Detroit Tigers News

MCB Notebook: Closers, Aces, Former Tigers, and a Sleepy Little Boy

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A few more thoughts from last night’s Tigers win over the Yankees:

Curtis Granderson played like a man on a mission against his former team. The Yankees managed only six hits all night, but Granderson had three of them, including a double and two singles. He also walked once. One of those three hits came against left hander Phil Coke, making it even more impressive considering Grandy’s struggles versus southpaws.

Also interesting was that none of his plate appearances came against a former teammate. Granderson was 2-for-2 with a walk against Max Scherzer, 1-for-1 versus Coke, and 1-for-1 versus Valverde. Coke and Scherzer were traded to the Tigers in the same deal that sent Granderson to New York.

It was obvious early on that the Tigers were going to have problems with Granderson and that ominous feeling developed quickly. Just as Matt Joyce and Edwin Jackson have done several times already this year, Granderson played over his head against his old club. You’d think the Tigers would have a better scouting report on these guys.

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My soon-to-be two-year-old son climbed up to my lap to watch the bottom of the ninth with me (just about the coolest thing ever, by the way). I was explaining the situations to him and explaining why we hate the Yankees. Then Granderson came up to face Valverde in the ninth and I told Leyton that we didn’t hate Grandy, since he’s a former Tiger. After he lined a sharp single to right, I told Leyton that I guess it was okay to not like Granderson anymore, either.

Fortunately, Leyton soon fell asleep on my chest, because I certainly didn’t want him to hear the things I said during that ninth inning.

Look, I understand that Valverde is the “closer” and there is some rule somewhere that say you cannot remove a closer from a game until he has either saved the game or given up the lead. I also get that eventually Valverde did shut the door and all is right with the world. WRONG!!

Jim Leyland was already well aware that neither Phil Coke nor Ryan Perry would be available to pitch tonight thanks to their workload over the past few games. Valverde clearly couldn’t have hit the water if he fell out of a boat for most of his outing last night. It was painfully obvious that he didn’t have it.

Yet, Leyland stood there in a manner not unlike Bud Selig, shrugged his shoulders, and did nothing.

I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of brining in Daniel Schlereth or Enrique Gonzalez to close out the game, but Valverde inspired so little confidence that at one point I was yelling for anyone else to be pitching for the Tigers, including Eddie Bonine. And you know how I feel about him. It took Valverde 38 pitches to end the game last night (thank you Carlos Guillen), I doubt we see him again tonight, even if the Tigers have a lead late.

So what happens next? That’s the eternal question of the baseball fan. People that don’t understand how to watch the game think it’s boring. They don’t anticipate the next pitch, the next play, the “what happens if” part of the game. But we do, that’s why we read these blogs, why we write them, why we live and die with every pitch.

That’s why tonight’s game is so terrifying. What happens tonight if Justin Verlander throws 120 pitches in six innings? What happens if the Tigers manage to take a slim lead into the eighth? How much confidence do you have that Brad Thomas or Robbie Weinhardt or Schlereth can close out a game at Yankee Stadium? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

Sure, you can put the onus on Verlander to throw eight strong innings, maybe even complete the game. He’s an ace, after all. But don’t think for a minute that the Yankees don’t know the Tigers bullpen situation too. They do a better job than anyone of driving up pitch counts and it will be their mission to get Verlander out of the game as quickly as possible.

And all that could have been avoided had Leyland taken out his closer last night, when he clearly didn’t have command. Had he done that, maybe the Tigers would have wound up losing, we’ll never know. Maybe Verlander will go out and walk on water tonight and all will be okay. Maybe Valverde will pitch tonight afterall. Maybe. I guess that’s why we watch.

Well, that, and so we have a place for our sons to crawl onto our laps and fall asleep during the ninth inning. Just as we did when we were young.

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