On paper (and in the boxscore), this one almost looked pretty. Edwin Jackson pitched seven shutout innings, and the Detroit Tigers' lineup provided just enough offense with three runs.
Look a bit closer, however, and you see that Jackson gave up seven hits and three walks. Four of those hits were in his first two innings, as he had trouble throwing first-pitch strikes and quickly fell behind the Indians' hitters. Maybe it was a case of Jackson getting used to his new, no-pitch-tipping delivery.
But Jackson eventually found his groove, and the Indians never really threatened to tie the game, despite the Tigers holding a narrow 1-0 lead. (Their best chance was in the bottom of the seventh, with two runners on, but Jackson struck out Trevor Crowe to end the threat.)
Detroit eventually added some insurance runs in the eighth, thanks to an RBI double from Miguel Cabrera and sacrifice fly from Marcus Thames. But the game got pretty tight, thanks largely to a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Paul Schreiber. (Hey, haven't the Tigers had trouble with that guy before? Yes, they have.)
Bobby Seay and Brandon Lyon (Seay-Lyon!) loaded the bases on two singles and a walk. And with the bases full, Lyon walked Jamey Carroll, ruining the Tigers' shutout. But if you look at Gameday, you can see that Schreiber's strike zone was ridiculous. A fastball virtually down the middle was called a ball (here's a screen shot), as was an inside fastball that drew the walk.
(Here's further evidence of Schreiber's strike zone from Brooks Baseball, via The Detroit Tigers Weblog.)
But Lyon eventually struck out Luis Valbuena to get out of the jam, and Fernando Rodney pitched an impressively efficient ninth inning (10 pitches, eight strikes) to close out a game that could've turned ugly in so many ways.
If the Indians were a better team right now, they may well have won this game. (They knocked out 10 hits and left 10 runners on base.) And it's something of a disappointment that the Tigers' lineup didn't score more runs off Aaron Laffey, who was a punching bag in his previous two starts and gave Detroit 10 baserunners in this game.
But right now, any win - no matter how it comes about - is crucial (especially when the Twins won, as well).
Against left-handed pitching, does it not seem like Ryan Raburn is the Tigers' only source of offense? He gave Jackson the lead he needed with a solo homer in the third inning. And shortly before that, Raburn ended the second inning by throwing Matt LaPorta out at home plate.
I've brought this up a couple of times now (including last night's Afterglow), but I'll keep beating this drum. (Sorry, that's on the mind after another night of incessant pounding from Cleveland.) Raburn needs to be the Tigers' full-time left fielder right now. (Worry about next season next year.)
Comment of the Night:
It would be fitting if Illitch paid Maggs in singles
by rock n rye