Saturday, December 17, 2011

I'm Still the Smart One, Right?

So, I'm out on the ice with the boys Thursday tending the 6x4 and we are all of us every one giving it our all out there and when the game is over, I can't get the tape on my ankle and my ankle brace undone and I don't have knife to cut it off which means I can't get my hockey underwear off (think either long johns or lightweight sweat pants) which means I have to put my jeans on over them and they are soaking wet as I have, as mentioned, just finished giving my all out there and sweat and lots of it is the byproduct.  Because they are wet, they are cold and they are nasty, too.  I'm thinking I'm going to get some sort of rash before I can finish the drive home.  Or catch my death en route, one or the other.  When I do get home, my poor daughter has to cut the tape off so I can hit the shower which, although she said nothing (such a sweet child) has to gross her out to the maximum.  I mention all of this to Jeannie yesterday and she asks why I didn't ask somebody in another locker room if they had a knife and I tell her I didn't think of it and she asks me why I didn't go to the office to see if they had some scissors and I tell her I didn't think of that, either and I say, "So what you are saying is that anytime a little problem like this crops up (and they have, you know.  We're eighteen years into our marriage, after all.) I can just call you and you will give me all sorts of potential solutions?" And she says, "Of course," and I say, "Okay, but I still get to be the smart one, right?"

You gotta work to make your marriage work, boys.  Keep it in mind!

We are at the Joe Louis here tonight for the Wings and the Kings and it is not going well at all for one of the teams whose name ends in "ings" and I can tell you for sure that it is not the local hockeyists as they led 2-0 at the 2-minute mark and 3-0 eight-and-a-half in.  And that is where we are now.  I was planning a quick getaway tonight but as soon as I got here they asked if I could pick tonight's Three Stars of the Game which means A). I have to pay attention and, B). I cannot leave early as it is difficult to pay attention to something one is not actually at, you know?  But, what the hey.  The crowd is having a good time and the we can spread out in the pressbox as it is not crowded, so let's enjoy...  3:02 left, 1st Period: Detroit 3, LA 0.

One is done and the Wings dominate with a 4-1 lead at the first intermission.  8 (8!) different Wings record at least one point in the period.  Incredibly, LA outshoots Detroit 10-9 in the period, proving once and for all, we suspect, that "Shots on Goal" is the weakest stat in the history of athletic competition.  1st Intermission: Det 4, LA 1.

Okay, two periods complete here and it is still Detroit by four, 6-2. 12 different Wings have recorded a point here, which is remarkable.  As is the fact that the LA club leads in shots 19-16.  I didn't check in with you because not a lot was going on here.  Detroit appeared to get a little bored midway through the period, analogous to a cat tiring of playing the with mouse he's caught, I thought, and the Kings made 'em pay and the game was 4-2.  Then it got a little chippy and there was some shoving and cruel taunts and hurt feelings.  The Wings got two goals late: Henrik Zetterberg roofing a backhand under the bar although there clearly was no open spot for him to hit and Pavel Datsyuk was in alone in the last minute and he did what he does when he is in alone, netting his 10th of the year.   Detroit is 12-2-1 (.833) at home this year.  In another half an hour or so, they will be 13-2-1 (.843) and you can book that.  2nd Intermission: Detroit 6, LA 2.  

I am going to shut this thing down now as I will have to hustle in the 3rd to get away once the 3 Stars are turned in to Budd Lynch--the legendary PA announcer here.

It turns out Dec. 15 was the 32nd anniversary of the last game ever played at Olympia Stadium.  I was there.  Detroit fell behind 4-0, but came back to tie Quebec 4-4.  A few nights later, they played the first game in this building, and I was here for that one, too.  I cannot believe I have been coming to games in this place for 32 years....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Let's Watch the Lions and the Vikings!

Good afternoon from Ford Field.  This is the first time I've seen a football field since last Saturday night when I was leaving Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis about an hour and a half after poor Isiah Lewis was flagged for running into the kicker in that heart-breaker of a Big Ten Title game which the Spartans lost to Wisconsion 42-39.

This is the first time I've seen this field since Thanksgiving Day when I thought at the half that the Lions were going to upset the Packers since Detroit had out gained Green Bay 202-86 in the first half and were only down 7-0.  But, the Packers drove the length on the first possession of the second half, the drive culminating in that Ndamukong Suh stomp/Personal Foul which enabled Green Bay to continue their drive and score a TD when they'd been stopped on 3rd and a goal and were certainly going to bring their field goal unit onto the field.  Things went downhill from there in what wound up a 27-15 Packers win.

Ten wins almost always get you into the playoffs.  To get to 10, Detroit must win three of their last four.  And even then they could get edged out.  Heading into today's game, the Lions are the #7 seed in a race in which only the top 6 make it.  At 7-5, Detroit has the same record as the Bears and the Falcons.  But Chicago is the #5 seed and the Falcons are # 6.  Here's why:
*Chicago finishes ahead of Detroit based on conference record (6-3 to the Lions' 5-5).
*Chicago is the No. 5 seed ahead of Atlanta based on head to head (1-0).
*Atlanta is the No. 6 seed ahead of Detroit based on head to head (1-0).

I think it's going to come down to Detroit and Chicago and both teams still have to play at 12-0 Green Bay.  The combined record of the remaining opponents for the Lions and the Bears is identical: 26-22.  Atlanta has the easiest remaining schedule with their opponents a combined 20-28.  However, Atlanta has to play at New Orleans so who's to say they won't lose that one meaning the best they could do is finish 10-6, too. But that's the problem.  Even if the Lions finish 10-6, they will still miss out if both the Bears and Falcons do too.  So, you Lions fans, it's not enough just to root for the Lions, you must also root against the Bears and the Falcons.  The Bears are at 7-5 Denver today, the Falcons are at 4-8 Carolina.  

Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson will not play today.  And even at this late moment, under 20 minutes to kick, we do not know if Vikings QB Christian Ponder (crossword clue: Jesus Contemplater?) will be able to start due to injury.  We will, of course, keep all y'all updated...

We've had some computer problems but it looks like we are back least for now.  Let's bring you up to speed.  In less than ten minutes (9:06 elapsed to be precise) the Lions have taken a 21-0 lead over the Vikings.  Detroit has run 11 plays on offense and have scored 21 points.  On the Vikings first play from scrimmage, at their own 7, QB Christian Ponder had the ball slapped out of his hand by Cliff Avril and Stephen Tulloch recovered in the end zone for his first career TD.  7-0, Detroit.  On the Vikings second possession, Ponder was intercepted by Alphonso Smith of Detroit and the Lions turned that turnover into points too, when Matthew Stafford hit a streaking Titus Young down the near left sideline for a 57-yard TD.  14-0, Detroit.  Stafford made it two TD passes in the first quarter the next time Detroit got the ball when he hit Brandon Pettigrew from 17 and with just under 6 minutes left in the quarter, the Lions had a 21-0 lead.  The Vikings have just driven down the field to score and make it 21-7 and we still have almost two minutes left in the quarter.  What a start we are off to here.

Halftime and we've been having a heck of a time with the internet here this afternoon.  Let's get caught up on what has transpired so far.  First of all, it's 31-14 Detroit.  Minnesota turned it over 4 times in the half and the Lions got 24 pts off the turns.  Alphonso Smith had two intercepts in the half, returning one for a score.  Matthew Stafford threw 2 TD passes.  Christian Ponder has 2 TD passes for Minnesota--the only reason they remain in the game at all.  Word at the half is that Carolina has the lead over Atlanta, which is great news for Detroit.  Remember, the Lions, Falcons and Bears are all 7-5.  Only two of the teams will make the post season.  If current scores stand up, and if the Bears can lose at Denver, Detroit will have a one-game lead in the playoff chase.  Second half just underway...

We're into the 4th, now and the Lions lead 34-21, but haven't put them away just yet with 12:09 to go.  Joe Webb is in at QB for the Vikes and all he did was tear off a 65 yard scramble for a TD, probably the longest QB scramble I've ever seen.  The Detroit secondary continues to rack up injuries, and there is some cause for concern here.  Meanwhile, ATL has come back to lead CAR 24-23.  

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Let's Watch the Red Wings and the Coyotes!

Well, let's see.  We haven't been together since last Saturday night and that thrilling down to the last cup Big Ten Title game.  Tonight, a contest of much less import as the Wings try to put an end to a modest two-game losing streak against the Phoenix Coyotes, a team many say is playing its last year in the National League.   For the record, this will go down as the day Albert Pujols got a contract worth a smidge (4 million dollars is indeed a "smidge" when it's part of a $254 million dollar deal) over a quarter of a billion dollars.  Wow, etc.  That is more that the current owner of the Angels, the team shelling out the dollars for Pujols, paid for the entire franchise short a few years ago.

I've been at this for about five minutes and can report that the Red Wings lead the hockey game 2-0.  Twice Wings were left all alone in front of Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, and twice they buried the thing.  Todd Bertuzzi made no mistake at 1:16 and Valteri Filppula--who I had heard earlier today wasn't even going to dress tonight due to a leg injury--found the net at 2:09.  The goals were strikingly similar.  In each case, the goal scorer was all alone below the hashmarks on the circles, right out in front of the goal.  In a strange oddity, Phoenix has outshot Detroit 5-4 here in the early going.  DETROIT 2, PHOENIX 0.  

