Detroit Tigers: 37-28, 1st Place (4.5 ahead of Cleveland).
Who the (expletive) should Leyland close with? (to quote the skipper). Well it looks like the answer, for now, is going to be Jose Valverde, who is still the closer. (Although it should be noted that Valverde’s appearance was not a save situation, and that Phil Coke was warming up in the bullpen). Valverde himself was campaigning for an appearance, and “wasn’t shy” about it.
In Friday’s pre game talk Leyland followed up his “who should I close with?” rant by putting a little heat on his offense. When someone mentioned that the offense seems to fall off in late innings, Leyland went off: “Why don’t you write about it?” Leyland said. “You write about Valverde. You write about the (expletive) closer. Write about that. Write about it…We have to improve in close games,” Leyland said. “We haven’t done very well in close games. We’ve been terrible.”
That IS the other side of the poor record in one-run games (7-11) and extra inning games (2-7): if the offense regularly disappears in the late and close situations, eventually a crack will show somewhere in the bullpen. It is possible to have your bullpen give up a run or two and still win games.
Here is what happens to the Tiger hitters in “Late and Close” situations:
BA: .198 (15th)
OB: .291 (13th)
SLG: .267 (15th)
OPS: .558 (15th)
They also have scored a mere 23 “late and close” runs, which is also dead last (Baltimore is best with 72).
Blame can be evenly spread, even Cabrera isn’t immune. Here are the team late and close BA/OPS numbers.
All that aside, today’s matchup projects to be one that favors the Tigers. Detroit sends out Anibal Sanchez, who was a Joe Mauer single away from no-hitting the Twins the last time he faced them. The Tigers face Deduno, whom they knocked for 6 runs in 5 innings. Dirks had 3 hits against Deduno in that game, and Kelly hit a home run, and they are both in the lineup today, in case you thought nobody paid attention to these things
Today’s Player of the Pre-game: Victor Martinez. Teams have been putting Cabrera on base, and Fielder has been making them pay. Deduno pitched around Fielder the last time the two teams played (4 walks), and Victor couldn’t capitalize. He is likely to get another chance tonight…hopefully not when the game is late and close (see list above).
Today’s Donkified Lineup: