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.

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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.

Remembering Tigers Tamer Mike Flanagan

A couple of things came to mind when I heard the awful news about Mike Flanagan last week. First, he seemed to own the Tigers in the late 1970s and pretty much all of the ’80s.

The second was his brilliant performance against Detroit in game 161 of 1987 when he was pitching for the Blue Jays.

I had to look up the first at Baseball Reference.com and I was sort of right. In 49 career games against the Tigers (42 starts) Flanagan posted a 18-11 record and a 3.66 ERA — 8-8 at Tiger Stadium.

The only team in the old American League East against which he had a better winning percentage was Toronto (17-7). (Inexplicably, he was 8-12 against the Indians who, if it were not for the dreadful Blue Jays, would’ve been dead last in the East.)

I didn’t have to look up the second memory, because I was there for it.

On Saturday, Oct.3, 1987, with the Jays and Tigers tied for the East lead with two games to play. Flanagan, who’d been dealt from the Orioles on Aug. 31, faced off with Jack Morris in a game for the ages.

Flanagan pitched 11 innings, scattered eights hits, struck out nine and allowed just two runs, one earned. Morris matched him through nine, also allowing eight hits and two runs, both earned.

Flanagan was tremendous and there were moments, several, really, when we thought the Tigers were in deep trouble. But they managed to hang around and scratch across two, and eventually got the Toronto bullpen for a 3-2 win.

Morris was terrific that day, too. Even though the Tigers won the game, and the next to clinch the division, that day belonged to Mike Flanagan.

Update:  The Free Press’s John Lowe wrote about the game here.

Feeling Better About Hall of Fame Weekend

BaseballHallofFamelogoTomorrow afternoon Roberto Alomar and Pat Gillick will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. Tigers fans (or at least this Tigers fan) will be thinking about Detroit players that should be enshrined in Cooperstown.

Sour grapes? Of course.

I do, however, feel better today after reading Christina Kahr’s list of “Stars of the Forgotten ’80s” which, she writes, is “an excellent lineup of stars from the ‘80s who haven’t made it into the Hall of Fame.”

Former Tigers abound in her brilliant – brilliant! – assessment:

Catcher: Probably the weakest position, but Lance Parrish’s 324 career homers and 35.7 WAR (28.8 in the ’80s) would suit. Parrish was also one of the best-throwing catchers of his day, gunning down 39 percent on his career, helping to land him on eight All-Star teams. Effectively, he was to the AL what Gary Carter was for the NL.

I’ve been saying this for years!

Continue reading “Feeling Better About Hall of Fame Weekend”

All-Star Game Notes and Non Sequiturs

Sometimes I want to rail on Major League Baseball about the lameness of so many things it does — the vapid celebrity softball game, the interminable Home Run Derby, the “this-time-it-counts” angle on the All-Star Game — but then I realize it’s probably me just getting old.

  • The Tigers’ collection of All Stars is the largest since 1985 when the club sent six players to the Metrodome for the game managed by Sparky Anderson. Here’s a look at the largest classes of Tigers All Stars since 1984 and the team’s record that season:

1984 (104-58)
Willie Hernandez
Chet Lemon
Jack Morris
Lance Parrish
Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker

1985 (84-77)
Willie Hernandez
Jack Morris
Lance Parrish
Dan Petry
Alan Trammell
Lou Whitaker

2007 (88-74)
Carlos Guillen
Magglio Ordonez
Placido Polanco
Ivan Rodriguez
Justin Verlander

2009 (86-77)
Curtis Granderson
Brandon Inge
Edwin Jackson
Justin Verlander

Clearly, the better the Tigers were, the more players they sent to the All-Star Game. For a long time though, the Tigers were a team that had little to offer the American League manager. From 1996 through 2003, Detroit sent a single player to the game. In some cases the pickings were particularly slim (see 2002).

1996 (53-109)
Travis Fryman

1997 (79-83)
Justin Thompson

1998 (65-97)
Damion Easley

1999 (69-92)
Brad Ausmus

2000 (79-83)
Todd Jones

2001 (66-96)
Tony Clark

2002 (55-106)
Robert Fick

2003 (43-119)
Dmitri Young

Ugly, no?

