Showing posts with label Jim Leyland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jim Leyland. Show all posts

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Detroit roughs up Jake Peavy, evens up ALCS

With his team trailing 2-1 in the ALCS coming into Wednesday night's Game 4, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland shuffled his lineup.

He moved Torii Hunter into the leadoff spot, moved Miguel Cabrera into the No. 2 hole and dropped the slumping Austin Jackson from first to eighth in the batting order.

Was it the right move? Well, you can't argue with Wednesday's results. The aforementioned three Tiger hitters combined to go 5 for 11 with six RBIs as Detroit defeated the Boston Red Sox 7-3 to tie the best-of-seven series at 2-all.

Detroit roughed up Boston starter Jake Peavy, scoring five runs in the second inning and two more in the fourth to take a commanding 7-0 lead it would never relinquish.

I think, though, that the success of Leyland's lineup shuffle was more of a coincidence than anything else. Quite simply, Peavy had a horrible game. I've watched most of the right-hander's starts over the last four years, and normally his strikeout-to-walk ratio is around 4 to 1. On this night, Peavy uncharacteristically walked three batters in the fateful five-run second inning alone, including a bases-loaded free pass to the struggling Jackson. Peavy had no command of the strike zone whatsoever.

I'm not really sold on the idea that the Tigers are out of their slump now. I think they were the fortunate beneficiaries of a terrible performance by a starting pitcher who is normally pretty good.

We'll see what happens in Thursday's Game 5. If Detroit cuffs around Boston ace Jon Lester, then I'll be convinced that Leyland's lineup juggling has actually made an impact.

Dodgers stay alive in NLCS

Speaking of offensive breakouts, Los Angeles finally got its bats going with four home runs Wednesday in Game 5 of the NLCS. Adrian Gonzalez homered twice, while Carl Crawford and A.J. Ellis also went deep as the Dodgers stayed alive with a 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

The Cardinals still lead the series, 3-2, and the scene shifts back to St. Louis for Game 6 on Friday night.

Despite all the home runs, the most critical moment of this game came in the top of the first inning. The Cardinals loaded the bases with nobody out, but failed to score after Los Angeles pitcher Zack Greinke struck out Matt Adams and induced Yadier Molina to ground into an inning-ending double play. The Dodgers were one mistake away from finding themselves in a big early hole in an elimination game. Instead, they got out unscathed, and you had it feeling it was going to be their day from that point forward.

Los Angeles will send its ace to the mound in Game 6. Clayton Kershaw will try to lead the Dodgers to a series-tying victory. His mound opponent will be Michael Wacha in a rematch from Game 2, which Wacha won 1-0. Should be another great pitching matchup in a postseason full of them.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Detroit's dumbest move: Throwing David Ortiz a first pitch changeup

The Detroit Tigers pitching staff continues to do things that have never been done before.

Starter Max Scherzer went 5 2/3 innings without giving up a hit in Game 2 of the ALCS on Sunday night. The Tigers became the first team in postseason history to have a starting pitcher carry a no-hitter into the sixth inning in three consecutive games.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, on Sunday they also became the first team in postseason history to have four different pitchers give up a single run in the same inning. When David Ortiz hit a first-pitch changeup from closer Joaquin Benoit out of the park for a grand slam in the bottom of the eighth inning, Jose Veras, Drew Smyly, Al Alburquerque and Benoit were all charged with one run.

Ortiz's blast erased a 5-1 Boston deficit, and the Red Sox went on to win 6-5 and even the best-of-seven series at 1-1. Predictably, motownsports.com exploded with criticism of Detroit manager Jim Leyland. Scherzer had thrown 108 pitches threw seven, but he wasn't allowed to start the eighth inning. Did he have another inning in him? Maybe, but Scherzer said he was done at that point after the game. Did Leyland overmanage by using those four relief pitchers to try to get through the eighth inning? Perhaps. I'm not a big proponent of the lefty-righty, batter-by-batter stuff. I always figure if you use enough relief pitchers, eventually you'll land on a guy who doesn't have his best stuff that day.

All that said, Leyland had his best reliever on the mound to face Ortiz. The odds were still in the Tigers' favor. They were up four, there were two outs, and the pressure was on Ortiz to do something to get his team back in the game.

Ortiz did just that, but I think he was helped by the worst decision any Tigers player or manager made all evening: They threw something offspeed on the first pitch of the sequence. I'm pretty sure the veteran Ortiz has seen that trick before. The pitcher assumes the hitter is looking first-pitch fastball with the bases loaded, so he tries to flip a sloppy offspeed offering up there in hopes of grabbing a first-pitch strike and getting ahead in the count. That kind of crap works against younger hitters. It didn't work against Ortiz, who ripped the ball into the right-field bullpen, a hit that definitely turned the game around and possibly the entire series.

Bad thought process, bad pitch. Throwing a changeup in that situation was worse than any of the questionable decisions Leyland made throughout the game. Next time, throw Ortiz a well-located fastball on the first pitch.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Anibal Sanchez's outing in ALCS Game 1 was a rarity

The Detroit Tigers came within two outs of no-hitting the Boston Red Sox in Saturday's Game 1 of the ALCS in Boston. Daniel Nava singled off Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning, but Benoit recovered to close out a 1-0 Tigers victory.

Why was a closer on the mound trying to preserve a no-hitter? Well, for as well as Anibal Sanchez pitched, he wasn't efficient enough to hang around for the whole game. In fact, he lasted just six innings. He struck out 12, walked six and threw 116 pitches.

Credit Detroit manager Jim Leyland for realizing the no-hitter wasn't important. Sanchez survived a highly stressful sixth inning; he struck out Stephen Drew to escape a jam after walking the bases loaded. With the lead at just one run, Leyland would have been pushing his luck to send Sanchez back out for the seventh. He didn't, instead using four relievers to close out the win.

The Tigers failed in their quest to throw the third no-hitter in MLB postseason history (Don Larsen, Roy Halladay), but Sanchez's outing was notable in a couple other ways. First, he became the first pitcher ever to be removed from a playoff game after going six innings without giving up a hit. Secondly, he became only the second pitcher ever to record both 12 strikeouts and six walks in a postseason game.

The other one? Walter Johnson in Game 1 of the 1924 World Seriess. In that game, Johnson pitched 12 innings and gave up 14 hits. Yeah, that was a different time and place. That goes to show you don't see an outing like the one Sanchez had Saturday night come along too often.