Sep 1, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) throws a pitch before the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
At about 3:30 P.M on Thursday afternoon, the feeling around the Detroit Tigers were not good to say the least. The Oakland A’s had won the first 3 games of their 4 game series with the Tigers and were up 6-3 going into the 9th inning looking for a sweep with their closer, Grant Balfour, coming onto to shut the door. Miguel Cabrera had aggravated his abdominal strain and was out of the game. Fans could not wait for the A’s to leave town. Then, this happened and the attitude completely changed. The Tigers now had momentum going into the weekend series with the Cleveland Indians went on to swept by the Atlanta Braves. With the Indians reeling and the Tigers owning the Indians to a tone of 13-3 going into the weekend series. The Tigers could basically end the race in the AL Central barring a complete collapse. Going into this series the Tigers had 28 games remaining and the Indians had 29. The magic number for the Tigers was 23 and for the Indians to catch the Tigers, the Indians would have to go 21-8 with the Tigers playing .500 baseball.
Friday, August 30
When lineups were released Friday afternoon, Miguel Cabrera was at his normal spot: batting 3rd and playing 3rd base. Many, including myself, have called for Cabrera to get some rest, and possibly even a DL stint. A DL stint at this point in the season does not make sense since September call-ups were only 2 days away, but for those who watched this play, the breaking point had been reached. Cabrera obviously was not right in his first at bat after which he left the game.
This is the final straw for Miguel’s injury. Miguel needs at least 5 days off to try to shake off this injury. The Tigers can use Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago to fill in at 3rd in the meantime, but getting Cabrera healthy for the playoffs is the most important thing. If Cabrera has to come out of a game and possibly misses multiple games in the postseason, everyone will lose their minds. Get well soon Miggy, we will see you once you can run at more than the pace of someone riding a Segway for the first time.
This game was basically the status quo for the Tigers-Indians season series. Jose Iglesias made his daily play that makes you just shake your head. Don Kelly and Austin Jackson added an RBI apiece, then Victor Martinez drove both of them home on a ball that Michael Bourn lost in the lights. Rick Porcello, who started the game, went 5.2 giving up 2 runs while walking 2 and striking out 3 in picking up the win.
The Tigers went on to win this game by a final score of 7-2 in a game that was shortened by rain after the 7th inning. The magic number was then 21.
Saturday, August 31
August 31 is the last day to set rosters for the postseason barring injuries and some DL loopholes. The Tigers made some roster moves to help set that lineup. They recalled Hernan Perez and Phil Coke from AAA Toledo while sending Jeremy Bonderman to Toledo and Luke Putkonen to A+ Lakeland. Coke, who was one of last year’s postseason heroes, was sent down to Toledo where he pitched 6.0 innings, yielding only 5 hits and 1 walk while striking out 9. The hope is that Coke has been mentally fixed and can get out RHB and more importantly LHB late in games. Perez was called up for a few different reasons. He will serve at the 25th man on the roster that can pinch run late in games as he had 28 steals in the minors this season and stole one base in his only attempt. He can also play a few different positions in the infield so he will be able to stay in the game and play solid defense.
Jeremy Bonderman was not going to be on the playoff roster as the service of a long reliever is taken by the 5th starter in the rotation. The same goes for Putkonen. The need for an extra position player who can run and play defense has a greater value than a reliever who has very little use in the postseason. The reason that Putkonen was sent to Lakeland because their season ended on Sunday so he could then be called up as soon as possible. Bonderman’s contract said that he can only be sent to Toledo so that’s why he was sent there. Toledo’s season ends on Monday, so he will rejoin the team after that.
The Tigers playoff roster, barring any unforeseen moves looks to be composed of 11 pitchers, the 5 starters, Joaquin Benoit, Bruce Rondon, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Al Albuquerque, and Coke with 14 position players, the normal starting 9, Don Kelly, Ramon Santiago, Matt Tuiasosospo, Brayan Peña and Perez.
This weekend was also Motown weekend in Detroit and Jim Leyland was in the Motown spirit. Here is a video of Jim Leyland doing the moonwalk, because why not. The Moonwalk isn’t Motown but who cares? Jim Leyland is moonwalking.
The other news before this game is that Cabrera was finally taking a day off. He is not going to be put on the DL because all of the September call-ups, but he is finally getting that break.
