Valverde Can’t Seal the Deal, Royals Top Tigers in 11

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Detroit 2, Kansas City 3 (box)

For most of us, we couldn’t even watch the first seven innings of Wednesday’s game, thanks to a scheduling conflict with FSN-Detroit. By the time the Wings had beaten the Blue Jackets, the Tigers were headed to the eight inning in Kansas City, trailing 1-0. Once the broadcast was made public however, the Tigers and Royals wound up giving us some free baseball.

From what I heard, Max Scherzer was more than just pretty good in his Tigers debut. Crazy Eyes went the first six innings, allowing a lone base hit while striking out three. His counterpart, Luke Hochevar, was every bit his equal. Hochevar lasted 7.2 innings of shut-out baseball, in what might have been the most impressive outing of his three year career. Hochevar was relieved by Joakim Soria, who proceeded to strike out Austin Jackson with the tying run at second base to end the eighth.

Soria continued his dominance in the ninth, striking out Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordonez, both on 3-2 fastballs. It was in that same situation that Miguel Cabrera found himself as the Tigers final hope. Trailing 1-0 in the ninth, two outs, 3-2 count, and on the 10th pitch of the at bat, Cabrera lined a laser beam down the right field line that stayed just high enough to catch the foul pole to tie the score.

The score remained tied until the 11th, when Magglio Ordonez and Cabrera opened the inning against Kyle Farnsworth (1-0) with back-to-back singles. Carlos Guillen then lined a single of his own, scoring pinch-runner Don Kelly from second. With still no one out, the smart play would have been to bunt Brandon Inge, which would have put two runners in scoring position with one down. Inge instead popped up, failing to advance the runners. In an apparent attempt to rectify that, Leyland put both runners in motion, but Cabrera took off too early and Farnsworth caught him in between second and third. A Gerald Laird pop-up then ended a once-promising inning.

But no worries, right? Papa Grande was on for the save, ready to send all 19 Royals fans home angry. But Jose Valverde fell behind the first man he faced and eventually gave Alberto Callaspo a fastball he could drive, and drive it he did, just over the right field wall to tie the score at two. Billy Butler followed with an infield hit and Rick Ankiel brought home pinch-runner Willie Bloomquist with his double to deep right field. Of course, Bloomquist had held up at third until Scott Sizemore dropped the ball behind himself on an attempted relay home, then casually sauntered in the general direction of the ball, allowing Bloomquist to scamper home safely. Let’s face it, he probably would have scored anyway, especially with the way Valverde was locating his fastball; you know, not very well.

Cheers and Jeers after the jump.

Cheers for

  • Max Scherzer– One hit allowed in six innings in his first start of the year. Welcome to the Tigers, Max.
  • Luke Hochevar– The top pick in the 2006 draft, Hochevar has never lived up to that billing, but he was near flawless on Wednesday. Jason Kendall had him working off the fastball very well. If the Royals can get contributions from him, they will be very happy.
  • Miguel Cabrera– Game tying HR in the ninth plus a single to extend a rally in the 11th. He is the best RH hitter in the American League folks.
  • Alberto Callaspo– Trey Hillman needs to find a way to keep Callaspo’s bat in the lineup, even after Alex Gordon returns from injury, the dud can rake.
  • Phil Coke– not to be overlooked because of Valverde’s failure, Coke tossed two scoreless innings leading up to the 11th. He did run into a bit of trouble, but wiggled off the hook and was in line for the win.

Jeers for

  • Jose Valverde– Fernando Rodney was 37 for 38 in save chances a year ago, Valverde is now 0 for 1. Just saying. Valverde (0-1) left two balls in the middle of the plate and both were crushed. Location was poor on Wednesday, but he’ll be fine.
  • Jim Leyland– Failing to bunt with Inge in the 11th forced his hand into trying to advance the runners himself by orchestrating the failed double-steal with Cabrera and Guillen. Over-managing to correct under-managing is not a good idea. Of course if Laird singles home a run, no one (including me) is complaining.

What’s on tap?

Oh, just the rubber match of the season’s first series. Brian Bannister will toe the slab for the home team while Dontrelle Willis looks to secure the series for Detroit. Bannister has had great success versus the Tigers in the past, winning four of six decisions and posting a 2.09 ERA in six career starts. Willis will face the Royals for the first time in his career. Among the Royals he has faced, Jason Kendall has had the most success, going 4 for 10 versus Willis. There is a good chance the Tigers won’t have to face Joakim Soria on Thursday should there a be a save situation. Soria threw better than 35 pitches in Wednesday’s game.

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