Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Let's Watch the Tigers and the Yankees (Again)!

The Tigers tonight, in game two of their series against the Yankees here at Comerica Park, look to tie their record for longest win streak in this stadium at ten. In addition to their nine-game home streak, the Tigers have won 15 of their last 16 at home, a run which began on the 4th of July.

It was a perfect night for baseball last night, and we were treated to a game which was pretty much perfect. Not in the 27-up, 27-down sense, but in terms of watching one of the all-time greats at his all-time best.

Justin Verlander tied his career high with 14 strikeouts, and were it not for his own error, very likely would have shut the Bombers out. As it was, he set a Detroit record for most strikeouts in a game against New York. It was the kind of a night that you expect you will remember for a long time.

While the Tigers have been hot of late (they've now won 5 in a row--their season long win streak is 6) New York, in spite of being tied for the best record in the league at 63-45 (.583), have struggled over the course of the last three weeks, going 6-11 (.353) in their last 17.

Here are some knock-your-eyes out numbers: during Detroit current 5-game win streak, Prince Fielder is hitting .588(!) (10x17) with 3 homers and 8 RBI. Miguel Cabrera has also hit 3 homers in the last 5 games, driving in 7 and hitting .364 (8x22). Both the Tigers superstars homered last night with Cabrera hitting the shrubbery in dead center, a blast measured at 454 feet.

The batting cage has been wheeled away, the lines drawn, and the infield is being wetted down. It won't be long now and we'll check in with you as developments warrant on this warm Tuesday night in Detroit.

First pitch came at 7:07 and it was 87-degrees (was 80 at game time last night).  Both teams went down in order in the first and both pitchers, Rick Porcello for Detroit and Phil Hughes for New York, threw a mere 13 pitches.  On to the second.

There were three singles in the second, two by New York and one by Detroit's Brennan Boesch, but no runner made it as far as second base.  The two Yankees hits were sandwiched around a 4-6-3 double play ball off the bat of Eric Chavez, while Boesh's one-out hit was followed by Delmon Young's groundout and Jhonny Peralta's fly to right.  

Through three it is as even as can be: each team has two singles, neither team has put a runner in scoring position, and Rick Porcello has thrown 42 pitches; Phil Hughes 43.

2-0, New York.  With a man on and two out in the 4th, (Mark Texiera had singled after Robinson Cano grounded into New York's second 6-4-3 double play of the night) Eric Chavez got around late on a Porcello fastball but got the meat of the bat on it and hit a curving liner to left that just did sneak over the wall for his 11th homer of the year.  It didn't make it by much.  Chavez himself wasn't sure he'd homered, stopping at second and awaiting further instructions before completing his trip around the bases.  

2-2 after 4.  The Tigers come right back as Cabrera (we told you above how hot he's been during Detroit's 5-game win streak) made it 4 homers in his last 6 games and 29 for the season with a line drive blast over the left field wall on Hughes' 3rd pitch of the 4th.  Boesch singled, and with two outs Peralta's liner down the third base line was fair by about a foot and Boesch came all the way around to score on the double--the 65th two-out run scored by the Tigers since the All Star break.  The Tigers made Hughes throw 42 pitches in the inning--including a dozen to Boesch alone.  He had thrown 43 pitches in the game prior to the 4th.  Porcello gets the Yanks in order in the 5th on only 9 pitches, so we are halfway through and we are all tied up here in Detroit.

Detroit gets to Hughes for two more in the 5th and at 102 pitches, two runs in and a man on second with one out in the 5th, his night is done.  Boone Logan comes in from the NY pen.  Cabrera has the big hit in the inning, doubling home both Andy Dirks and Austin Jackson with a drive that landed on the warning track near the left field foul pole and one-hooped the wall.  It was fortunate that it didn't one-hop over the wall as Jackson would have been forced to stop at third.  As it was, he scored without a throw.  Cabrera has now driven in ten runs in the last 6 games.  

With his RBI double in the 5th, Cabrera is hitting .400 (10x25) in his last six games.  Logan puts out the fire, as it were, and we go to the sixth with the Tigers on top, 4-2.

5-3, Detroit now, as we go to the bottom of the 7th. Andy Dirks doubled in Alex Avila with two outs in the bottom of the 6th but was thrown out trying to make it a triple to give the Tigers a 5-2 lead before doubles by Nick Swisher and Ichiro Suzuki in the top of the 7th made it 5-3 and ended Porcello's night.  He gave up 3 runs on 8 hits in 6 and two-thirds.  The only hit that really hurt him was the Chavez homer that just did sneak over the wall.  Porcello did not issue a single walk.  Brayan Villarreal has replaced him, and got the final out of the 7th with Suzuki on second.

A nice outing by Octavio Dotel--8 pitches and he retires New York in order in the 8th.  Still 5-3 Tigers as we go to the bottom of the 8th, and we (likely) await Jose Valverde in the 9th.  He is warming as we speak.

A big two-out single by Dirks restores Detroit's three-run lead.  Valverde in, Detroit up 6-3 as the 9th begins.

The Tigers  win 6-5.  Valverde made it exciting, to say the least, allowing a two-run double with two outs before getting Curtis Granderson to pop up and end it with the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second.  It's  a seasons-best 6-game win streak for the Tigers now and they'll try and keep it going right here against the Yankees tomorrow night.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Let's Watch the Tigers and the Yankees!

Greetings from Comerica Park in Detroit, Michigan where come now the New York Yankees, the Bronk Bombers, the Pinstripers, the 28-time Worlds Champions. They are in town to begin a four-gamer here against the Tigers.  The Game Notes tell us that the New Yorkers, tied with Texas for the best record in the American League at 63-44, have the best road record in the American League (29-22, .569), but a cursory review of their game-by-game results (the only kind of review I ever undertake) shows they've lost five of their last seven away.  The Detroits, meanwhile, have won 8 in a row at home and (geez!) 14 of their last 15.