8:05 Make it 3-0, Detroit.  Phoenix put Detroit on the power play and Tomas Holmstrom put it on the board at 14:46.  He fired in a rebound and in spite of a 10-10 shots on goal total, the rout is on.  And now it is REALLY on.  Darren Helm just took a feed off to the side of the net and made it 4-0 at 15:29.  Which turns out to be bad news in the extreme to those of us up here in the press box as Mike Smith is replaced in goal by Jason LaBarbera which is much more difficult to spell. DETROIT 4, PHOENIX 0.

Juri Hudler greeted LaBarbera with yet another goal and Detroit's running away, 5-0 after one.  In a statistical oddity, or quirk if you prefer, shots on goal in the period were even: 12-12.  Sometimes things just don't add up. AFTER ONE: DETROIT 5, PHOENIX 0.

True story: back in the day, Phoenix coach Dave Tippet was the coach of the Houston Aeros, and when we'd go down there to play them I'd run into him outside the arena between periods, pacing, having a smoke.  I don't know if Tippet's quit yet, but if he hasn't I'll bet he's lighting the last one with the next one right now outside the building between periods here at the Joe.  

Hockey hurts.  I'm out there tending some net this very afternoon and some guy winds up for the slapper from the point to my left and I go down but the puck surprises me a little and goes up.  No problem--I figure to snag it with the trapper but I miss and it ticks the edge of the ole catch glove (that's what they call it: a "catch" glove) and deflects a little but that's no problem because it has to hit me in the chest and stay out but no, it finds a gap between my torso and arm and in it goes and I'm left down on my knees muttering some very bad words which I will not share with you here except to mention that one of them (which I may have uttered more than once truth be told) is a perfect rhyme for "puck".  Literally adding injury to the insult which this goal was, is the fact that on its way through it nicked my left side which felt a lot like being snapped with a wet towel in the boys locker room and which left a welt.  I hate hockey.  I hate it so much I have vowed never to play again until next Tuesday when the usual crew gets together again at the Oak Park Ice Arena.

There was a fight out there today which you really don't like to see in Rec Hockey.  I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm out there to have some fun and get some cardio and that's it and the boys know that if they screw with me--slashing me with their sticks trying to dig the puck out from under my pads and crap like that--I will up and leave which apparently ruins their entire game because it's better with a goalie than it is without even if it's a crummy goalie like, oh I don't know, me.  Anyway, out there today one guy gets it into his head that he's Gordie Howe and this other guy decides that he's John Ferguson (look it up if you have to) and they stand each other up and then there's a shove and then there is the dropping of the gloves and then there is a guy prostrate and motionless on the ice and I decide I've played enough hockey for this day.  They say the goalies are the crazy ones, right?  Let me tell you, the boys who skate out are, as was so well put by goalie Denis Lemeaux in the movie classic Slapshot, all a "bunch of English pig-dogs with no brains."  And with that, the second period is underway here in Detroit.

Here's your Middle of the Period update: still 5-0, Detroit.  Phoenix got back-to-back power plays, including an overlap which gave them :49 of a two-man, and got nothing.  9:13 left in the middle twenty.

Ok, 5-1 after two.  Radim Vrbata slapped one by from the left circle late in the second.  Same thing that happened to me today.  Jimmy Howard went down and the puck went up.  There wasn't much of an opening under the bar but these are NHLers and they don't need much.  21-20 shots after 40 mins, favoring the Coyotes.  Did you know that Detroit and Phoenix each have 33 points and are tied for 3rd place in the Western Conference?  Me neither.  AFTER TWO: DETROIT 5, PHOENIX 1.

Here's the quote of the day/year, courtesy of Pujols circa 2009 via Deadspin:

"People from other teams want to play in St. Louis and they're jealous that we're in St. Louis because the fans are unbelievable. So why would you want to leave a place like St. Louis to go somewhere else and make $3 or $4 more million a year? It's not about the money. I already got my money. It's about winning and that's it. It's about accomplishing my goal and my goal is to try to win.

The third period is about to begin.  I'm going to do something I rarely do in deference to the score.  I am going to go downstairs early tonight and get set up for the post game interviews.  I've the Wings blow the lead it is on my for the karmic disruption this change in routine will cause.  If I don't get back to you tonight, we will see you Sunday at Ford Field for the Lions and the Vikings (I can't come to the game here Saturday against Winnipeg because we are going to cut down the Kincaide Family Christmas Tree and we always get the chicken dinner in Frankenmuth afterwards and we never get home before ten or so). So, for now and unless a change in conditions warrants it, goodnight from the Joe Louis Sports Arena!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Let's Watch the Big 10 Title Game!

8:18  Kick off here at Lucas Oil Stadium.  Wisconsin gets the ball moving from my right to left.  Here we go....
8:29: UW in end zone.  71y in 9 plays. 4:56 elapsed.  MSU couldn't stop Monte Ball.  Remember, MSU was down 14-0 to UW at Spartan Stadium on Oct. 22.
8:38: Wow! MSU simply drives 59y (46 on the ground) in 6 plays to tie the game with 6:44 left in first. Drive took 3:13.   State just pushed 'em right down the field.  7-7!
8:47 UW RB Montee Ball hits is QB Russell Wilson for 32y to give 'em 1st and goal.  Ball's done this before.  He's now 2/2 for 57y and a TD passing this yr.
8:50 One play after the pass to Wilson, Ball lugs it in from 6y out.  UW goes 60y in 7 plays in 3:00 to lead 14-7 with 3:44 left in first.
8:52 Deadspin reported this week that a Craigs List ad was offering people $75 to come in sit in a section near midfield tonight--a report laughed at by the City of Indy and the Big Ten.  The thing is, the section in question, near midfield and opposite the main TV cameras, is surprisingly unfull tonight.  Game not a sellout as the uppder end zone seats are empty.  MSU fumbles kickoff and UW recovers at MSU 24.  Yikes.
8:59 Montee Ball just scored again.  Has 2 TD and 105 rush y on 13 carries before game is 12 mins old.  UW scored 2 TD in :32 after MSU fumbled a kickoff.  Spartans down 21-7, under two left in first.
9:06 MSU goes for it on 4th and 1 and BJ Cunningham is WIDE OPEN to take Kirk Cousins TD pass from 30.  80y in 7 in 3:07!  Second just underway (14:55) and it is 21-14 UW and it is a HELL OF A GAME!!!
9:21 INCREDIBLE!!!  Nichol laterals to Cunningham for a TD and Sontag--the extra point holder, runs it in for 2.  MSU LEADS 22-21!!! Still 10:21 left in half.  MSU has come back from 14 down to lead here--just as they did in win over UW in Oct.
9:31 UW: 155y, 3 TD on 1st 3 poss. 6 plays, 6y on last 2. 22-21, MSU, 8:42 left in half.  Spartan ball: 1st and ten at MSU 42. Cousins picked on first play though.
9:42 UW has NO ANSWER for MSU right now. Another long drive (84y) and its 29-21 State. 22 unanswered by MSU! (They had 23 unanswered after being down 14 in first meeting v UW).
9:48 Montee Ball had 105 y rushing in 1st qtr, has 2 (two!) in second.  UW has gone 3-out on last four drives after scoring TDs on first 3. :46 left in half, 29-21, MSU!
9:59 MSU outgained UW 208/-4, outscored 'em 22-0 in 2nd qtr.  Lead 29-21 at half!
10:22 Almost ready for the second half.  An incredible turnaround in this game.  State came back from 21-7 down after one to lead 29-21 after two.  A long way to go.  Big hits on UW QB Wilson and RB Ball in that second quarter turned the game around, I think.  At least to this point.  MSU gets ball to start third.
10:37 Momentum shifts again.  MSU had UW stopped on 3rd and long but offside call kept drive alive and it's 29-28 as they drive 62y in 8 in 3:30 on first poss of second half.  42y Wilson pass is the scoring play.  MSU went three/out to start second half.  9:13 left in 3rd.
10:48 Promising MSU drive stalls, but MSU punt pins 'em back at one.  4:52, 3rd, 29-28, MSU!
10:59 Ta-dah!  Cousins to Cunningham, again.  It's a 44y TD pass--BJ's 3rd TD catch and Cousin's 3rd TD toss tonight!  The drive: 44y in 3 (1:41). There happens to be the same amount of time left in the qtr as the drive took,: 1:41. MSU 36, UW 28!
11:04 3rd qtr over.  36-28, MSU. Boy, am I nervous...
11:10 UW scores again in this ping-pong game on a shovel pass to Ball who has 7y rushing since he had 105 in first qtr.  UW misses 2-point when Worthy tips pass. 36-34, MSU and the Spartans are knocking on door again...
11:20 MSU settles for short FG to lead 39-34 with 8:28 left.  I am still nervous...
12:49 Back in press box, almost time to leave.  Was ten feet fro Isiah Thomas as two teammates helped him off after the game, after he got flagged for that running into kicker penalty that negated the Keyshawn Martin punt return which likely would have won game for MSU.  Toughest thing I've ever seen in sports.  Toughest loss I've ever seen.  Great game.  Good night.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Let's Watch the Lions and the Packers!

Happy Thanksgiving, gobble, gobble and all that.  We have been here at Ford Field for about an hour and a half.  The Thanksgiving Day Classic (which is the event we are covering today) presents a couple of unique problems.  The first is one of logistics.  The route I take to get to Ford Field, and it is never particularly easy to get to Ford Field, is blocked due to the Thanksgiving Day parade.  My plan "B" worked well as it usually does (this isn't the first trip this turkey has made to the Turkey Day game, after all) so we got here in good order.  The second problem is making sure that you don't overfeast (a word which Spellcheck tells me I just invented along with the word "Spellcheck" so we are off to some kind of a start!) at the pre-game media buffet which, today of all days, features the best spread of the season: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, etc.  Everything, in other words, that you are going to enjoy when you get home from the game.  One must pace ones self.  Stuffing yourself before the game is a rookie mistake, and you hate to see it.

