October 2009

Tigers get bulletin board material

There’s a bulletin board on the inside of the door to the visiting clubhouse at the Metrodome. On most days, that’s where the lineup goes. Tuesday, that’s where the Tigers had two clips of the quote Twins speedster Denard Span gave to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“I don’t want to say they’ve choked,” Span said. “But, yeah, they have choked. They’ve choked a little bit, but they have the opportunity to not choke, I guess.”

A yellow highlight marker ran through it, just in case anybody still might’ve missed it.

That’s not to say the Tigers deny they were in the driver’s seat. To some, they still are. But a team needing a spark before Sunday might’ve gotten another one.

Game 163: Tigers at Twins

Though speculation was rampant whether Miguel Cabrera would play, he’s in the lineup in his usual spot. He actually looked pretty relaxed after talking with reporters real briefly once the clubhouse opened.

As Jim Leyland had suggested, he put Ryan Raburn in the starting lineup for this tiebreaker game, batting him sixth and starting him in left field. Carlos Guillen is still in the lineup, but he’s the DH. Aubrey Huff is a pinch-hitter for this one.

Though Raburn’s bat would’ve been tough to sit for this one, especially against a pitcher (Scott Baker) who gives up a higher average to right-handed hitters than left-handed ones. It’s his first start against a righty since August.

TIGERS

  1. Curtis Granderson, CF
  2. Placido Polanco, 2B
  3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Carlos Guillen, DH
  6. Ryan Raburn, LF
  7. Brandon Inge, 3B
  8. Gerald Laird, C
  9. Ramon Santiago, SS

P: Rick Porcello

TWINS

  1. Denard Span, CF
  2. Orlando Cabrera, SS
  3. Joe Mauer, C
  4. Jason Kubel, RF
  5. Michael Cuddyer, 1B
  6. Delmon Young, LF
  7. Jose Morales, DH
  8. Matt Tolbert, 3B
  9. Nick Punto, 2B

P: Scott Baker

Verlander and the Cy Young award

verlander100409.jpgBefore anyone asks what Verlander’s outing Sunday did for his chances to win the AL Cy Young Award, let’s just answer it now: Probably not much. Votes from BBWAA members are due at the end of the regular season, and it’s a pretty safe bet a lot of voters had either turned in their ballots already or had made up their minds.

That said, for those who held off on their ballots until the last minute, Verlander gave quite a show.

Aside from Zack Greinke earlier in the season, I don’t know how many other pitchers lift their team when they take the mound like Verlander with the Tigers. Sunday was a must-win game, and Verlander absolutely commanded it for seven innings. The Tigers, frankly, felt like a club spiraling out of the playoff race before Sunday. Their hopes rode on Verlander, and he took over.

For whatever reason, the Tigers seem to score runs when he’s on the mound lately, then struggle for much of the rest of the rotation. Verlander, in turn, prides himself on the shutdown inning when his team gives him runs, and paces his game to get his defense off the field and back to the plate.

If that’s a major factor in voting, Verlander has it. But Sunday’s outing also rounded out a statistical resume that no Tigers pitcher since Jack Morris had put together:

  • Verlander’s 19th win of the year tied him for the Major League lead with Adam Wainwright, Felix Hernandez and CC Sabathia. He missed out on becoming the first Tiger since Bill Gullickson to win 20, but he owns the highest single-season total for a Tiger since then.
  • He already had the Major League strikeout title wrapped up, but he finished out his total at 269, eight more than Tim Lincecum and 27 more than his next-closest AL competitor, Greinke. He fell just short of he fourth-highest single-season total for a Tiger, but he still cracked the top 5 with the highest since 1971. He also captured the Tigers’ first strikeout title since Morris in 1983.
  • With the wins title shared, Verlander and Greinke split the triple-crown categories. Verlander beat out Greinke in strikeouts, while Greinke won the ERA title.

Verlander probably won’t win the Cy Young this year. What Greinke did for much of the year was that good. But Sunday made the case that Verlander deserves to be considered in the same sentence, if not even. We’ll see how the votes come down in November.

Sunday: Tigers vs. White Sox

Carlos Guillen will get the start against a left-handed pitcher that he has wanted for a while. He’s the DH today against White Sox southpaw John Danks, with Marcus Thames on the bench. Other than that, it’s the regular Tigers lineup against a lefty.

TIGERS

  1. Raburn, LF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Guillen, DH
  6. Inge, 3B
  7. Granderson, CF
  8. Laird, C
  9. Everett, SS

P: Justin Verlander

WHITE SOX

  1. Scott Podsednik, DH
  2. Gordon Beckham, 3B
  3. Carlos Quentin, LF
  4. Jermaine Dye, RF
  5. Mark Kotsay, 1B
  6. Alex Rios, CF
  7. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  8. Ramon Castro, C
  9. Brent Lillibridge, 2B

P: John Danks

Cabrera struggling, bruised, down stretch

Jason Beck / MLB.com

While the Tigers’ offensive struggles over the last three games aren’t a complete mystery, given Detroit’s troubles scoring runs off and on all season, the struggles of Miguel Cabrera are mysterious. Not only did he go 0-for-4 in Saturday’s 5-1 loss to the White Sox, he didn’t get the ball out of the infield, including a double play to end the eighth inning after the Tigers scored their only run of the game.

