It’s been five years since the Tigers last made it to the playoffs, and five years ago Justin Verlander was a rookie. For a rookie he pitched surprisingly well in the postseason. Verlander has always had the ability to perform in the clutch as if it weren’t any different than a normal game. Now that’s he’s had five years to develop as a better pitcher, I gotta be honest, I can’t wait to see him rock the playoffs again.
Verlander has always been one of my favorite players. I usually dislike players in the same division as the Sox but something about how Verlander carries himself has made me root for him. That and he’s a darn-good pitcher. Guys like Joe Mauer and Grady Sizemore I hate with a burning passion but I’ve always respected Verlander. Any guy who’s throwing 100 MPH into the eighth inning deserves some respect.
How will Verlander perform in the postseason? I don’t think it’ll be any different than the regular season. Count on eight innings of solid pitching, three runs or less, a handful of strikeouts, and single-digit hits. The guy is money. (No, literally, he IS money. It’s awesome.)
That’s enough on Verlander, time for the And Other Playoff Thoughts part. I’m putting the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Underdog category this season. The whole team has played REALLY well and my friend texted me the other day and said he thinks Upton deserves a shot at MVP. I kinda reviewed my MVP candidates a couple posts back and somehow completely forgot about Upton. While he hasn’t performed to the caliber of a Braun or a Fielder he’s definitely carried the D-Backs to a postseason appearance. Add Chris Young, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Roberts, Miguel Montero, and you’ve got yourself an offense. I doubt they’ll be able to get past the Phillies but people said the same thing about the Giants last year and look how that went.
That’s not a prediction, I’m just sayin’… y’know… it could happen…
The pitching is the only thing that bothers me about Arizona. They have all the other pieces but the pitching has been iffy. Unlike the Giants, who HAD pitching to go along with everything else, I think that’s what could ultimately be Arizona’s downfall. Ian Kennedy (20-4, 2.88) has been spectacular this year but past him and Daniel Hudson (16-11, 3.43) there’s a noticeable dropoff. Heck, even between Kennedy and Hudson there’s a dropoff. I don’t measure pitching by wins and losses, and people shouldn’t, because a pitcher can’t really control that. If you look at the ERA’s of the starting staff they’re giving up less than four runs per game.
Then you get into the bullpen. Some of the ERA’s in there are painful to look at but there are two bright spots. Closer J.J. Putz and reliever Joe Paterson. Putz has somehow managed to save forty-three games for the Diamondbacks this year after the Sox could barely get him to survive one inning. Paterson, even though he’s winless, has a 2.97 ERA in thirty-three and a third innings. Not bad. If the rest of the starting staff can kick it up a notch, and the bullpen can come through, I think the Diamondbacks will look like this year’s version of the Giants.
Again… I’m just sayin’…
Over the course of one hundred sixty-two games there is bound to be a heartbreak or two. Or seven. Or ten. You never know, but there are going to be some. Tonight was just one of those games.
Any time Justin Verlander takes the mound you know it’s going to be a difficult battle. With an ERA of 3.12 it should be obvious that it will be tough. And it was. Much like Mark Buehrle yesterday, Verlander really only made one mistake: Gordon Beckham’s two-run home run in the fifth inning. Verlander stuck around until the eighth inning, still dealing, and then Jose Valverde came on in the ninth. Edwin Jackson had a decent outing himself, but a home run by Brennen Boesch in the top of the first inning sort of got things started at an awkward pace.
The usually reliable Jesse Crain gave up a two-run home run to Miguel Cabrera in the top of the ninth inning but that will happen when Cabrera is up to bat. The man is a professional ballplayer and he’s at the top of the Silver Slugger categories (batting average, home runs, runs batted in) year after year. I would rather be burned by a big flame than a little wimpy one. *coughCasperWellscough*
Crain will not earn any points for his appearance tonight. Chris Sale, who was in the game before Crain, and Will Ohman, who entered afterwards, will earn points – two each, to be exact. It’s rare that Jesse Crain lets us down. He’s only done it one or two times this year, not counting tonight, that I can remember. This far into the year I think that’s still a pretty good ratio of clutch situations to let-downs.
