Tuesday Tananas: Tiger Stadium’s Finale, Fister’s Dominance, and Meat Loaf’s Birthday

Things keep looking up for the Tigers. The ALDS is fast approaching, Wilson Betemit is playing tonight and Ozzie Guillen is leaving the American League. Good times.

[callout title=The Tuesday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 13 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Indians – Max Scherzer (14-9, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Jeanmar Gomez (5-2, 3.52 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

This season against the Indians, Scherzer is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA. Lifetime he’s 3-3, 4.79 ERA.

Did you know that Scherzer has never thrown a complete game or a shutout in his major-league career?

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Leading Off: The Tigers crushed the Indians and Ubaldo Jimenez Monday night 14-0. Doug Fister was his usual phenomenal self: eight innings, three hits, no walks, nine strikouts. And, 74 percent of his 109 pitches were strikes.

ALDS Start Time (Maybe): Matt Dery (@deryNBA) posted this on Twitter: “According to reports, Tigers would either host Bos or TB at 5 pm Friday for Game 1 or play at NYY at 8:30 fri night.” If it’s a 5 o’clock game, looks like I’m leaving work early.

The Tigers enter tonight’s game versus Cleveland having won 28 of their last 37 games dating back to Aug. 19, a .757 winning percentage — tops in the majors.

On this date in 1999, the Tigers played their final game at Tiger Stadium — an 8-2 win over the Royals. Homers by Karim Garcia, Luis Polonia and Robert Fick power the Tigers behind Brian Moehler.

We knew Doug Fister was good, but this is ridculous. From Elias Sports Bureau:

Remember at the trading deadline when the biggest-name pitcher moved was Ubaldo Jimenez? On Monday he was outpitched by a player whose trade received considerably less attention, Doug Fister. Fister improved to 8-1 since joining Detroit, making him only the fourth pitcher in the post-WWII Era to have at least eight wins with no more than one loss for a team after pitching for another major-league team earlier that season. The three others: Randy Johnson (10-1 for the 1998 Astros, after starting with the Mariners); Doyle Alexander (9-0 for the 1987 Tigers after starting with the Braves); and Rick Sutcliffe (16-1 for the 1984 Cubs after starting with the Indians.) Fister will end the season with a seven-game winning streak and Justin Verlander has won his last 12 decisions. They’re the first teammates to end a season with each on a winning streak of seven or more games, mainly or exclusively as a starting pitcher, since 1993, when Jason Bere and Wilson Alvarez of the White Sox each won their final seven decisions. The pair preceding Bere and Alvarez was Doyle Alexander (9) and Walt Terrell (8) for the 1987 Tigers.

I was talking to a friend of mine today about possible successors to Ozzie Guillen and we did a quick review of higher-profile bench coaches around the majors. One name he brought up was Kirk Gibson’s bench coach, Alan Trammell. While I fully support Tram getting another shot at managing, I can’t abide by him taking over the White Sox. Oh, and did you see where former Tigers manager Buddy Bell is in the mix for the Sox’ gig? Oy vey.

Happy 67th Birthday to Gary Sutherland. He hit .251 with a .295 on-base percentage with the Tigers from 1974-76 and played primarily at second base.

Checking in on trade pieces: In 31 games with the Mariners since the July 29 trade, Casper Wells is hitting .216 with seven home runs, 15 RBI and a .742 OPS. Meanwhile Charlie Furbush is 3-7 with a 6.62 ERA in 10 starts, and Chance Ruffin is 1-0 with a 4.50 ERA in 12 appearances.

Why should you keep watching baseball this week?, asks Rob Neyer. One reason he offers is to see if Jose Valverde can keep up his perfect-save routine:

Valverde’s been phenomenal this season, and is only seven saves from tying Tom Gordon’s American League for consecutive saves (over different seasons). And the best part is that Valverde’s doing all this with lower strikeout and higher walk rates than his career norms.

Wanna bet he blows one in October? I don’t know. I predicted Lidge would blow a postseason save after his perfect 2008, but he didn’t and the Phillies won the World Series.

On this date in 1986, Jack Morris shut out the Yankees 1-0 in 10 innings, raising his record to 20-8 and snapped Don Mattingly’s hitting streak at 24 consecutive games.

I’ve had seller’s remorse on Omar Infante for a couple of years now — and especially since Placido Polanco was set free after the ’09 season. Infante just signed a two-year, $8 million extension with the Marlins. He enters tonight’s game batting .279 with seven home runs, 49 RBIs and only eight errors in 146 games. He’d look pretty good playing second for the Tigers these days, no?