Well, we have the Packers in here today and there will be a record crowd and, to be honest, I don't give the Lions much of a shot.  There's a reason Green Bay is 10-0 and there is a reason they are the defending Super Bowl champs, after all. And that reason is that they are pretty good.  That said, remember I said a moment ago that this isn't my first trip to this rodeo?  History tells us that when the Lions pull off an upset, particularly a huge upset, they do it on Thanksgiving Day.  So, we shall see what we shall see.

Besides, didn't the Lions beat the Packers the last time they played?  (Hint: they did.  7-3, here last December.)    The last time Detroit beat Green Bay two in a row was the last meeting between the teams in 1998 and the first meeting between the teams in 1999.  And if you like omens, both of the games were played in Detroit.  Well, in Pontiac, actually, but both were at the Lions home field.

I am playing hurt today.  I had the biggest leg cramp of my life overnight and right now my left calf feels like there's a needle sticking into deep tissue,  But, gentle reader, would I let something like that keep me from blogging for you?  I think not.

The Lions get a couple first downs, but a holding call on Nate Burleson costs 'em and they have to punt.  It didn't look like much of a hold in my view, but once again, they didn't ask me...

The Lions get a couple first downs after the kickoff, but a holding call on Nate Burleson costs 'em and they have to punt. It didn't look like much of a hold in my view, but once again, they didn't ask me. The Lions hold the Packers to a single first down, and they punt to Detroit. Which is a case of so far, so good.

Green Bay has scored an NFL-high 94 1st quarter points this season. With 2:12 to go in first today, they have none. Lions have done a good job of ball control but penalties have hurt. They have had 3 holding calls (one hands to the face, actually) called against them. Which hurts. They might have points on the board except for the penalties.

The Lions don't score--but neither do the Packers in the first.  Detroit holds GB to only 8 plays on offense in the entire quarter--not bad considering the Packers are the highest-scoring first quarter team in the NFL this season.  (They are also the highest-scoring first half team in the league).  Detroit has the ball to start the second. 

The Lions moving smartly here.  They've gone from own 15 to GB 48 with a 22y Matthew Stafford run looming large.  When he was tackled I thought to myself, "That HAS to be a career-long run for him!"  Moments later, Lions PR confirmed that it was, in fact, the longest run of his career.  Teams don't expect Stafford to run, and the middle was wide open for him.  TOP right now: 14:09 to 3:33, Detroit. Still scoreless.  Very exciting. 

Lions 6th penalty of the day (GB has 0) gives the Pack a first down conversion when otherwise they'd have been punting to Lions.  0-0, under ten left in first half.  Lions playing really well--but the penalties are hurting them.  

Lions had 'em in 3rd and forever after hold call wiped out 25y GB gain, but are called for hands to the face.  Only a 5y pen--but automatic 1st down.  Lions hold though, and GB has to punt again.  Det 1/10 at own 20 with 5:43 left in half. Detroit defense impresses.  GB has scored 189 first half points this year. Today, zero!  

Stafford pass is tipped and intercepted and GB has it at Det 13.  Pass interference gives them 1st and goal at 1.  They score 2 plays later on Aaron Rogers 3y TD pass.  A 13-yard, :42 second scoring drive.  A bad break and now the boys will have to do with some adversity in this one.

Lions down 7-0 at half, but get a load of these stats: TOP (Time of Possession): Detroit 20:02, GB 9:58.  Total y: Det 218, GB 86.Wow.  This could be a great second half.  

The second half could not have begun any worse than it did for Detroit as GB drives 77 yards in 11 plays in 5:54 to score and go up 14-0.  The Packers gained almost as many yards in that one drive (77) as they did in the entire first half (86).  Worse than that, Ndamukong Suh--last years NFL Rookie of the Year--was ejected.  The call came after the Lions had stopped Green Bay on 3rd and goal.  The penalty gave GB a gift first down and John Kuhn scored from a yard out.  But, there is more bad news.  Kevin Smith--the running back cut by the Lions last March but resigned the week before last due to injuries in the Detroit backfield, the RB who scored 3 TDs and racked up 201 total yards in the win over Carolina just last Sunday, suffered what is being called a lower leg injury and is out for the game.  And there is this: on Detroit's first second half possession, Stafford throws his second interception of the afternoon. So, Detroit's down two scores and Green Bay has the ball again and it is noticeably quieter here.  

The first play after the pick is a 65 y Rogers to James Jones TD pass.  21-0, Green Bay.  Just like that.  5:25 left in 3rd.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let's Watch the Wings and the Flames!

We are here at the Joe Louis Arena to take in the Red Wings-Calgary Flames game--sort of a pump-primer for the Big Game tomorrow as the Lions host the Packers in the annual Thanksgiving Day Classic.  I'm looking forward to that, indeed, I'll be leaving home for Ford Field and the game in a scant 14 hours or so.  Meanwhile, here, Tomas Holmstrom has just tipped in a right point shot blasted by Nicklas Lidstrom to open the scoring.  It's power play goal (PPG) at 6:14 with Juri Hudler getting the second assist.  So, the Wings, a team at times running hot and at others not, will try to build on their 8-3-1 (.708) record  when scoring first.

Right now, the Wings are running hot.  They've won two in a row.  This comes after the lost two in a row.  Which came after they won four in a row.  Which came after the lost six in a row.  Which came after they won five in a row.  And there you have the entire Wings season to this point.  They are11-7-1 (23 pts.) which you can look at one of two equally valid, equally true ways.  You could say, hey, the Red Wings are just four points out of first place in their division.  You could also say, hey, the Wings are in a tie for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.  As I say, both statements are true.

Sparky Anderson used to say (I don't have to tell you who Sparky Anderson was, do I? Hall of Fame Manager of the Tigers and Reds, etc.), "Let me see 40 games and I can tell you what kind of a team I have."  40 games is about a quarter of a baseball season.  A quarter of a hockey season is, since your hockey season is half the number of games as a baseball season, 20 games.  Tonight is game #20 for Detroit.  Therefore, we should know after this one what kind of a hockey team we have this season.  Which will be good to know because I have to tell you, right now I have no idea.

This is the second meeting between the Wings and Flames.  Calgary came in here and beat Detroit 4-1 nineteen days ago.  It was the last game of that six game losing streak which had everybody so concerned as the month began.  Detroit is 6-2 since losing that game.  Still 1-0 Wings with under four to go in the first.  We'll keep you posted....

The period is over.  Shots are 8-8.  The Wings appear to be defensive-minded tonight which is good because it tends to give you the best chance to win.  On the other hand, it tends to result in a less than thrilling evening at the rink.  So, what do you want?  Two points or goose bumps?

I read some of the Green Bay Packer Game Notes last night.  I say some because they ran 122 pages.  The interesting thing is that it was the Packers who invented Game Notes back in the '50s.  It was the invention of their PR guy and it was called "The Dope Sheet."  Which is what it was, a sheet.  You know, as in a page.  And now it's 122 pages.  At any rate, what I gleaned from what I read is that Green Bay has some kind of an offense.  I will give just one fact from "The Dope Sheet": The Packers are on pace for 568 points this season. The franchise record is 461 points in 2009 and the NFL record is 589 points by New England in 2007.

There's another interesting note, so I guess I'll give you two facts from "The Dope Sheet": The Packers will be the first undefeated NFL team to play on Thanksgiving since a 10-0 Green Bay team visited Detroit on Nov. 22, 1962.

They didn't mention this is "The Dope Sheet" so I'll throw it in for you.  That game on November 22, 1962? Green Bay was 10-1 after it was over.  That was the game--perhaps the most famous single game in Lions history--in which their defense sacked Bart Starr 11 times (still the Lions single-game record) at Tiger Stadium and won 26-14.  The Lions might have been NFL champions that year had it not been for another one of their more famous games earlier in the year.  This one, the first meeting of the season between the Lions and the Packers at Green Bay's City Stadium is more accurately described from a Detroit point of view as infamous, actually.  7 weeks before the upset in Detroit, the Lions were beating the Packers in 7-6 with under two minutes to go when Milt Plum, trying to run out the clock, threw an interception near midfield and the Packers returned to the Detroit 18 before Paul Horning kicked a 14-yard field goal with 26 seconds to go to give Green Bay at 9-7 win.  The game is perhaps best remembered for Alex Karras throwing his helmet at Plum after the game in the Lions locker room in an attempt to do his Great Bodily Harm, an attempt which according to all accounts just missed.  Most of the Lions, hell, most of everybody thought Plum, the responsible party as back in the day the quarterback and not the coach or the coordinator or anybody else called the plays, should have run the ball, forced Green Bay to use their last time out, and let Detroit's great punter, Yale Lary, pin 'em deep.  But they didn't and so by the time they'd KO'd the Pack back in Detroit on Thanksgiving, the damage had already been done and the season was over in spite of their spectacular win over Green Bay.

Meanwhile, back here at the hockey game, Calgary scored a couple of quick ones--quick as in two goals before the second period was three minutes in--on Jimmy Howard (the second was soft as well as quick) but the Wings have answered as Flames goalie Mikka Kiprusoff let in one he should have had, too.  So it's 2-2 and we are midway through the second period.  As I was reminiscing about the Lions and all while all of this was going on below me, I have, actually, no idea, none at all, who scored the Detroit goal.  They'll give me a sheet containing that information during the intermission.  I can wait.  Oh yes, I can wait.  Under 8 to go in the second, 2-2.

