It was a fantastic game tonight, driven by two pitchers at the top of their games. We probably won't see a better-pitched game all season. And we might not see a better (or as important) defensive gem this season than Curtis Granderson's ninth inning leaping grab, taking a game-winning home run away from Grady Sizemore.
But this aesthetic beauty was marred by one (or perhaps two) defensive miscues in the eighth inning, allowing the Tigers to score the only run of the game. Curtis Granderson walked with one out, and he attempted to steal second with Placido Polanco at the plate. Granderson got a poor jump, and Shoppach merely had to make a decent throw to nab him at second. The throw was high, however, and the inning continued after Polanco grounded out to short. Cliff Lee made an excellent pitch to Clete Thomas, breaking his bat on a slow bouncer to second. But Luis Valbuena couldn't get a grip on the baseball, and his double-clutch allowed Thomas to beat out the play and the Tigers to take the lead 1-0. The play was ruled a hit, which I still cannot believe, for it was as routine a chance as a second baseman will see.
Verlander came out for the ninth to try to finish his shutout, and walked Valbuena to start the inning, just his third base runner of the game. Eric Wedge ordered Kelly Shoppach to lay down a sacrifice bunt, but Shoppach bunted it too close to the pitcher. Verlander threw out Valbuena at second, which would have started a double play if not for Valbuena's excellent take-out slide. With Ryan Garko on the bench, I thought the better move would have been pinch-hitting for Shoppach, but the bunt didn't register that high on my outrage scale. Grady Sizemore was up next and, after fouling off several high-90s fastballs, drove one deep to straight-away center field. Curtis Granderson got an excellent jump on the ball and timed his leap perfectly to bring back a ball that would have gone over the fence. It was a great play that took away the few seconds of elation that the home crowd had felt all night. Asdrubal Cabrera then struck out on three pitches, and Verlander completed his shutout.
Cliff Lee was at his best tonight, matching Verlander inning for inning for most of the game, nailing the corners of the strike zone with his fastball and using his changeup with great effectiveness. As far as I'm concerned, he threw eight scoreless innings. Whatever fears of a massive dropoff from his Cy Young season have been allayed.
This homestand, with six games against AL Central teams, might well determine whether the Indians will be a factor in the division race, and whether Eric Wedge has a job at the end of this season. Tonight was a waste of a great pitching performance, and moreover, of a game when the bullpen only had to pitch one inning. It was an extremely costly loss.
Next Up: Fausto Carmona vs. Edwin Jackson, 7:05 PM.
|Highest WPA||Lowest WPA|
|Cliff Lee||.267||Asrubal Cabrera||-.185|
|Luis Valbuena||.128||Kelly Shoppach||-.184|
|Victor Martinez||.043||Grady Sizemore||-.181|