Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Hey, self-defeaters - quit looking down

First thing this morning, my buddy Rob told me not to worry. I wish he'd have been there for me last night when I was chewing on my remote.

It's not that I'm worried. Actually, I'm kind of mad. Because Chris Carpenter was very good - maybe great - but I think the Tigers more than helped him out with that.

How about making the opposing pitcher work for his victory? These were the "bad" Tigers creeping up again - impatient at the plate, swinging at bad pitches, making it easy for the opposing starter.

82 pitches in eight innings? As Billfer points out, no Tigers batter ever reached three balls in the count. No one in the road greys saw more than five pitches in an at-bat. I'm ready to join Jim Leyland in the smokers' lounge after typing that out.

And Carpenter was a guy that looked spent in the NLCS. Tony La Russa squeezed that sponge dry during the division series against the Padres, pitching Carpenter twice, getting anything and everything he could from the Cardinals' ace in order to advance to the next round. Against New York, he was tapped out. And the Mets didn't bail him out by chasing pitches out of the strike zone, either.

But last night's game also provided plenty of other stuff to worry about. Things that the Tigers had found dependable virtually all season, such as Placido Polanco at the plate, suddenly aren't looking working out for them. (Curtis Granderson and Pudge Rodriguez are obviously concerns, too, but they've been prone to strikeouts and lunging at bad pitches throughout the season.)

And then there's the bullpen, which perhaps had been the Tigers' most fearsome weapon. That was one hell of a meltdown by Joel Zumaya. Had his two-week respite taken away his edge? Is his wrist still bothering him? Regardless of the reasons, Zumaya essentially lit himself on fire by walking the first two hitters. ESPN.com's Keith Law thinks Zumaya was getting squeezed by an inconsistent strike zone. Yet Law's colleagues at "Baseball Tonight" said after the game that Detroit's Voodoo Child didn't look very sharp while warming up, either.

But Zumaya almost got himself out of trouble when he got Albert Pujols to hit a grounder back to the mound. A sure double-play ball. Just turn around and toss the ball to second base, and everyone on the Detroit side could exhale.

Well, not so much. For whatever reason, Zumaya opted to go to third, which no one expected, least of all Brandon Inge. What the hell was he thinking, especially when Jim Leyland came to the mound and told him to throw to second if just such a situation arose? Who knows? It was infuriatingly similar to Justin Verlander's ill-advised decision to try and pick Pujols off first base in Game 1 of the series.

Both of the runners Zumaya put on base scored, and the game was pretty much over after that. I was screaming at my television until I caught a glimpse of Zumaya looking up at the sky for answers. You could see it in his eyes. He knew he made a huge mistake and probably cost his team the game. At that moment, he looked a lot like the kid that his age says he is, and it was difficult to stay mad at the poor guy.

Still, some extra "PFP" with Todd Jones before tonight's game might not be a bad idea.

Yes, Carpenter had great stuff last night, and deserves plenty of credit for a dominating performance. But I just can't shake the feeling that the Tigers largely beat themselves. And if they don't begin to find some discipline at the plate - as well as some more bat finding the ball - this series, despite my friend's assurances, likely won't be coming back to Detroit.

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