Hey, wait.  I do too know who scored that Detroit goal.  I get a text anytime a Red Wings scores a goal.  I am not sure why I do, but I do.  It's a good thing, too.  Some nights it's the only thing that reminds me I'm alive.  It turns out that it was Ian White.  The goal was described as a "47-foot wrist shot."  See, I TOLD you Kiprusofff should have had it.  47-foot wrister, indeed.

I'd chastise myself and say I've got to get my head in the game except I got over self chastisement years and years ago, and besides, I'm bailing, pulling the chute, bugging out, whatever you want to call it, early tonight. The NHL scouts all leave with 5-6 minutes left in the game because apparently nobody ever does anything that is more worth their while than beating the traffic with the, you know, GAME ON THE LINE.  Tonight, I'm with them.  I have to be right back here downtown by 9:30 tomorrow morning and it won't any picnic, either.  That's because it's a parade.  On Thanksgiving Day now, you have to battle parade traffic to get to the football game.  When they played in Pontiac, that parade traffic, due largely to the fact that in affected only downtown Detroit, wasn't nearly as big a factor as it is now that both the parade and the game occur within a few blocks of each other.  So, I'll see enough traffic tomorrow that I feel I can blow it off tonight.  Besides, there are no live radio shows tomorrow that need tape from this game, so I don't need any post-game tape.  I did bring my recorder in case somebody scored 6 goals or died or something big like that, but it is increasingly apparent that nothing big is happening tonight.  So when I leave you hanging this evening, remember, it's for a good cause...

Less than three into the third Holmstrom gets his second PPG of the night to put Detroit up 3-2.  He was alone in front and spun around at the top of the crease to plant his own rebound with a backhand.  It doesn't matter how long your legs are, and Kiprusoff's are among the longest, when a guy like Holmstrom can extend his reach with a backhand like that and you are down in the butterfly, you are going to be scored upon.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Let's Watch the MSU/Indiana Game!

Here we are, high above Spartan Stadium for the last time in 2011, and what a year it has been here.  The Spartans, as you know, can win their division (Legends or Leaders, we are ten or eleven weeks in and I still haven't figured it out) just by beating an awful 1-9 Indiana team here on this blustery fall Saturday and by winning on the road at Northwestern one week from today.  If they do that, they will be in the first-ever Big Ten title game in two weeks in Indianapolis.  I am working the press box this afternoon asking people I know to see if they are going in hopes of finding somebody I can go with and split the driving costs.  If you are going--let me know, okay.

My daughter--accepted a few days ago into the MSU Honors College--spent the night in one of the dorms with a friend last night and had, as I knew she would, a great time.  She's really hoping to come here in the fall.  I'm looking down on the MSU Spartan Marching Band as I write, hoping come next fall when I gaze down upon them, one of the mellophones will be she.  Almost kick-off.  It's Senior Day and all of them have been introduced and now the full compliment of Spartans take the field.  We'll be back to keep you posted on all the fun!
And now from our Twittering today:

MSU wear classic Green and White uniforms today. My favorites. Dwn in AA, Brady Hoke is wearing shirtsleeves. Dummy. It's cold
IU gets first down on first play, then 3 n out. MSU starts own 31.
Kirk Cousins to BJ Cunningham goes for 37 on 3rd and 7 to IU 29, then Cousins hits Garret Selleck for 21 and it is 1st and goal.
Can't convert first and goal, Dan Conroy hits 21y FG. 3-0, MSU w 10:05 left in 1st.

Cousins to Cunningham for 63y and a TD!!!  10-0, MSU 6:24 lft in 1st!  3 plays, 76y is the drive.

I don't know why I haven't ever entioned this before, but did you know you can follow me on Twitter @RichKincaide?  You can and you should on account of I've always got something cool to say.  Yeah, right.

UM, sad to say, is pushing Neb around this aft. Up 7-0 in 1st and are in Red Zone again.  I hate UM, but you prob knew that.

Now is it Cousins to Keyshwan Martin for another score.  47y this time and the drive is 70y in 5.  17-0, MSU. 2:09 left 1st.

IU: 2 1st downs in first. Tot y: MSU 224 , IU 57. MSU 17, IU 0 after 1. NEB on bd in AA, trail UM 10-7 after 1.

KMartin goes end around into end zone from 19y out. 2play/24y drive. 24-3, MSU. 10:06 left in half.  Illinois leads Wis 14-0 near the half!

1/2time. 34-3, MSU. Not that close. Tot y: 241-58, MSU. Ill leads UW 17-7 at half, UM leads Neb 17-10 at half.  MSU band on the field.  It's chilly, 47-degrees.  Hope the kids are finding a way to stay warm! They sound like they are.  Supposed to look up an old friend here at the half--so let the search begin.

Never did find my buddy.  MSU goes right down and scores again.  Cousins to Cunningham TD pass from 7y.  Cousins: # TD passes today.  it's 41-3, MSU. ILL lead over UW down to 17-14 mid-third.

Johnny Adams intercepts pass, runs it back 87y for TD. 49-3, MSU and still not halfway thru 3rd qtr. Blow. Out. 

Adams return is 5th-longest in school history (interceptions and fumbles).

Finally found my friend down in the suites and I hung out with the well-to-do in 4th qtr.  MSU wins 55-3 and now a win at Northwestern one week from today (noon kick, eastern time) means a berth in 1st-ever Big 10 title game.  Time to snag some tasty post-game audio and find my (not so) little girl! Talk to you soon, etc.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

@ The Red Wings-Calgary Game

Come tonight the Calgary Flames, and who ever thought we'd be writing this tonight: the Flames are one of only 3 Western Conference teams (St. Louis and Columbus) with a worse record than Detroit.  The Wings are winless in 5 (0-4-1) and the reason why is no mystery. In the five games, the Wings have managed to score 5 goals.  Tough to win when to do so you have to hold the opponent to zero.  Of course, the Wings came within one minute of doing just that here two nights ago in what wound up being a 2-1 loss in overtime to the Minnesota Wild.  The Wings led 1-0 when the Wild scored with a minute showing on the clock before they beat the Wings on that overtime goal by Devon Setoguchi.  The Wings were shorthanded 9 times in the game Tuesday.  The killed off the first 8, but you know...

I turned out to be prescient here on the blog the night beofre last, saying in the third period that I was worried as soon as I looked through the binoculars and saw Setoguchi down there.  That guy killed Detroit in the series last spring against San Jose.  I had to look up the numbers, but he had a hat trick in Game 3--including the gamer in OT--and he opened the scoring in Game 7, a 3-2 Sharks win.  All told, Setoguchi scored 5 times in that series against Detroit, almost a third of the goals San Jose scored in the series.

Underway here in Detroit,  0-0 in the first.

Mikka Kiprusoff is in goal for the Flames tonight.  He's 10-12-4, 2.86 lifetime against the Wings, which surprises me a bit as I would have thought his GAA vs Deroit would be zero-point-something.  Detroit has had some nights when they can't get a thing past this guy.  Remember the playoffs in 2004?  He eliminated the Red Wings all by himself in that series and Calgary went all the way to the Final.  (They lost, though).  Fun Fact: Calgary has not won a playoff series since they went to the Cup Final in '04.

The Wings are hooted off by some here as they trail the Flames 1-0.  Lee Stempniak scored at 15:53.  Jimmy Howard looked bad on it--Stempniak was along the goal line to his right and slid it in with a shot that Howard should have had with ease.  And I think he would have had not Detroit defenseman Brad Stuart not gotten the blade of his stick on it, changing its direction.  So, it wasn't, at least in my judgement, Howard's fault but you can't bet the number of people in this arena right now who know that numbers fewer than 100.  There are, of course, nearly 20,000 here tonight.  Shots in the period would up 8-5, Detroit.  And there you have it, yet another goal-less period for the Red Wings.

Might be six in a row without a win.  Iginla just scored again--the same shot he used to score his other goal tonight, a one-timer from low in the circle--but it never would have happened were it not for an awful play by Kronwall who had plenty of ice as he looked to lug it out of the defensive zone but he overskated it, turned it over, and Iginla, behind the play, all of a sudden was all alone.  We're under ten to go here, and the Wings are down two and it is not looking good.  At all.

While I had a moment, I refreshed my memory on that Flames-Wings playoff series in '04.  Calgary won the series by winning the last two games by identical 1-0 scores.  In fact, in the four Calgary wins, Kiprusoff allowed a grand total of four goals.  Since two of the games went to overtime, his goals-against against Detroit in those games was less than 1.  Which is pretty good.  Back with more after the intermission...

I was worried when the Red Wings season began.  I mean, yes, the Wings might well have won the Cup last year had they beaten San Jose and I think they would have beaten San Jose without all the injuries.  Remember Franzen couldn't play and then Bertuzzi and (who was it?) Helm or Cleary both got hurt during Game 7?  Plus, I'm pretty sure Datsyuk was playing with a broken wrist.  But, without all of that I think Detroit would have won Game 7 and could well have beaten Vancouver and would have beaten Boston for the Cup.  So, it sounds strange to say all that and in the same breath say you have concerns about a team.  But to me, it's like what Gretzky said to his dad in explaining his retirement; "Every year I get a year older and they all get a year younger".  That was my concern with the Wings.  But when they started 5-0, when they were so dominant, I thought, "Silly me, I'm wrong again."  Now, winless in 5, I'm worried again.  And all the more because Jerome Iginla just scored (open in the left circle for a one-timer high into the net on the power play) and so now it's 2-0 Calgary here.

