Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Game 158 Recap

Another big game, another big win for the Tigers. The 2009 Tigers, exactly the opposite of the 2008 version.

Eddie Bonine, the September call-up, the 4 option for a starter behind Jarrod Washburn, Armando Galarraga, and Nate Robertson, had himself another great game on the mound for the Tigers tonight. His 3rd start in September (4th of the year 9th of his career) was the magic one, as Bonine picked up his first career win. It wasn't easy though, as the Twins had him on the ropes in the first. Down 2-0 with the bases loaded, Bonine got a huge play from Placido Polanco to turn a double play and end the inning. He allowed only 4 more Twins to reach base in the next four innings and had himself another great start in a pressure packed situation.

Last time out Bonine was out of luck as he drew Jake Peavy to try to outpitch. This time he went up against a guy that had been pitching like a Cy Young winner against the Tigers. This time they figured him out. It all started with a pair of singles from Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez. Carlos Guillen drew a five pitch walk and the bases were loaded for Brandon Inge. Inge continued his hot hitting from yesterday, by driving a double to the gap in left center which brought in two. Ramon Santiago drove in Inge and Guillen with a single to center and the Tigers took the lead and never looked back.

The Tigers had the bases loaded again in the 5th. Miguel Cabrera at the bat, one pitch weak pop out. Here we go squandering again, right? Wrong. Magglio Ordonez took his first pitch and drove it deeper in the same part of the field that Inge's when for a bases clearing double, making the game 7-2. Zach Miner took over for Bonine, and while he wasn't as dominant as he was yesterday afternoon, he didn't allow a run to score in 2.1 innings pitched. Brandon Lyon bounced back from his wild performance yesterday (Closer mentality...hint, hint Mr. Dombrowski) as he struck out both batters he faced with runners at 1st and 2nd to end the 8th. Fernando Rodney showed he can in fact pitch a 1-2-3 inning to end the game.

A fact blurbed on "Baseball Tonight", no team has ever come back from 3 games back with 4 to go. The Tigers win tomorrow and they win the AL Central for the first time. Go do it Tigers.

Tigers 7 Twins 2
W: Bonine (1-1)
L: Pavano (13-12)

Tigers Record
W - L
85 - 73
1st Place AL Central (3 games ahead of Minnesota)


Games 156 & 157

I spent all of the first game, trapped at work and wearing down my phone's battery for updates. After Lyon's performance my phone was almost the third wild pitch of the afternoon. As if the stress of month-end wasn't enough, the work day ended with the Tigers clinging on to a minuscule one game lead in the AL Central.

I spent most of the second game vomiting uncontrollably. It could of been from the fish I had at lunch. But more than likely it was caused by Nick Punto.

All in all yesterday was two games that kicked started my emotions into playoff mode. I nervous, agitated, surly, and I love it.

Tonight, dual Tiger killers are in effect. Carl Pavano is on the mound and the game is on ESPN. Maybe they will cancel each other out. And I think karma owes Eddie Bonine his first win anyway.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Game 153 Recap

Down 5-0 after four innings, and only one hit to show for their efforts. Same old Tigers, right?


After 4 innings of domination the Tigers figured out Freddy Garcia. It started with a Miguel Cabrera solo home run. 5-1. Miggy struck again with a 2 run single in the 6th, 5-3. Then in the 7th the Tigers broke it open. With Carlos Guillen and Gerald Laird aboard, Adam Everett singled, 5-4. Then Curtis Granderson singled, 5-5. Placido Polanco, single, 6-5. Magglio Ordonez (now hitting .297 by the way), single 7-4. The Tigers never looked back. They added 5 more runs over the next two innings on their way to a 12-5 victory.

Ozzie Guillen will be grumpy tonight, and that warms my heart.

This is why the Tigers are going to the playoffs. Yes, I know there are 8 games left and the lead is "only" 2. The bottom line is when this Tiger team absolutely, positively needs to win, they do it. Worst case scenario, the Twins come into town behind only one game. They will not lose that series. Still, I would not be opposed to a 3 game lead when that series start. Go Zack Greinke!!!

Tigers 12 White Sox 5
W: Figaro (2-1)
L: Garcia (2-4)

Tigers Record
W - L
83 - 71
1st Place AL Central (2 games ahead of Minnesota)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Game 151

Now that's a little bit more like it. It's about time this first place Tiger team, treated a last place team like they are supposed to. And for one Tiger hitters attacked a struggling pitcher instead of making him look like a Cy Young candidate.

