Did you look at tonight's pitching match-up and have this one written off before you sat down to watch? Zack Greinke, probably the best pitcher in the American League this season, versus Luke French, making the second major league start of his career? This wasn't going to end well, was it?
Au Contraire, Mon Frère.
Greinke led off the game by putting the first two batters he faced on base with a walk and single, and the Tigers pounced on the opportunity to score runs early (breaking away from their usual tendency). Marcus Thames and Clete Thomas brought those runners home with a groundout and single, respectively, and within five batters, Detroit had scored more earned runs against Greinke than they had in their previous 18 innings against him.
But could French make that lead hold up? He allowed hits in each of his first three innings, but the Royals didn't get a runner past second base until the seventh inning, when he left a 87 m.p.h. fastball up in the strike zone for Alberto Callaspo to launch over the left field fence. Besides that, the only K.C. batter who gave French any trouble was Billy Butler, who smacked three doubles. But the Royals couldn't put anyone on base in front of him.
For the night, French gave up one run and six hits in 6.1 innings, adding two strikeouts and one walk. The rookie out-dueled the six-year veteran. (Though Greinke didn't exactly pitch a stinker, allowing three runs in six innings, while racking up nine strikeouts.)
Jim Leyland passed out faint praise in his post-game interview, saying French didn't have his best stuff but pitched very well. Okay, we get it: he's trying to keep the kid level-headed. But French most certainly deserved the standing ovation he received at Comerica Park as he walked off the field.
It wasn't just French who held up that slim lead, however. The bullpen did a great job after taking over in the seventh. Fu-Te Ni, Brandon Lyon, and Fernando Rodney pitched 2.2 perfect innings, striking out five of the eight batters they faced. What a relief (pardon the pun) to watch relievers come in and not put a game in jeopardy by walking batters. It's even better when the closer comes in and pitches a 1-2-3 ninth inning with two strikeouts.
Comment of the Night:
I may stay in my car until this ones over
by rock n rye
And thanks to Kmann for suggesting tonight's headline.