Tigers have seen Gray, now must adjust

The Tigers thought they had prepared themselves for A’s rookie Sonny Gray as well as they could before Game 2 of their American League Division Series. They weren’t ready for what they witnessed in person.

“It’s completely different,” utilityman Don Kelly said last week after Gray shut them down. “You can sit there and watch the video as much as you want and try to pick up what he’s trying to do to hitters and figure things out. But then you get in the box.”

Or as Austin Jackson put it, “You go over film as much as you can, but once you get out there, you’re pretty much just trying to see it and hit it.”

As they prepare for Gray in Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, they now have more than scouting reports and video. They now have their own experience, frustrations and all.

“I’m not really sure we liked what we saw,” manager Jim Leyland said Wednesday evening. “It was pretty good. But at least we have seen him now. It does make some difference.”

“With the stuff he was featuring, it certainly does not mean we’re going to be in a comfort zone, but it makes you a little more comfortable, now that you know the action on the ball, the great breaking ball that he has.”

How they work off of that could be the difference in whether the Tigers can pull out an ALDS Game 5 on the road for the third consecutive year. It’ll be a game of adjustments accelerated, and it’s something the Tigers have done in the past.

The way the Tigers’ regular season schedule played out, it wasn’t something they did a lot this year. Six different starting pitchers faced the Tigers twice in a span of two weeks or less this season. Three of them were White Sox thanks to so many second-half series between the two teams.

The Tigers roughed up Cleveland’s Corey Kluber for eight runs over 4 2/3 innings on May 10 at Comerica Park, but saw him deliver a quality start against them in Cleveland 11 days later. Kansas City’s Bruce Chen, by contrast, pitched seven innings of two-run ball at Kauffman Stadium on Sept. 8 before the Tigers plated six runs over 4 2/3 innings against him in his very next start.

The one example with someone they hadn’t seen before came in May. Astros young lefty Dallas Keuchel baffled Tigers hitters for four innings in relief May 2 before wearing down in a four-run rally. Two weeks later, Detroit ruined his start with a four-run second inning.

How the Tigers and Gray adjust, A’s manager Bob Melvin said, is to be determined.

“That’s what starting pitchers always have to do is make adjustments,” Melvin said. “They also saw him two and three times around the lineup during that game. So usually once you see a pitcher once or twice, you have an idea of what he’s going to do to you, but second time around a little more so. He’s able to make adjustments as well and he has very good stuff on top of it.”

In fact, Gray was tougher against the Tigers the longer he pitched. Detroit put three runners on base against him the first time through the order, then three runners the next two times through the lineup combined.

“At some point, yeah, I think we looked a little bit like we were guessing, because it was the first time we faced him,” Cabrera said. “The way he threw the ball, he wasn’t giving us a break to try to figure him out.”

One thing Kelly mentioned about Gray last week that caught him by surprise was the cutting motion on his fastball, making a 94 mph heater seem quicker. Another factor was the arm angle at which Gray delivers from his 5-foot-11 frame.

“He’s not real tall, and those guys when they throw real hard, sometimes it jumps on you,” Kelly said. “And then he’s got his curveball working too. That’s a pretty tough combination.”

The curveball, and Gray’s ability to throw it for strikes, was a big factor Jackson mentioned.

“It was falling off the table,” Jackson said. “He was able to throw it for strikes when he needed to and able to finish guys off with it as well.”

Now they’ve seen it. They’re going to get another look.


Off topic: I didn’t realize how productive an MLB player Juan Pierre was

Melvin making a mistake. ( I think).
It is up t the veteran hitters to teach the rookie a lesson..
They sure need to draw a few walks though. Discipline and selectivity.
Lay off the curve and drill the fastball.


Depends on if he’s throwing the curve for strikes. If he is, it will be a long night.

He threw the fastball twice as much as the curve. he threw the curve for about 60% strikes. There is a huge differential between his fastball and the curve. In fact his changeup, cutter, and slider all all in the upper 80’s. the curve in the lower 80’s. He rarely throws anything but a sinker (same velocity pretty much), fastball and curve.
If it’s off speed–it’s a curve. If a hitter can wait on it, a smart guy like Omar or Hunter can actually drop it down the line..
If he throws it for strikes, he throws it often enough, that a hitter can sit on it at times.

I think the Tigers will do better against him this time around. I’m hoping that game 4 gave them a little confidence and momentum, too. The two things that concern me, is the fact that they don’t give JV run support (especially in game 2), and the bullpen. I’m not sure if Leyland will throw Max back in there or not, but he could be a good option. I’d feel better having him start against Boston, but they have to get there first.

Sanchez should be the starter next Saturday. Scherzer on short rest wont be a good idea. 47 pitches is half a game not a bullpen session

Verlander pitched better than Schezer at Coll in their first appearance. He can do it again.
Jones, Rodney Valverde, Veras,and even Benoit have been grilled for performances like the one from last Tuesday. He did not allow runs with bases loaded, but he loaded the bases.He was bailed out by Reddick. There was no reason not to trust the bullpen. Smyly , Alx2( if not left for too long) an Porcello ( called in the right situation) can do the job.

He sure was bailed out by Reddick El Tigre. You never know about baseball, but sometimes a guy’s number gets drawn as the magnet for frustration and disappointment. Reddick x3 with the 1. missed catch of Victor’s HR (after watching the replay several times, looks like the fan stole the catch…it was close), 2. just missing Jackson’s broken bat single, and 3. the big K on ball 4.
I’m feeling good about tonight maybe just because we’re still alive. Would love to see everyone with the determined warrior face on tonight. Make Gray work hard mentally and physically and wear him down early.

