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Tag: Detroit Tigers

Nice Job, Ace

Having scored just one run over their last two games despite getting solid pitching from the entire staff — even the Meat Tray has allowed just one hit and no runs over his last three outings, spanning 5 1/3 innings — there was still a sense of unease among Yankee fans heading into Tuesday’s matchup against Detroit. Derek Jeter bounced into a double play to stifle a ninth-inning comeback attempt. The Yankees, as has been the case for what seems like the past 15 years, continue to make pitchers they’ve never faced before look like a combination of Sandy Koufax and Bob Gibson. Andy Pettitte’s timetable for return remains uncertain; first he suffered a setback in a simulated game, then the news of an MRI following his latest bullpen session “basically to set his mind at ease.” A-Rod was out of the lineup due to a strained calf muscle. Lance Berkman’s still on the shelf with the ankle injury suffered in Kansas City.

And oh yes, there’s that small matter of the Tampa Bay Rays winning two straight while the Yankees lost two in a row, to climb into a first-place tie.

Amid Hope Week, fans were dialing the Batphone.

But the Yankees had two things going for them: 1) They had CC Sabathia, unbeaten in his previous 18 starts at home dating back to last season, on the mound. 2) At least they had faced Justin Verlander before, so there was a chance that their luck would turn, despite their lack of success against him. The fact that he had an ERA of over 7.00 in the first inning was a clue that if the Yankees didn’t get to him early, they might not get to him at all (a point that was beaten senseless by all Yankee commentators, both on TV and radio).

Things didn’t look too good after Austin Jackson yoked CC Sabathia’s first pitch of the game into the left-field seats and then surrendered two loud outs. Curtis Granderson made two tremendous catches to bail him out and minimize the first-inning damage to just one run.

In the bottom half, Brett Gardner (leadoff single) and Derek Jeter (walk), set the table for a two-run inning. The Yankees had a chance to pile on, loading the bases with one out, but Marcus Thames grounded into an inning-ending double play. Granderson’s leadoff home run in the second provided more of a cushion for Sabathia, who cruised through the next five-plus innings, until yielding a solo home run to Brandon Inge in the seventh. After Triple Crown and MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera, there was no one in the Tigers’ lineup to pose a threat to Sabathia. Save for the Tigers’ 13-run explosion on Sunday, they had scored more than four runs in a game only two other times since August 1.

The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, applied constant pressure to Verlander, advancing runners to scoring position in each of the first four innings. They were as patient as Verlander was wild, drawing five walks and forcing him to throw 114 pitches. There was a prevailing sense of uneasiness, however, because the Yankees didn’t capitalize on many of those opportunities. They had chances to blow the game open and did not. The Yankees did manage to eat up Detroit’s middle relief, scoring three runs against Daniel Schlereth — one in the sixth and two in the seventh — but again missed an opportunity to tack on runs in the seventh. With the bases loaded and one out, they only managed to score one run in that situation, courtesy of a Ramiro Peña’s sacrifice fly. The Yankees finished the night 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

A four-run lead heading into the eighth inning is a little more secure these days, with David Robertson and Mariano Rivera teaming up to shut the door. The tandem did just that on Tuesday to preserve the 6-2 victory and keep the Yankees tied with the Rays for first place in the division and the best record in baseball. CC Sabathia became the American League’s first 16-game winner.

Wins aside, Sabathia has to be considered among the frontrunners for the AL Cy Young Award. He’s in the top 10 in seven major pitching categories, has a 2.34 K/BB ratio, 7.08 K/9 ratio, and has already thrown 181 2/3 innings. Perhaps most impressive, CC Sabathia has pitched at least seven innings in 18 of his 26 starts. That’s an ace.

And that’s what we saw Tuesday night.

At some point, opposing managers will learn that keeping a left-hander in to face Robinson Canó means nothing. Canó’s frozen-rope home run in the seventh inning off Schlereth was his 22nd of the season and 12th off a left-hander. He is now slugging .585 versus lefties this season.