This game was another prototypical game Tigers-Indians game for 2013. The Indians took the early lead, the Tigers came back and took the lead, and did not look back. This game’s hero was Omar Infante who hit two home runs to left field. Jose Veras made things interesting in the 8th inning of the game as he yielded a home run to Yan Gomes and then the scariest moment of this game on a ball that ended in an inside the park home run for Carlos Santana.
The scary part was not that the Indians were within one run of tying the game and Santana actually had to run all 360 feet around the bases, it was the fact that Austin Jackson ran into the wall and looked to injure his right shoulder as he could not retrieve the ball and throw it in because he was in too much pain. Leyland and the trainer, Kevin Rand, went out to check on Jackson who, after a long talk with both of those parties, stayed in the game.
Jackson staying in the game was a wise decision. After Peña and Santiago reached, Jackson knocked both in on an RBI triple up the left-center field gap. He was then plated on a suicide squeeze play by Iglesias, his second with the Tigers. Jackson went on to record a couple of outs in the outfield and he did not seem in pain while throwing the ball into the infield, and it obviously did not hamper him while he was hitting.
The Tigers won this game by a final score of 10-5 and the magic number was down to 19.
Sunday, September 1
The big news that was announced between the games on Saturday and Sunday was with the changing of the calendar from August to September, the first wave of September call-ups arrived in Detroit. This wave brought about the returns of Evan Reed and Danny Worth (who I was not sure still was alive), and finally the arrival of Nick Castellanos. Bonderman and Putkonen will rejoin the team after they serve their required time for all of a day.
Many people wondered when the Tigers’ highest rated hitting prospect would make it to the big leagues, and that question has finally been answered. Castellanos will not be on the playoff roster barring some kind of DL manipulation, but he will get playing time in September. He did not get the start in his first game in the big leagues, but he did get to play. Jim Leyland will not allow players to be called up onto his team and not play them. If they are on the roster, they will play and serve a purpose. Castellanos will get some playing time and of course people will overreact to how he plays in either fashion.
Another minor league note, AAA manager Phil Nevin was informed that his contract will not be renewed.
When lineups were announced, Jackson was given the day off as he is listed as day-to-day with a minor shoulder injury, and Cabrera was also out of the lineup for the second day.
This was a big start for Justin Verlander. Verlander’s struggles this season have been well documented. The “doomers” were out early today as Verlander walked Bourn and Kipnis in the first inning en route to a 35 pitch first inning. No runs scores, but after a 44 pitch first inning in his last start against Oakland, many did not think Verlander would last in this game. Those two walks were all that were yielded as Verlander as he ended up pitching 7 innings of shutout ball 4 hits, those 2 BB’s, and 6 K’s.
The problem for the Tigers was that Danny Salazar matched Verlander pitch for pitch. Salazar went 6 innings of shutout ball yielding 6 hits, no walks, and 5 K’s.
After Salazar was lifted from the game for LHP Nick Hagadone to face Don Kelly, Leyland called upon Castellanos to make his major league debut as a pinch hitter against the lefty. Castellanos chased a fastball up in the zone and flied out to left.
The game remained scoreless into the 9th inning when Joaquin Benoit who has been the Tigers’ best reliever entered the game. He walked Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley before an Asdrubal Cabrera bunt and an intentional walk to Jason Kubel who was acquired off of waivers earlier in the week. Mike Aviles then delivered a grand slam on a hanging slider which would knock in the only runs of the game.
The final score was 4-0 as Castellanos grounded out on the first pitch he saw in the 9th, Infante hit a double, but was then hit by a batted Alex Avila ball, Santiago singled, and the game was ended after Andy Dirks grounded out.
The Indians won the series finale 4-0 and the magic number remains at 19.
So what did we learn from this series? Really, not too much.
The Tigers entered the series 13-3 against the Indians and they finished the season series 15-4. Miguel Cabrera is finally getting the rest that he needs. With 25 games remaining, the Tigers are 80-57 as they embark on their last long road trip of the year at Boston, Kansas City, and Chicago. The series at Fenway may be a playoff preview as the Tigers and Red Sox are jockeying or home field advantage. If the Tigers can take care of business against the Royals and White Sox as both have been reeling, the magic number should be right around, and should probably be under 10 as the Indians take on the Orioles, Mets, and Royals in that same stretch. Things look good right now for the Old English D, barring a 2009 like collapse.