September 13th, 2012

Tigers-White Sox rained out, makeup game Monday

Justin Verlander is 12-1 against the White Sox over the last four seasons. He cannot beat Mother Nature, no matter how many times he tries.

A storm system that had been expected to pass through Chicago before Thursday night’s scheduled showdown between the Tigers and White Sox instead crept in just after first pitch, postponing the finale of the four-game series at U.S. Cellular Field.

The rainout sets up one final tilt between the AL Central contenders Monday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. ET. Doug Fister, who beat the White Sox on Tuesday, will make the start opposite Gavin Floyd, who took the loss Wednesday. The game will be televised in Michigan and Northwest Ohio on Fox Sports Detroit.

Instead of facing the White Sox, Verlander has been pushed back to Friday’s series opener in Cleveland opposite Corey Kluber. Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello will face the Indians on Saturday and Sunday afternoon, respectively.

For Verlander, it’ll be a rematch of his game in Cleveland in July, when the Indians scored four runs in the seventh to turn a Verlander gem into a Tigers loss in the rubber match of a three-game series.

That loss knocked the Tigers out of a first-place tie atop the American League Central and started them on a skid of five losses in six games. Detroit has held a share of first place for only one day since then, and that came after Verlander beat Chris Sale Sept. 2 at Comerica Park.

Since this week was supposed to be the Tigers’ final trip to Chicago this season, Major League Baseball, not the White Sox, was in charge of making the call on Thursday’s game. Though it wasn’t actually raining at the originally scheduled first-pitch time of 8:10 p.m. ET, the line of storms was close enough that they waited it out, rather than risk losing Verlander and Sale after one or two innings.

As it turned out, the rain was steady enough that they couldn’t have played through it without some serious problems to the infield and mound. Detroit went through those problems in Boston on July 31, and it left them with a rain-shortened loss once umpires called for the tarp with the Tigers rallying.

So for now, the Tigers remain a game behind the White Sox in the AL Central standings, and they’ll have to find a way to beat Floyd again.

“I thought Floyd [Wednesday] night, for the first three innings, was the best I ever saw him,” Leyland said Thursday afternoon. “Oh man, he was nasty. For the first three innings, I thought, ‘Oh my god.”

Thursday’s lineup: Tigers at White Sox

Jim Leyland said Wednesday he was probably going to start Delmon Young in left field rather than put Avisail Garcia in left, a spot he hasn’t played much, on the road. Whether it’s the weather conditions or an easier setup to pinch-hit with Dirks or the misadventures Young has had here before, Leyland changed course and moved Garcia, who will start in left for the first time in his pro career.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Omar Infante, 2B
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (1-for-9, 3 K’s off Sale)
  5. Delmon Young, DH (3-run HR off Sale Sept. 2)
  6. Jhonny Peralta, SS
  7. Avisail Garcia, LF
  8. Brennan Boesch, RF (2-for-8, 2 HR, 5 K’s off Sale)
  9. Gerald Laird, C (3-for-5, HR off Sale)

P: Justin Verlander

WHITE SOX

  1. Alejandro De Aza, LF (3-for-7, 2 HR off Verlander this year)
  2. Kevin Youkilis, 3B (1-for-12, 6 K’s off Verlander this year)
  3. Dewayne Wise, CF (7-for-19 off Verlander)
  4. Paul Konerko, 1B (9-for-55, 16 K’s off Verlander)
  5. Alex Rios, RF
  6. A.J. Pierzynski, C
  7. Dayan Viciedo, DH (0-for-9, 3 K’s off Verlander)
  8. Alexei Ramirez, SS (11-for-50 off Verlander)
  9. Gordon Beckham, 2B

P: Chris Sale

Scherzer proves stingy again

You can take your pick for your favorite Max Scherzer outing this season. Most folks will point to his 15-strikeout gem against the Pirates on May 20. Others will remind you about his eight scoreless innings with 12 strikeouts against the Rockies four weeks later.

Gerald Laird might choose one of those two, but he had a point to make about his last outing last Friday against the Angels, in which he gave up two runs in the opening inning, then shut them down for the next seven, striking out nine and walking none.

“I mean, that was one of those outings where in the past or early on in the year, he was struggling to get through five or six with four runs,” Laird said. “He gave up two and then just mowed from there. He kind of got in his groove and got his confidence going. It was eight innings, two runs that kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win.”

Wednesday night in Chicago was another one of those nights. It’s just that the big test of an inning wasn’t early.