Justin Masterson faced the Tigers back on August 1st. He pitched 3 scoreless innings and gave up only 2 hits. In the first four batters he faced tonight he gave up 3 hits and allowed a run to score. The Tigers scored four runs in the first which would turn out to be enough to win the game, but thankfully they didn't stop there. Every Tiger starter recorded at least one hit, with most of the damage done by the Venezuelan Power Station of Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Guillen. Miggy went 2 for 4 with 3 RBI, and Carlos was 3 for 4 with 2 home runs which helped him drive in 4. 11 runs on 15 hits, makes for a pretty enjoyable night watching the Tigers.

Rick Porcello was spotted 4 runs, before he took the mound. He seemed eager to give those runs right back as he loaded the bases on two hits and a walk after recording the first out. A Travis Hafner ground ball scored a run, but got an out. And Luis Valbuena hit a ground ball of his own to end the inning with Porcello relatively unscathed. He would go one to give up 4 more hits and walk two, but there were no runs scored and he was pulled after the 5th with the game well in hand at 9-1.

As for the bullpen it was a tale of two innings for Ryan Perry. He took over in the 6th and struck out the side. In the 7th he gave up two runs on two hits and a walk. Zach Miner, Jeremy Bonderman, and Fu-Te Ni combined to close out the game with little resistance from the Indians.

Tomorrow, Justin Verlander is on the mound, and the Tigers have a chance to break out the brooms and pick up a half game on the idle Twins. Unfortunately the Twins did some sweeping of their own closing out a sweep of the White Sox tonight. I can only hope the Sox will be as welcoming as they were to the Twins, and as the Indians have been so far to the Tigers.

Tigers 11 Indians 3
W: Porcello (14-9)
L: Masterson (4-9)

Tigers Record
W - L
81 - 70
1st Place AL Central (2.5 games ahead of Minnesota)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Game 150 Recap

Remain calm...ALL IS WELL!!!!!!!!!

Little crazy around here, with work, family obligations, and that whole widespread flooding of northern Georgia thing. When I last left the Tigers they were 4.5 games ahead of Minnesota, then all Hell broke loose and the Tigers September of 2009 was on the verge of being mentioned in the same breath as the September of the 2007 Mets and other epic collapses. Then Nate Robertson of all people keeps the Tigers from getting swept and possible saves the season.

A Minnesota win and a Tigers off day yesterday cuts the Tiger lead to 2.5 games. Edwin Jackson and his new tip-free delivery took the mound. Edwin was not the Mr. Jackson of the 1st half. He scattered 7 hits and gave up 3 walks. But the most important number, runs, was a big zero. Pitching one both sides seemed to suffer from a questionable strike zone from home plate ump Paul Schrieber. 12 walks in all. A Brandon Lyon bases loaded walk was the only run the Indians could manage. The Tigers were a little luckier with their bats.

Ryan Raburn started the scoring with a solo home run in the third, a few moments removed from gunning down the Indians first attempt at a run with a perfect throw to Gerald Laird from left field. Then nothing until Miguel Cabrera hit a double to left field to drive in a run, and Marcus Thames followed with a sac fly (made possible by a nice slide by Clete Thomas) to give the Tigers a few insurance runs.

In came Fernando Rodney. Pitcher with some control issues. Umpire with a errant grasp on a strike zone. Recipe for disaster right? Nope. 2 quick outs, the obligatory base runner, then a groundout and the game was over. Unfortunately, the White Sox could not cooperate to help the Tigers increase the Central lead, but nonetheless the Tigers are one win closer to the playoffs.

Tigers 3 Indians 1

W: Jackson (13-7)
L: Laffey (7-7)
S: Rodney (34)

Tigers Record
W - L
80 - 70
1st Place AL Central (2.5 games ahead of Minnesota)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thank You Ernie

- You know the life and times of Ernie Harwell could be capsuled I think in two famous quotations, one from a left handed, the New York Yankee pitcher and the other one from a right handed English poet. The Yankee pitcher, Lefty Gomez, once said, "I'd rather be lucky than good. " And the poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, once wrote in his epic poem Ulysses, "I am a part of all that I have met." Well, I know that I'm a lot luckier than I'm good. I've been lucky to broadcast some great events and to broadcast the exploits of some great players.

When I went to Brooklyn in 1948 Jackie Robinson was at the height of his brilliant career. With the Giants I broadcast the debut of Hall of Famer Willie Mays. When I went to Baltimore the great Brooks Robinson came along to replace my good friend George Kell at third base. Kind in my 22 years at Detroit it's been a distinct privilege to watch the day by day consistency of Hall of Famer Al Kaline. Yes, it's lucky that I've been there and I've been at some events too. I want to tell you about one that Ralph mentioned Bobby Thomson's home run October 3rd. I felt a little sorry for my Giant broadcasting partner that day, Russ Hodges. Ole' Russ is going to be stuck on the radio, there were five radio broadcasts and I was gonna' be on coast to coast TV and I thought that I had the plum assignment. Well, as you remember it turned out quite differently. Russ Hodges' record became the most famous sports broadcast of all time, television, no instant replay, no recordings in those days, and only Mrs. Harwell knows that I did the telecast of Bobby Thomson's home run. When I got home that night after the telecast she said to me, she said, ''You know Ernie when they turned the camera on you after that home run I saw you with that stunned look on your face, and the only other time I had ever seen it was when we were married and when the kids were born.”