A rebound just went in off Danny Cleary's shoulder so the Wings are on the board, trailing 2-1 as we approach the mid-point of the period and the game.  It's the first of year for Cleary, which goes a long way toward explaining Detroit's difficulty in scoring goals here of late.  Cleary doesn't score until game #11.  But, at least now he finally has.

Niklas Kronwall went off on an iffy hook with about ten seconds left in the period but the refs missed a high stick to the face of Darren Helm seconds left which left Detroit coach Mike Babcock screaming at the officials as they went off for the second intermission.  You could lip-read the word "joke" on the closeup they showed of Babcock.  You could also lip read the word he said which preceded it, but this is a family blog.  Flames on the PP for almost a full two when the third begins...2-1 Calgary here.

We seem to have lost a paragraph or two.  Oh, well.  It's 3-1 Calgary and the scouts are leaving the press box as it is apparently not important for them to scout how the players perform at crunch time.  Kronwall overskated the puck when he had an easy clear and Iginla, who was way behind the play at the time, was all of a sudden all alone in the circle with the puck following the turnover and he buried his second of the night and now it looks like it's going to be six in a row without a win for Detroit and if any of you have any good questions for Babcock or the boys, the "comments" section is wide open. Only two Wings came into to meet reporters the night before last after the loss to the Wild.  I wonder how many we'll get tonight.

Calgary score into the empty net on the power play and with 1:18 to go and it being 4-1 Flames, that is going to do it.  You are never as bad as you look when you lose, goes the saying, but Detroit did not look good in this one at either end.  Off to the room...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

@ The Red Wings Game

Well, we're back.  For the first time since last May, for the first time since Game 6 of the Western Conference Semi-Final against the San Jose Sharks, we are back at Joe Louis Arena for a Red Wings game.  I know what you're saying: "Rich, the Wings opener was, like, a month ago.  What's the deal?"

The deal is: Shutup!  Do you think I don't know that? Between the Tigers being in the playoffs and my Friday night high school football play-by-play assignments (plus the fact that I blew off the real Opening Night because I hate Opening Nights in general because it's all crowded and a big pain in the whatever) I have had conflicts.  Plus, I skipped the entire exhibition schedule on account of the games not counting and I figure they play enough games that do count (82 regular season plus God knows how many in the playoffs) that I don't need to burn a trip downtown for a game or games that don't.

I am badly under-informed as tonight's game begins.  How badly, you ask?  Here's how badly.  This morning my bride asks me if I'm going to the game tonight and I say, "What game?"  "I thought the Wings were playing tonight," she says.  "I thought they were playing Thursday," I said.  "I'm going Thursday."  So, I go on-line and, sure enough, the Wings are home to the Minnesota Wild so I had to call the PR guy and make an excuse about failing to call yesterday because you are supposed to call 24 hours in advance and what not to get a credential so he's a little miffed but he says he'll leave a pass anyway, and so here we are.  I'm back in the press box again...

The Wings are 5-4-0 which I happen to know because I was paying attention to the scores in October, at least.  Detroit won their first 5 games and we were all planning the parade with the Stanley Cup in early June and then, wham, four straight losses.  It started when I was in the press box at Spartan Stadium a week ago Saturday night for that great Wisconsin game that the Spartans won on that Hail Mary Full of Grace pass with no time left on the clock and the officials confused about whether MSU had actually scored or not.  The Wings--with that perfect record--were in Washington to take on the Capitols that night.  We'd get updates during the Spartans game and, to say the least, they were not good.  Detroit lost 7-1 or something.  "Well, if you're going to lose, you may as well go big..."we said to ourselves.  The thing is, the Detroits haven't done anything but lose since that night and so now we figure they're a bunch of stiffs who will miss the playoffs entirely and so much for our nice parade.

The last loss in the current streak (I should say, "the most recent loss") came to these very Wild in Minny Saturday night, 1-0.  There will be no repeat of that here tonight.  Nicklas Lidstrom, in his 54th season with the Wings, tipped in a shot fired by Henrik Zetterberg at the 6-minute mark and Detroit is ahead 1-0.  Pavel Datsyuk made the play out of the near left wing corner and was, appropriately, awarded an assist as well.

As I scan the Detroit roster I note that, to my surprise, there are 3 players I've never heard of and another who I did not know was playing for the Wings this season.  Like I said, I've been busy.  As far as the Minnesota roster goes, well, let's just say there are several names there with which I am unfamiliar.  Plus, my favorite Wild--and perhaps my favorite player, period--Clayton Stoner, is not dressed tonight.  Who even wants to come if Stoner can't make it, I ask?  I love to say, "Look at the Stoner down there," when he's in the lineup.  I never tire of it.  You'd think I would, but I don't.

I'm gonna watch some of this game for a while and will check back in later.

The first period ends with Detroit outshooting Minnesota 12-4 and leading 1-0.  The Wings are rewarded with warm, sincere applause.

I am somewhat dismayed as I survey the arena tonight to see two large ads sponsored by companies which have actually, personally fired me.  It's a little disconcerting.  Anyway, I saw an article on this afternoon headlined "An Unforgettable First Month", or some such, so I think I'll spend the break reading that so I can learn what it is I'm supposed to never forget.  Back later...

The article about the "unforgettable October" turned out to be eminently forgettable.  Nothing of note appears to have happened in October.  They made a big deal about the games in Finland (who cares?), about the NHL returning to Winnipeg (if you don't happen to be in Winnipeg, who cares?), and the fact that Ottawa and Edmonton either lead or are battling for the lead in their divisions.  Yawn.  Turns out I didn't miss a thing.  That's the problem with the regualar season, no?  82 games nobody cares until the playoffs begin, by which time the Tigers season will have begun.  Oh, there was a 9-8 game between somebody and somebody else on Oct. 27, so I'll go look at the highlights of that one as it sounds like that was a pretty good game.  I love a good 9-8 hockey game. 1-0 here, still.  Read into that what you will.

They just introduced tonight's Red Wings "Oldtimer of the Night" (they call them "Alumni", but we all know what they mean) and the "Oldtimer of the Night" is younger than me.  Which is a pisser.

Oooh.  I just got asked to pick the 3 Stars here on Saturday night when the Wings play somebody else.  Credibility returns to my resume.

I'm planning on reading "Wonkette" during the second intermission and I have to tell you, if things don't pick up here soon, I'm not going to wait for the break.

Second period ends.  Shots 21-16, Detroit.  Score: 1-0, Detroit.  I am glad I am not picking the 3 Stars tonight.  We don't have 3 yet in this one.

The third period begins.  It is 9:22pm, just for the record.

I'm starting to not like this thing and I'll tell you why: Devon Setoguchi plays for the Wild.  This guy killed Detroit in that series against the Sharks last spring.  Had a hat trick--which included the gamer in OT in one of the games, and scored a goal against Detroit in Game 7--a game which Detroit just happened to lose by a goal.  Todd Bertuzzi just went off for slashing him.  And now the Wings are two men short as Drew Miller up and Charged the Wild goalie, which, of course, you cannot do.  We'll see...

Jimmy Howard made five or six really nice stops during the Minnesota two-man, so the Wings still lead 1-0. If Detroit goes on to win, this, the killing of the two-men short thing, will be what we in the sportswriting game call the Turning Point which is something which, for reasons unclear to me, is something we are always looking for: every night, every game.  It gives us something to ask about.  I.E., "Would you say such-and-such was the Turning Point?"  Christ, a nine-year old could do this job.

It was announced during the intermission that the local power company has changed to goal lights here from incandescent bulbs to "energy-saving" LED bulbs.  In addition to this "Save the Earth" initiative, the two teams here tonight are doing their part by never doing anything which might somehow cause those goal lights to have to be turned on.

If the score holds, at least on the Minnesota side of the ledger, four of Detroit's first ten games this season will have involved a shutout.  I'm going to have to shut this down pretty soon so I can get down to the room for pearls.  I hope somebody else has some good questions (they won't) because right now I've got exactly nothing.  We'll go with the "how's it feel to end the losing streak" crap and hope for the best.

A minute to go...and the Wild tie it!  Mikko Koivu tipped in a shot from the line.  The crowd boos at the end of reg time.  It's 1-1, going OT.  I will have to close up shop here now so I can get downstairs in time for postgame.  See you back here Thursday night.  Calgary or somebody will be here.

PS: We are back home now, chopping up the post game interviews.  Nick Lidstrom, in response to my question, said he thought there should have been a penalty against Minnesota's Mikka Koivu seconds before the Wild scored the game-winner in OT.  He may be fined for so saying.  You know who scored  that game winner, don't you?  Devon Setoguchi.  I knew it.  I just bleeping knew it.  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Let's Watch the World Series!

Hey, everybody.  I suppose I'd be in Saint Lewis right now, freezing my ass off in one of those outfield seats they set aside for the press at an MLB Jewel Event--that's what Major League Baseball calls the Championship Series', the World Series and the All Star Game when you apply for credentials: "Jewel Events"--but I'm here all warm and dry in the rumpus room getting ready for the first pitch and that isn't all bad.

Just between you and me, and I know this is going to sound awful, but there is a part of me (a little, tiny part but a part nonetheless) that is not unhappy that the Tigers didn't advance.  The first two rounds of the playoffs flat-out wore me out.  I don't know what it is, but covering a playoff game is approximately a magnitude of difficulty greater than covering your run-of-the-mill Championship season game.  I was getting to the ballpark around 2pm for an 8:30 start and leaving around a quarter after two the following morning.  Then I'd be up and on the air talking about it at 6.  I can honestly tell you that last Friday, the day after Game 5 of the ALDS, I was as tired as I had ever been, professionally speaking.

