Random Thoughts Before Game 5

In no particular order:

  • From the what-if file: Imagine the added dimension a healthy and capable Daniel Schlereth would add to the Tigers bullpen.
  • Kevin Kennedy was asked what he’d do if the Tigers have a four-run lead going into the ninth and Justin Verlander at a 120 pitches. His answer? “I know what Jim will do … ” Kennedy said Leyland will likely go to his bullpen; it’s what he’s done all year. And that’s what makes us all so queasy.

The Tigers and Athletics will battle in the fifth and deciding game of the American League Division Series this evening at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. It marks the eighth time in the club’s post-season history the Tigers have had a series go to the maximum number of games. Detroit has compiled a 3-4 record in the previous seven series. The Tigers won Game Seven of both the 1945 and 1968 World Series and Game Five of the 2011 American League Division Series, while the team suffered the loss in Game Seven of the 1909, 1934 and 1940 World Series and Game Five of the 1972 American League Championship Series. 

  • Everyone I talk to today tells me that I should feel great about Game 5 with Verlander on the mound. But why don’t I? It’s because my gut tells me he gets too amped up for these big starts and gets dinged for early runs – like Coco Crisp‘s leadoff homer in Game 1. So, here’s what the Game Notes say:

Verlander is making the 10th start of his post-season career this evening. In his previous nine starts, he is 4-3 with a 4.96 ERA (49.0IP/27ER) and 59 strikeouts. Verlander is 2-0 with a 3.65 ERA (12.1IP/5ER) and 17 strikeouts in two starts against the Athletics during his post-season career. 

Yeah, but … looking at his career numbers he’s given up 48 hits in those 49 innings. Plus 30 runs and 24 walks. And, before his Game 1 start last Saturday, his career ALDS ERA was over five. I’m not trying to be negative, only trying to express why I’m hesitant to crown him a true big-game pitcher yet. We’ll know better after tonight.

Finally, Happy Birthday, Dmitri YoungJeff Larish and Gregg Olson. Enjoy the game tonight, folks.

Armando Galarraga Blows His Top

Armando Galarraga, who's surrendered a major-league high 13 home runs this season, is 0-4 with a 5.95 ERA in his last five starts with the D-backs.

If nothing else, baseball writers will always have Armando Galarraga‘s near-perfect game to compare and contrast against every starting assignment as long as he’s in the majors.

Case in point: last night’s game story in the Arizona Republic:

Last June 2, in a regrettable, unforgettable moment, he was robbed of a perfect game when first-base umpire Jim Joyce made an incorrect call with two outs in the ninth inning.

Galarraga handled that disappointment with the utmost class and was praised for the dignity he showed in doing so.

How would he respond after Monday night’s performance, when he was rocked once again, this time in the form of an 8-4 loss to the visiting San Diego Padres that dropped the Diamondbacks into last place in the NL West?

Answer: Not very well.

His spot in the starting rotation already a question mark, Galarraga lost his composure and got loud and emotional during a brief, postgame interview.

Asked if he was concerned about losing his spot, he went off.

“No. Why would I worry?” Galarraga said, his voice rising. “Is there something I have to worry about? . . . Why don’t we talk about it at the end of the season? I don’t count five starts.”

(snip)

Galarraga wasn’t in the mood to talk about anything and he became confrontational with one reporter who simply asked the pitcher about his disappointment level.

“I’m disappointed for this start, not for the rest of the season,” Galarraga said, bristling. “What are you talking about? . . . What are you talking about my next start, huh? What are you saying, that I’m going to be worried about my next start? Huh?

“You saying I lost my job?”

Easy, big fella. Keep it classy.

Writer Bob McManaman points out in the piece that even though Galarraga won his first three starts of the season, his ERA was 6.00. All in all, not a great start to 2011 — and likely not a great finish, either.

But back to last night’s start. How would D-backs manager Kirk Gibson summarize it?

“He didn’t pitch very well at all,” Gibson said. “He didn’t set a very good tone for us. Really didn’t have much tonight at all. No location. . . . Just didn’t have a good performance at all.”

Fortunately for Galarraga, the D-backs aren’t brimming with pitching depth so they’re likely to ride it out with him for a while. Which is, as Tigers fans can attest, unfortunate for Gibby and the dozens of D-backs fans.

