Tag:Justin Verlander
Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:57 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 4:15 pm
 

ALCS Game 5: Tigers need Verlander to step up

Wilson, Verlander

By Evan Brunell

DETROIT --  Rangers at Tigers, 4:19 p.m. ET, October 13, Comerica Park. Rangers lead series 3-1.

The ALCS has surprisingly been very even through four games, despite Texas winning three of them. Twice, the Rangers have come away with the victory after requiring extra-innings to do so, while the other win, in Game 1, was by the narrowest of margins -- just one run. It's the third time this series that Nelson Cruz has banged home the winning run by a homer, and he is certainly the big story so far.

But it's not over for Detroit; not by a long shot. Any time a team can offer up a pitcher the caliber of Justin Verlander, there's going to be a game. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Rangers get to counter with their own ace, C.J. Wilson.

WHO HAS THE EDGE?


Yep, Verlander is pitching and we're calling it even. That's because Verlander hasn't exactly impressed in October thus far, and the Tigers offense is far from potent. That makes a difficult combination heading up against Texas' ace and an overall stronger team. It's anyone's game, but for the Rangers to get to Verlander, the team will have to reverse its fortunes against the righty, as current Rangers have combined for a .211/.285/.314 line in 193 plate appearances over Verlander's career.

The most success by anyone has been at the hands of Adrian Beltre, who has 10 hits in 32 at-bats and three-extra base hits, but that only nets him a .755 OPS, which isn't exactly setting the world on fire. Josh Hamilton doesn't have much in the way of power against Verlander, but is hitting .308 in 15 plate appearances.

On the other side of the ledger, Wilson allowed four runs to the Tigers in 6 2/3 innings back on April 12 and two runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALCS, walking five and striking out six. Of any batter with any appreciable experience against Wilson (and even that's stretching it -- you can't make judgments based on 25 PA), both Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta have struggled significantly. However, of those with two games worth of data against Wilson, Miguel Cabrera, Ramon Santiago, Wilson Betemit, Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn have hit Wilson well, so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues.
ALCS Coverage

Rangers' C.J. Wilson: Wilson knows what it will take to take down the Tigers.

"The reality is we're playing against the best team in the American League right now besides ourselves," he said. "You're not going to roll over and stand there and swing and miss at everything. You have to make them work."

Wilson also mentioned how you can't focus on statistics in the postseason, which makes sense. As with any data, numbers don't mean much unless they come in a big enough sample size. Saying that player X was 2-for-7 against Wilson this season (which we went over above) doesn't work when there's only seven at-bats. There's too much noise there to accurately clean anything. "You have one bad game, one good game, it totally looks weird. At this point, none of us has that much experience."

Wilson, like Verlander, is trying to get into a rhythm and admitted that his final start of the regular season being cut short affected him. "It kind of put me in a little bit of a funk, I think, mentally," he said. "I wasn't sure if I should try to go out there and throw more innings or fight for more innings or what."

The bigger problem is weather. Rain complicated Games 1 and 3 and it could have a impact on Game 5. The lefty says that he has a different plan in place should rain affect the game, but refuses to share details.

Tigers' Justin Verlander: Verlander hasn't had a very good postseason so far. After an incredible regular season, the going's been tough for Verlander, and he has given up eight runs in 13 innings thus far, spread over three starts against the Yankees and Rangers. Verlander was knocked out after just four innings in Game 1, due to both ineffectiveness and two rain delays, and there was much speculation he could start Game 4. That didn't happen, and now Verlander will be making one of the biggest starts in his career, trying to stave off elimination.

Manager Jim Leyland admitted that Verlander is tired, but isn't that the case with anyone in the postseason. Heck, Leyland quipped that "I go from decaf to regular right about now."

"I think he's a little tired," Leyland said about Verlander. "That's why he's not pitching [Game 4]. I think he wants to pitch. I admire that. He wants the ball. But when I had a meeting with my coaches, we sat down and talked, we really truly believed that this is the best way to go because we think this is the best thing for Justin Verlander, and in turn, that means it's the best thing for the team."

Verlander brushed aside concerns that he was tired, believing the issue lies more in mechanics. "I feel like the first couple of starts, just not quite right," Verlander said, attributing some of his struggles to rain delays fouling up his starts. "But hey, I'm not making any excuses whatsoever. I have to go out there and pitch better than I have and really establish a rhythm from the get-go and maintain my feel throughout the game."

