No Run Support

Detroit Tigers baseball and other nonsense

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ALCS Game One: A Fun Disaster

I went to last night’s game in Arlington.

I live in San Antonio, which is a quick 50 minute flight (or four hour drive, or six hour train ride) from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. I try to get up there whenever the Tigers are in town, and one or two weekends a year I’ll go  just to see a random game and hang with my friends that live there. My friend Lee got tickets to the game when it went on sale and promised me one of them if, somehow, it turned out to be on a weekend and against the Tigers. We went to the ALCS last year and had the time of our lives. The stars aligned and as soon as the game ended on Thursday I was frantically booking a flight while I watched the Tigers celebrate in the locker room.

I got into town pretty early in the morning and we spent the day doing important things like procuring bourbon to pour into a flask, eating tacos, buying better seats, eating at In-n-Out, and freaking out about/over-analyzing the weather forecast. By the time we left for the park I was resigned to the fact that the game would probably have at least one delay early on, and possibly wind up getting postponed. At that point I had stopped being concerned about the game’s actual outcome and just hoped they’d play. Honestly, it was actually a little refreshing to be anxious about the weather since I’ve been so stressed about winning games.

We arrived a little while after the gates opened and I stationed myself behind the visitor’s dugout with my camera like I always do. Noted Tiger fan J.K Simmons – I actually met him during batting practice in Anaheim in ’09 – was there and it was fun talking baseball with him and the small crowd of fans. It’s funny, how fast you can make friends at a ballgame. I started talking to a couple from Houston right when I arrived simply because they had Tiger gear on, and by the time we parted ways it was like we’d known each other for years even though we had forgotten to tell each other our names. Happens to me almost every game I go to.

Met a lot of interesting people during the rain delays, too. Much like the fast camaraderie with fellow fans of the same team, standing around in a packed concourse understandably brings everyone together. We were all soaking wet (my flip flops, the only shoes I stupidly packed, were still wet this morning) and surviving it because we love baseball.

Anyway, the outcome of the game was obviously not favorable for the Tigers, and I’m starting to think I’m bad luck for Justin Verlander. Seriously, as I was at his last loss too. But I had a great time and it was absolutely worth the trip.

It seems like after last night, things just continue to go wrong for the team. Tonight’s game postponed, Magglio’s ankle is broken again. I’m pretty sad knowing I likely saw his last game in a Tigers uniform, perhaps his last game in any uniform. It’s a big blow to the lineup, but I’ve still got hope they can make it to the World Series. Discouraged but not giving it up. I can’t be the only one.

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Well, they did it. And I finally have something to say.

Brandon Inge: Always finding new ways to be a dork. Photo by Ben Margot for AP.

I may not have put it down in words as often this year, but I’ve been watching the Tigers with as much intensity as ever throughout the season. The incredible run so far in September – they’ve only lost two games (make it three, I wrote this during Saturday’s game) – has been impossible for even the most casual fan to ignore.

2009, as much as I’d like to forget the end of it, left its mark on my psyche. The second half rolls around and dumbasses talk about THE COLLAPSENING, and as stupid as I think it is, I knew in the back of my head that it’d be par for the course if they started sucking. Going into the clinching game last night I was as nervous as I was for game 163, even though I knew their entry into the playoffs was inevitable. I said in my last post that I was through being paranoid, and I am, but it was really hard not to expect Valverde to blow his first save of the year last night.

But he didn’t. As the final out was made, I let out a whoop so loud it even surprised me, and ran to the kitchen to get the bottle of champagne I had bought the night before. I quickly posted an open thread for people to chat during the locker room celebration, and sent out/replied to a ton of text messages. Prior to the game I had set up my old laptop on the coffee table and updated Skype so that my friend Wendy, a fellow Texan Tiger fan without FSD, could watch the celebration via video chat. I called her and we popped our bottles together, mine spilling all over me and the floor. We did a quick toast and then I got out of the way so she could watch the party. Watching Jim Leyland’s eyes well up as he talked to Mario Impemba was almost too much; I think my glass had as many tears in it as it did champagne. No matter how he goes about managing the team, the old man cares more than anyone could ever understand, and that’s partly why the team has gotten to where they are.

When the editors of Bless You Boys did projections for the year, almost all of us had the Tigers going to the playoffs. Things were looking good for the team, and new Catcher/DH Victor Martinez was sure to be “the straw that stirs the drink”, as Rod Allen would say. Even if he wasn’t enough, I felt strongly that Dave Dombrowski would do everything he could to make the necessary moves at the trade deadline to put the team over the top. And so, for the hell of it, I put them down to win the World Series. Nobody else had them getting past the ALCS. I figured, “Why not? Someone’s got to at least pretend to believe.” Little did I know that in mid-September, I’d find myself believing it for real.

