Sweaty Men Endeavors

The sports blog with the slightly gay name

Friday, October 27, 2006

Ramblin' through the Game Four follies

You can tell me that this series isn't over yet, the fourth win is often the toughest to get, and the St. Louis Cardinals have blown 3-1 leads before (perhaps most memorably - for old-time Tigers fans, at least - in 1968). But it sure feels like the Detroit Tigers lost the World Series last night.

This one hurt, man. Because there was so much that the Tigers did right. Pudge Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson joined the got-a-hit club. Sean Casey hit a home run (alas, a day too late to give America a free taco), which had me thinking today's post would be titled "The Greatest Trade EVER." And Jeff Suppan (whom I like a lot more after watching his instructional pairing with Scooter), the Cardinals' second-best pitcher in the playoffs, was gone by the sixth inning.

(Quick digression: I'm glad I won't have to watch Suppan pitch anymore in St. Louis, because all the signs with plays on his name were brutal. "Supp's On"? "Tonight's Supp: Tiger Stew"? Go crazy, folks! I was waiting for "Pardon me, sir, but do you have any Jeff Suppan?" Or "The Tigers are good... for me to Suppan!"

Never mind that someone went to the trouble of making a "J-Rod" sign for John Rodriguez, or "Coming Up Next... Late Local News," a blatant ploy to get on TV. Okay, I might be bitter.)

Meanwhile, Jeremy Bonderman fiercely maintained the oh-so-precarious one-run lead that his teammates gave him, and Fernando Rodney made Jim Leyland look like a stinkin' genius for holding that lead to close the sixth. It was the kind of effort that should've earned a win.

Unfortunately, the Tigers have gotten clumsy at the absolute worst times in this series. You could make a highlight (lowlight?) tape of Detroit's blunders set to Benny Hill music. Errant throws, players colliding, outfielders slipping... Oh, I'd love to watch that this offseason - while stabbing myself in the thigh with a Swiss Army Knife.

Of course I don't fault Granderson for slipping. (Yeah, yeah, yeah - Curt Flood in '68. A little before my time, okay?) That stuff happens - especially on a field that's been pounded by rain. It was just one hell of a moment for the grass to give out under his feet. And Craig Monroe's misplay of David Eckstein's drive into left-center field was just... unfortunate. Did Monroe misjudge the ball? Maybe. Probably. But he was also playing shallow to make a play at the plate. Eckstein just hit the ball in the right place. At the risk of tossing out a hollow, throwaway cliché, that's baseball.

(Besides, there never would've been a runner to score on that play had Joel Zumaya been able to find the strike zone. What is that, anyway? Is he too amped up? Does the wrist still bother him? Is he trying to throw the ball 150 m.p.h.? Forget the radar gun, kid. Throw a strike.)

But sweet Lord Jeebus, if another Detroit pitcher besides Kenny Rogers has to field a ground ball, I might just go stick my head in an oven. I'm ready for Leyland to go off on a Joe Riggins-esque tirade ("This... is a simple game. You throw the ball... you hit the ball... you catch the ball!") during PFP. And the Tigers' pitchers - especially the relievers - need some #@$%ing PFP right now.

Rodney's lollygagging toss to first base - don't you dare give me that "wet grass" excuse - should be used as an example to Little Leaguers for years to come as to why you throw the ball after you field it, not lob it like an alley-oop to Yao Ming (who's probably the only guy who could've caught that ball).

All the good that Rodney had accomplished - and he was well on his way to saving this game for the Tigers - just sailed away with that toss down the right-field line.

Sure, Detroit can do this. Just... play better. Sounds simple, right? If they can keep the mistakes to an absolute minimum (Pitchers, if the ball is hit back to the mound, run away like it's on fire) and maintain a tough approach at the plate, the rest of what they've been doing has been enough to win. I don't like the Tigers' chances against Chris Carpenter in a possible Game 7 (though it would be at Comerica Park), but the series has to get there first.

The Cardinals, of course, will want to close this out at Busch Stadium with the home folks going crazy, and will surely try like hell to make that happen. Personally, I think Tony La Russa is doing the Tigers something of a favor by starting Jeff Weaver tonight over Anthony Reyes. (What, did he not watch Game 1? Did he miss something while his sunglasses were on?) But maybe he figures Weaver will be extra motivated to beat his original team. Or he just honestly thinks that scarecrow is his third-best starting pitcher.

And if Justin Verlander gets rocked tonight, it'll be one cold winter of second-guessing in Detroit. (Hell, it's already started.) I'm not exactly sure why Leyland is so adamant against starting Kenny Rogers "in this environment." Maybe he thinks the Cardinals fans will rattle Dirty Hand Kenny, and perhaps compel the umpires to inspecting Rogers' hand, glove, and uniform closely. Or maybe he just thinks Rogers is in a zone at home and doesn't want to mess with a good thing.
Besides, Verlander would have to pitch at some point. Tonight's game isn't any more "do-or-die" than the next two would be. So does it really make a difference?

Either way, I know I'll be wearing gloves tonight, to prevent myself from biting my fingernails down to the bone. And yes, I love this. I could just use a bit less anxiety with the whole thing.

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  • At October 27, 2006 11:28 AM, Blogger Big Al said…

    I agree, you don't leave your best pitcher on the bench in a do or die game. Leyland says you "Have to win 3 games." you have to win 1, first... The Gambler should be on the mound, all the St Louis dramatics or not. I also agree that super genius TLR is doing the Tigers a favor starting Weaver. He's emminently beatable. I'm not all that confident, but he's beatable.

  • At October 27, 2006 11:33 AM, Blogger Ian C. said…

    If I'm Dave Dombrowski, I send a big fat bag of pot to the St. Louis clubhouse for Weaver this afternoon.

    Oh, wait, that was "alleged." Never mind. Wink, wink.

  • At October 27, 2006 9:59 PM, Anonymous Evan said…

    Rogers, Verlander... whatever. It's easy to second guess managerial decisions. Leyland's done well, so it's hard not to trust him. And frankly, pitching is not going to be the problem if we lose tonight. Errors, mental mistakes, and "the little things" are the problems.

    And that brings me to your comment about Dombrowski. The beautiful thing about the Tigers is that there should be NO SECOND GUESSING. These guys were never even supposed to be there. They're YOUNG. Their best regular season pitcher is 22. The guy destined to be their closer sometime in the next two years is 21. They drafted the best pitcher in the draft -- again. Cameron Maybin is sitting in the minors. Granderson showed in the ALDS and ALCS that he can display patience at the plate. Monroe learned how to be a decent hitter and not a clubbing free-swinger. For every error Inge made, he made ten spectacular plays no other third baseman in baseball could have made.

    The point? This collection of incredibly young players and their handful of veteran leaders learned a lot. And if they lose, they'll learn from that too. They'll handle the pressure better next year; they'll be a destination for free agents if they decide they need to sign any; and they'll take a look at that farm system and gleefully chuckle.


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