Nice move by the Yankees to pay homage to Bobby Thomson, who died Tuesday at the age of 86. Thomson’s “Shot Heard Round The World” on Oct. 3, 1951, put the Giants into the World Series, where the Yankees defeated them 4-2.

2010 Detroit Tigers

There are a lot of interesting stories surrounding the Tigers this year.

Miguel Cabrera, who drew headlines when police were called to break up a domestic dispute that got physical in his home on the morning of his team’s one-game playoff against the Twins last October (a game Detroit lost despite Cabrera’s three-run homer in the third), went to rehab for his alcoholism over the winter and has opened 2010 as one of the majors hottest hitters (.370/.457/.639 with a major league best 33 RBIs).

Dontrelle Willis, who arrived with Cabrera from the Marlins in a trade during the 2007 winter meetings but had been limited to one win in 14 starts over the past two years by leg injuries and mental illness, has emerged from his struggles to lead the rotation in ERA in the early going, though he’s been scratched from his start tonight due to the flu.

Jeremy Bonderman, the former Moneyball draftee who went to the Tigers in the Jeff Weaver/Ted Lilly deal with Carlos Pena, was a part of Detroit’s pennant winning rotation in 2006, but had been limited to three wins in 13 starts over the past two years by the after effects of heavy workloads in his early 20s, is also back in the rotation and pitching effectively. He’ll face Phil Hughes, whose innings limit was surely partially inspired by Bonderman, on Wednesday.

Joel Zumaya, the rookie fireballing relief sensation of the 2006 team who has suffered a variety of arm injuries since, including one stemming from too much Guitar Hero and one suffered while moving his belongings out of the way of the California wildfires of late 2007, is also healthy and dominating out of the pen having struck out 23 men in 18 1/3 innings without allowing a home run or a walk.

Then there’s Austin Jackson, the Yankee center field prospect sent to Detroit in the three-way deal that brought Curtis Granderson to the Bronx. It was widely believed that the 23-year-old Jackson needed a bit more seasoning in Triple-A, but the Tigers made him their Opening Day center fielder and leadoff hitter and he has responded by blowing everyone’s damn minds, leading the league with a .371 average, the majors with 49 hits, and producing a total line of .371/.420/.508 with six steals in seven attempts.

I was a Jackson doubter (his .300/.354/.405 average for Scranton last year looked like a lot of empty batting average, which is performance thus far this year might prove to be as well), but then I doubted Robinson Cano, too (he was, after all, a career .278/.331/.425 hitter in the minors). Sometimes talent and athleticism win out over prior performance, particularly with young players (Cano was 22 when the Yankees installed him at second base), and in Jackson’s case, particularly with a young athlete who had primarily focused on basketball before the Yankees backed a truck full of money up to his house at draft time.

If Jackson is anything close to the player he has appeared to be in the early going this year, the Granderson trade is going to look like a major bust. Remember, it wasn’t only Jackson, but Ian Kennedy, currently sporting a 3.48 ERA and 3.18 K/9 in the Diamondbacks’ rotation, and Phil Coke, who has been a big part of the Tigers major league best bullpen this year, who were dealt for the currently-injured and previously-slumping Granderson.

Seeing Jackson and Johnny Damon start things off for the Tigers while their replacements, Granderson and Nick Johnson languish on the disabled list won’t be much fun for Yankee fans in this series, nor will any game that pivots on the relative abilities of Coke and Boone Logan. Still, it’s important to remember that the Yankees are thisclose to the major league’s best record, while the Tigers are a decidedly average team.


Detroit Tigers II: Aces High

Since their sweep at the hands of the Angels to close the first half, a lot has been made of the Yankees’ struggles this year against potential playoff teams (0-8 vs. Boston, 2-4 vs. Angels, 1-2 vs. Phillies). The exception to that trend is the Detroit Tigers, who dropped two of three to the Yankees in Detroit back in late April. The Tigers have been atop the AL Central since May 10, but, tellingly, can be stung by the same criticism given their 2-7 record against the Red Sox, Yankees, and NL Central leading Cardinals.

