-3.

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Who Wants the Central?: According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, no one wants to win the division. But …

In a race this chaotic, the schedule can make a difference. While the Tigers are finished playing Boston and New York this season, the White Sox welcome the Red Sox and Yankees to Chicago for seven games starting Wednesday. As for the feisty Indians, they have 10 games against Boston, Texas and Detroit in early August. That’s their sink-or-swim stretch.

“It’s a weak division,” said a National League personnel man, “but I’ve liked the Tigers all year. Never underestimate a team with a good offense and an ace [starter]. You just don’t have long losing streaks.”

Discuss.

As Bad as It Gets: By now we all know that Paul Konerko wages war on the Tigers’ pitching staff every time he faces Detroit. After watching him launch another homer on Tuesday night I had to see what his career stats are agains the Tigers. Heading into play last night, Konerko had logged 196 games against Detroit and has put together this line: .291 average, 40 home runs, 133 RBI and a .872 OPS.

Papa Grande’s Streak Marches On: Jose Valverde converted his 27th consecutive save to begin the season on Tuesday at Chicago. His 27 straight saves are the second-longest save streak in Tigers history. Willie Hernandez converted 32 straight save opportunities April 6-Sept. 23, 1984.

Miscellany: On this date in 1940 Bugs Bunny made his debut in the Warner Bros. animated cartoon “A Wild Hare.”

Finally, happy trails to Kris Draper. I’ll miss watching #33 next season — and especially during the playoffs.

Tigers Today: October 2, 2010

Orioles.gifTigers’ Record:

80-80, 3rd Place; 13.5 GB

Today’s Game

Tigers @ Orioles | 7:05 p.m. ET – Oriole Park at Camden Yards | On the air: FSD/AM 1270 and 97.1 FM

Pitching Matchup

Armando Galarraga (4-8, 4.58 ERA) vs. Brian Matusz (9-12, 4.30 ERA)

Yesterday’s Results

Game 1: Orioles 10 – Tigers 6

Game 2: Orioles 2 – Tigers 1

Continue reading “Tigers Today: October 2, 2010”