Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 11/15/14

7:24 PM – A little late getting started here, so let’s recap the first inning right quick. After an uneventful top of the first for Zach McCallister, Doug Fister’s works himself into a bit of a pickle in the bottom half. Choo grounds out, but then Kipnis drills a single to center and Asdrubal worked a walk. After a Pronk fly sends Kipnis to third, Santana flies out. Doug Fister threw 29 pitches that inning. TD insisted that I include that.

Also, it’s Dollar Dog Night. Which seems to alleviate the attendance problems. Which is kinda gross.

7:30 PM – McCallister just worked through the top of the 2nd, and I would be remiss if we didn’t pause to notice that the Tigers seemed to “barrel” the ball rather impressively, despite failing to score. Three hard hit balls to the outfield; luckily two of them turned into outs. Heading bottom 2, 0-0.

7:39 PM – I made the mistake of listening to sports talk radio several times over this past week. This is typically something I try to avoid, so as not to curse at my steering wheel and whatnot. It’s something I should particularly work to avoid during news cycles that involve attendance woes, Chris Perez, or something called a “Weeden”.

Anyways, this afternoon there were discussions regarding Johnny Damon’s alleged problems with “bat speed”—how it was OBVIOUS that he had no “bat speed” and that was the root of all his issues. If only there were a BAT SIGNAL we could shoot into the sky to get him some BAT SPEED!!!

Johnny Damon’s bat speed is just fine; in fact, the bat speed he generates from the quick flip of his wrists through the strike zone is really something to behold. Have you seen the weird swings that have gotten balls to the warning track this season? That’s called bat speed, and he’s got plenty of it.

What Johnny Damon lacks is any sense of the strike zone. He’s currently swinging at nearly 26% of pitches out of the zone, while swinging at only 57% of pitches in the zone. This after a season with the Rays during which he swung at 32% (!) of pitches out of the zone and 68% in. Until he can control the zone better (career: 21% O-Swing; 65% Z-Swing) he’s going to struggle. You can’t swing at balls and take strikes and expect to succeed.

BUT BATSPEEDSEXMAGIK!!!

I know, I know. That’s a lot to ask people who talk about sports for a living to bother looking up. It took me longer than six seconds. Stupid steering wheel.

Damon flew out to right, by the way. Still scoreless. The impotence of the bottom third of our lineup merits a Cialis prescription.

7:54 PM – Miguel Cabrera just did something stupid that wasn’t related to excessive alcohol consumption.

After Cabrera drove a double to left center to lead off the inning, Prince Fielder lifted a lazy fly to center. Cabrera tried what I can only call a “delayed tag up”, by waiting a second or two after Brantley caught the ball and then waddling quickly toward third. For what it’s worth, the “delayed tag” play is probably not going to be the new wildcat.

Michael Brantley seemed more amused than anything. After a hearty chuckle, he threw Cabrera out at third.

A good thing too. Delmon Young drove a single to center next, but ended up stranded to end the inning after a Boesch ground out.

8:03 PM – Three things worth noting happened in the bottom of the fourth.

  • Travis Hafner appeared to come up lame running the bases—Rick is wondering about a DL stint;
  • Michael Brantley hit the ball with authority—a nice double to the gap in right-center;
  • The Indians failed to score because BATSPEEDSEXMAGIK grounded out to first—swinging at a breaking ball that appeared to be out of the zone.

8:09 PM – We are officially halfway through this game (assuming, you know, someone eventually scores and we don’t end up here eternally). An hour has not yet passed since the first pitch.

Somewhere, someone is complaining that there isn’t enough time to eat all the Dollar Dogs. This is still pretty gross.

Still scoreless, heading to the bottom of the fifth.

8:18 PM – Something called a “Quintin Berry” just got its first major league hit. The hit was a bunt.

It was also a double. It’s hard to explain.

