July 20th, 2006

Moving on …

OK, the Tigers finally showed they can beat the White Sox in a series. Now what?

Some Tigers players were admitting these were big games for their team, but manager Jim Leyland was not. He was thinking past this series, thinking how to keep his team motivated for Oakland this weekend and the nine-game road trip beyond that. As important as the White Sox are on the schedule, winning two out of three accomplishes the primary goal of showing they can beat Chicago. A 5 1/2-game lead doesn’t put the Sox in any big hole, but even if they were down 7 1/2, I don’t think that would’ve put Chicago in dire straits. Losing two out of three would’ve given Chicago some level of confidence, but not any sort of express route to the division lead.

As odd as it looks to describe Oakland as a trap series, that’s really what it feels like in the shadow of this White Sox set. The A’s have had a day off, they’re battling to command the AL West, and they’re the same team that outpitched the Tigers two weeks ago out west. You have Verlander trying to keep the A’s contained for the third time this year, and then you have another national TV game with Zach Miner trying to show he can hit the strike zone again.

Before we get there, so many notes came out of Thursday that there were some I overlooked …

  • Interestingly, Kenny Rogers basically admitted he was spent after six innings today. That’s an incredibly difficult thing for a starting pitcher to tell his manager/coaches, but it shows a lot of faith in the bullpen to pick up where he left off, especially when he’s leaving in a tie game as Rogers did.
  • Rogers said that shot back up the middle hit him right in the glove and popped out. His glove, fortunately, was positioned right in front of his face. His attempt to shovel the ball over to first base wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but at least he kept his head, literally.
  • Here’s the problem when you ask whether the Tigers should go after Shea Hillenbrand: He’s a right-handed hitter, he’s not a big walks guy, and he comes with baggage from Toronto. It might be worth a shot if Dmitri Young wasn’t so close to a return, but right now, I wouldn’t count on any addition until after we see how Dmitri looks at the plate in the Majors for a few games again.
  • I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a sellout crowd for a weekday afternoon game other than opening day or a holiday. It was an electric atmosphere, arguably even moreso than an opening day crowd. Leyland said he has never seen these kinds of crowds over such an extended stretch.
  • Craig Monroe left the game with what was called a sore right hamstring, but it’s possible it was simply a cramp from the hot weather. Keep in mind, he hadn’t played the outfield in a game since July 2, and he did leg out a triple early in the contest.

Monroe vs. A.J.

Sounds like there’s a difference of opinion between the two on just what took place at the plate after Monroe’s grand slam. A.J. Pierzynski last night claimed Monroe apologized to him his next time at bat in the eighth. Monroe said all he did was ask sarcastically if that elbow Pierzynski gave him was really necessary. Those comments, plus Javier Vazquez taking issue with Monroe admiring the home run, set Monroe off a little bit.

"You know what, guys? The bottom line is everybodyin baseball knows that’s A.J.," Monroe said. "Let’s be honest. That’s him. He likes
confrontation. He likes to play this role like he’s so tough. Well, that act is
just tired. It’s just tired."