Finally, Happy 64th Birthday to Meat Loaf.

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.

Labor Day Leftovers, SweetSpot Style

In case you missed it, ESPN.com’s SweetSpot blog has featured a nice collection of Tigers-focused posts over the past few days:

  • Dave Schoenfield lists his unsung heroes, among them is Jhonny Peralta:

    I’ve sung Peralta’s praises on several occasions, but everyone just keeps talking about this Verlander guy. All Peralta has done is hit over .300 with power and played surprisingly well on defense. He’s been the best shortstop in the AL.

  • In case you missed it on Thursday, ESPN ran “What’s important in September” list for each American League team. Here was my contribution about the Tigers:

    The pressing issue for the Tigers in September is finding a consistent rotation behind Justin Verlander. At times, Detroit’s starting five — or at least four of five (sorry, Brad Penny) — has looked sturdy enough to be a scary proposition for a Division Series opponent. At others, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello have looked dreadful and scare only Tigers fans. If trade-deadline prize Doug Fister can continue the trend of his past three starts (21.2 IP, 2 ER, 15 hits, 1 walk and 18 strikeouts), the Tigers will feel considerably better about October.

  • Joe Janish from the Mets Today blog examined the Tigers/Diamondbacks/Yankees trade from 2009 and sees all three teams as winners:

    Though none of the players the Tigers received are having an MVP-caliber year, it’s fair to say the deal worked out well for them as well. After all, they are currently leading the AL Central by 6.5 games, with roughly one-sixth of the team’s 25-man roster filled by players obtained in that deal — including their starting center fielder and their No. 2 starting pitcher.

  • Ben Jedlovec writes Austin Jackson was the best on defense in August.

    Austin Jackson led baseball with 11 Defensive Runs Saved in the month of August, and his 17 Defensive Runs Saved this season is tied for third among all center fielders. Robinson Cano tied for the infield lead with 7 Runs Saved on the month.

That is all.

Lost in Last Night’s Drubbing, Scherzer Dazzled

Buster Olney wrote a nice piece this morning on Miguel Cabrera and his ascendence from skinny kid in Venezuela to perennial MVP candidate.

He also highlighted Max Scherzer’s terrific performance last night:

Max Scherzer threw seven shutout innings, the 18th time in his 29 starts he’s allowed two earned runs or less. Also from ESPN Stats and Info, how he won:

A) Scherzer’s fastball averaged 94.5 MPH Sunday, his highest average velocity on his fastball since June 20, 2010.

B) Perhaps because of the Tigers’ large lead, Scherzer’s threw a first-pitch strike to 20 of 26 hitters (76.9 percent), his third-highest percentage of the season. With an 8-0 lead after the fourth inning, Scherzer threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 13 hitters he faced in the fifth inning and later.

C) Given the large lead, Scherzer came after the White Sox hitters in the strike zone. In the first three innings, 43.5 percent of Scherzer’s pitches were in the strike zone according to the PitchF/X; in his final four innings, 62.7 percent of his pitches were in the strike zone.

D) Scherzer threw 17 sliders with two strikes, five more than in any of his starts in the last three seasons. He got five outs with his slider with two strikes, matching his most in the last three seasons.

Here’s hoping Scherzer can keep it up for another six weeks or so.

The Labor Day Breakfast

Happy Labor Day and a warm salute to the working men and women of the U.S. A special hat-tip to my Dad who helped build so many structures around Detroit — including the Ren Cen.

Leading Off: The Tigers completed a deliciously emphatic sweep of the White Sox last night, 18-2. Alex Avila collected four hits, Miguel Cabrera teed off big-time with a double, homer and four runs driven in, and Max Scherzer was terrific in his seven innings of work: five hits, six strikeout and no walks. Andy Dirks also drove in four (but who didn’t?) with a homer and a single.

[callout title=The Labor Day Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 6.5 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers @ Indians – Doug Fister (6-13, 3.26 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (2-1, 5.56 ERA) | 1:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Notes on Fister

Fister is 3-1 with a 2.97 ERA – including a victory over the Indians on Aug. 20 – since joining the Tigers. He’s 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in four outings versus Cleveland this season.

Notes on Jimenez

Jimenez has given up four runs over 13 innings in his two most recent starts after being smoked for 21 runs in 21 innings through his first four appearances with the Indians.

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Around the Central: The Indians beat the Royals 9-6 and the Angels beat the Twins, 4-1. Today the Twins and White Sox play a day-night doubleheader, and the Royals visit the A’s.

Sports Illustrated’s Joe Lemire looks at what it takes for a big-league pitcher to lose 20 games — a mark which the Orioles’ Jeremy Guthrie is close to reaching; yesterday he lost his 17th. Naturally, the article looks at Brian Kingman and Mike Maroth, the last two pitchers to lose 20.

Losing 20 games is not for the faint of heart. And it’s not for the game’s worst pitchers. For a pitcher to lose 20, there must be a delicate balance of conditions: He can’t be so good that he’s winning games on his own, while he can’t be so bad that he loses the faith of the manager and front office, plus the offense can’t provide meaningful run support. A 20-game loser must be good enough that the team wants to continue giving him the ball. Kingman and Maroth were both in their first full major-league seasons, yet weren’t returned to the minors for more seasoning.

Leftovers from 20: The Postgame’s Eric Adelson wrote about Justin Verlander’s chances for reaching 300 wins, and why JV doesn’t much care for the conventional wisdom:

He doesn’t care for the statistician’s math. And he doesn’t care for history’s math. He knows 20-game winners are rare these days and, therefore, winning 300 in a career is a milestone most people view as unlikely.

(snip)

And still, to those who say it can’t be done, he says, pssshh.

“I disagree with that,” Verlander says, his eyes wide. “It doesn’t make any sense.”

Happy 46th Birthday to Rob Richie.

Forty years ago today the Tigers tied a major-league record by using six pinch hitters in an inning (the seventh), but lose 6-5 to the Yankees.

On this date in 1984, Cal Ripken made a first-inning error to let in the game’s lone run as the Tigers beat Orioles, 1-0. Juan Berenguer gets the win and Willie Hernandez picked up his 28th save. Mike Flanagan goes the distance in the loss. Detroit’s magic number is 15.

Finally, Happy 82nd Birthday to Bob Newhart, one of my all-time favorites.

The Monday Report: Bad Penny, Power Rankings and Elliot Gould

Welcome to the end of August, in which the Tigers have amassed a 16-9 record so far. The boys returned home after a 5-2 road trip for four against the Royals.

[callout title=The Monday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 6 games ahead of the White Sox, 6.5 ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Royals – Max Scherzer (13-7, 4.21 ERA) vs. Luke Hochevar (8-10, 4.91 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Notes on Scherzer:

Scherzer enters his start this evening versus Kansas City with a 4-3 record and 2.97 ERA over his last nine starts dating back to July 7.

He’s making his 15th start of the season at Comerica Park this evening against the Royals. He is 6-3 with a 3.44 ERA in his first 14 starts at home in 2011.

Lifetime, Scherzer is 4-3, 2.85 ERA against Kansas City.

Notes on Hochevar:

Hochevar will make his fourth start against the Tigers in tonight’s series opener, his third at Comerica Park. He’s 1-1 with a no decision, sporting a 6.48 ERA … both of his decisions have come in Detroit: a 9-5 victory during the Royals first trip of the season on April 10 and then a 3-1 loss on May 13 … he’s allowed 6 earned runs on 12 hits in 13 innings here in Detroit this season, with 5 home runs, all solo shots.

Lifetime, Hochevar is 3-4 against the Tigers with a 5.10 ERA in 10 games, including 9 starts, and is 2-2 at Comerica Park with a 6.04 ERA in 5 games.

Miguel Cabrera is hitting .480 off Hochevar.

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Leading Off: Brad Penny proved to be a stopper after all: a momentum stopper. Maybe it was too much to ask for, a sweep of the Twins in the last trip to Target Field this season, but the Tigers lost with a flourish, 11-4. Ramon Santiago collected four hits but other than that, it was a stinker. And what about poor David Pauley? The forgotten man of the bullpen might have showed once and for all why he is the forgotten man of the bullpen: 2 IP, 4 hits, 4 runs (all earned), a walk and homer. Meanwhile, Wilson Betemit is hitting 110 points higher than Brandon Inge Carlos Guillen is slated to begin an injury rehabilitation assignment with Triple A Toledo tonight and soon thereafter will throw second base into disarray.

Around the Central: The Royals did their part to help the Tigers to no avail, beating the Indians 2-1, and the White Sox finished off a sweep of the Mariners, 9-3.

The Tigers moved up two spots in ESPN’s Power Rankings this week to number 7, seven spots ahead of the Indians and nine ahead of the White Sox.

Alex Avila extended his current hitting streak to 12 games yesterday at Minnesota. He compiled a 10-game hitting streak earlier in the month, doing so August 2-13. Avila is the first Tigers player to have two hitting streaks of 10 games-or-better in a single month since Roger Cedeno(!) did so in May of 2001. Cedeno posted two 10-game hitting streaks that month for the Tigers, doing so May 1-11 and May 15-25.