Here Comes Jim Joyce! (Big Whoop)

UmpStrikeCalledXSmall.jpgIs this news?

I don’t think so. A curiosity, maybe. But umpire Jim Joyce returning to Comerica Park for the first time since June reminds me of the hullabaloo around pitchers fielding practice on the first day of Spring Training 2007.

There will be lots of cameras clicking, more than a few replays of the infamous call at first base and some Baseball Tonight footage that packages the blown call, the outrage and the lineup card exchange love fest the following day. But, hopefully, this will be the extent of the coverage.

Thinking back today on the initial reaction to Armando Galarraga losing a perfect game, it seems pretty overdone.

I’m the first to admit that I immediately thought Bud Selig should’ve overturned the call and that Joyce should not be allowed to umpire the series finale the following day. But the death threats and crank calls to Joyce’s home — or, in many cases, the crank calls to the wrong Jim Joyce — was not baseball fans’ finest hour.

Three months later, I prefer to think of Austin Jackson’s dazzling ninth-inning catch than anything else that happened that day.

But that’s me. What do you think?

Weekend Wrap: Adios, Interleague

outside.jpgWe knew that the interleague schedule would catch up to the Tigers at some point.

After losing two of three to the Dodgers way back in May, the Tigers ran roughshod over the dregs of the National League. Against the Pirates, Nationals and Diamondbacks, Detroit won eight of nine.

This past week the Tigers crashed back to reality while facing the top two clubs in the National League East. After losing two of three in New York, the Tigers needed to reverse that outcome in Atlanta to make it a .500 trip. Unlike the series at Citi Field, the Tigers were in every game against the Braves thanks to stellar pitching — and despite an often-dormant offense.

Continue reading “Weekend Wrap: Adios, Interleague”

Wednesday Walewanders: Leftovers Edition

spaghetti.jpgHere are a few items I’ve stumbled upon while enjoying last night’s rare Tigers win at U.S. Cellular Field:

  • Baseball Prospectus‘s David Laurilla interviewed Dallas Braden and asked the A’s lefty about Armando Galarraga:

    DL: Armando Galarraga threw just 88 pitches in his masterpiece, about 20 fewer than you threw in yours. Given his efficiency, was his game more perfect than yours?

    DB: He was, well… I mean, his wasn’t a perfect game. But he was extremely efficient, yeah. He was filling up the strike zone, pounding the strike zone. To see that guy just… he came out and he dominated a lineup. He was, as you said, extremely efficient and that’s the kind of performance you want to take out there day in and day out, because I can guarantee you that even after the taste that was left in his mouth, he’s probably still OK with the one-hit effort that he was tapped with.

  • I don’t usually link to five-year-old articles but here’s a good one from The USA Today about Tigers’ clubhouse manager Jim Schmakel.

  • Here’s one final leftover from Armando Galarraga‘s perfect game: a segment on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation” program on the game and the aftermath. Host Neal Conan interviews the Freep‘s Drew Sharp and he plays a snippet of an NPR interview with Jim Joyce … from 1998. Listen here. (And here’s one from NPR talking with retired umpire Don Denkinger.)

  • If you want to feel good about who the Tigers selected in this week’s draft, don’t read this assessment from ESPN.com’s Keith Law:

    It feels like a very un-David Chadd kind of draft, what with the lack of power arms. They took a fringe lefty with a good changeup in Drew Smyly, and some good college relievers in Cole Green and Brian Dupra, as well as bat-control/good-arm catcher Rob Brantly. Tough signs include USC commit Jake Hernandez (a catcher and a personal favorite of mine) and Arkansas commit Dominic Ficociello; if they don’t land one of their tough-sign candidates, including their first overall pick Nick Castellanos, it’s a draft class low on upside.

Finally, you’ll appreciate the Tigers organization even more after you read this column on the disaster that is the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Detroit Tigers Podcast #111

DetroitTigersPodcastAlbum.jpgWelcome to The Detroit Tigers Podcast. This is Episode #111 a 60-minute podcast about the Detroit Tigers recorded live from Scottsdale, Ariz., and Asheville, N.C.

In this episode we touch on:

…and much more.

Show Notes

Links to articles and items referenced in this episode:

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The Detroit Tigers Podcast is not affiliated in any way with the Detroit Tigers Baseball Club or Major League Baseball.