LINEUPS

Rangers Tigers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Ian Kinsler 2B 1 Austin Jackson CF
2  Elvis Andrus SS 2 Ryan Raburn RF
3  Josh Hamilton CF 3  Miguel Cabrera 1B
4  Michael Young DH 4 Victor Martinez DH
5  Adrian Beltre  3B 5 Delmon Young LF
6  Mike Napoli  C 6 Johnny Peralta SS
7  Nelson Cruz  RF 7 Brandon Inge 3B
8  David Murphy  LF 8 Alex Avila C
9  Mitch Moreland  1B 9 Ramon Santiago 2B

C.J. Wilson LHP
Justin Verlander RHP

NOTES

  • Rain threatened the playing of Game 4 on Wednesday, and engineered a 2 hour and 13 minute delay. Game 5 is set for a 4:19 p.m. start, which was thought to be in danger with a thunderstorm on the way. Fortunately, that storm has been pushed back to 9 p.m. according to weather forecasts early Wednesday morning. There are expected to be light showers during the game, but that's playable. What bears watching is whether this thunderstom speeds up and hits the game during play. It will be the third time this October that Verlander has had a start potentially affected by inclement weather.
  • The Rangers bullpen has won each of the three games, allowing just two runs in 21 1/3 innings, striking out 20 and walking just five. They are the fifth team in LCS history to record at least three victories from the pen. One of these runs was allowed by Alexi Ogando in Game 4 against Brandon Inge, the first time Ogando has allowed a homer on an 0-2 pitch. Ogando has thrown 8 1/3 innings himself.
  • Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak in the ALCS to 11 games, and is now tied for second place all-time for the longest streak to begin a career in the ALCS. Roberto Alomar also had an 11-game hitting streak, and the record is held by Greg Luzinski.

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Posted on: October 12, 2011 11:37 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 1:39 am
 

Porcello dazzles until sixth-inning implosion

Porcello

By Evan Brunell


DETROIT -- Up until things unraveled in the sixth inning, the story of Game 4 of the ALCS belonged to Rick Porcello.

Porcello had been the overlooked pitcher this series, with many openly wondering why manager Jim Leyland didn't choose to push Justin Verlander up a day to start Game 4 once his Game 1 start was cut short by rain delay. It was a fair question, but Porcello showed the world what he could do, becoming just the fifth pitcher to allow two earned runs or less at age 22, the last coming way back in 1995 when Bob Wolcott of the Indians stymied the Mariners.

"I thought he pitched a tremendous game for us," Leyland raved after the game.. "This is an excellent lineup. To do what he did to hold them down like he did, I thought he did a tremendous job. I think he threw the ball exceptionally well. I don't think there's any question about that. He gave us what we wanted and probably a little bit more, to be honest with you."


ALCS Coverage
Porcello's game isn't striking out batters -- it's limiting walks and inducing groundballs, but on Wednesday night he seemed to have everything working to the point where he was a strikeout artist. Porcello notched his sixth strikeout in the fourth inning, one shy of his season-high and the first time since July he had struck out more than five. All this while allowing zero walks and forcing the Rangers to beat the ball in the ground for eight groundouts, seven of them after the fifth inning, and it was simply a superb performance for Porcello.

And yet, the Tigers lost the game after the 11th inning blew up in their faces. Porcello was subdued after the game, even as he was coming off one of the best performances of his career, including a filthy slider he said was probably the best he's ever thrown in his major-league career. "I felt good," Porcello admitted. "My slider was pretty sharp."

The only problem was that Porcello unraveled in the sixth inning, paced by David Murphy's 3-for-3 night and getting burned the third time through the order. Porcello's undoing the entire season has been getting through the lineup for the first time with ease, hitters batting just .229 against Porcello, then giving up hits at a .329 clip once the lineup flipped over. Porcello was able to hold Texas down through the second part of the lineup but the third turn wasn't the charm for the righty, as he gave up hits to five of the nine batters seeing him for the second time. Porcello compounded his own troubles by throwing wildly on an attempted pickoff of Elvis Andrus, allowing Andrus to move to second and score the go-ahead run on Michael Young's single, which snapped a slump for Young.

"Nothing changed," Porcello said about what happened the third time through when Texas put up a three-spot to take the lead in a game they would eventually win 7-3 in the 11th inning. "They hit some good pitches, they hit some bad pitches. That's the bottom line."

Unfortunately for Detroit, the bottom line has Texas one win from the World Series, while the Tigers will have to win three in a row.


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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:30 am
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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:28 am
 

Short Verlander start throws Game 4 into question

Verlander

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Two rain delays derailed Justin Verlander's start in Game 1, thereby limiting him to just 4 2/3 innings. After tossing just 82 pitches, the question naturally springs to mind: Will Verlander come back to start Game 4? Such a decision could have enormous ramifications on the series, as Verlander pitching in Game 4 would allow him to appear in Game 7, possibly as a starter and certainly as a reliever.

