Game 13: Tigers thrive with two strikes … sort of

Only five times since 1916 have the Tigers won a game striking out more times than they did Tuesday night in Seattle, where the Mariners fanned them 16 times. From baseball-reference:

Rk Date Tm Opp Rslt PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB IBB SO LOB
1 1991-08-08 DET TOR W 4-0 60 50 4 9 2 0 2 4 9 1 21 14
2 1974-08-20 DET CAL W 1-0 41 36 1 4 0 0 0 1 5 0 19 7
3 1938-10-02 (1) DET CLE W 4-1 42 33 4 7 2 0 0 4 7 0 18 11
4 1997-07-05 DET BAL W 6-5 35 30 6 8 2 0 2 5 5 1 17 5
5 1996-09-06 DET BAL W 5-4 46 42 5 10 0 0 2 5 3 0 17 5
6 2013-04-16 DET SEA W 6-2 43 39 6 12 2 1 1 6 4 1 16 10
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 4/17/2013.

And yet, the Tigers pretty much beat the Mariners on two-strike damage. Austin Jackson battled out of an 0-2 count to lead off the game with a triple on a full count pitch from Aaron Harang. Miguel Cabrera drove him in with a single on an 0-2 pitch. Four innings later, Cabrera put the Tigers back in front by taking a 2-2 pitch several inches off the plate and sending it out to right-center field.

Then in the eighth, Jackson worked out of another 0-2 hole, fouling off three consecutive pitches before shrugging off four straight pitches out of the zone for a bases-loaded walk that arguably put the game out of reach, or at least turned a close game into a game the Tigers commanded.

Jackson was a .135 (19-for-141) hitter after an 0-2 count in 2011. He’s now 4-for-11 with a walk in those same situations.

Jhonny Peralta reached two-strike counts in all five of his plate appearances. He struck out three times, and singled and doubled in the other two.

All that two-strike hitting had an impact beyond the hits and baserunners it produced.

“A lot of times, it wears the pitcher out,” Jim Leyland said. “If he’s making a pretty nasty pitch and hitting it pretty good somewhere or fouling a pitch off to extend the at-bat, that takes its toll on pitchers after a point. I thought Harang was very good. I was impressed.”

The Tigers have a commanding lead in baseball with a .307 batting average, more than 20 points higher than the next-best club. With two strikes, that gap is even bigger. Detroit is batting .274 (68-for-248) with 16 extra-base hits. The next-best two-strike average in the Major Leagues is Minnesota’s .226 clip. They still have just 82 strikeouts, a pretty low total considering.

Moreover, no team has as many hits (12) off of 0-2 pitches.

Play of the game: Watch the replay closely on Miguel Cabrera’s go-ahead two-run homer, and read the reaction, and you can sense the exasperation. He took a pitch well off the plate and sent it out to right-center field, a tough place to hit a ball in a ballpark where it has historically been tough to hit many balls out.

“He did a great job hitting that pitch,” Harang said. “We went back and looked at it and it was four or five inches off the plate. It should have been a ball. So it proves why he’s as good as he is and the fact of … him winning MVP last year.”

Biggest out: By retiring Kelly Shoppach to end the top of the fourth inning, Fister stopped a Mariners rally before it could get out of control. He also got the Tigers offense back onto the field.

Strategy: Remember when not even Prince Fielder was a good enough hitter to keep opponents from walking Miguel Cabrera? He might be now, because after Austin Jackson’s steal of second base on Torii Hunter’s strikeout opened up first base with two outs and Cabrera up, the M’s pitched to Cabrera. He made them pay with an RBI single.

Line of the day: Cabrera went 3-for-5 with four RBIs and a run scored.

Print it: “Verlander told me it was a good pitch, but I tell him I like that pitch, because it’s down and away. If it’s down and inside, that’s a good pitch for me, but down and away, that’s where I like it to be. I can extend my arms. I’ve got more extension to the ball right there.” — Cabrera on the Aaron Harang pitch outside that he hit out

31 Comments

So pretty much Miggy is good with the ball just about anywhere? Funny!

During spring training I heard Al Kaline say Miguel Cabrera was one of the greatest hitters he’s ever seen. What else needs to be said.

Wonder when the media is going to start asking Avila some “hardball” questions? (Meaning questions about himself, why he isn’t hitting; why he looks lost at the plate, etc) He seems to be a favourite target of media looking for pleasant observations of his teammates’ abilities.