On the other hand, I hate that I am not there to see history being made, which is what the Series is all about.  All in all, I would have preferred that the Tigers had advanced.  And you know what?  After Cabrera hit that ball off of third base to turn a for-sure double play into an RBI double, sparking Detroit's game-winning rally last Thursday to send the ALDS back to Texas, I was sure that what I had seen was an omen, something we'd look back on for as long as there was Tigers baseball and point to it as the exact moment the 2011 Detroit Tigers became a team of destiny.

But, not to be, and now the Tigers have gone from being a team of destiny to being a team in the half-off bin.  To wit...

WHAT:         Postseason Merchandise on Sale at The D Shop

WHEN:         Now – End of Month
                The D Shop Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

WHERE:         The D Shop - located at Comerica Park on the corner of Witherell Street and Montcalm Street
WHY:         Beginning today, all Tigers fans will receive fifty percent off all postseason merchandise at the D Shop. Items available for purchase include the 2011 AL Central Division Champions T-Shirts, AL Central Division Champions Caps, Official Clubhouse T-Shirts and Official Clubhouse Caps. Other items available include Comerica Park exclusive pennants and decals as well as commemorative baseballs and pins. The offer is only valid for postseason merchandise and while supplies last.

CONTACT:         The D Shop at (313) 471-2673.

Oh, well.  As least there's good deal to be had out of all of this.  

What I am going to do now is peruse tonight's game notes for interesting World Series tidbits, and then I'll be back to pass them along.  

DVR "Suburgatory" and "Modnern Family" and "Countdown" and all your other favorite shows, the World Series is about to begin!

This is the 107th World Series, did you know?  And there is this.  One of the two major leagues has a big lead in the all-time World Series, series.  Do you know which one? THE AMERICAN LEAGUE has the overall lead in the World Series, 62-44, but the National League has won three of the last five with wins by the Cardinals in 2006, the Phillies in 2008 and Giants in 2010. Since the Yankees won three straight World Championships from 1998-2000, the two leagues are knotted at 5-5 in the Fall Classic.  However, over a longer span in the World Series, the A.L. hastaken nine of 15 since 1996; 12 of 19 starting 1991; and 17 of 28 times beginning 1983. (Courtesy, Major League Baseball).

Also from MLB: Tonight’s Game 1 calls for a cool and cloudy forecast, with a  projected 47 degrees game-time temperature, according to as of 11:00 a.m. today.  The 47-degree start would be the second coldest game-time temperature for a Game 1 of the World  Series since temperature stats were kept starting in 1975. The coldest Game 1 was a recorded 41 degrees at game time in 1979 at Baltimore, October 10 against Pittsburgh. Update:  The official game time temperature is 49 degrees.

On this date (October 19):  In 2004, the Boston Red Sox force a Game 7 in the  ALCS against the Yankees, with Curt Schilling and his surgically repaired ankle guiding Boston to a 4-2 victory, their third straight win after being down 0-3 in the series;

Saturday, October 15, 2011

At the Big Michigan (ugh) Michigan State Football Game

Dawn is breaking over the altogether lovely in all of its fall splendor Michigan State University as we join you this morning Live, sort of, from the MSU Union, hard by the West Circle dorms, one of which was my home for several years many, many years ago.  It is overcast and it is chilly.  It is also windy.  Very, very windy.  The forecast says we can expect gusts of 50mph as the Spartans host the Wolverines in about three and a half hours.
We had a reader complaint the other day as I was forced to suspend by Twitter/FB coverage of that amazing Tigers win over the Rangers in Game 5 of the American Leauge Championship Series.  The gripe was that I had bailed out in the 8th inning, before the game was over, with the outcome still in some measure of doubt.  I'll get to the reasons for that in a moment, but I wanted to talk for a moment about that phrase, "some measure of doubt."  The Tigers, as you recall, scored four in the 6th in that game to snap a 2-2 tie and added another in the 7th for a seemingly safe 7-2 lead.  I had an usher standing next to me (we get kicked out of the Press Box in the post season and watch from an auxiliary press area which normally is the right-field bleachers so fans and ushers and God only knows who else are elbow to elbow with us) and this guy saw Tigers Manager Jim Leyland grimacing on the TV monitor next to me.  "What's he worried about?" asked the usher.  "He's worried," I replied, "because he knows that in five pitches he could be tied."  Which is how baseball works.  Every pitch could be hit out of the park, which means that every pitch represents a potential run.  People, and I fall into this category myself at times, forget this.
This particular game provided an Outstanding Example. I haven't got my scorecard on me (you travel light when you come to MSU because you have to walk a relatively long way from your car to Spartan Stadium and back) but I think my memory will suffice.  In the top of the 6th, game tied at 2, Texas had the bases loaded with only one out.  You could feel the entire Tigers season slipping away.  Then, as quick as can be, Justin Verlander induced a grounder to third.  Brandon Inge stepped on the bag and fired across the diamond.  Double play and the inning and threat were over, just like that. And it was still a 2-2 ballgame.
About ten minutes later, the Tigers had not only escaped a potentially series-ending rally, they had scored 4 runs.  Ryan Raburn led off with a single.  Miguel Cabrera then hit a grounder of his own to third.  Given his speed, it was a dead-solid lock that Texas was going to turn an around-the horn rally-killing double play of their own.  At least that was my thought as soon as the ball was hit.  Watching through my binoculars, I saw the ball shoot straight into the air, over the head of the waiting Rangers third baseman and begin to roll towards the left field corner.  "Total bad hop," I either said aloud or thought.  Rayburn came all the way around to score and instead of two outs and nobody in a game still tied 2-2, Detroit had the tie breaking run in with a man in scoring position and nobody out.  On the replay I saw the reason for the bad hop.  Cabrera's routine-as-could-be grounder hit the third base bag.  Total luck, but that's the game and that's sometimes what you need.  It sometimes what kills you.  At any rate, six pitches later, Victor Martinez tripled down the line in right, notable because it turned out to be the first triple he had hit all season (in came his 636th Plate Appearance) and now it was 4-2 Detroit.  Two pitches later, Delmon Young homered and Detroit had hit the first natural cycle in all of baseball postseason history--a single, double, triple, and homer by consecutive batters--and the lead was 6-2.  It took 16 pitches.  So in that span, again, only ten minutes or so, the game had turned completely from what looked like a season-ending loss by the Tigers to a game Detroit was now in a great position to win.  Which, although there were still some exciting moments to come, they did.
I would have loved to have been there for all of you right to the thrilling end, but when the games ends, my work begins.  In the regular season, I can stay to the end as all I have to do is walk a hundred feet or so to an elevator which takes me down to the dugouts.  In the playoffs though, I have get from the right field seats all the way to a room under the stands behind home plate.  And to get there, I have to go against the flow.  At the same time 45,000 people are leaving the stadium, I am circling it going in the opposite direction.  If  I don't leave a little early, I'll never get there in time.  I'll miss the interviews, and the interviews are the reason I'm there.  If I miss them, I miss my moment on the national stage.  I miss my chance to ask my question.  Here's what I mean.  I had the chance, because I left in time to get there, to ask Verlander for his thoughts on Phil Coke, the Tigers pitcher who came out of the bullpen and got a gutty five-out save which he had to get all by himself because the Tigers top relievers had been overworked in each of the two previous games and were, because of that, unavailable to appear in Game 5...

So, that is why I sometimes have to leave you hanging at the tail end of games.  I have to go to work.

Which is what I have to do right about now.  The Press Box at Spartan Stadium is open, so I think I'll take my stroll across campus and get set up for the game.  I like to drop off my gear (set up the computer, scan the Game Notes, etc.) and then spend an hour or so walking around near the stadium.  This is my school.  I have friends here.  You never know who you'll bump into, but without fail, I come across somebody I know.  It's always fun.

I hope this explains why I may have to leave you hanging again today.  The Media leaves the Press Box with about 5 minutes left in every MSU game and we watch the finish from the sidelines so we are close to the postgame interview area, and again, that's why I'm here.  To collect to record for posterity the deep thoughts which are sure to follow in the wake of today's Epic Battle.

Ok. in Press Box.  Have posted TweetPic here.

I'm going off in search of food.  No Press Box freebies in Spartan Stadium, which is okay, but I will note the spreads at Ohio Stadium and Notre Dame Stadium were terrific.  Just sayin.  But, with the governor of this state cutting funding for colleges (he wants to eliminate all state funding for both of the schools playing here this afternoon--effectively rendering each a private school)--you have to cut back. So I can live with it.

For a noon game, I must say that many attending today's contest are impressively faced.

MSU has taken the field in their new-look uniform.  The referee just referred to MSU has the "gold" side.  I think they look awful, but the kids like 'em so let's see if it helps them play better.  The Spartans have the #1 defense in all of college football, including the #1 defense against the run.  Which is important.  The team with the most rush yards has won 38 of the last 41 UM/MSU games.

TD UM. Robinson-should hve been tack in backfld got away for 15y TD run. M ran for 65 y on 10p/80y drive, lead 7-0. 8:50 1st qtr.

UM went right down the field and ran for 65 yards on 8 rush attempts against that #1 in the nation rush defense of MSU.  On the TD, Denard Robinson should have been tackled for a loss, but he got away and when that happens, look out.  I think he's the finest open-field man in the game today.  The Wolverines drove directly into the wind which is coming right out of the north and which has all the flags stiff this afternoon.