"We're going to go down and look at it," manager Jim Leyland said after the game. "We started to map a couple of things out during the one rain delay, but we don't have anything for you at this time.

"We're not trying to hide anything. We just haven't figured it all out."

Leyland fielded multiple questions on the topic, and started to get irritated on the third question.

"I'm trying to be patient. ... You can talk to me until you're blue in the face about the rotation. I don't have anything for you."

Leyland may not have anything, but the move to start Verlander should be obvious, especially after Porcello tossed 22 pitches in relief of Verlander. While the 22-year-old Porcello has a ton of promise and debuted at age 20 just two years after being picked in the first round, Verlander is clearly the better pitcher at this stage. He should be able to go on three days rest. How can the Tigers not make this move?

While Verlander may have been able to come out of the bullpen regardless in a potential Game 7 should he stay on track to start Game 5, giving Verlander the Game 4 assignment allows the team so much flexibility in Game 7. Maybe Verlander starts, maybe Max Scherzer (drawing the ball in Game 2) still starts and Verlander comes in relief for a few innings. And heck, Verlander drawing the ball in Game 4 would allow the club to go to a three-man rotation, eschewing Porcello and giving Scherzer the Game 5 or 6 start.

Either way, it's never a bad thing to have your best pitcher available in the final, winner-take-all, game.

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 2:04 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 3:09 am
 

Nelson Cruz homer sets postseason team record

Nelson Cruz

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- WIth one swing of the bat, Nelson Cruz made history.

In the fourth inning, Cruz took a Justin Verlander changeup deep into the night, giving Texas the margin of victory needed to win Game 1, 3-2. 

It also happened to be the homer that gave Cruz the franchise lead in postseason home runs, breaking a tie with Juan Gonzalez after smashing six home runs in the Rangers' run to the AL pennant last season. He registered surprise at the feat, not realizing what he had done.

"This is nice, you know," Cruz told CBSSports.com. "Here we don't worry about records, we worry about wins. That's the important thing. But you take it one at bat at a time and, hopefully, you get good results."

Cruz's homer came on a 2-0 fastball down the middle. While one might have thought Cruz was sitting dead-red for a fastball, he was paying attention earlier in the game.

"One of the at-bats, I don't remember [who it was], 2-0, [Verlander] threw a change-up. It was a change-up. I was trying to be aggressive," Cruz said after the game. "First at-bat he threw me some pitches out of the strike zone. So I told myself just to be patient and wait for the right pitch to hit.

Cruz had previously been 1-for-16 in the playoffs, as well as ending the season on a forgettable note with a .190/.205/.286 line after missing the first half of September with a strained hamstring. Throughout the ALDS, Cruz and manager Ron Washington maintained that it was only a matter of time before Cruz got his stroke back, as he was yielding positive results in batting practice.

"Defintely the last few games, I feel like I swung the bat well," Cruz said. "I was lucky enough -- but the situation, playoffs, you don't care about what you do. You want the results."

Despite the slump Cruz entiered the game in, he extended his LCS hitting streak to seven games, as well as notching an extra-base hit in each of the last four contests, with home runs in three of the games. After a poor offensive display against the Rays, Texas really needed Cruz to come through against Verlander for the Rangers to have any hope of winning the game. And he did.

"We certainly needed what he gave us tonight," Washington said. "We needed that big home run off of Verlander."

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Posted on: October 9, 2011 1:03 am
Edited on: October 9, 2011 2:17 am
 

Rain affects outcome of ALCS Game 1, Rangers win

Rain

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers won Game 1 of the ALCS, 3-2.

Hero: With C.J. Wilson bounced after 4 2/3 innings, Texas needed someone to step up and bridge the team to the eighth inning. It found its man in Alexi Ogando, the former starter who was sent to the bullpen for the postseason due to running out of gas in his first year as a starter. Ogando dazzled, punching out three batters in two innings and allowing just one baserunner on a walk. Detroit had been threatening to break through up until Ogando's performance, and went meekly after that.

Goat:
The rain. Rain forced a delay not once, but twice in the fifth inning. All told, delays chewed up an hour and 50 minutes, with play in between lasting just 13 innings. It derailed the outings of Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson, although now it's possible Verlander could move up from a Game 5 start to Game 4, making him available for a potential Game 7, albeit likely in relief. The game didn't end until just after 1 a.m. ET, and more rain is in the forecast for Saturday which could actually threaten the playing of the entire game.

