Detroit 5, Kansas City 7 ( box)
Magic Number 19
Maybe Jim Leyland could see this one coming. With the Tigers clinging to a 3-2 lead with two outs in the top of the fifth inning last night, Marcus Thames drew a walk to load the bases. Leyland immediately sent Curtis Granderson out to run for Thames. Aubrey Huff then singled in two to give the Tigers a three run lead.
The move to lift Thames for Granderson was designed to improve the outfield defense. Ryan Raburn had started in center, flanked by Thames and Magglio Ordonez. With Granderson coming in, Raburn shifted to left.
Of course, the first hitter of the next inning, Josh Anderson, hit a line drive to left that Raburn misplayed, turning an out into a double. Ordonez made two catches drifting backward, both of which looked like they would fall in as Maggs twisted and turned to try to track the ball. Though Raburn was not charged with an error, his misplay of Anderson’s ball opened the door to a two-run inning.
In the seventh, the Tigers’ D was at it again. With two outs and two on, Billy Butler popped up down the right field line. Clete Thomas, in as a defensive replacement for Ordonez, ran toward the line, but got alligator arms as he neared the wall. He whiffed on the ball completely, and it fell to the ground for a harmless foul ball.
Except that it gave new life to Butler, and the Royals’ best hitter came through with a run scoring single to tie the game. Mike Jacobs followed with an RBI single of his own and the Royals took the lead.
Raburn scares the crap out of me on defense. While in center field, he got a poor jump on a long fly ball over his head, but caught up to it in time to make the catch. He also made a very good running catch to end the inning in the seventh, saving at least one run, probably two. Raburn threw out a runner at the plate, then nearly nailed another late in the game. He also homered for the Tigers’ first run. For all the good things he did, his misplay to start the fifth still looms the largest.
He did have three hits, including his homer, which is really the reason he was playing. In the end, I guess it’s a wash, but watching Raburn play the outfield is eerily similar to watching Fernando Rodney close a game. He usually gets the job done, but he doesn’t make it easy.
- Marcus Thames– 1 for 1 with a walk, a sacrifice fly, and two RBI. Very good day for Thames, who looked at a lot of pitches and concentrated on beating the shift the Royals employed against him.
- Placido Polanco– Polly coupled his two hit day with a fine defensive play to end another Royals threat in the eighth.
- Aubrey Huff– Just 1 for 4 on the day, but his clutch two out, two run single should have been enough. The Tigers’ defense just wasn’t good enough to help hold the lead.
- Ryan Perry– I realize that he should have been out of the inning with a one run lead intact, but Perry couldn’t recover from Thomas’ non-error on Butler’s pop-up. Perry went on to allow all three batters he faced to reach. Sometimes, pitchers have to pick up their defense, Perry couldn’t do that last night.
- The Outfielders– I realize that not many official scorers would have charged errors to Raburn or Thomas as neither even managed to get a glove on the ball, but those misplays directly lead to no fewer than four runs to score. They won’t show up in the box score, I checked, they don’t, but there should be a special stat for plays like those.
What’s on tap
Justin Verlander will play stopper once again for Detroit, as they try to rebound from a sloppy loss last night. Verlander (16-7, 3.29) will look to improve his Cy Young resume when he faces Robinson Tejeda (1-1, 3.61) of the Royals. Detroit has won all four series so far against Kansas City, and will need a bi effort from Verlander if they plan to continue that streak. Verlander is 2-0 this season against the Royals, fanning 19 in just 13 innings.
Though the Tigers couldn’t hold off the Royals, they did see their magic number shrink to 19 last night. Minnesota stays 6.5 games back as they fell to Toronto. The Blue Jays have now won 13 of their last 15 against the Twins. The White Sox also lost and remain 7.5 games back of Detroit. Minnesota continues their series against the Jays, and will face Roy Halladay. Chicago wraps up their home stand against Oakland today before heading west to play the Angels and Mariners.