What a matchup tonight!? Are we there yet!!!!?

The Skipper found his edge factor. Kelly smoked two infield singles. He will start game five.

I told y’all he would – in LF for sure!

A really optimistic scenario is JV gets thru the 1st inning under 20 pitches.

I think today would be the day to play Andy Dirks in left and Peralta at short.
JV is not a ground ball pitcher. Strike outs and fly balls. Might see a lot of them.
Peralta has been lucky so far in left. JL is tempting fate by putting him out there

I agree 100%

I agree with your 100% and I’ll raise you another 100%. Somebody is going to need to hit the ball over the fence, and Iggy can come in late.

I am calling for runs on our first inning, I feel we are up to doing that tonight, put the pressure on them the rest of the game. Come on boys!!

With a lot of focus on Jackson, the problems that Torii is having hitting the ball have been somewhat overlooked. He has been killing some rallies and not getting on in front of Miggy. Throw in no power from both Miggy and Biggy and you have an impotent offense to get your lineup rolling.
Torii has to hit,
Miggy is starting to.
Biggy is infuriating. If he can’t pull the ball into the seats as well as Stephen Drew then what good is he? Hitting the ball to left for singles is fine—-if you can do it.
He (and Avila) should simply take advantage of the shift where Dondaldson is playing 50 feet away from the bag at 3rd and slap bunt. If you can’t drive ’em in then at least put your keyster on base.
Same goes for Jackson. You have speed, you aren’t hitting- try something else.
Swinging at 3-0 pitches sure aren’t in order. (That was dumb, JL)
Let’s play like a team and not fall into the trap of status quo and “do what you always do”. Find a way to win the game

My biggest fear is losing because of a managerial mistake. I can’t live with that. I can handle the players not getting it done because it’s a difficult game, but not the manager making a strategic error.

managerial mistakes are easy to see in hindsight, don’t forget that!

I’m not talking about hindsight. I’m talking about moves being made while I (we) scream at the TV not to do it. And you know that.

On a side note my 2 y.o. of the same name is always confused when I start on rants about Leyland in front of him

just relistened to the game 4 for the 2nd time. what a game!!

Chris Iott [sic] has a piece regarding the tigers possibly trading Max this offseason. I am on board with that. What bout you? Furthermore, I think we need to resign Omar and Benoit. If you can trade Fielder, do it too – even if you have to eat part of his contract.

I think the return could be lower than expected. He would be a rental and the window will close without him.
But, his arm is a tickling bomb and he will be a 30 YO FA. How many over 30 YO /20 MM players do you want in your team? If they resign him and extend Miguel , they would be really in the dark side :overspending and old, a combination that worked marvels for the Evil Empire.
I would wait to get the compensation pick.
Benoit?he would be looking for a Valverde like contract. 13 MM/2 but he is older than Valverde when he signed
Omar Infante? 30-36/4 years, the middle point between Scutaro and Martin Prado

My point about Schezer above. I did not like using him as reliever, it was a risk a showed mistrust in the bullpen.And his performance was the usual for Tigers relievers.
And I dont think it would be right to use him in the first game of the ALCS. They have a great rotation and he is not the only good pitcher with the team.

The smiling face was not mine, it was generated by the blog

Game 5 of the ALDS. Been there done that. We won with Verlander on the mound in Oakland just last year. We are trying to be victorious in Game 5 for three years in a row. Can we do it?? Absolutely!!! Just outscore those As by one run!! Go Tigers!!!!

So your stategy is to score more runs than the opposition. Think that will work?

It’s definitely risky, but most bold plans are.

These elimination games are really the only big games all year. Win it for Mr. I. Get him some more home games next week.

“If” I was JL in this game 5 make or break game. My lineup would be:

2B – Infante
RF – Hunter
DH – Cabrera
1B – Fielder
C – Martinez
SS – Peralta
CF – Jackson
LF – Dirks
3B – Kelly

That might be a little too radical of a change though for JL

I like it. Just playing around here, I’d switch Jackson and Dirks to break up the R-L hitters at the bottom.
I will grant that it’s important to have Avila catch this elimination game with JV. Other times, I wish we would have tried Victor a little more.

It’s OK to smile El Tigre!!!
I would not keep Benoit. He has been great but relievers (other than Mariano) have down years. This and his age conspire against him.
Fielder gone improves the team and it’s versatility. It puts Miggy in a better position for him and helps him physically..
Fielder is not a clutch ball player. He needs to hit home runs. If he can’t pop 35 a year then his lack of other skills are not compensated for. Send him to Texas or Colorado where he can hit 40 solo home runs a year.
Peralta and Omar are free agents. I’d let them both go. Very reluctantly on Omar as he is a class act. I don’t think Hernan will be ready but we might have a pleasant surprise with Devon Travis.
Managerial mistakes? We’ll start the game off with one already made. If he can not make a 2nd won we have a good chance to win. If he makes two—I’ll be rooting for Oakland against the BoSox..

Mike. For Leyland that would be a tad more than ‘radical’.
I wouldn’t play Kelly myself. I’d play Avila but if he looks overmatched in his first 2 at bats I would not hesitate to PH for him.
I would start Peralta at short.
No way AJ leads off and gets an extra at bat in my lineup.

Agreed on Jackson. One thing we need next year is a CONSISTENT leadoff hitter. Austin is too streaky. But Jim has hit his centerfielder leadoff for all of his eight years here, whether it’s a good idea or not.
I’d love to trade Prince. I’d even eat some (of Mr. Ilitch’s) money.

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