Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A night at Target Field

Jordan Schafer turned the wrong way
on this first-inning double over his head
Monday night. 
Monday night's game provided a strong reminder of one of my favorite precepts about baseball: The easiest way to improve the pitching is to improve the outfield defense.

Anthony Swarzak, making a spot start, wasn't really as bad as his line -- 11 hits in 4.1 innings -- indicates. My scoresheet was dotted with notations of outfield plays unmade and resulting runs .

Jordan Schafer, playing centerfield, got turned around on a ball hit by Victor Martinez in the first inning. If Schafer makes the play the Tigers get nothing; in reality, V-Mart's double scored one run and set up his own on J.D. Martinez' subsequent hit.

The latter Martinez opened the three-run fourth inning with a double that Oswaldo Arcia misjudged in right field. That could, should, have been caught.

I didn't mark any poor plays by left fielder Chris Parmelee, but Dan Gladden suggested on the postgame show that there was a play (or more) that the first-base transplant should have made. Presumably Gladden was talking about Bryan Holaday's RBI double in the fourth and/or Victor Martinez' double in the fifth.

I will give Parmelee credit for a good throw to the plate to cut down V-Mart to end that fifth inning. Martinez isn't fast by any means, but Parmelee had to make an accurate throw to get him on Holaday's fly ball, and he made the play.

Other notes from what I expect will be my final in-person game of 2014:

* Danny Santana started at shortstop, as he did in my previous trip to Target Field 10 days earlier. On Sept. 5 he missed on what I thought was a double play opportunity; on Sept. 15 he had a similar chance (second inning off the bat of Ian Kinsler) and started the twin killing. He also had a well-turned pivot on a flashy DP started by Brian Dozier's diving play and flip with glove hand; that flip was a little behind Santana, but he handled the exchange fluidly.

I've been, and remain, skeptical of Santana's ability to handle shortstop, but those were nicely done plays.

* Swarzak, as implied by the previous paragraph, was helped by his infielders, perhaps as much as he was hurt by his outfielders. Give him credit for this: He threw strikes -- 14 first-pitch strikes to his 23 hitters faced, 47 strikes in 70 pitches, just one walk and that intentional.

* A.J. Achter, on the other hand, got through his 2.1 innings without being charged with a run, but threw almost as many balls (17) as strikes (19). He walked home one of Swarzak's inherited runners, a run set up by the intentional walk to J.D. Martinez.. Achter and Ryan Pressly kept the Tigers off the board in the sixth-through-eighth innings, but it wasn't pretty, at least on Achter's part.

* Miguel Cabrera is a beast. The man's leg is clearly killing him, but he had three hits for seven total bases and three runs scored. The way he stared out at the outfield after his first-inning double off the limestone overhang suggested that he couldn't believe that didn't get out of the park.

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