I’m glad to see that after a rough start to his year Will Ohman has turned it around. We now have a couple left-handers out in that bullpen that we can go to. I’m seeing Ohman more as a specialist throughout the remainder of the season and Chris Sale as long man/he’s-just-a-left-handed-pitcher man. Left-handers are highly coveted in baseball and we’ve got a couple of good ones on our hands.
Adam Dunn continued his struggles tonight, striking out another three times. Frank Thomas said in an interview with Boers and Bernstein on The Score (a sports radio station here in Chicago) that he “knew this was going to happen. You play outfield or first base your whole career and then you switch to at-bat by at-bat, it’s going to take a while to adjust.” Big Hurt also said that he should turn it around this month and we should start to see Adam Dunn-like numbers again. The guy knows his stuff so hopefully that’s true.
Alexei Ramirez was two-for-four in the game today so he’s still swinging a hot bat. He should smack everyone in the leg with it, maybe some of his luck will rub off. Or bruise off? Bruise off sounds pretty cool so we’ll go with that.
I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s game as Jake Peavy (2-0, 3.24) will take on Brad Penny (4-4, 4.72) at 1:05 pm. For whatever reason this pitching matchup looks really good to me. I’ve always been a fan of Brad Penny and with Peavy on the mound for us the two should make for a fantastic ballgame.
The Sox are slowly but surely climbing their way up the standings in the AL Central. The Indians have been cooling off lately (although they beat the Jays 13-9 today) and the Sox are heating up. Dying first place team + red-hot bottom feeders = recipe for Soxcess. (I’ll stop there, I promise.)
Gavin Floyd started the game a little shakily today, giving up three runs in the bottom of the second inning. He settled in after that as he went on to pitch six and two thirds innings, striking out one and walking one. His record in Boston remains perfect as he picked up his fifth career win at Fenway Park. My friend Keleigh has said (several times this year) that Gavin needs to stop and breathe every once in a while. He seems to get in a hurry on the mound and we’ve seen that his stuff is good enough for him to be a dominating starting pitcher. Apparently he stopped to breathe today.
If the Sox go on to bigger and better things this season we’re gonna have to have a Brent Lillibridge day. I doubt we’d be where we are if it weren’t for this scrappy little guy. The Bridge (this is probably the most unoriginal nickname I’ve ever given) drove in two runs today, one on an RBI double off of the Big Green Monster in the fourth inning and a solo homer over the said Green Monster in the sixth. Paul Konerko had arguably his best game of the season as he went three-for-four with three runs batted in. He had a huge two-run home run off of Jonathan Papelbon (who was having a pretty good season) in the ninth inning to ensure our 7-4 victory. Oh, and Adam Dunn was disappointing again. No hits in four at-bats, two strikeouts. Come on, man… $56 million.
This is embarrassing.
Chris Sale is now becoming one of the more reliable arms in the bullpen. Whatever problems he was having earlier in the year he’s fixed them now. Perhaps he can share his magical ways with Adam Dunn? Anyway, Gavin Floyd left the game with two outs in the seventh so Sale came in to finish off that frame, then he stuck around a little bit for the eighth inning. Three Sweep Points for Sale. Sergio Santos came on in the ninth inning to nail down the save – his tenth of the year – and he’ll earn three Sweep Points as well.
I’m still really excited that we managed to sweep the Boston Red Sox. Of all teams! This was pretty much the equivalent of when I played for the Yankees about four years ago and our team beat the only undefeated team in the league. It was awesome. We weren’t terrible, we finished with a 12-3 record, but that game definitely gave us a confidence boost. Hopefully this sweep will have the same effect on the Boys in Black.
Much deserved off-day tomorrow before we come home to play the Detroit Tigers on Friday. Mark Buehrle (4-4, 3.91) will be laughably opposed by Andrew Oliver (0-0, 4.50).
And whoever found my blog by searching for “can you pitch one third of an inning and get a save,” you’re awesome.