I saw both wins and losses when I attended four games in Detroit this July. At that point they were battling for first place and went back and forth between being up a game and tied while I was in town. Even when they didn’t win, being there in person helped me understand what others were saying: this team is special. Justin Verlander is having a Cy Young worthy season, he could even be MVP. The whole team is contributing every game behind the big boys that just seem to keep getting it done. Everything is just right and fans are lucky to have them. There’s a lot more work to be done, but personally I’m just trying to enjoy it, and I hope everyone that reads this does the same.

The last thing I wanted to happen

Allow me to interrupt the steady stream of tears rolling down my cheeks (yes, really, shut up) so that I can post about how bummed I am that the Tigers traded Casper Wells to the Seattle Mariners. Casper’s been my favorite player for a while, and not just for his baseball abilities, of which he has plenty. This year he made the big league team out of spring training, but his lack of playing time gave me a bad feeling in the back of my mind that he’d be gone come July. Anyway, he’s involved in the deal that brings Doug Fister to Detroit. I can appreciate that, as a starting pitcher is a huge need for the team to make the playoffs. This still stings, though.

Photo by Allison Hagen

Casper is a genuinely great guy and an extremely hard worker. He always smiled and said hello, asked how I was doing when I’d see him at games. Baseball has been his dream his whole life and call me biased, but I have an extra bit of respect for guys like that. I’m going to keep watching him with Seattle and even though that team isn’t going anywhere this year, he’ll stand out now that he has a real chance to play.

In other news, Jacob Turner, the Tigers’ top pitching prospect, is making his MLB debut this afternoon. I’m excited for that but the Wells news puts a bit of a damper on things for me.

Texas Leaguers

I’m going to step away from Tigers baseball for a minute, I hope those of you bothering to read this don’t mind. Don’t worry, I’ll address the whole Don Kelly Pitching Thing soon.

Since I’m a ways away from any MLB parks, I’m a season ticket holder for the San Antonio Missions, the AA affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Missions have been absolutely tearing it up this year; they’ve already secured a playoff spot and as of right now are 53-23 on the season. They’re 23-8 at home. It’s ridiculous. They play at Nelson Wolff stadium, a park that could use some updates but still has a beautiful field thanks to a great grounds crew. It’s out on the west side in what can only be described as a questionable neighborhood. They have two awesome mascots: Henry, a puffy taco, and Ballapeno, a baseball loving jalapeno. Tonight the Wolff hosted the 75th annual Texas League All-Star game.

Photo by Allison Hagen

This guy pictured – James Darnell – has been my favorite player here in San Antonio ever since he set foot on the infield dirt in April of last year. Last night he was the MVP of the All-Star game, after hitting a few homers in the Home Run Derby and then hitting another 2-run home run in the actual game that would turn out to be the game winner.

He’s not the Padres’ #1 prospect, though he was a second round pick in 2008. But he’s a baseball player, you sense it when he steps up to the plate or makes a play wherever they put him. You can always tell that he loves playing the game no matter what’s going on, he’s friendly with fans and generally has a positive presence. It’s rumored that he’ll get sent to AAA Tucson very soon, an overdue promotion: he’s hitting almost .350 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI. I have a running joke with the usher that works the aisle next to my seat – every game I go to I ask him, “What the hell is JD still doing here??” and he’ll shrug and say “Man, I don’t know..”

Based on the crowd’s reaction every time his name is announced, this town is going to miss him. I’m going to miss him. Some nights I’ve stuck around the park after games to avoid traffic, and if I see him on my way out I’ll congratulate him on a good game or just wish him a good night. Anything I’ve said has been met with a gracious “thank you” and a smile. It won’t be the same going to the Wolff a couple times a week and without him in the hot corner, or out in left field, where he plays occasionally. I hope to catch another game with him on the roster before he leaves San Antonio.

I should probably try to avoid getting attached to minor league players. Considering the relaxed environment, it’s easy to strike up a rapport with them, and I have on a few occasions. Later, it can result in nerve-wracking viewings of major league debuts combined with a huge sense of pride no matter what happens. Either way, they’re always gonna come and go.

Good luck to you JD, I can’t wait to see you walking to the batter’s box at Petco (or any other MLB field) with that smile on your face.