Scherzer gave up one mistake Wednesday, a fourth-inning slider that caught too much of the plate before it caught Kevin Youkilis’ home-run swing for a 1-0 White Sox lead. However, Scherzer did not give up the big inning to go with it. He came close, going to three full counts. Only Paul Konerko reached base out of it, getting a two-out single, before Scherzer stranded him by retiring Alex Rios.

Scherzer went to five full counts in his six innings, one big reason his pitch count climbed to 115 and his exit came one inning less than Leyland would’ve liked. Konerko’s single made him the only baserunner that came out of it.

Scherzer wasn’t happy about going to the full counts in the first place. He was happy to keep it at that.

“I think there were numerous times when it was 3-2 and I was still able to throw the changeup for a strike and collect an out in that situation,” Scherzer said. “When I can do that for the team, that’s usually when we get good results.”

His two big full-count outs around Youkilis’ home run both came on changeups, a pitch he indicated he had tweaked a bit.

“His command wasn’t very good today compared to his other starts, as far as quality strikes,” catcher Alex Avila said. “I think he would tell you that he struggled today falling behind guys, a lot more than he has been. At the same time, his stuff is so good that he can pitch in the middle of the plate sometimes and get away with it. But it’s tremendous concentration when he’s got three balls on a guy to be able to make a quality pitch.”

As good as Scherzer’s pitching has been for the past few months — he’s now 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 14 starts, allowing just 75 hits over 92 1/3 innings with 113 strikeouts — his September stretch is a different kind of effective. He has gone 19 innings since his last walk, a third-inning pass to Dewayne Wise in Comerica Park Sept. 1. He hadn’t gone back-to-back outings without a walk since July of last season, a 20 2/3-inning stretch with the All-Star break in between. He proved stingy with walks the following month, but gave up too much damage on hits.

These days, hitters aren’t producing much damage on him at all.

“He made one mistake and that the home run,” White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said. “Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot that we did off him. When he throws over the plate, he’s tough and he’s been doing that for a few months now. That’s why his record is what it is and his strikeout numbers are what they are and everything is just there.”

 

Dombrowski holds out hope for Tigers

What began as a couple questions about the Tigers’ 2013 schedule turned into a wide-ranging interview team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski conducted with reporters Wednesday afternoon. In it, he pretty much agreed that Detroit’s offensive struggles have been confounding to him, but he held out hope that it could break out at a time the Tigers need runs most.

“We’ve been very inconsistent so far,” Dombrowski said. “But as I’ve said before, we have the chance to make this a very good year or a very disappointing year. It’s not over yet. We’ll see which way it goes. I’m still hopeful and think it can be a very good year.”

Dombrowski had a couple terms to describe his team’s offensive inconsistencies. Bewildering was one. Streaky was another.

“Maybe you people are wiser than me, but if you would have said to me that we would lose in consecutive fashion 2-1, 2-1, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, I think almost anybody in Major League Baseball would say there’s no way,” Dombrowski said. “And that’s what our totals were for a number of losses we had in a row. But things happen. It’s a strange game. I’ve been with clubs that have been very good hitting clubs that have gone through stretches in which they haven’t swung the bats very well and all of a sudden they come busting out. I’ve been with some clubs in Montreal in Florida — and I’m talking clubs with some Hall of Fame hitters on them — and all of a sudden they’re not scoring runs for a lengthy period and all of a sudden, boom, here they come.

“That’s what’s so interesting about the game, because all of a sudden, you just never know. It may be tonight. It might have been last night that starts it. It might not be. I don’t know. You just don’t know. But I know we’re a better offensive club.”

Those comments came before Prince Fielder’s three-run home run paced an offensive breakout in an 8-6 Tigers win over the White Sox, whittling their deficit in the AL Central standings to one game with a chance to move into a tie Thursday night.

“This club has been bewildering in that we haven’t hit on a consistent basis,” Dombrowski said. “But we can hit. So for whatever reason, it’s been streaky. But just when you think it’s at its lowest moment, all of a sudden we start to swing the bats. And hopefully that will be the case. I know they continue to work at it. [Hitting coach] Lloyd McLendon continues to work at it with the guys on a daily basis. And the one thing we have done, we have pitched very well. Usually when you pitch very well, it usually ends up being good for you. So let’s hope that it ends up being good for you, because we’ve got a lot of guys who are throwing the ball really well right now — starters and bullpen.”

A selection of Dombrowski quotes on other topics:

On the abundance of contending teams under the new postseason picture this year: “It’s healthy for the game that everybody’s competing. The other thing we talked about yesterday, if you get in, anything can happen, because we’re so closely bunched nowadays. There’s not — I don’t think, when you go in there — one club that you say, ‘Wow, that club is so dominant that it’s going to be an upset for anybody to beat them.’ There’ll be favorites in every series, but there’s nobody. What happens if the Phillies sneak in? They’re only going to be a little over .500 if they get there, unless they win all the rest of their games. If they sneak in and win their first game, all of a sudden you’re facing Hamels, Halladay and Lee, I don’t think you’re sitting back saying, ‘Wow, this is an easy series.’