The Tigers are a good team, but they’re not a great one. Their offense has been average, their bullpen unexceptional, and their rotation top heavy. That last is the primary reason they’ve lorded over the Central thus far this season. Despite a rough start, 26-year-old Justin Verlander is having his finest major league season having gone 10-2 with a 2.22 ERA dating back to his confrontation with the Yankees and CC Sabathia in late April. Behind him, 25-year-old Edwin Jackson is finally delivering on his prospect promise in his seventh (!) major league season, dropping his walk rate to 2.6 BB/9 and going 8-4 with a 2.26 ERA and 11 quality starts in 12 turns since May 9. Twenty-year-old rookie and Morristown, New Jersey native Rick Porcello has been solid behind those two, but Venezuelan sophomore Armando Galarraga has been inconsistent, and the fifth spot remains unclaimed.

Coming out of the break, the Yankees have the ill fortune to catch both Verlander, who will rematch with CC Sabathia tomorrow, and Jackson, who will face Joba Chamberlain on Sunday. That makes tonight’s game against 23-year-old rookie lefty Lucas French, who is making just his third big-league start, the key to the series for the Yankees. An eighth-round draft pick out of high school in 2004, French seemed to make a leap upon reaching Triple-A this year, posting his best ERA, strikeout, and walk rates since rookie ball. French made two scoreless relief appearances for the big club in mid-May and was recalled at the beginning of July to take over the fifth spot in the rotation. After a short, but solid start against the Twins, he beat Zack Greinke and the Royals his last time out by limiting Kansas City a solo homer and five other harmless hits in six innings. That was impressive, but facing the Yankees in the new Yankee Stadium will be a much better test.

The offense behind French has a slightly different look than it had when the Yankees were in Detroit in April. Most notably, a .260/.330/.343 performance has cost 2007 batting champion Magglio Ordoñez the bulk of his playing time. He’s now the short side of a right-field platoon with 25-year-old sophomore Clete Thomas (.265/.339/.500 against major league righties this year). Similarly, Josh Anderson’s glove has proven unable to sustain his bat in left field, resulting in increased playing time for backup Ryan Raburn (.269/.346/.496 on the season). The eternally fragile Carlos Guillen is back on the DL and has yielded his DH spot to power-hitting ex-Yankee Marcus Thames, who hit .344 with four homers in his last eight games before the break. Meanwhile, three pillars of the offense this year have been Miguel Cabrera (of course), Curtis Granderson (still struggling against lefties at .194/.282/.291, but plenty dangerous against righties), and, much to my amazement, Brandon Inge, who has never posted an OPS over .780 before but is having a career year at age 32, hitting .268/.360/.515 with 21 homers and 58 RBIs (against career highs of 27 and 83, both from 2006).

A.J. Burnett will reopen the second half against the dangerous version of Granderson tonight hoping to keep his pre-break hot streak alive. A.J. has posted a 1.34 ERA over his last five starts, all of which lasted at least 19 outs. The Yankee offense behind him has Hideki Matsui batting fifth followed by Jorge Posada, Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher, and center fielder Melky Cabrera.


Detroit Tigers

Detroit Tigers

2008 Record: 74-88 (.457)
2008 Pythagorean Record: 78-84 (.481)

Manager: Jim Leyland
General Manager: Dave Dombrowski

Home Ballpark (multi-year Park Factors): Comerica Park (102/102)

Who’s Replaced Whom:

  • Gerald Laird replaces Ivan Rodriguez
  • Adam Everett replaces Edgar Renteria
  • Josh Anderson replaces Gary Sheffield
  • Jeff Larish inherits Matthew Joyce’s playing time
  • Edwin Jackson replaces Kenny Rogers
  • Rick Porcello replaces Nate Robertson in the rotation
  • Nate Robertson replaces Freddy Dolsi in the bullpen
  • Fernando Rodney inherits Todd Jones’ innings
  • Brandon Lyon replaces Aquilino Lopez
  • Joel Zumaya inherits Eddie Bonine’s innings
  • Ryan Perry replaces Casey Fossum
  • Juan Rincon replaces Clay Rapada, Gary Glover, Denny Bautista, and Kyle Farnsworth