Cabrera is now 0-for-11 since his first-inning single off Scott Baker Thursday, and the fact that the Tigers have scored four runs over that span isn’t a coincidence. He has had just two longer hitless streaks this season, and he talked after Friday’s game about needing to put his struggles behind him and focus on hitting Freddy Garcia.

FSN Detroit’s broadcast Saturday night showed Cabrera with bruising on the left side of his face. Cabrera was not around for comment after the game, and others were put in an awkward position when asked about it.

“I didn’t see it, to be honest with you,” manager Jim Leyland said.

Likewise, head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said through a team spokesperson that he had not seen Cabrera.

As for the struggles at the plate, it’s also a mystery.

“I don’t know what’s going on there,” shortstop Adam Everett said. “I’m sure he’ll come out ready to play tomorrow.”

Said third baseman Brandon Inge: “He’s obviously going to be pitched well. He’s a great hitter. It’s hard to speak for him, but I don’t know. It’s kind of strange, because that double play to end the inning, he kind of hit it good. He just hit it down into the ground. If he lifts that ball, oh boy, we have a whole different ballgame going.” 

First pitch around 7:20

A bad-looking rain cell passed barely to the south — and judging from the sky, I mean barely. The grounds crew waited it out just in case, and they just removed the tarp a few minutes ago. First pitch is expected around 7:20pm.

Perry, Miner likely key in Saturday's game

Though Jim Leyland is treating this as a starting assignment for rookie Alfredo Figaro, his remarks last night that he would not hesitate to make a change early if Figaro got in trouble essentially made tonight’s game sound like a bullpen start. Leyland said he would probably have Ryan Perry ready early if he had to make a real quick change, then Zach Miner going a little later. Eddie Bonine is available if needed tonight.

Perry has pitched in a lot of different situations this year, but one common denominator down the stretch has been that they’re usually with the Tigers trailing. He has entered with Tigers deficits in 10 of his last 14 games since August 23, and one of the exceptions was a tie. He has pitched with a lead just five times in the last three months, and just three save situations since mid-June. In most of those situations, his job was to keep the Tigers close, rather than mop-up work.

Leyland: Short rest was never a consideration

Depending on what happens tonight with rookie Alfredo Figaro in his first start in three months, the question among more than a few Tigers fans will be why manager Jim Leyland didn’t just stay with his core starters and use either Justin Verlander or Rick Porcello on short rest. After all, Porcello was on schedule to start Saturday anyway until Monday’s rainout pushed back that outing.

According to Leyland, it wasn’t a consideration. Judging from his remarks, their futures beyond this season were the overwhelming consideration.

“I’m not going to pitch Verlander on three days rest, and I’m not going to pitch that kid [Porcello],” Leyland said.

That would be the same decision, Leyland said, even if they were a game back in the race. Wouldn’t happen.

“Not with those two kids. I wouldn’t do it. We’ve got our opportunity. We’ve got enough guys. It’s not the ideal situation having to pitch a rookie like this, but we’ve won two or three big games like this with [Eddie] Bonine pitching.”

Saturday: Tigers vs. White Sox

Leyland hinted that he would look over the lineup for Saturday, but his one change was to flip Carlos Guillen and Aubrey Huff in the fifth and sixth spots.

TIGERS

  1. Curtis Granderson, CF
  2. Placido Polanco, 2B
  3. Magglio Ordonez, RF
  4. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  5. Carlos Guillen, LF
  6. Aubrey Huff, DH
  7. Brandon Inge, 3B
  8. Gerald Laird, C
  9. Adam Everett, SS

P: Alfredo Figaro

WHITE SOX

  1. Scott Podsednik, CF
  2. Gordon Beckham, 3B
  3. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  4. Paul Konerko, DH
  5. Carlos Quentin, LF
  6. Mark Kotsay, 1B
  7. Alex Rios, RF
  8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  9. Brent Lillibridge, 2B

P: Freddy Garcia

Friday: Tigers vs. White Sox

Let’s be honest: If Jake Peavy, this batting order might well be irrelevant. But for what it’s worth, it’s pretty much the same lineup that the Tigers had against Peavy last Friday, except with Laird catching rather than Avila because Jackson is pitching for Detroit. The hope, obviously, is that having seen Peavy once will at least let hitters know what to expect.

TIGERS

  1. Granderson, CF
  2. Polanco, 2B
  3. Ordonez, RF
  4. Cabrera, 1B
  5. Huff, DH
  6. Guillen, LF
  7. Inge, 3B
  8. Laird, C
  9. Santiago, SS

P: Edwin Jackson

WHITE SOX

  1. Scott Podsednik, CF
  2. Gordon Beckham, 3B
  3. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  4. Paul Konerko, DH
  5. Jermaine Dye, RF
  6. Mark Kotsay, 1B
  7. Carlos Quentin, LF
  8. Alexei Ramirez, SS
  9. Brent Lillibridge, 2B

P: Jake Peavy

UMPIRES
HP: Tim Tschida
1B: Mark Carlson
2B: Jeff Nelson
3B: Bob Davidson

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