Daisuke Matsuzaka (4-0, 2.52) vs. Jeremy Bonderman (2-2, 3.86)
Usually I try to make these GameThreads all about the pitching match-up, but the big story coming into tonight's opener with the Red Sox is about the new batting order Jim Leyland promised we'd see. "Drastic," remember? Here is the starting lineup for your Detroit Tigers this evening:
1. Curtis Granderson, CF
2. Placido Polanco, 2B
3. Carlos Guillen, 3B
4. Magglio Ordonez, DH
5. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
6. Gary Sheffield, LF
7. Matt Joyce, RF
8. Edgar Renteria, SS
9. Pudge Rodriguez, C
"Drastic"? Well, maybe not so much. Though I suppose that depends on what you expected. Releasing Jacque Jones and calling up Matt Joyce weren't entirely insignificant moves. And playing left field might feel like more of a drastic move to Gary Sheffield (though Mike McClary tells me, via ESPN, that Sheff requested this move) than hitting sixth. Maybe he can tear more of that scar tissue in his right shoulder playing long toss or throwing the ball to the cut-off man. (And unlike Jones, maybe Sheff's throws will actually reach the cut-off man.)
The question becomes whether or not Joyce will stay in the lineup. I'd guess yes, since the Tigers went to the trouble of calling him up to Detroit. But playing right field regularly is doubtful. So if he stays, he'll probably move to left tomorrow, with Sheffield going back to DH (or rotating among two or three guys), and Ordonez taking his usual place in right.
Is this going to be enough to score some runs against Dice-K? Boston has won Matsuzaka's last eight starts, and Daisuke has given up three runs or more in only two of his six appearances this season. In his last start, he shut out the Blue Jays (who have been struggling to score runs) over seven innings.
But if Jeremy Bonderman pitches as well tonight as he did last week at Yankee Stadium, things might work out just fine.