8:26 PM – There goes the scoreless tie. Dirks drives a more traditional double over Choo’s head to score Berry from second. Miggy Cabrera flies out to right to move Dirks to third. Then it gets a little weird.

With one out and a man on third, Acta pulls the infield defense in. This is a completely rational thing to do in a low-scoring game, but with Prince Fielder up, it just feels dangerous—like he might kill someone. Anyway, Prince sends a hard-hit grounder toward short, where Asdrubal sort of springs at it. He grabs the ball and fires home, but Santana has trouble going for a sweep tag and the ball squirts away. Everybody’s safe.

McCallister does a nice job of minimizing the damage, but the Kitties are now up 2-0, heading to the bottom of the sixth.

8:34 PM – Well, we’re tied again.

Kipnis leads off the inning with a single to center. Next, Asdrubal absolutely punishes a ball the other way to left field that looks like it’s going to get over Dirks’ head. But out of nowhere, he reaches up and makes a great catch, and sends Kipnis scurrying back to first.

Just when I think that this inning might slip through our fingers—two hard-hit balls is sometimes all you get—Pronk comes to bat, which if you’ll remember, was sort of in question after his gimpy base running performance in the fourth.

PRONKSMASH. 2-run home run. Destroyed to right field.

Another day, we can talk about whether we should try to re-sign Hafner this off-season (after we decline the option, cuz, c’mon, we’re not crazy). I have much to say about this, but we’ll save it.

Carlos Santana sends a weak ground out to second; he looks absolutely lost against Fister tonight. Heading to the seventh, we’re tied 2-2.

8:44 PM – After striking out Peralta on a nasty sequence, McCallister starts to show some signs of fatigue, allowing consecutive singles to Santiago and Laird. This flips the lineup over, and ends McCallister’s night.

His line is admirable, really: 6.1 IP, 3Ks, 0BBs, 8 H, 2 R (though those base runners are his). And this is really the point with guys like McCallister (or Tomlin or Gomez or even Huff). They aren’t going to strike a lot of guys out, which is totally fine, as long as they don’t walk many people. Hits are going to happen; it’s the name of the game when you allow the batter to put the ball in play this much. The way to limit the damage is not add free base runners to the mix and keep the ball in the park.

Hagadone on in relief.

8:50 PM – That could’ve gone better. Hagadone induces a weak grounder to short from Berry, who’s far too fast to double up. He did, after all, stretch a bunt into a double in his last at bat. Then Hagadone seemed to lose all control, walking Dirks on five pitches.

You really wish you could get more than that out of a relief appearance in a tie game, but Manny’s gotta go to a righty to face Cabrera with the bases loaded. Joe Smith on. Put-In Bay is breathlessly watching this at bat.

8:54 PM – Joe Smith throws the first three pitches in the left handed batter’s box, looking every bit the pitcher who has no feel for his stuff. The 3-0 pitch is close enough to induce a strike call from the home plate ump. On the 3-1 count, Miggy swings and grounds out to second. Never a doubt…

Whew. 2-2 heading to the bottom of the seventh. The bottom of the lineup coming up for the Tribe.

9:02 PM – Jose Lopez has a nine-game hitting streak going, with a single to left.

Also, the Tigers’ hitting coach, Lloyd McClendon, was thrown out of the game for arguing balls and strikes. So I guess he can’t oversee any batting drills between now and the end of the game? What kind of punishment is this, really?

Fister is gone. Phil Coke in to face Choo.

9:08 PM – Lopez got picked off, so we head to the top of the eighth.

The attendance is announced as they go to break. 22,000 on the button. A walk-up of 6,433—seventh highest walk-up crowd in history, if you’re into dubious honors. Also, DOLLERDOGZ!!

9:12 PM – Tony Sipp is brought in to start the eighth against Prince Fielder, who lines a one-hopper into the shift. Which means Kipnis fields the ball in shallow right field, and has to wait for Kotchman to get to the bag to cover. By the time all this happens, Kipnis has to rush the throw and it sails high, pulling Kotchman off the bag.