Interleague play and the All-Star Game, or, I’m a total sucker

It’s pretty well known that I am one of those baseball fans who completely falls for stupid MLB promotions and ideas to attract more fans/keep them happy.  I can be a serious fan who pays attention to (but maybe doesn’t completely understand) stats other than Batting Average and Wins, and one who tries not to have incredulous knee-jerk reactions to a loss. If a beat writer puts up a post about Victor Martinez and his kid and how much teammates love having him around, I will eat that shit up. I cry at the Beyond Baseball ads (what the hell happened to those?!). If a pitcher takes the mound wearing high socks, you are damn right I pay closer attention. Then if said pitcher gets a hit in a playoff game and is handed a jacket to wear while running the bases, I lose my mind. I think it’s the greatest thing ever. That sort of thing is entertaining to me, being a mostly AL fan. You get the point.

So we’ve come to that time of year for Interleague play, and soon, the All-Star break. I do agree that Interleague play is kind of stupid, it messes with team’s schedules and the managing styles of each league. However, Interleague means that pitchers get to bat, and that is solid gold as far as I’m concerned. It also gives fans a chance to watch teams they may not normally watch – some fans don’t give a shit about players on other teams they have no attachment to, but I do. I watch baseball games simply because they’re on, not because I necessarily care who wins.

The Tigers’ schedule has them playing in Colorado right now, then they go on to LA to play the Dodgers. I don’t watch the Rockies that much, but I love Tulo. He’s just so fun to watch. And personally, I am a huge Vin Scully fan, and I watch the Dodgers whenever they are playing in the NL West so that I can listen to him and the little stories he tells. I am very happy that I’ll get to watch his broadcast of three Tigers games. I actually feel quite lucky, because he’s getting old and probably won’t be calling games much longer. Needless to say, I was excited for this chunk of Interleague, but after the first two games in Denver – Really? Nine total walks last night? – it’s obvious the baseball gods are punishing me for being such a sucker.

I tweeted a few days ago that I’ve voted a ton of times for Alex Avila to start the All-Star game, because hello, he’s the best offensive catcher in the AL right now. I like Joe Mauer even though he’s a Twin, but up until last week he was AHEAD of Avila in voting even though he had been on the DL almost the entire season so far. COME ON PEOPLE. Anyway, the whole get-Avila-into-the-ASG thing has gotten to me and once again, I’m excited for it even though it will inevitably suck. The suckage will occur only after  the Home Run Derby is over and they stop showing all the players with their kids and interviews illustrating that they are Just Like You And Me. Per usual the game will begin and it’ll be boring and the announcers will be terrible. I’ll actually feel disappointed because.. wait for it.. I’m a sucker.

Oh well. Let’s win one today, shall we? The thin Colorado air is no match for Justin Verlander’s fastball, I’m certain of it.

Stuff & Things, Look I’m Finally Posting Edition

I couldn’t think of a decent title for this post. I’ve been a horrible writer lately, in that I haven’t… written.. anything. It’s a terrible rut I got stuck in and I don’t really have any excuse.

I don’t have time or energy to recap everything that’s gone on with the Tigers since I last posted almost two weeks ago. We definitely know that this team sure is streaky so far this year. Seven game losing streak at the end of April, then a seven game win streak May 6-14. The last two were a couple of frustrating losses; on Monday Joaquin Benoit continued his expensive implosion. Last night in Boston was insanely foggy and rainy and the team couldn’t be bothered to move any runners that managed to get into scoring position, while Phil Coke quietly pitched a fantastic game. My response to that was “whatever” and I promptly went to bed before 10pm.

Is it bad that this tends to be my response to particularly pathetic losses? Last night’s game was boring to begin with, what with the rain delay and unexpected pitcher’s duel, so maybe that was part of it. At some point in the midst of that losing streak last month, I broke a TV remote when I threw it across the room in response to some sort of fail, I can’t even remember what happened. Like most people, I don’t enjoy being proved right when I instinctively know that a reliever is going to blow the game or Ryan Raburn is going to strike out looking to make the last out. After that happened I decided two things: cut back on the whiskey a little, and stop caring so much, especially this early in the season.

One development that must be mentioned is the Bless You Boys podcast. BYB is the other place I blog, and us editors have gotten together to start recording a weekly (or semi-weekly, not sure yet) podcast. After two recordings I still cannot get used to the sound of my voice. Even though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with my voice, I still cringe when I hear it. Last week Al Beaton and I recorded the first one, and this week our managing editor Kurt and other editors David and Matt joined in. It’s been fun and well received so far, so if you like No Run Support, it’ll probably be worth your time. Plus, in this week’s episode, Kurt gets his arm bitten off by his dog mid-sentence and it’s hilarious. You can find it on iTunes, or just go to today’s post about it for more mediums of listening.

