Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Division champs

I'm still absorbing one of the strangest, and best, games I've ever attended.

So much to say about Tuesday's 6-5 12-inning tiebreaker.

I'll start with this: I was seated in the upper deck right field, which means that the right fielder was just a rumor to me and that home plate was about 400 feet away.

To my eyes, the home plate ump (Randy Marsh) was brutal. I understand, having perused a few stories and columns since I got home, that people with a better angle than I agree.

Further comments:

*Nick Punto was a marvel. His last three plate appearances were superb — a single on a 3-2 pitch (and a run scored), a walk on another 3-2 pitch, and what should have been the game-winning sac fly. I believe he fell behind in all three at-bats and battled back. Plus he had that marvelous force play at the plate to save Bobby Keppel's bacon in the 12th inning.

* That forceout followed what I thought was a questionable decision by Ron Gardenhire to walk Ryan Raburn intentionally to load the bases. Yeah, Raburn is a better hitter than Brandon Inge or Gerald Laird; that's not saying much. My issue with it is that Keppel's command is always dicey.

Inge bounced into the force play, but only after apparently getting grazed by a Keppel pitch. I thought it caught his jersey, at least, but — again — I was 400 feet away, and if that's the best place to call pitches they'd put the ump out there. Laird followed the force out by getting ahead 3-1; I said to the guy next to me that Jim Leyland should give him the take sign. Instead, Laird fouled a pitch off — I suspect it was high — to go to 3-2, then chased a low pitch for the strike out.

Questionable decision by Gardy, worse one by Leyland.

* I wanted Brian Buscher to pinch hit for Alexi Casilla in the 12th. Gardenhire had other ideas. His worked. Still, Casilla had had just two at-bats since Sept. 11, as Gardenhire follows his pattern of running with a set lineup in the final month — and Casilla was the worst hitter with 200 plate appearances in the AL this year. And he was in the DH slot, so defense wasn't a consideration. But then, Buscher has had one game appearance — no trips to the plate — since Sept. 19.

*Rick Porcello struck out eight Twins. That matched his season high. Considering his low K rate — 4.4 K/ entering the game — and the tight leash on innings he's been kept on — I'm surprised he'd had an eight strikeout game. If he stays healthy, he's going to be great.

* Leyland apparently boiled his bullpen down the four guys he was willing to take a chance with: Fu-Te Ni, Zach Miner, Brandon Lyon and Fernando Rodney, which is how he wound up having his closer throw 48 pitches. Gardenhire went a lot deeper than that — I think he would have used Jeff Manship in the 13th if the game had gone that far — and was, if anything, over aggressive in pulling Ron Mahay after one batter.

* Jose Mijares may have hit the wall. Or be scared by the Delmon Young incident last week. Or something. Whatever it is, he's been brutal his last few outings, and they'll need him effective against New York.

* Other than Jason Kubel's home run — and wasn't that a bomb? — the Twins' RBIs came from Matt Tolbert, Casilla and Orlando Cabrera. Joe Mauer reached base four times, but when he came up with men on base, he was walked.

*Miguel (Drunk Tank) Cabrera doubled, walked and had a two-run homer (plus three ground outs). Had he rung up another 0-fer as he did through the White Sox series last weekend, he would have been a prime scrapegoat for the Tigers' failure to win the divisional title.

He still may be, but he's still Detroit's best player. Which, in a way, only deepens their dilemma about what to do with his behavior.


  1. i was also there, and it got LOUD. i've watched the many, many highlights this morning on the internet and it didn't do justice to the noise level. as for the play on the field, those lows during the game were so low, but the highs were so high. it was so much fun.

  2. Yes, Inge's shirt was brushed by the ball. I got the impression, however, that the umpire wasn't about to let such an important game hinge on a pitch brushing the guy's shirt. If he was actually hit, that would be another thing, but Inge wears his shirt so pouffed out, like he's trying to get it hit - to get on base on the cheap. I commend the umpire for his attitude.

    Besides, if the Tigers need to point to that as the reason they lost, then they don't deserve to win.

  3. The ump doesn't have discretion to enforce the rule. If the batter gets hit, whether it grazed the billowing jersey or not, he gets the base. (Unless the pitch is a strike, or unless the ump rules that he tried to get hit — which was NOT the ruling here. The ump ruled that Inge wasn't hit.)

    The overly-loose shirt is an old-time trick; I know Eddie Stanky was big on it in the 40s and 50s, and I'm sure Inge wears it to pick up a few bases.

    But he pretends otherwise.


  4. Well, maybe the ump just said it didn't hit him, but that was the unspoken reasoning in his head. Whatever. I find it interesting that the top dog stands beside him even though the replays clearly show that the ball brushed Inge's shirt. They claim they just can't be sure by the replays. OK. But it sure looked clear to me.