TD MSU! Drive: 9p/63y in 3:37. 5:08 1st. Edwin Baker 2y TD run.  MSU ran for 55 on drive, passed for 8. 5 firsts.  7-7  Baker ran for 49 of the 55 rush yards amassed by MSU on their scoring drive.
END 1st QTR. 7-7. Tot y 102-85 UM. Rush 7 69-63 MSU. 1st dwns 6-5 UM. MSU had two huge drops, def gave up 29 and 26y plays 
MSU winds up punting into wind and UM has it at own 32.  Last MSU poss began at own 10, so you get an idea of field pos battle 

And, halftime.  7-7 is the score.  MSU made mistake after mistake after mistake, world without end.  What jumps out at you is the 8 penalties for -67 on Sparty, as many penalties as they had first downs. They had t 2 big pass drops--Keyshawn Martin on a for sure TD and BJ Cunningham to cost MSU and first down and an extended drive. (MSU did go on to score after the Martin drop.)  Both teams scored on their first possession and both made it look rather easy, although MSU sure helped the Wolverines out by committing their first 2 penalties of the day on the drive.  In fact, the Spartans were called for offside on the game's first snap, perhaps setting the tone for the day. Since those first drives, neither side has gotten even close enough to attempt a field goal.   MSU got to the UM 46 later in the first quarter..their deepest penetration since the score, and failed to advance beyond their own 44 in the second quarter.  Michigan's deepest penetration since they scored was to the MSU 36.

It's been a game of field position and, as you would expect, it has been harder on the team trying to advance the ball into today's big wind.  It is blowing at around 30 mph right out of the north (the team moving from right to left as you watch on TV is the team going into the wind).  

Everybody up here is talking about what a crummy game this is.  I don't see it that way.  I see the #1 defense in the country holding down a UM team which scored 35 on Notre Dame and an MSU team trying to overcome the weather conditions--and their own mistakes.  The team that wins the rushing battle wins the UM/MSu game (38 of the last 41, at any rate) and in that key stat at the half, well, it's a push, basically: 100 for MSU, 95 for UM.  On to the second half...

Spartans up 14-7 on 10y Cousins to Martin TD pass.  MSU drive 9play/56 yards in 3:49. 11:07 left in 3rd.  Score comes on MSU first possession of second half.

Not gonna lie to you. Thought UM was going to tie game in 4th. Why'd they try to pass when they needed half a yard at MSU 9 trailing by 7? A great day at MSU! The great Stadium is empty now and from up here on level 8 I can see the traffic is clearing nicely. I can cut up the post-game interviews when I get home, and I should be home in plenty of time for Game 6. Will blog a little more about this game--and about that game--at that place, at that time. Until then, WE BEAT MICHIGAN!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Here We Go Again

It has the same feel, I can tell you that much.

Tonight's Tigers game, in which Detroit starter Doug Fister has yet to permit a baserunner through six, feels exactly like the Imperfect game of last season, and by that I mean it is moving right along.  We've been at it for one hour and 15 minutes, and we are in the top of the 7th.  These things get on you in a hurry.  The top of the Roayls order is up to start the 7th.  It is exciting.  If he gets through this inning, it will be nerve-racking.  And there is something else at play this evening:  the Tigers have yet to score a run.

And it ends.  Alex Gordon doubles to lead off the 7th on Fister's 74th pitch of the night.  The Perfect Game, gone.  The no-hitter, gone.  And the game itself, following a sac bunt, in jeopardy as KC has the go-ahead run at third with only one out.  Billy Butler plates Gordon with a long sac fly to center, and the Tigers, somehow, trail.  There's another single for KC, but the inning ends with incident.  So now the Tigers trail 1-0, and they have been outhit in this game, somehow, 2-1.  Talk about a pitchers duel.  Jeff Francis and Doug Fister are having at it tonight.

Frances is coming out of the ballgame.  Delmon Young reached on a error and Miguel Cabrera hammered a single to left.  So, even though he has a 2-hitter going and has thrown only 90 pitches, Francis leaves leading 1-0.  Both teams now have 2 hits.  Victor Martinez is up with men on first and second and one out.  Greg Holland is the new KC pitcher.

The Tigers can't get it done in the 7th, but in the bottom of the 8th, Ordonez singles in a run and we go to the 9th, tied 1-1.  Fister, for the record, has an ERA of 0.83 (2 ER/21.2 IP).  He will be no-decisioned here tonight.

What a ballgame!  We are heading to the 10th after the Royals walked the bases loaded with two out in the 9th when 12 of the last 13 pitches thrown by Louis Coleman were balls.  But former Royal Wilson Betemit--what a story it could have been, no?--struck out to end the inning.  Benoit, perfect in the 9th: 1-2-3 on 11 pitches, stays on to start the tenth.  Still 1-1.  Still a very exciting night.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Get Out the Brooms?

The Tigers go for the sweep of the Indians here this afternoon and wouldn't that be huge if they could pull it off?  Remember, when this series began, a sweep by Cleveland would have put them in first place all alone.  Now, the Tigers have the chance to go 4.5 up on the Indians.  And even if the Tigers lose this afternoon, they will still be a game better off in the standing, leading second-place Cleveland by 2.5, than they were when the series began and Cleveland came to town only 1.5 games back of Detroit, and even with the Tigers in the Loss Column.

It won't be easy, not that it ever is.  After outscoring the Indians 14-2 in the first two games, the Tigers are up against Ubaldo Jimenez this afternoon.  He's the stud the Indians traded their future to Colorado for.  His numbers are remarkable.  Lefties hit .231 off him.  Righties are clipping along at a .230 pace.  Those are pretty solid numbers.  In fact, the only stat of Jimenez I can find that works in favor of Detroit is that he is a.500 pitcher on the road in his career (26-26) and a sub-.500 pitcher on the road this season (3-4).

Rick Porcello is looking to regain his form after a couple of rough outings during which he has posted an ERA of 11.17.  In his six starts prior, he'd put up a five-game win streak with an ERA of 3.26.  If he wins today, it will be his 112th of the season and will make Detroit the only team besides Philadelphia with 3 12-game winners.  And it will mean Jim Leyland will come off smelling like a rose.  Justin Verlander has had his four days of rest since racking up his 18th win of the season here on Tuesday night over the Twins, so it should be his turn to go today.  But, Leyland, even though it's an important division game (in hockey they call 'em 4-point games because of the possible point swing which results from winning or losing), Leyland is giving Verlander an extra days rest.  As he said in his press gaggle this morning--and there were only four of us there for that at 9:30 on this Sunday morning, maybe everybody else went to church--"I've got to protect Justin Verlander, and that means not just this season."  And you can see his point.  82 millions dollars, the amount of Verlander's multi-year contract, is indeed a sizable investment.  Porcell gave up a single in the first, Jimenez did the same, and both the runners died on base. We go to the second and there is no score and we will, as usual, be here to keep you up to date.

Oh, by the way, THE TIGERS HAVE SEVEN IN AND ARE STILL BATTING IN THE THIRD.  They have lit Jimenezs up.  He's thrown over 40 pitches in the inning and has given up a 3-run homer to Delmon Young, a 2-run blast to Victor Martinez, plus RBI singles to Ramon Santiago and Austin Jackson.  It ties for the biggest inning of the year for Detroit (accomplished twice previously) and the inning finally ends when Santiago fans.  Detroit sent 12 to the plate and Jimenez threw 47 pitches.  And never once did the Indians have a man up in the bullpen.  We are going to the 4th and we are breathing easier as it is now, Detroit 7, Cleveland 0.  The Tigers, as an aside, are 50-19 (.725) when scoring first this season.  I do not know their record in games in which they score the first seven, but I am betting it is awfully, awfully good.

Hey, now.  We have a ballgame again, if you can believe it.  Porcello, after allowing two singles and only two singles in the first three innings, couldn't handle the good fortune of that 7-run Detroit outburst in the third.  First he gave up a solo homer to Carlos Santanta to make it a 7-1 game, then, with two out, he allowed three straight singles and a double which put three more on the board and which made it a 7-4 ballgame and Jim Leyland had seen enough.  He came to get Porcello, brought in Duane Below, and the Indians are still hitting in the 4th with yet another run in on a Below wild pitch and, unbelievably, we have a game again.  It is Detroit 7, Cleveland 5 and the Indians have batted around and are still batting here in the 4th.  Wow, etc.

I'd like to say things are calming down here, and they are a bit, but this one; a game the Tigers had in the bag, is going to go down to the wire.  It's 8-7 and are only in the 6th.  The Tigers just got a break when Travis Hafner pulled up lame going from first to second on an easy double and was thrown out due to the fact that he was between the bases and could not move.  A blown hammy, for sure.  But the hit did score a run and that 7-0 Detroit lead is a memory.  This is a one-run game and we have a ling way to go.  Cleveland is gone in the 6th and the Tigers and hanging on by one.

The Tigers still lead 8-7 and have a leadoff double by Alex Avila here in the 8th.  By my count, in this game which the Tigers led 7-0 after three, Cleveland has sent either the tying or the go-ahead run to the plate 17 times.  The scorecard they give us here in the press box has room for 7 pitchers.  On my card right now, there is one space left.  He's warming in the bullpen.  He, of course, is Jose Valverde.  What an afternoon this has turned out to be.  Oh, and I didn't even mention Jim Leyland getting tossed out of the game for arguing a call at third back in the 6th.  I'll tell you something: I know there are 162 games in a season, and I know Detroit still has 36 to play after today.  But, this is the kind of a game that, when it's all over and whether you have finished first or second, you look back on as a turning point.  This has become, for the last couple of hours now, a grim battle for survival.  Detroit does not score.  Here comes Valverde.  He is 36 for 36 in Save Situations this season.  As you know....