25-man Roster:

1B – Miguel Cabrera (R)
2B – Placido Polanco (R)
SS – Adam Everett (R)
3B – Brandon Inge (R)
C – Gerald Laird (R)
RF – Magglio Ordoñez (R)
CF – Curtis Granderson (L)
LF – Josh Anderson (L)
DH – Carlos Guillen (S)


R – Ramon Santiago (IF)
R – Ryan Raburn (OF)
L – Jeff Larish (3B/1B)
R – Dane Sardinha (C)


R – Justin Verlander
R – Edwin Jackson
R – Rick Porcello
R – Armando Galarraga
R – Zach Miner


R – Fernando Rodney
R – Joel Zumaya
R – Brandon Lyon
L – Bobby Seay
R – Ryan Perry
R – Juan Rincon
L – Nate Robertson

15-day DL: RHP – Jeremy Bonderman (sore shoulder), LHP – Dontrelle Willis (anxiety disorder), OF/1B – Marcus Thames (strained oblique), C – Matt Treanor (torn hip labrum)

Typical Lineup:

L – Curtis Granderson (CF)
R – Placido Polanco (2B)
R – Magglio Ordoñez (RF)
R – Miguel Cabrera (1B)
S – Carlos Guillen (DH)
R – Gerald Laird (C)
R – Brandon Inge (3B)
L – Josh Anderson (LF)
R – Adam Everett (SS)


Detroit Tigers 2.1: May Showers Bring August Flowers Edition

Untitled Back on May 11, the conclusion of the Yankees’ lone series in Detroit this season got rained out, so the Yanks are stopping off in the Motor City for a Labor Day matinée on their way down to face the first-place Rays. The Yanks are 1-4 against the Tigers thus far this season, the one win coming in Detroit in the last game the two teams played. That was Darrell Rasner’s second start of the year, in case you weren’t sure just how long ago that was.

Back then, the Tigers were a disappointing team that was hitting a bunch, but not enough to overcome the awful performance of their starting pitchers. Though the Tiger hitting has cooled off a bit and their pitching has improved, the team is still a disappointment, lingering below .500 in a season in which they were expected to crush their division.

Justin Verlander starts for the Bengals this afternoon. He’s been wildly inconsistent. In eight second-half starts, he’s allowed one run or fewer three times and five runs or more the other five with nothing in between. He’ll face Sidney Ponson, who has allowed 11 runs in his last 6 2/3 innings over two starts. Neither pitcher has faced the opposing team this season.

Today is September 1, which means major league teams are allowed to expand their rosters beyond 25 men. With their top two minor league affiliates in the postseason (a good sign for the future of the major league club), the Yankees have started slowly by bringing back Chad Moeller and calling up lefty reliever Phil Coke. That’s a pretty wild turnaround for Coke. Barely more than a month ago he was a double-A starter who thought he had been traded to the Pirates in the Xavier Nady deal. Now he’s a major league relief pitcher with the Yankees. Not bad.

Coke, who is 26, combines with 25-year-old Alfredo Aceves to give the Yankees a pair of potential long-men in the pen down the stretch, though Aceves’ performance yesterday suggests he could emerge as a high-leverage guy with a quickness. Coke posted a 2.51 ERA in 20 starts and three relief outings for double-A Trenton this year, then moved up to triple-A and spent most of his time there pitching out of the pen with superior peripherals (22 K, 5 BB, 0 HR in 17 1/3 IP), but worse results (4.67 ERA). On closer inspection, that ERA is inflated by his adjustment to his new level and his new role, as his ERA over his last ten outings was 2.70.

Word is the bullpen will receive further reinforcement tomorrow when Joba Chamberlain is activated, though if Ponson has a third-straight bad outing today, Joba, Aceves, or even Coke could wind up taking Sir Sidney’s next turn in the rotation.


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