Made an attempt to stay up for the game, made it through the 7th and hoped the pen would keep the lead. I love how Fister took control after giving up those couple of runs, thought we might be headed for a no-hitter then suddenly he was being hit left and right. Nice HR by Miggy and AJax continues to impress. Nice to see the box shows AlAl and Benoit did their jobs last night – good all around win for our boys

By the way Jason, I like these recap posts you have been doing!

Just a piece of fun business I’ll share. If you were up late enough, you may have heard Michael Morse’s walkup music in the 9th. It was “Take on Me” which is the “hit” song from A-Ha in the 1980s. Morse had this song last year in Washington and the people in attendance began to sing along with it. The final notes of each chorus are so high that it sounds like 40,000 cats with their tails caught beneath a rocking chair. It was so goofy that it took hold and now they play it at Nationals Park for the 7th innning stretch. The sound guy cuts it off so that the final screeching “In a day or twoooooooooooo” is sung by everyone acapella. It’s silly but a fun new tradition for a relatively new franchise in town. And it seemed to lead to many rallies last year.

that is funny, I will have to look for that

It was good to play a team that did not try to grind its way into the Tigers’ pen. Even though grinding can wear on a pitcher, as Jason pointed out that can be risky business for hitters because their averages dip so much with deeper unfavorable counts.

Let me rephrase that: Even though grinding can wear on a pitcher, it can be risky business for hitters. As Jason pointed out, averages dip with deeper unfavorable counts.

Yup, Miggy’s HR was classic. The pitch before was in the dirt and I swear he almost picked it up with his hand (Hunter was on base so that would have been a no-no). The ump said something to Miggy, he laughed, stepped in the batter’s box and ripped a good pitch to the CF seats. And it turned a 2-1 game to a 3-2 game….. MVP. Just amazing to watch.

I noticed that too – the announcers did not say anything so I thought maybe I did not see it right

Just a note about the upcoming series with the Angels. Their rotation is looking more and more suspect. The local press is already speculating Scioscia may not last the year.

good point richard. And this goes back to something someone else said – it’s not who you play but when you play them. the 2013 Blue Jays and Angels are teams i want no part of when they are playing well.

lots of talk about doug’s fastball velocity this season. Well yesterday doug threw 51 2 seam fastballs (he threw 2, 4 seam fastballs) with a maximum velocity of 92.59mph and average velocity of 89.91mph.

Location, location,location.

well yea sure but i was speaking to his armspeed appearing to become more like his normal armspeed

Felix Hernandez – guy is a beast — holds the tigers to less than 3 runs a game. With that said, this tigers offense is a little different this time. A) Torii has faced Felix like double as many times as the next Tiger (74 times….2nd most is 31). Torii boasts a 739 OPS against Felix – which is probably a good number against Felix. B) Victor’s back! Victor has faced Felix 22 times and has pretty good numbers off him at a .854 OPS and even an two intentional walks given to victor. C) Prince. Prince has only seen Felix 1 game last year – and we know unfamiliarity benefits the pitcher.
.
Lets take this series TONIGHT!

i.e. prince never seen felix until last year and had 1 walk and 1 SO.

Clutch: 107 out of 323 HR to go ahead.31 tying

who? the tigers?

Miguel Cabrera for his career

niiiice

That is an interesting take and speaks to a general offensive approach. I think the Tigers’ pen situation is cause for the opposition to develop a more specific strategy to elevate pitch counts, particularly with dominant pitchers like Max and JV.

Yes, location, location , location Does velocity not count? Does movement not matter? Is separation not important? And finally, does the same guy with the same stuff but better juice presumably not have a better potential for success?

all are important and key ingredients in the art of pitching

In other words, why would anyone not want the same Fister, but with a heater 3mph faster? Like the 2011 Fister.

That was not for an entire season in 2011. And ever consider his subsequent injuries may have come from overthrowing the fastball? I’m happy with the Fister we have.

I think we are all happy with the Fister we have, but the Fister of 2011 had a velocity spike that led to an 8-1 record and 1.79 ERA with the Tigers. He also had a 3.33 ERA with the Mariners prior to his arrival. I fail to understand the evident opposition to the FanGraphs’ position on Fister. I know I bought into their analysis. And like I said, I panic when Fister does not look like Fister. Not only because he is a Tiger but because he is an alum from where one of my kids played college ball and there is sort of a special loyalty due to that.

And I guess maybe because my kid was also drafted by the Mariners and I still like to see their prospects succeed..

Richard, your kid was drafted by the Mariners? How cool is that!

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