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.

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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 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.

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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 Saturday Breakfast: Al’s Okay, Penny’s Good Enough and Happy Birthday to “Schneider”

Good Saturday morning. Thank goodness Al Alburquerque is going to be okay after a batting practice scare yesterday. The Tigers placed Alburquerque on the seven-day disabled list with a concussion effective August 12 and recalled Ryan Perry from Toledo. Perry appeared in 20 games with the Mud Hens, posting a 3-0 record, 3.03 ERA, seven saves and 30 strikeouts.

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Leading Off: The Tigers won their seventh-straight one-run game, topping the Orioles 5-4 [highlights here]. Andy Dirks went 4 for 4 and knocked in the winning run and Brad Penny was good enough for his eighth win … The victory marked the seventh straight game the club has won by one run. According to STATS LLC, Detroit’s seven straight wins by one run matches a club record, equaling the mark established by the 1944 club. The 1944 Tigers won seven straight such games July 18-29 … In other news, the Tigers transferred the option of pitcher Lester Oliveros from Triple A Toledo to Double A Erie on Friday.

Around the Central: The Indians beat the Twins 3-2 in Cleveland and the Royals handed the White Sox their seventh-straight home loss, 5-1.

[callout title=The Saturday Rundown]

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

Today’s Game: Tigers @ Orioles: Max Scherzer (11-7, 4.33 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (5-15, 4.38 ERA) | 7:05 p.m. – FSD/1270 AM and 97.1 FM

Scherzer enters his start this evening at Baltimore looking for his 12th win of the season. With a win tonight, he would equal his career-high win total established with the Tigers during the 2011 season.

His career mark against Baltimore 1-1, 3.46 ERA. This will be the first start of his career at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

With a win tonight, he would join Justin Verlander to become the first pair of Tigers pitchers with 12-or-more wins in the club’s first 119 games of the season since Jeff Robinson and Frank Tanana did so in the first 119 games of 1988.

One hundred years ago today, in a move that only Carlos Zambrano could appreciate, Ty Cobb, apparently believing the Tigers can no longer win the pennant race, begins a vacation.

On this date in 2007, Placido Polanco played his 144th consecutive game at second base without an error. This broke Luis Castillo’s record, set earlier that season. The two streaks overlapped for many months. The Tigers still lose, 7-2, dropping them to eight wins in their past 25 games and a tie for first place with the Indians.

Happy Birthday to Roman Colon, 32, and Jarrod Washburn, 37.

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More great work this week by Paul Swaney and his team at StadiumJourney.com. The spotlight turns to Jerry Uht Park, home of the Erie SeaWolves, the Tigers’ Double-A affiliate. Here’s a taste of Joshua Guiher‘s review:

Jerry Uht Park … was originally built in 1995 at a cost of $8.7 million. In 2006, the park underwent a $4 million upgrade that added a nice scoreboard, a very large picnic area and a second level of seating among other things.

All About Al. In his ESPN.com blog [$], Jim Bowden lists the under-the-radar players on each American League club. His pick for the Tigers is Alburquerque.

Alburquerque has been an important part of the first-place Tigers’ bullpen. The hard-throwing right-hander has an impressive 2.29 ERA with 55 strikeouts and just 18 hits against him in 35 1/3 innings pitched. His fastball plays in the 93-96 mph range, and he has a hard, downward, biting slider that misses bats.

The Phighting Phifty-one-year-old Tony Phillips. Choose your own bizarre angle to this story (with video!), I’ll go with the ‘Tony Phillips is still playing?!‘ perspective.

Did you know that Wilson Betemit is hitting .360 since joining the Tigers last month? With as little as he’s played on this road trip, I’d have guessed it was about 200 points less.

Finally, a Happy 49th Birthday to “Mad Men” star John Slattery. And we can’t forget to mention the 82nd birthday of actor Pat Harrington who played Schneider in the unwatchable 1970s sitcom “One Day at a Time.”

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.

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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.