That other saying, I'm a part of all that I have met, I think that would have to begin with my wonderful parents back in Atlanta when I was a youngster five years old I was tongue tied. They didn't have much money, but they spent what they had sending me to speech teachers to overcome the handicap. I know that a lot of you people who have heard me on the radio probably still think I'm tongue tied, but through the grace of God officially I'm not tongue tied any more. Also I'm a part of the people that I've worked with in baseball that have been so great to me, Mr. Earl Mann of Atlanta, who gave me my first baseball broadcasting job. Mr. Branch Rickey at Brooklyn, Mr. Horace Stoneham of the Giants, Mr. Jerry Hoffberger in Baltimore and my present boss, here's too the greatest ever, Mr. John Fetzer and Mr. Jim Campbell. I'm also a part of the partners that I've worked with and there have been so many great ones, beginning with Red Barber and Connie Desmond at Brooklyn and continuing on to my present partner WJR's Paul Carey.

But most of all, I'm a part of you people out there who have listened to me, because especially you people in Michigan, you Tiger fans, you've given me so much warmth, so much affection and so much love. I know that this is an award that's supposed to be for my contribution to baseball, but let me say this I've given a lot less to baseball than it's given to me and the greatest gift that I received from baseball is the way that the people in the game have responded to me with their warmth and with their friendship. Yes, it's better to be lucky than good and I'm glad that I'm a part of all that I have met. We're all here with a common bond today. I think we're all here because we love baseball.

Back in 1955, Ralph referred to this, I sat down and wrote a little definition of baseball to express my feelings about this greatest game of all. And I know that a lot of things have changed since then. Especially in this strike filled year but my feelings about the game are still the same as they were back then and I think that maybe yours are too. And I'd like to close out my remarks for the next couple of minutes with your indulgence to see if your definition of baseball agrees with mine.

Baseball is the President tossing out the first ball of the season and a scrubby schoolboy playing catch with his dad on a Mississippi farm. A tall, thin old man waving a scorecard from the corner of his dugout. That's baseball. And so is the big, fat guy with a bulbous nose running home one of his 714 home runs.

There's a man in Mobile who remembers that Honus Wagner hit a triple in Pittsburgh forty-six years ago. That's baseball. So is the scout reporting that a sixteen year old pitcher in Cheyenne is a coming Walter Johnson. Baseball is a spirited race of man against man, reflex against reflex. A game of inches. Every skill is measured. Every heroic, every failing is seen and cheered, or booed. And then becomes a statistic.

In baseball democracy shines its clearest. The only race that matters is the race to the bag. The creed is the rulebook. Color merely something to distinguish one team's uniform from another.

Baseball is a rookie. His experience no bigger than the lump in his throat as he begins fulfillment of his dream. It's a veteran too, a tired old man of thirty-five hoping that those aching muscles can pull him through another sweltering August and September. Nicknames are baseball, names like Zeke and Pie and Kiki and Home Run and Cracker and Dizzy and Dazzy.

Baseball is the cool, clear eyes of Rogers Hornsby. The flashing spikes of Ty Cobb, an over aged pixie named Rabbit Marranville.

Baseball just a came as simple as a ball and bat. Yet, as complex as the American spirit it symbolizes. A sport, a business and sometimes almost even a religion.

Why the fairy tale of Willie Mays making a brilliant World's Series catch. And then dashing off to play stick ball in the street with his teenage pals. That's baseball. So is the husky voice of a doomed Lou Gerhig saying., "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of this earth.”

Baseball is cigar smoke, hot roasted peanuts, The Sporting News, ladies day, "Down in Front", Take Me Out To The Ballgame, and the Star Spangled Banner.

Baseball is a tongue tied kid from Georgia growing up to be an announcer and praising the Lord for showing him the way to Cooperstown. This is a game for America. Still a game for America, this baseball! Thank you.

- From Ernie Harwell's Hall of Fame induction speech August 2nd, 1981

Thursday, September 10, 2009

3 Up and 3 Down

Back in town, fully rested after a lot of driving on a long weekend that seemed way to short. So how did the Tigers do?