Paul Sporer wrote that Justin Verlander’s20th win was nothing but a symptom of greatness.

Joe Janish looks at waiver wire deals of the pastand finds two Tigers deals worth mentioning, if not remembering.

On this date in 1925, the city of Detroit hosted a dinner for Ty Cobb honoring his 20 years in a Tiger uniform. He was given a trophy by the city and $10,000 by the club.

On Aug. 29, 1959, Hamtramck won the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pa.

Finally, Happy 73rd Birthday to actor Elliot Gould who is known for many roles, but my favorite will always be that of Reuben Tishkoff in “Ocean’s 11” and 12 and 13.

The Friday Breakfast

Welcome to the weekend and a big series against the Indians at Comerica Park. Cleveland will avoid facing Justin Verlander in the three-game set, much to the chagrin of Tigers fans.

Leading Off: The Tigers were off on Thursday and likely spent part of the day kicking themselves over missing an opportunity to beat the Twins and take the series. You know, kinda like how they kicked the ball around the diamond and let the  Twins beat them, 6-5. Unfortunately, the boys remembered how good they used to be at losing to Minnesota in myriad ways … Every time the Tigers face Joe Nathan I think to myself, This is the time they beat him. Alas …

[callout title=The Friday Rundown]

The Tigers are in first place, 1 1/2 games ahead of the Indians.

Today’s Game: Tigers vs. Indians – Max Scherzer (12-7, 4.37 ERA) vs. RHP Josh Tomlin (12-5, 3.97 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Scherzer is making his 14th start of the season at Comerica Park this evening against the Indians. He’s 5-3 with a 3.63 ERA in his first 13 starts at home in 2011.

He enters this start versus Cleveland having limited opponents to two-or-fewer walks in 15 of his last 17 starts for the Tigers. He has issued two-or-fewer walks in 19 of his 25 starts this season.

Lifetime at Comerica Park, Scherzer is he is 13-7 with a 3.28 ERA in 28 outings.

Scherzer has limited opponents to a .203 batting average with runners in scoring position in 2011.

On this date in 1974, the Tigers acquired catcher Jerry Moses from the Yankees and traded righthander Jim Perry to the Indians and righty Ed Farmer to the Yankees (the Indians traded RHP Rick Sawyer and OF Walt Williams to the Yankees) as part of the three-way deal.

On this date in 1921, at the age of 34, Ty Cobb became the youngest player to collect 3,000 hits when he singles off Red Sox’ Elmer Myers.

Happy Birthday to David Palmer, 54; Terry Harper, 56; and, Fred Lasher, 70. Here’s a bio of Lasher on SABR’s Bio Project website, it also appeared in Mark Pattison and David Raglin’s 2008 book, Sock It To ‘Em Tigers–The Incredible Story of the 1968 Detroit Tigers.

[/callout]Around the Central: The Indians doubled up the White Sox, 4-2; the Royals lost to the Red Sox and are now 23 games under .500, and the Twins lost to the Yankees and CC Sabathia, 8-4.

Leyland’s Ugly Lineups: At least that’s what Dave Schoenfield wrote:

No matter how you slice it, Detroit’s best hitters have been, in order: Cabrera, Avila, Peralta, Martinez, Boesch and then a big drop to Dirks and regular leadoff hitter Austin Jackson. So with several good lineup options, Jim Leyland has instead chosen to bat two players with poor on-base percentages in front of his best hitter. And he continues to bat his second- and third-best hitters sixth and seventh.

I know there’s a goodly number of you who agree 100 percent — or more, if that were possible.

Did you know the Tigers are 27-18 against clubs from the A.L. Central this season? Detroit’s .600 winning percentage is tops among all A.L. clubs with the .600 winning percentage against the division.

Keith Law looks at the A.L. MVP race and the contenders, which include Justin Verlander:

I’m not sure what sort of voting calamity would have to occur for a pitcher to win an MVP award, but indulge me for the moment, since the rules for MVP voters do not in any way exclude pitchers, and any voter who omits them entirely is violating the spirit of those rules, if not their letter as well. Such a voter is also ignoring the value that a top-end starting pitcher can create, whether it’s Roy Halladay this year in the National League or Verlander in the American.

An august August for Avila. Alex Avila enters tonight’s game hitting .426 with three doubles, a triple, three home runs and 11 RBI in 14 games during August. He’s leading American League players with a .426 batting average and .542 on-base percentage during the month, while he is third with a .723 slugging percentage.

Finally, Happy 63rd Birthday to Gerald “Major Dad” McRaney. Have a great weekend.