Turning point: The Tigers had a golden opportunity coming off of the second rain delay, returning with the bases loaded. The rain had knocked C.J. Wilson out of the game, who had been dealing before loading said bases. Rangers manager Ron Washington ordered an intentional walk to Magglio Ordonez to set Wilson up to face left-handed hitter Alex Avila, but plans changed with the delay. Texas was forced to burn a reliever in Mike Gonzalez to keep the lefty-on-lefty matchup intact. Avila wasted no time in grounding out to the second baseman on the first pitch, and there went the Tigers' best chance to alter the game.

It was over when ... Well, it was a one-run game, so it wasn't really over until the last pitch, right? That was a fastball thrown by Neftali Feliz to Ryan Raburn with a runner on first, giving Texas a 1-0 series lead in the ALCS. Raburn was in the lineup due to the injury to Delmon Young suffered in the ALDS that has knocked Young out for the entirety of the ALCS.

Next: The Tigers and Rangers will play Game 2 at 7:45 p.m. ET, but it's possible that it doesn't even finish. More imposing rain is in the forecast for Saturday night, and we could very well be looking at a postponement and force the game's completion on Monday, scrubbing a travel day.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 10:08 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 2:17 am
 

Rain delay, Verlander struggles affect Game 1

Verlander

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Rain has become a staple of the postseason lately, with Philadelphia and Tampa Bay's World Series in 2008 affected by it, as well as the Yankees-Tigers ALDS earlier this year. And now, the ALCS has been affected as Game 1 just experienced a rain delay, and it may not be the last. Rain had been drizzling off and on for much of the game but all of a sudden the jets came on for a downpour and play was quickly stopped. The tarp came off just 20 minutes later, and play is expected to resume at 10:20 ET, but there is significant rain on the way expected to last until 12 a.m. ET, so this could be a long game. With more serious rain on the way Saturday, MLB's Joe Torre said that "this game will be played."

In the early going, the story has been Justin Verlander coughing up three runs, including two in the second. David Murphy tripled Mike Napoli in, with Ian Kinsler later singling Murphy in. But the biggest blast came in the bottom fourth, when Nelson Cruz reversed his playoff fortunes by launching a ball into left-center field. Prior to the homer, Cruz had been just 1-for-16 in the postseason, and also finished September with a .190/.205/.286 skid after beginning the month on the DL with a left hamstring strain.

Skipper Ron Washington did say during the ALDS that he felt Cruz was on the verge of breaking out, liking the swings he was taking in batting practice. Well, he proved right, but more astounding is the tough time Verlander has had. Through four innings, Verlander has tossed 82 pitches, 49 for strikes. It looks like as he's been getting squeezed pretty hard by home-plate ump Tim Welke, as the below pitch F/X plot bears out. By this zone, nine pitches were called balls that should have been strikes, and another four are close enough that being called a strike wouldn't cause anyone to blink.

Strike zone

Meanwhile, C.J. Wilson danced around trouble the first two innings and has been dazzling since, striking out the side in the fourth.

Follow the game live on CBSSports.com's Game Tracker.

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Posted on: October 8, 2011 4:28 pm
Edited on: October 9, 2011 2:17 am
 

Lineups announced for ALCS Game 1

Cabrera

By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Tigers and Rangers have revealed their lineups for Game 1, slated to occur at 8:05 p.m. ET. The game promises to have a fantastic matchup, pitting Justin Verlander against C.J. Wilson. Only time will tell if the duel will match up to the gem we saw Friday night in Game 5 of the Cardinals and Phillies NLCS.

Ryan Raburn, despite a lackluster season that saw him lose his job, bats second in left field, replacing Delmon Young. Young was not placed on the ALCS roster after suffering a left oblique injury in Game 5. It's rather disappointing of Leyland to stick Raburn at No. 2; I would have much rather seen Brandon Inge, who can hit lefties rather well, at the spot. Late in the game, Wilson Betemit pinch-hitting at No. 2 would also be a significant boost.

Tigers Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Austin Jackson CF 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 Ryan Raburn LF 2 Elvis Andrus SS
3 Miguel Cabrera 1B 3 Josh Hamilton CF
4 Victor Martinez DH 4 Michael Young DH
5 Magglio Ordonez RF 5 Adrian Beltre 3B
6 Alex Avila C 6 Mike Napoli C
7 Jhonny Peralta SS 7 Nelson Cruz RF
8 Ramon Santiago 2B 8 David Murphy LF
9 Brandon Inge 3B 9 Mitch Moreland 1B

Justin Verlander RHP
C.J. Wilson LHP

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Pictured: Miguel Cabrera

 
 
 
 
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