The weekend was very good. A sweep over the defending AL champions, the Tampa Bay Rays. Home runs were hit, games were exciting, balls were chucked at reporters. In hindsight, maybe that wasn't so impressive, as Tampa has dropped 11 of it's last 14. The three straight come from behind victories might have lulled the Tigers into a false sense of security.

The last place Kansas City Royals, are doing what they did in 2006. Making the September of the Detroit Tigers a little less fun. Maybe it was the Curse of Marc Lancaster for Fernando's throw. The magic created against the Tampa bullpen, was left in Florida as the Tigers were only able to score 3 runs in 11.1 innings against the vaunted Royal bullpen. Bruce Chen was the only Royal the Tigers were able tear up, of course that is a feeling than many of team have felt.

So all in all a .500 road trip. While the result is not at all half bad, the way they got to it was kind of disappointing. 7 at home and a good change to at least keep the AL central lead the same going into next weekend's huge series in Minnesota.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

9 Things

So a busy past couple of days, personal and professionally, have kept me away. Now a trip up to Michigan for Labor Day weekend will keep me away for another couple of days. So I decided to make an actual non-game recap post of things I've seen or have been on my mind this season. 9 seems like the perfect number for baseball. So here I go in no particular order.

1) While Miguel Cabrera is without a doubt the team MVP. A good case can be made for Placido Polanco. His bat has been below his career averages this year, but when the offense has been clicking Polly's been in the thick of it. In game in which Placido has scored a run, by my count (which may or may not be accurate)the Tigers are 38-12. It seems simple enough. If Polly gets on base, it's a good chance the Tigers win

2) I still cannot figure out why the Twins in second place scare the crap out of me. Maybe it's flashbacks to 2006. Maybe its the fact that the way this team just will not die, is like Michael Myers, Jason Voorhies, and Freddy Krueger rolled into one. Joe Nathan looking human today was a relief, but I wont be able to sleep at night until the Tigers lead in the Central is greater then the amount of games remaining.

3) I didn't except Jarrod Washburn and Aubrey Huff to be a Cy Young candidate and a triple crown threat. But I expected a little bit more than a 6.81 ERA and .145 batting average. Solid Septembers from the both of you, please.

4) One thing about Magglio's contract, and other contract related issues. If the Tigers make the playoffs, and get at least 4 home games and it's paid for. My math figures average ticket price is around $100, times 4 sellouts of 44,000. That's $17.6 million, and that's not including merchandise, parking, etc. I know that it's not that simple and everything isn't pure profit. My point is if the Tigers win, they will make money. The City of Detroit is struggling. Mike Illich is not. If the Tigers win, he will sign the checks with a smile.

5) I've grown a bit weary of constant criticism of fringe players on the team. I've heard way much consternation about Adam Everett's bat. What are you really expecting from someone batting ninth? He's hitting .244, his career average is .245. The same with the fielding stats. Any offense he can provide is great. Yeah the Tigers don't have the world's greatest offense. That really didn't get them far last year.

6) 32 pitchers have recorded at least 10 saves or more in the Major Leagues. No one is perfect, but there are 3 with one blown save. Mariano Rivera, Huston Street, and...wait for it...Fernando Rodney. We all know that if the game's not on the line things can get dicey. Even when the game is on the line things can get dicey. 31 times out of 32 the job has been done. Sure who wouldn't like a guy who does it like Rivera, but those guys are few and far between. Here's a stat to repeat in your head next time Nando takes the mound: No closer has induced more groundouts then Fernando. His 80 edges Chad Qualls by one, in third is Rivera with 69. So have faith when that baserunner reaches, odds are that the double play is coming.

7) I would really like to see Nate Robertson and Armando Galarraga bounce back. Nate had a promising start last Saturday. Armando's final rehab start is in Toledo tomorrow. If both can pitch at a high level, the Tigers could drop one into the rotation and use the other to spell Rick Porcello, or the apparently aching Jarrod Washburn. A healthy, rested starting rotation will go a long way down the stretch and into the playoffs

8) If Jair Jurrgens wasn't traded for Edgar Renteria, he would have been in the Cabrera deal. Let it go people. I for one am happy he's in Atlanta. I've seen him pitch in person as many times down here as I did when he was in Detroit.

9) Meaningful baseball in September. Welcome back. We've missed you. Go ahead make yourself comfortable. We've got a futon you can sleep on. Better yet, I'll take the futon. You're a guest, please stay as long as you like. Those jerks in Chicago don't know how to treat you. And have you been to Minnesota in October? Brrrrr. Stay here, I'll throw a couple brats on the grill. We've got some catching up to do.

So there it you go. Tigers 10 games above .500 and 4.5 ahead in the AL Central on the 2nd day of September. Pretty damn good if you ask me. Everyone have a safe holiday weekend, and I'll see you in about a week. Go Tigers!