Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Notes from a frigid opener

It was a mighty cold day to pitch
in short sleeves, but that's what
Vance Worley did Monday.
One incentive for me to go ahead with my plans to attend Monday's Twins opener despite the weather was the opportunity to add Justin Verlander to the list of great pitchers I've seen in person.

Verlander is great, but this was not one of his great days. Maybe it was the cold, maybe it was just one of those days, but he didn't have his usual velocity (the highest reading I saw on the stadium signs was 93), and a man known for working deep into games and running up some of the highest pitch counts in baseball was pulled after five innings and 91 pitches.

Five shutout innings with seven strikeouts -- that's pretty impressive for someone who wasn't on his game. Verlander will have better ones.

For his part, Twins starter Vance Worley was pretty impressive for someone who gave up three runs in the first two innings.

Worley worked deeper into the game than Verlander (six innings, 101 pitches) and he threw a higher percentage of strikes (59.3 percent strikes for Verlander, 68.3 percent for Worley).

But the Twins left more plays unmade behind their starter than the Tigers did for Verlander.

In the first inning, for example, Worley got Miguel Cabrera to hit a slow grounder to shortstop with men on the corners, but the Twins couldn't turn the double play. That left Cabrera on to score later in the inning.

In the fourth inning, Worley himself was unable to handle the relay on what should have been an inning-ending 3-6-1 double play. That, plus a clear error by shortstop Pedro Florimon, turned what should have been a quick, 15-pitch inning into a 28-pitch one.

Then there was the blunder made by Trevor Plouffe in the third. Torii Hunter had led off with a double to right (a single that Chris Parmelee turned into a double by not fielding it cleanly). Cabrera followed with a grounder to the hole that Plouffe dove for but had no chance of reaching. Florimon made the play, getting Cabrera at first, but Hunter, seeing Plouffe on the ground, took third without a play. That didn't cost the Twins a run — Worley got Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez to ground out harmlessly — but it could have.

The Tigers didn't play perfectly for Verlander. Cabrera bobbled a Joe Mauer grounder for an error in the first inning. But that was really the only play the Tigers didn't make that they should have, and the Twins didn't play nearly as clean a game.


  1. What is the best pitching performance you've personally witnessed? I'm assuming you managed to catch Santana on his game, but I'm curious about any others. Clemens? Johnson? Hernandez? Martinez?

  2. Game Seven, 1991 World Series, Jack Morris. 'Nuf said.