El Papa Grande walks the first man and hits the second.  Two on, none out.  A sac bunt puts 'em at second and third.  Cleveland's #9 hitter, Lou Marson, comes to the plate. OH MY GOD!  Marson lines to center and Austin Jackson throws Fukudome out at the plate for a game-ending double play.  What a throw.  What a game.  The Tigers win 8-7...lead the Central by 4.5.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pennant Fever, Catch It

Well, we're here at the big showdown as the Tigers open their three game weekend series against the Indians.  Detroit leads Cleveland by a game-and-a-half but the teams are, as they say in baseball, tied in the loss column.  It means, in this case, that Cleveland has played three fewer games than Detroit.  It means that if Cleveland wins all three of those games, they will be tied for first with the Tigers. If you think about it, the fact that Cleveland has three more games to play than Detroit may work in the Tigers favor, because there will be three days between now and the end of the season--now just five weeks away--where the Indians will be hard at work while the Tigers have the day off.  We'll see how it all plays out.  By the time Sunday evening rolls around, the Tigers will either be leading the division by four-and-a-half, or they will be trailing by two-and-a-half, or something somewhere in between.  That's what makes the weekend important, etc. There's an interesting note about the Indians starter tonight, Josh Tomlin.  At least I think it's interesting.  Tomlin has never had a start in which he has failed to qualify for a decision.  In other words, he has never had a start (tonight is the 37th of his career) in which he failed to go at least five innings.  It's the longest such streak to begin a career in Indians history, and may the longest streak of its kind on big league history.  So, we'll quietly root for the Tigers to knock this guy out after, oh, four-and-two-thirds or something else that is less than five, just so we can see history made here this evening.  We are in the bottom of the first, Max Scherzer gave up a walk and nothing else in the top in the inning, and that is that.  We will, as always, keep you posted.

Still scoreless here in the 4th and Tomlin has been very impressive.  He's allowed one hit but has faced the minimum because the Tiger who got the hit, Jhonny Peralta, was doubled off first when Cleveland left fielder Michael Brantley made a great running catch and Peralta had rounded second thinking the ball was going to fall.   Scherzer also allowed only 1 hit.  We're off to the 5th and there is no score.  We've been watching the Lions game out of the corner of our eye and while they trail 7-0 late in the first in Cleveland, they are driving and have a first and goal thing going on inside the five.  And now they have an apparent TD, but it is under review.  I only tonight learned that all TD's will be reviewed automatically in the NFL, which seems to me to be a foolish time-waster.  More later, etc...

Tomlin got his five in.  We've gone to the 6th, no score, each team with only two hits.  A classic pitchers duel.  Tomlin has now gone at least 5 innings in each of his first 37 career appearances to extend his club record.  And remember, Cleveland's been in the American League since 1901--the first yhear there was an American League.

Hey, now.  Austin Jackson's towering fly cleared the wall in left with plenty to spare and since the batter who preceeded him, Ryan Raburn, had singled, Jackson's 6th homer of the season was of the two-run variety and those are the only runs in this game as Cleveland bats in to the 7th.  Both teams have only four hits.  Scherzer's been great, but he is over 100 pitches now and there is stirring in the Detroit pen.  Benoit lurks to come on in the 8th, I suspect.

We've have a couple of very, very very close calls go against Detroit here in the 7th and the Indians have scored a run as a result.  Lonnie Chisenhall was called safe at first with two out when it was ruled that Scherzer's foot was off the bag when he took a relay from first baseman Miguel Cabrera who had made a remarkable diving stop of a Chisenhall grounder.  Moments later, Scherzer was covering the plate after a wild pitch and just barely missed getting the tag on runner Carlos Santana in time.  He was safe by, like, four inches and that's all.  Scherzer got Luis Valbuena to ground to first--Cabrera touched first himself this time, no need for a toss to the pitcher covering--and the inning ended.  Bottom of the 7th and it's 2-1, Detroit.  It is, in every aspect, a nail-biter.

And just like that, with two out in the 7th, Alex Avila just got the run back with a bomb to right, his 14th, and Peralta has gone-back-to-back with a big fly to left, his 18th.  As both Avila and Peralta were first-ball hitting, the back-to-back homers came on back-to-back pitches and are the last pitches Tomlin will throw on this night.  He is gone.  He worked six-and-two-thirds and gave up the four runs on six hits.  All four Detroit runs tonight came as a result of the three home runs he allowed.  Detroit leads now 4-2.  Detroit, still up in the 7th, is six defensive outs away from victory.

The bullpen gate swings open and Papa Grande stands, alone for a moment, then jump-skips onto the field and trots to the mound as the crowd, even though it is between innings, lustily roars.  Jose Valverde is in the game.  He looks tonight for his 36th consecutive save to start a season--already a Detroit record.  He, on this night, has the maximum allowable lead in which a save can be recorded: three runs.  Valverde was the losing pitcher here the night before last as Minnesota scored two unearned runs in the 9th to beat him.  Since the game was tied when he entered, it was not a Save Situation for Valverde.  We are in the 9th.  The Tigers lead 4-1, and are three defensive outs away from victory.

36 for 36.  Valverde got 'em on 14 pitches in the 9th. 1-2-3.  The lead is 2.5.  Even if they lose the last two games of the series, Detroit will still be in first place when it is over.  Game two comes off here tomorrow night--and we will be back with you at that time, from this place.  

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

40 To Go

122 games down and 40 games to go for the Tigers (65-57) as they close out the series tonight here against the (53-68) Minnesota Twins.  The Indians lost in 14 last night (the second Tuesday in a row in which they have played a 14-inning game) so the Tigers are three up on the Indians and three-and-a-half up on the White Sox.  Those two teams get underway in Chicago in about half an hour.  That was quite a game there last night.  Gavin Floyd of the White Sox struck out 7 of the first 9 hitters he faced, including 5 in a row, but he failed to survive the 6th as the Indians came back from a 5-2 deficit to tie.  The Indians were down again, 7-5, going to the 8th but single runs in the 8th and the 9th forced extras.  Chicago had 5 triples in the game, including one to lead off the 12th, but they failed to get the man home.  They finally won in the 14th, at 1:29am today, Detroit time.  The Indians used their entire bullpen last night, and unlike Detroit, they do not have Thursday off.  So, theirs could be a tired staff when they come to town Friday night.

I'm busy up here in the press box tonight doing the same thing I was doing last night, cutting up tape from Jim Leyland's afternoon press gaggle and from Lions practice.  I'm trying to get all of this done tonight so I can feed my radio stations with material they can hold for release until Friday which will mean that I, like the Tigers, will have the day off tomorrow.

Detroit is down 1-0 after two tonight.  Jim Thome hit career homer 601 off Brad Penny with two out in the second, and that's been it.  We'll keep you posted, as usual.

1-1 in the 4th, now.  Brad Penny just escaped a bases-loaded jam in the top of the inning, racing to cover first and just barely beating Minnesota's Tsuyoshi Nishioka to the bag to take the throw from Ramon Santiago for the somewhat rare 4-1 putout.  The Tigers tied the game in the 3rd on a Sac Fly by Delmon Young who would have had more than that but for a diving grab by Ben Revere in right-center.  Young should be 2-for-2 tonight but has twice been robbed by Revere who ran down a fly ball on the track in dead center to deny Young with a Willie Mays-like over-the-shoulder basket catch in the first.  It was about as nice a catch as we've seen in this yard this year, and the grab in the third was no slouch, either.  We're headed to the 5th...still 1-1.

About ten minutes after Jhonny Peralta put the Tigers ahead 2-1 with a solo homer in the 6th, Rene (really?  Rene?  What is this, the NHL?) Tosoni hit Penny's 100th (and last) pitch of the night into the seats in right with a mate aboard to put the Twins ahead 3-2.  Penny pitched a fine ballgame tonight, allowing only 5 hits in six innings (plus two hitters) of work.  Two of those hits went the distance though, and so the Tigers are down a run as they hit in the Detroit 7th.

Miguel Cabrera's two-out single in the 7th tied the game 3-3, but Boesch was cut down at the plate to end the inning as he tried to score the go-ahead run.  In the Minny 8th,. Jim Thome hurt the Tigs, again, with an two-out RBI single of his own.  The Tigers, down 4-3, have two on with none out in the bottom of the 8th.  A good game.  A good pennant race game.  Now the bases are loaded with none out.  Cleveland has gone ahead of Chicago 2-1 and are batting in the 7th at US Cellular Field.

Wilson Betemit, pinch hitting, hits a Sac Fly to center to score pinch runner Austin Jackson and we're tied 4-4 with the Tigers still hitting in the 8th.

The Twins loaded 'em in the 9th off Jose Valverde on a single and two errors on bunts but Valverde fanned the next two hitters.  Justin Morneau singled in two with two out on a grounder right up the middle.  I happened to have looked it up prior to the game yesterday, and at that point, in the last 365 days, Morneau was hitting a hard-to-believe .222.  So much for that stat.  On to the bottom of the 9th: Twins 6, Tigers 4.  Cleveland is ahead of Chicago 4-1 and are threatening in the top of the 8th, again.  We may have to bolt for the locker room so, if so, we'll see you here at Comerica Park Friday night when those Indians hit town...