Wednesday, October 25, 2006

World Series Game 3: Quit Kidding Around Guys

Yesterday was a tough game to watch. I can’t remember too many games this season where there was less to cheer about as a Tiger fan. When your best offensive weapon appears to be passed balls by the other team, you can be pretty sure things aren’t going to go well for the good guys. If you weren’t watching, what I mean by that is the Tigers managed only three hits, and I don’t think they ever got the leadoff man on base. Their best chance at scoring came when Inge hit a one out single, was sacrificed over to second by Nate Robertson, and then moved to third on a passed ball. The very next pitch bounced in the dirt, glanced off Yadier Molina’s shoulder, but went forward rather than behind him and Inge wisely chose to stay at third. Granderson then grounded out to end the inning. That describes their best offensive inning.

Speaking of Granderson, his struggles coupled with Polanco’s really seem to be strangling the team’s offense. Neither has a hit in this series, and that has allowed the Cardinals to pitch tough against both Maggs and Guillen. That’s because they both always seem to be either leading innings off or coming up with two outs. When you throw in the o-fer by Pudge, you get a pretty impotent offense. The worse news is that of the three (Pudge, Curtis and Placido), I can only remember Polanco having any good swings yesterday. That came in his last at bat when he smoked a line drive that was snagged by Pujols at first.

On the mound, Robertson did his usual high wire act. He threw five innings, allowed the same number of hits and walked three batters. In the fourth inning, he faced a bases loaded situation with nobody out again, just like in the Oakland opener. He retired Ronnie Belliard, and got to two strikes against Jim Edmonds, but left a pitch out over the plate and Edmonds ripped it down the line for a two run double. It still seemed like a victory at the time when Robertson wriggled out of the inning with no more damage than that, but as things went that was all the Cardinals needed.

The most sickening moment of the game came when Joel Zumaya, pitching for the first time in two weeks, walked two batters to lead off the seventh. Walking Eckstein and Wilson was bad enough, but worse was that Pujols was coming up. Well, Zumaya got him to hit a comebacker and for some reason decided to cut down the lead runner rather than turn what probably would have been an easy 1-6-3 double play. His throw to third was wide and behind Inge and allowed both baserunners to score. This was bad enough, but Tim McCarver dwelled on this decision ad nauseum for almost the rest of the night. Here's where it seems most appropriate to say how much I hate Tim McCarver. I'm so sick of him getting a woodrow every time he gets to mention the Cardinals' World Series in the 60s. In case you didn't know, he played for the Cardinals back when he was a crappy catcher. Anyway, with Zumaya's crucial mistake – that wasn’t so crucial since they never scored – and McCarver blathering on and digging to find the last time a pitcher tried to start a 1-5-3 double play, it was very difficult not to just cut my losses and go to bed.

But as gloomy as the loss was, Tiger fans should know by now that there is no such thing as momentum in baseball. I think the Tigers have the better pitcher on the mound tonight in the matchup between Bonderman and Jeff Suppan. I’m also going to just take it on faith that the lineup will start hitting the ball to spots on the field where there are no Cardinals. Looking back over the pitch-by-pitch for the game, their approaches at the plate didn’t seem too bad. They took the first pitch quite a bit, and seemed to be trying to work the counts, but Carpenter was throwing strikes and they just couldn’t hit the ball hard when they were forced to swing. My final hope is that everybody has knocked off the rust and shaken the jitters, because it’s now the time to step up and start putting this thing away. Just think like this. If the Tigers win this series, tonight is likely to be the night their fortunes turned.


Kevin said...

OK, 90% chance of rain tonight in St. Louis. That and a 2 by 4 might help Jim Leyland thump into these guys heads that taking pitches until you have 2 strikes for any player that is o-fer the series is a good idea.

Any time Pudge is in the 3 hole, I know the inning will die with no runs scored. I am getting incredibly frustrated. I was hoping to see a moment last night like the one we saw in Oakland where the A's outfielders were amazed at the Tiger's patience at the plate. Make these pitchers work for their outs. Don't give them anything for free. Carpenter having a shutout with less than 80 pitches going in to the ninth is not good for the Tigers.

Joel said...

McCarver in the broadcasts is a drawback to making it to the WS. I can't believe that there isn't someone better Fox can dig up to do these games. I can live with the bias, I'll even give him credit for it, but he is the worst. The one insight he could offer, on a catcher getting hit by a bounce/ricochet/foul tip (especially like Molina's on Sunday or Rodriguez yesterday), was "It's very painful."
I noticed in the ESPN highlights from Sunday's game that the voice over the video was their Johnny whatshisname. Is there a broadcast where I could have him and Joe Morgan? I would subscribe to that feed.

Matt said...

I have a bad feeling that since working counts and waiting for their pitches is against so many of the Tigers' hitters' instincts, they end up with mechanical (read: predictable) approaches at the plate, such as "Do not swing until you get to x count." This approach ends up putting them in two strike counts and they end up with the harmless outs we had to sit through last night.

Tonight will probably be the biggest test, because I think Suppan is a pitcher who needs you to swing at his pitches. If the Tigers can show some discipline at the plate, they might be able to finally plate some runs.

Matt said...

Oh, and Jonny Miller and Joe Morgan are the ESPN announcers, so whoever broadcasts ESPN radio would probably have that feed. XM? ESPN Insider? I don't know for sure.

Rob Breymaier said...

Morgan actually had excellent analysis of Robertson's inability to get Edmonds out. He spoke about his lack of an offspeed pitch which is necessary to pitch well to Edmonds. Then in the next inning. Robertson threw some change ups and had a decent inning. Morgan also gave that credit to Pudge. But, should have said that Pudge needed to make that call at least 1 inning earlier.

I think that even this sorry loss wasn'tall bad. I think Leyland used the bullpen well. He got a number of guys in for short periods. That should help the nerves if they're needed again. And, they shouldn't be spent. I think we all fugured that Robertson's start was going to be a likely loss. And, we shouldn't see a boneheaded nail-in-the-coffin play like Zumaya made again. The Cards aren't hitting that well either. They just managed to capitalize on mistakes. Tigers in 6 was my prediction and still possible.

joel said...

Those guys are doing the radio for ESPN network, but I couldn't believe that ESPN could show what must be Fox video with ESPN audio. I wonder how that arrangement works, but if you check highlights on the ESPN website, it's from 'Baseball Tonight' done with Berman and crew talking over the video. Kind of like 'Mystery Science Theater' of baseball. And it's better than McCarver.
I'd take the bet right now that Fox owns video broadcast and no one else is transmitting any video of the games. I don't know how many ways ESPN is packaging its products for the Series, but I sure they use Fox video if there is any video involved.
With delays between the assortment of transmissions, I don't think turning on the radio and lowering the TV volume (like many people did to hear Ernie Harwell and Paul Karey instead of Al Kaline and some guy while watching TV games way back when) in is an option because they will be too far out of sync. Since MLB is willing to bend over one way or another to accomodate a broadcast contract, I expect that the delay is partly to give some 'first to broadcast' preference to FOX.