  • I still think it’s remarkable that Alex Avila is the starting catcher in tonight’s game. Whoda thunk it, especially after a dreadful Opening Day series against the Yankees when Avila looked about as lost as a player can look. I guess that’s why, as Rod Allen says, you play the games. Jason Beck has a nice piece recapping the Tigers’ All Stars’ respective experiences in Phoenix.
  • The water is so far past being under the bridge, but isn’t it still a bit weird to see Curtis Granderson starting in the All-Star Game … as a Yankee?
  • Six years ago today in the Home Run Derby at Comerica Park, Bobby Abreu destroyed the records for a single round, the championship round and the grand total for all three rounds of the derby by hitting 41 homers into every part of yard. The Phillies outfielder went deep 24 times in the first round, tacks on six more in the second round and finishes with 11 more in the championship round.
  • Looking ahead to the pitching matchups for this weekend’s series against the White Sox:

Friday | 7:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1
Justin Verlander (12-4, 2.15 ERA) vs. Gavin Floyd (6-9, 4.59 ERA)

Saturday | 4:10 p.m. FOX/1270 & 97.1
Max Scherzer (10-4, 4.69 ERA) vs. Edwin Jackson (5-7, 4.30 ERA)

Sunday | 1:05 p.m. FSD/1270 & 97.1
Brad Penny (6-6, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jake Peavy (4-2, 4.83 ERA)

Finally, on this date in 1979 the White Sox were forced to forfeit the second game of twi-night doubleheader against the Tigers when more tha5,000 fans refuse to leave the field during Disco Demolition Night. I wrote about it on the 30th anniversary.

The Non Sequiturs Return and So, Too, Will the Podcast

Many of you have written to ask what happened to the Detroit Tigers Podcast. Without going into the boring details, the fact is that Ian and I both were unavoidably detained over the past few months. But that’s about to change.

We will restart the podcast machine after the All-Star Game and take the second half by storm. More or less.

Thanks to everyone who’s been asking — and thanks for your patience as we carve out time to do a show we love producing for our listeners.

  • With Justin Verlander’s complete-game win yesterday at Coors Field, he limited the Rockies to one run on four hits. It marked the second-straight outing in which he tossed a complete game while limiting his opponent to as few as one run and four hits. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he joins Jack Morris (July of 1986) as the only two Tigers pitchers to accomplish the feat in consecutive outings during a single season over the last 33 seasons.
  • One-hundred years ago today Ty Cobb broke the American League hitting streak record with an infield single against Cleveland’s Willie Mitchell. It’s Cobb’s 30th straight game with a hit. He adds two stolen bases to help the Tigers win, 8-3.
  • Paul Swaney and crew at StadiumJourney.com continue their stellar work publishing reviews of pro and college sports stadiums. His goal this summer is to post a review of every affiliated minor league ballpark. Recently he posted reviews of Lakeland’s Joker Marchant Stadium and Fifth Third Ballpark in Comstock Park, Mich., home of the West Michigan Whitecaps.
  • How’s this for timely? Just the other day we wrote about Tigers players filling in at third base. The most prominent name on the list was Al Kaline. Fifty years ago today played third for the first time in his career. His two hits and two RBIs lead the Tigers to a 5-4 win over the Senators at Griffith Stadium in D.C. He will return to the OF and play third base just once more in his career, in 1965.
  • From the Game Notes: The Tigers are batting .312 with 95 runs scored, 31 doubles, seven triples and 20 home runs in 18 games during June. Detroit is tops among all American League clubs with a .312 batting average during the month, while the club is second with 95 runs scored and a .477 slugging percentage.
  • One more historical note: On this date in 1984, Yankees reliever Jose Rijo falls to 1-7 when he serves up a two-out three-run homer to Howard Johnson in the 13th inning. The Tigers win 9-6. Alan Trammell, Lance Parrish and Chet Lemon also hit homers for the Tigers, who draw their third-straight crowd of more than 40,000.

Finally, Happy 78th Birthday to a terrific actor, Danny Aiello.

So Where Was I … ?

InboxI suppose you can call it a lack of foresight. Specifically, putting the word “daily” in your blog’s title sets a certain expectation that, frankly, is tough to meet — especially for someone like me to whom writing tends to be more ebb than flow.

Thanks for your patience as I still try to get the hang of this blogging while working the 8-to-6 shift.

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What was the point of Tom Gage‘s column on Monday? So Mike Ilitch came to Lakeland and left without talking to the media — big deal.

Maybe the man didn’t feel well. Maybe he wasn’t in the mood. Maybe the trip to Spring Training was squeezed in an otherwise busy schedule.

Gage seems to be making a lot out of Ilitch’s in-and-out visit — that somehow the long-term contract status of Dave Dombrowski and Jim Leyland is now more in jeopardy than it is.

I’m not buying it. You?

Continue reading “So Where Was I … ?”