|Final - 6.4.2011||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R|
|Chicago White Sox||0||0||0||0||2||0||0||0||0||2|
100 mph: The velocity of Justin Verlander's fastball in the eighth inning.
Sure, you could say Miguel Cabrera's ninth-inning, two-out home run was the difference maker. But I think a combination of plays with the score tied at 2-2 in the bottom of the eighth was key.
The first was less of a play than a non-play, as the White Sox decided Andy Dirks' arm in left field was too strong to run on, forcing the go-ahead run to stand on third base with one out. Which led to the second key play: After a 3-2 count Justin Verlander struck out Carlos Quentin looking with a 100 mph fastball. That may have been only the second out, but it was the keystone play of the inning that took the sacrifice out of contention. Verlander got the third out after diving off the mound on a grounder. Detroit still had life, and Cabrera made the best of it in the ninth inning.
I love me some Miguel Cabrera. I made that clear in a post earlier this week and in the podcast. You need a key hit, you expect Cabrera will provide it. Sure, this is baseball. You can't expect it 100 percent of the time. But you expect it. So with a runner on third base and two outs in the ninth inning -- in other words, the game was on the line -- you expected Cabrera to get the go-ahead run home. And sure enough he deposits the pitch in the stands for a two-run home run.
But Justin Verlander was the true star of the game for me. Not only did he pitch deep into the game on a day the Tigers' bullpen was a bit short, but he got stronger as the day went on. The sequence I described earlier from the eighth inning is what I would deem a "beyond stats" sequence. Verlander just refused to be beat and had more control over it than anyone else in the stadium. The grin he had as he came off the field was shared by all the fans, I'm sure.
Other thoughts: I know Jim Leyland loathes to move people out of their normal spots in the lineup. And I know lineup configuration doesn't make that big of a deal in the grand scheme. But this is beyond ridiculous. Don Kelly, batting .254 with no power, is batting second while one of the Tigers' leading producers of average and power, Jhonny Peralta, bats seventh and lefty slugger Alex Avila eighth? I commend Kelly on taking Edwin Jackson's pitch count into the double digits single handedly in the top of the first, but he went 0-for-3 and was generally a hole in the middle of a productive top of the order. No mas, por favor.
Big picture time: Detroit ended a losing streak at one game. That's pretty big given how often one loss has turned into a skid. Especially on the South Side. Tigers are now the hottest team in the division and closing the gap on a faltering Indians team. By the time the teams meet later this month the division lead should be on the line.
In other news:
Lefty reliever David Purcey will be placed on paternity leave while his wife has twins, and lefty reliever Adam Wilk will be recalled Sunday to take his spot for the time being.
Also Magglio Ordonez went 3-for-5 with a double for the Mud Hens, and Phil Coke will return to his spot in the rotation midweek.