All of the pre-game hullabaloo swirled around the new lineup that Jim Leyland would pencil in tonight. Maybe it was expecting too much for the re-shuffled batting order to put a bunch of runs on the scoreboard its first time out, and perhaps we'll see different results after certain hitters get accustomed to their new roles. In its debut, however, the new lineup posted a frustratingly similar result: 11 runners left on base, only three runs scored, and a 6-3 loss to a pitcher that really should've been beaten.
The Tigers let Daisuke Matsuzaka off the hook tonight. Pitchers who walk eight batters in five innings don't usually end the evening with a win. But as we've seen too many times already this season, Detroit just couldn't follow up with a big hit and punish Dice-K for his mistakes. And maybe I'm not giving Matsuzaka enough credit for getting out of the jams he created. He only allowed two hits, consistently inducing a pop-up when he needed it.
However, Leyland's message of grinding out at-bats just may have gotten through to his hitters. Matsuzaka threw 109 pitches, so the Tigers made him work (though he put much of that burden on himself). They didn't get the key hit against Dice-K when it was needed, but they didn't just flail away at pitches out of the strike zone, either. He only posted one strikeout tonight, his lowest total this season. When Tigers batters weren't getting anything to hit, they took the walk, and that's an approach we hadn't seen much of in Detroit's first 32 games.
Now they have to start driving those runners in. Jeremy Bonderman was hardly great tonight, and it's aggravating to see the Tigers always having to claw back into the game when Bondo gives up 3-4 runs early. But who knows how his six innings might have developed had he received some run support? (Gary Sheffield certainly found his legs in left field having to run to the fence, trying to make a play on those balls Mike Lowell and Kevin Youkilis put over it.)
So I suppose how you feel about this one depends on your outlook. Was it yet another troubling loss in which the Tigers didn't follow through on their talent and the opportunities presented to them? Or is there something to build on from here?
We're going to try a new feature in these recaps, thanks to a applet/software thingie that was passed along by Jim McLennan, SB Nation's Arizona Diamondbacks blogger. It's just a way of thanking those who commented in the GameThread, and welcoming anyone who may have stopped by for the first time.
Thanks to Zappatista, pfuhrmeister, BobbyHigginson, bradm, Matt in Toledo, Fats Fothergill, rock n rye, ThaWalrus9, BigAl, and MackAveKurt for participating in tonight's commentary and discussion.