RAYS 4, Tigers 2 (boxscore)
THE GOOD: Getting to Verlander. In his first 16 innings of the season, including the first 8 innings yesterday, Verlander allowed no runs and just 3 hits and 2 walks, all while striking out 13. And in the 9th inning, he looked like he was just getting stronger, reaching 98 and 99 on consecutive pitches. But then things changed. Of the 5 batters he faced in the 9th inning, he gave up 3 hits, a walk, and all 4 baserunners would eventually score…Flash Jennings. We thought this was the big at bat in the 9th inning. After the leadoff batter got on, Verlander overpowered Reid Brignac (what’s new?). So with one out, if Jennings gets out, the game is probably over. Instead, he sticks out the head of the bat on a 99mph fastball and slaps the ball into right field and the rally is officially on…Fernando Rodney. We figured Joe Maddon would eventually settle on a new unofficial closer. We had no idea it would happen this quickly…Jose Lobaton. It is nothing new that we gush over Lobaton defensively. And while Jose Molina is great with the pitchers and can frame the sh*t out of a ball, he is not the athlete that Lobaton is…8≠9. Maybe 9=8. But if there is one thing this team knows, it is that a baseball game does not end after 8 innings.
THE BAD: Balkin’. A pitcher cannot throw to a bag that is not being covered by a fielder. A pitcher also does not have to throw to second or third base on a pick-off throw. So when Shields began his pick-off move to third base in the 5th inning (SEE VIDEO BELOW), and realized Evan Longoria wasn’t covering the bag, he should have just swallowed the ball. Instead, he threw to Longo who was 8 feet off the bag. That is a balk, and the Tigers went up 2-0…Diminishing Returns. Early in the game, Shields fastball was 93-94. By the 7th and 8th inning, it was 90-91. Normally that is not a big deal. But with Shields, his best pitch is his changeup. Early in the game, he was getting a nice 8-10 mph difference between his change and fastball. That’s typically where you want it. But as his fastball got slower, his changeup stayed the same. So by the end of the game, there was only a 4-5 mph difference between the two pitches. Shields got lucky late in this game. And hopefully, as the weather warms up, he will be able to maintain his fastball velocity. If not, he will run into trouble later in games.
THE TELLING: Jeremy Hellickson was fine after a series of tests following being hit in the head with a batting practice home run. He says he is fine and will make his start on Saturday…The Red Sox are 1-6 and are already 4.5 games behind the Rays…Since the end of the 2010 season, Carl Crawford has 18 stolen bases. Ben Zobrist has 19.
THE JUNKYARD DOGS WEBTOPIA…
- Johnny Damon will reportedly sign with the Indians. [@Ken_Rosenthal]
- Justin Verlander was throwing too hard in the 9th inning. [ESPN]
- We mentioned this yesterday in our game highlights post, but the Detroit News was pretty giddy with the Tigers and Justin Verlander after seven innings. [Detroit News]
- The motorcyclist that was allegedly hit by Matt Bush prior to his drunken driving arrest, has been released from the hospital. [The Heater]
DOWN ON THE FARM…
DURHAM 5, Charlotte 4. Alex Torres struck out 6 and walked 4 in 5 innings. He gave up 2 hits and 3 runs…SS Tim Beckham was 2-4 with a double…RF Brandon Guyer went 1-3.
Mississippi 8, MONTGOMERY 2. Alex Colome struck out 5, but lasted just 3 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) on 3 hits and 2 walks…SS Hak-Ju Lee went 0-4.
St. Lucie 6, CHARLOTTE 4. Grayson Garvin allowed 2 runs (1 earned) in 5 innings. He struck out 2 and walked none…BJ Upton went 0-2 with a walk in his second rehab assignment game…RF Mikie Mahtook went 2-4 and is 7-21 in his first 6 pro games.
BOWLING GREEN 9, West Michigan 4. Jake Floethe allowed just 1 run i 5 innings, striking out 2 and walking none…RF Drew Vettleson was 3-6 as four different Hot Rods hat 3 hits.
Evan Longoria ties it up in the 9th…