“Usually you’re a clear-cut favorite if you have dominating starting pitching, or if you have a lineup that just thumps so much more and it can get good pitching. I don’t see any team that’s just dominant.”

Comparing the success of the Oakland Athletics: “That’s why managing large payrolls is such a great exercise, because now I’ve been at both. I’ve been here for a while. My first 15 years I was in the game, was with a payroll that was in the upper half one time. We had some clubs that were very competitive. The thing is that there are times when you have a low payroll, you just have to say no. So when you have a tough question for signing guys to long-term contracts to big dollars, that may push them at the point that you know the last couple years may not be as productive, you don’t say, ‘Well maybe I can do this.’ There’s one answer: No. Not, ‘Can I …’ No. And sometimes then, if you’re wise, and a lot of guys are wise, you can trade that player for two or three players that are just on the verge of stepping in. And there’s been some clubs that have done that, and it’s a wise move.”

“The reality is, sometimes those guys are smarter that are making the trades. Look at Oakland, what they did this past winter. I remember everybody was writing, ‘Oh look at them, they’re folding a tent.’ We didn’t think that, because the guys they kept getting, we kept saying, ‘Wow, they’re getting some good players.’ And when they called us about [Gio] Gonzalez and the guys that we were going to trade, we said, ‘Well, they’re asking for the right guys.’ And if they had gotten those guys, they would’ve been very productive too. And so, it’s amazing they’re doing a good job, and I think clubs have become better at that, most clubs — maybe not all clubs, but most clubs. The clubs that are acquiring the talent have become better at identifying players through their scouting — not all, but most of them.”

On the Tigers ending next season in Miami with Interleague Play: “I knew that somebody was going to get the last week. I prefer it not be us, but somebody was going to get it. That’s it. It all equals out. You play the same number of games in that regard.”

On reconciling Interleague Play in September with September call-ups: “Well, you know that when all this happened, there’s going to be some inherent situations that are not going to be fair. I mean, that’s just the way it is, because if you’re going to play Interleague Play all year long, ideally if you’re an American League team, you don’t want to be playing that later in the year. Also, if you’re a National League team, if you’re going to play it, you’d prefer to play it at the end of the year. The reason I say that is because you can play your roster in September, so you’re not tied to the same 25-man [roster], unless they change that rule. You can go ahead and add somebody, even if they’re not eligible for the postseason, in September that can be a DH. Now that’s unfair to some National League teams, because if you’ve got [Interleague games] early and you don’t have them late, well you don’t have that same advantage.”

On the potential for changing the rules on September call-ups: “We have had that discussion for years now. I think a lot of people share that feeling. For whatever reason, it’s never been passed and I’m not privy to those final conversations. I think a lot of it had to deal with you have to negotiate, you have to be in a position where the Players Association has to favor it. I think it’s finally starting to get more attention, but we’ve had that conversation for over 10 years. It’s actually called the Doug Melvin Rule among the general managers.”

On the feedback he hears from fans: “You know what? That’s great. That’s passionate fans. I mean, the number of letters I get on a daily basis from people that want us to trade this guy or get rid of that guy or why are doing this, why are we doing that, they’re passionate. I never have a problem with that. Now, if somebody’s vulgar or somebody oversteps the bounds, and once in a while you get one of those, I don’t think there’s any place for that. People write in on a passionate basis, and I bet you there’s a handful of people I get a letter from every single day. Sometimes when I get them I tell them, ‘Why are you writing to me? Write to the player or write to the manager or something. That’s not my decision.’ But I get them and it’s great. I don’t have a problem with it.”

On the emergence of new media and new modes of feedback: “Well, you make trades sometimes by texting. I mean, most of the deal we did with the Marlins [for Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez] was by texting, this last one. Now, I basically feel that I’m in a position where I need to learn that, because it’s my responsibility. If I want to stay contemporary, you need to do what is comtemporary. I feel it’s incumbent upon me in my position, because part of your job is communication. And if part of the world is communicating by texting, and I’m not, then that’s not good. So I’ve had to learn how to do it. It’s still not my favorite form of communication, but I do it. I’d rather talk to a lot of people. My son sends me five texts and I say, ‘Why don’t you just call me? We can get this done in one minute.’ By the time I get it, it takes me a long time to text.”

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