That win steak was, of course, over: dead and buried here yesterday with Detroit hitting and Cleveland ahead 8-5 with two out and nobody on in the 10th inning.  And then the Tigers won it.  In a 24-pitch span, the Tigers went walk, walk, RBI double, two-RBI single, and two-run homer.  A five run rally from a dead stop and one of the most improbable finishes I've ever seen.  After the game I asked the guy who hit the game-winning blast, one Miguel Cabrera, if, with two out and nobody on and his team down three, he was thinking it was about time to go home and he said, "No, were you?"  "Uh, kinda," I replied.  To be fair, the odds were in my favor on the thinking about going home thing.  According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last time Detroit won a game in which they trailed by three runs in extra innings was 1935.   You know what else happened to the Tigers in 1935?  That's right, they were World Champions.

I've been coming to these things--these Tigers games, that is--since 1963.  I don't know if yesterday's was the best I ever saw, but for sure it was Top 5.

Verlander, 11-7 and loser of his last two, is the Detroit starter tonight.  Ivan Nova, with 10 wins one of four Yanks with double-digit wins, starts for NY.  We'll begin in a little more than half an hour and we'll check back with you then...

We got underway a little late, 7:10, and it took Verlander about three minutes to finish NY off in the first: 1-2-3 on 9 pitches.

Ivan Nova is about as good in his half of the first.  It took him 10 pitches to retire the Tigers.  Andy Dirks, in the lineup starting in left instead of Quintin Berry, got a one-out single but Cabrera bounced into an around-the-horn double play and that was that.  No score as we go to the second.

After getting NY out on 9 pitches in the first, it took Verlander 11 pitches to get a called third in Raul Ibanez as part of another 1-2-3 inning.  Verlander threw 16 pitches in that second inning.  Six up and six down for the New Yorkers so far.

Prince Fielder's 19th homer of the night comes as he leads off the Detroit second.  It is his 3rd in the last five games and it was a fastball low and away and he still managed to pull it into the seats in right.  The homer comes on Nova's 13th pitch of the night.  He rebounds though to strike out the next three and it's on to the third here in Detroit. 

Eric Chavez ruins my perfect game by doubling on the first pitch of the NY third.  An out later, Russell Martin singled to put runners at the corners, but Verlander fanned Curtis Granderson for the second time and got Derek Jeter on a comebacker to end the inning.

Wow.  The Twins hung ten on the Indians in the second tonight, sending 13 to the plate and hitting three homers.  The Indians--losers of 9 in a row, come to bat in the bottom of the second trailing 10-0.  The Yankees get a leadoff single from Robinson Cano to open the 4th.  Of NY's three hits, two have come with two strikes.  Nova got the Tigers in order in the third, retiring the side on six pitches which is about as efficient as you can get.  Verlander, meanwhile, gets the next three hitters, finishing with a flourish, striking out Nick Swisher--his 5th strikeout of the evening.  Still 1-0, Detroit heading bottom 4.

Cabrera (29) just hit one out to dead center which is not a particularly easy thing to do here.  It was an awesome Big Fly and it's 2-0 Detroit.  Nova hit Fielder, up right after Cabrera, and has BEEN WARNED.  Off to the 5th...

We are tied 2-2 and it's all Verlander's fault.  With two out, he dropped Fielder's throw as he attempted to cover first on a grounder to the right side and, given the extra out, NY made him pay.  Singles by Jeter and Cano each drove in a run to tie it up.  Of NY's 6 hits tonight, four have come with two strikes.  So, the Tigers were out of the inning with a 2-0 lead and then they weren't.

And now they are again.  Leading, that is.  5 singles in a row (Young, Avila, Peralta, Infante, and Jackson) resulted in a three-run rally and the Tigers have their biggest lead of the night, 5-2 after five.  Young was thrown out attempting to steal second after his leadoff hit.  Who knows how big the inning might have been without that? Andy Dirks drove in the last run of the inning with a sacrifice fly after  RBI singles by Infante and Jackson.  Infante had four hits yesterday, including that two-run, two out game-tying single in the tenth, remember.  

Verlander gets the shutdown inning he was looking for after the Tigers got the lead.  He's thrown 94 pitches through six and has fanned 9.  The last of which was Ichiro Suzuki who was just helpless.  In the middle of the 5th, it remains 5-2, Detroit.

The Tigers get two more courtesy of four more singles in the 6th to lead 7-2.  When Peralta singled in Detroit's second run of the inning, it meant that 9 of Detroit's previous 12 hitters had singled.  Nova had to leave in the midst of all this and winds up charged with 7 earned runs on 11 hits (9 singles, 2 homers) in five and a third.  Going to the 7th it's now 7-2, Detroit.

Verlander works out of a two-on jam in the 7th, fanning Martin to end the inning and, perhaps, his night.  Verlander has thrown 111 pitches.  The strikeout of Martin is his 11th of the night.  Detroit is now 6 defensive outs away from victory, leading by 5.

Jim Leyland lets Verlander come out for the 8th and he makes the most of the opportunity: striking out the side and the place goes crazy as he goes to the dugout.  He finishes with 14 strikeouts to tie his career high and throws 132 pitches.  It was amazing to watch, I can tell you that.  Verlander had not defeated New York in his last 5 outings, but if the Tigers can hold a lead which stands right now at 7-2 with the Tigers coming to bat in the 8th that little streak will be over.  By the way, Tigers PR tells us the 14 strikeouts by Verlander tonight are the most by a Tiger in a game against New York since Jim Bunning also fanned 14 on June 20, 1958!