Sipp is gone. Pestano in to face Delmon Young. I understand the platoon issues here, but I really don’t like that we have no left-handed bullpen arms left in a tie game that could last a while. Matt and Rick are rightly pointing out that this game is probably the swing-game in this series, with Verlander pitching tomorrow, but, man, I hate to think about the possibility of Jairo Ascensio deciding this game eventually.

9:16 PM – Pestano saws off Young, but the resulting blooper down the right field line falls in. First and second, still no outs. This kind of stinks.

9:17 PM – Boesch lines a single to left. This is the first time in the history of limp noodles that Johnny Damon is not run on. Prince stops at third. Bases loaded, no outs. Peralta coming up.

Vinnie needs some magic to get out of this.

9:19 PM – That looked familiar. Peralta struck out on three pitches, which extends Vinnie’s consecutive appearances with a strikeout streak to 23 straight. One down. Ramon Santiago coming up; we need a double play.

9:20 PM – Little dribbler to Kotchman, who comes home for the force out. Not hit hard enough for to go for two. Two down.

It needs to be said that LaPorta almost certainly would’ve botched this play.

Alex Avila on to pinch hit for Gerald Laird.

9:24 PM – Holy Cow. Vinnie struck him out. We got out of a bases-loaded, no one out jam in a tie game. That doesn’t happen often. Per FanGraphs, the leverage index of that at bat was 5.65. You can read about leverage index here if you like, or you can trust me that 5.65 is obscenely high.

In related news, the Tigers have now stranded TEN RUNNERS. That is some craziness.

And yes, you know that I love Vinnie. I sponsor his B-R page, for crying out loud. He’s pretty great. But if he can become effective against left handers, he’s going to be one of the best relievers in the game. For his career, righties are batting only .116/.216/.198. It’s hard for me to put into words how dominant that line is. Unfortunately, lefties are hitting .275/.362/.443 off Pestano, which basically means lefties hit like one big collective All-Star against him.

If he can become even slightly average against lefties, he’s going to be flat out scary. That inning, he faced two lefties and got them both out.

9:40 PM – You kind of had that feeling, after Vinnie did what he did, that we were gonna take the lead. Sure enough…

Choo flies out to deep center to lead off the inning, but then a Kipnis infield single and Asdrubal double put runners at second and third with one out. Pronk shoots a weak grounder toward Fielder, reminiscent of the grounder Kotchman came home with in the top of the inning, except this isn’t a force, and Prince doesn’t make a good throw. Kipnis scores.

Shelley Duncan pinch runs for Travis Hafner?

Next up, Santana sends a deep fly to center, which scores Asdrubal from third.

Shelley Duncan is thrown out trying to steal second?

Anyway, 4-2 Good Guys. The most relevant millionaire in the world is coming on to close this sucka down. Top of the order coming up.

9:45 PM – Perez looks good—94 mph and down in the zone. Berry down swinging. One out. Dirks coming up.

9:49 PM – After a nine-pitch battle, Dirks goes down looking. All of a sudden, Chris Perez is a K-machine. If that’s what happens after saying what he said, well, thank you sir, may I have another?

You know who is coming up…

9:50 PM – BALLGAME! Miggy Cabrera flies out to medium center, without putting up much of a fight.

I don’t have any prescient insights to give you about the way this season is going to play out. Especially after last year’s debacle of a second half. It could fall apart tomorrow. You could get hit by a bus. The Mayans, my god. THE MAYANS.

But games like these are the reason that, in at least some respects, it might not matter all that much. Only baseball can give us a game like that—relatively early in the season, but seemingly important and defining. You start to squint and see all the things that make a team worth following over the course of a long summer. There’s talent and leadership and character and attitude. This team is going to give us those moments that stick, and I’m going to be watching. You do as you please.

In other words, even if Chris Perez doesn’t have any fun on this team, I think I’ve decided: I’m going to have a blast.

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