Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Morning Manager

(my weekly take on the Tigers)

Last Week: 3-3
This Week: (8/27: NYY; 8/28-30: at KC; 8/31-9/2: at Oak)

The Tigers broke curfew Friday night, but nobody slapped their wrists or took away their driving privileges or grounded them.

They started a game at 11:06pm that evening, and by now you've read, heard, and seen all the talk about how bizarre it was, how strange that a big league ballgame should start after the nighttime news.

"What if it goes into extra innings?," I wondered aloud once I heard that the Tigers-Yankees game would start after a 4 hour, one minute rain delay. "That would carry it well past 2 a.m.!"

Try well past 3 a.m.

Carlos Guillen ended it with a walk-off, three-run homer in extras, and the Tigers half-ran, half-shuffled off the field and into their clubhouse sometime after 3:30 in the morning. Happy, but tired; a good tired, I suppose.

I'm dying to hear the rule about curfews, though. There was once a time when an inning couldn't begin after 1 a.m. And a game could be suspended at that point. But the rules are confusing, and I think there are a lot of variables. Certainly beginning a game after 11 o'clock must mean that there IS no more curfew. Who knows.

Anyhow, if the Tigers manage to pick themselves up by the cleat straps, and climb back into the playoff picture, they might point to the crazy night of August 24/25 as the night that things started to slowly but surely turn around for them.

Guillen clubbed -- and that's an appropriate verb because the baseball was nearly as low as a teed-up golf ball when he hit it -- an ankle-high breaking ball over the left field wall at 3:30. The Tigers won, after having blown a 6-3 lead. They were licking their wounds after the Indians left town with a 2-1 series win. The Wild Card was slipping further and further out of sight. So too, the division, though not at the critical stage yet. Simply put, the Tigers were a tired, soggy, scuffling team that needed a win in the worst way -- no matter how weird it was.

It's two out of three from the Yanks so far, with Game 4 this evening. Far less significant games have been played this season.

Meanwhile, the injury bug continues to batter the team. Now it's rookie starter Jair Jurrjens who's the latest victim. Inflamed shoulder. On the DL, for the requisite 15 days. Back to Detroit comes Zach Miner, who huffed and puffed last Thursday after being demoted with the return of Joel Zumaya. The Tigers' pitching staff has played yo-yo with far more pitchers than was surmised in March. Up and down the same few names have come. Injuries have been mostly to blame for all the shuffling.

After tonight, the Tigers will either have gone 6-7 or 5-8 in this 13-game stretch of playing just the Indians and Yankees. The former is acceptable; the latter may be an indictment on their tenuous playoff chances. What a different one game can make.

Like I said, far less significant games have been played this season than tonight's.



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