Anyway, last weekend I went up to the DFW area to hang out with a couple friends and go to my first MLB game of the season. I saw the Angels play the Rangers. The Rangers lost, but it was a fun game. Rangers Ballpark has been sold out a ton of times already this season, and the game I attended on the 14th was no exception. I can easily say that it’s my major league park to go to. This isn’t a ballpark blog or Rangers blog so I won’t write a novel as to why, but it’s a really fun and fan-friendly place. When I say fan-friendly, I mainly mean the beer and food are cheap. It’s also pretty awesome in that the place is designed well enough so that a sold out game doesn’t mean you are fighting your way through the concourse or waiting an entire inning to use the restroom. Plus, it’s beautiful, inside and out (This reminds me I need to take more photos of the park in general with a wider lens. Note to self!) and I finally got to check out the new scoreboard. The rest of the photos from that day are here if you’re interested. Other highlights to the trip up were attending one of the first two In-N-Out burger locations in Texas – yes, we waited an hour to eat, and yes, it was worth it – and coming across a copy of the Maple Street Press Tigers Annual in a random Borders location:

Since I don’t live in Michigan and none were to be found anywhere near Lakeland when I was in town, it was pretty cool to see something I contributed to sitting on the magazine rack. So, yay for that.

That’s about all I’ve got for now. Verlander vs. Beckett tonight. My friend Cee wrote a nice piece about that and pitching duels in general, so check that out if you have a chance. Please no more rainouts or rain delays, Boston.

The weird thing about this April

Photo by Allison Hagen

Justin Verlander pitched his ass off – again – last night, and happily the team backed him up with some offense. That brings his Win total to two for the month of April. He’ll have one more start next week before May rolls in.

Any Tiger fan knows that he has historically struggled in the month of April. It’s been nice to see that with the exception of one of his five starts so far, he’s been his mid-season dominant self. The problem is, the rest of the team hasn’t. His record stands at 2-2 with one no decision. I am not a person that feels the Win/Loss/No Decision stats really say much about a pitcher, in fact I think they’re kind of stupid. This situation is a perfect example of why.

Just something I thought of this morning. Awesome Verlander got his shit together and showed up in April, yet the team held off on the run support. They scored a total of two runs in his two losses.

Let's talk about the last few days.

For the most part, I don’t really want to. You don’t really want to. But we should.

The home opener, happily, turned out well. After a few innings the sun came out and the beyond sellout crowd was rewarded with a nice day and a nice win.

Then yesterday, a loss. The Tigers made Bruce Chen look like a Cy Young winner. Miguel Cabrera had been hitting over .600 off him with three home runs, but he struck out twice. Austin Jackson struck out 20 times (okay, 13 so far this year and twice in that particular game but it feels like a lot more than that). Casper Wells finally started a game and had one of the game’s five hits. Weirdly, the only Royals pitcher to give up a run was feared closer Joakim Soria.

Today. I would like you to take a look at today’s fielding line from the box score.

FIELDING
E: Porcello (1, pickoff), Raburn (2, throw), Inge (2, throw), Schlereth (1, pickoff).

As my friend Cath said near the end of the game, this was a loss that you’re okay with. Sort of. She said, “You screw up that badly and that often, you don’t deserve to win.” I wholeheartedly agree, though I am concerned by the defense here. I mean, at some point I got up and did the dishes and started some laundry. I hate dishes and laundry, but at that moment, I preferred to do those things. It’s hard to have a ground ball pitcher like Porcello on the mound when the defense is just failing left and right. Speaking of ground balls, if you can ignore the five earned runs he gave up, Porcello had seven ground ball outs today (compared to the one in his last start) which is encouraging. I don’t know. I’m reaching. I don’t want to hate everything. At least there were three home runs (Peralta, Cabrera, and Avila).

So that’s all I’ve got right now. I’m actually a fan of Jim Leyland, and if the team keeps faltering like this he’s not going to be the skipper anymore.  Give Austin Jackson a day off so he stops pressing. For god’s sake, stop using Brad Thomas. Ever. In general, he needs to light a fire under everyone’s asses or this season is going to be really rough.

On Opening Day in Detroit

He’s looking up and he’s looking around, and wondering why everybody’s cheering. I’m like, ‘That ain’t for you, buddy.’

– Alex Avila, on Alcides Escobar’s reaction to the opening day crowd’s cheers for the sun when it came out from behind the clouds.

Happy Home Opener Day

Last night’s 9-5 loss was a painful one – the bullpen can take most of the responsibility – but it feels like everything’s new again. Even though the weather in Detroit isn’t so great, hope is renewed because the boys are back home and they’ll be wearing their home whites.

Here’s hoping Max Scherzer will help get them to a win for the faithful downtown crowds. I know some friends that started hanging out at 8 o’clock this morning. Time to play ball at Comerica once again!