photo by Samara Pearlstein
There was a LOT of background noise in this game. The rotating pitcher door that the Tigers kept spinning after Andrew Miller’s (somewhat early) departure… the wacky management (subbing a pitcher in on a 1-2 count?)… the stress of a close game with a division rival…
All that came down to a pitched battle between countrymen: the Battle of Insanely Good Venezuelan Baseball Players, aka Johan Santana vs. Magglio Ordonez.
On the one paw, we have Johan Santana. He may be small (he is listed at 6 feet; this is pretty much a blatant lie), but he has a 2.65 ERA, an 11 and 7 record, and a whole mess of strikeouts. He has a changeup that makes batters wee their pants a little. He is the kind of player who prompts opposing managers to talk about luck and grit and other such David Ecksteiny things, because they have trouble thinking of a way to beat him otherwise.
On the other paw, we have Magglio Ordonez, who is hitting .358/.436/.600 in direct violation of the laws of baseball sanity, with 15 home runs and a whole mess of hair. He is the kind of player who prompts opposing managers to talk about impossibility, as in how impossible it is to pitch around him in this lineup, and how impossible it is to pitch TO him as well.
Santanta pitched 8 innings of solid ball today. Even a Tigers fan has to feel kind of bad for him. He ground out 118 pitches and basically blew the snot out of everyone and everything, except for…
Magglio. Who went 2-for-4 with a run scored (home run) and 3 RBI (aforementioned home run, and a 2-run double) and was responsible for every last drop of Tigers offense today. Uh, again.
Nobody, it seems, can touch Santana… except for Maggs. But Maggs gave him all kinds of bad touch tonight, and the Tigers were able to ride that sliver of a lead to victory on the backs of the entire bullpen, and a general anemia of the Twins bats. I’ll take it.
The truth is that almost every team in the league would KILL to have a game pitched like the Twins pitched today. Santana is always someone you want on the mound, and Pat Neshek is a glorious unhittable pitching freak this season. The fact that the Tigers somehow found a way to win in the face of pitching that good is heartening. (…for Tigers fans. It’s probably incredibly depressing and discouraging for Twins fans who realize that their team left 14 men on base today, and thus had opportunity on top of opportunity to reward that Really Good Pitching with a win, but failed to do so. Miserably.)
All hail the mighty Magglio Ordonez, winner of this particular Battle of Insanely Good Venezuelan Baseball Players, and probably winner of all such battles so far this season. Andrew Miller definitely owes him dinner.
Oh, and the Marcus Thames catch? Spectacular. Awe-inspiring. Immediately horrifying, because he immediately started howling in agony from his hamstring (or something in that vicinity). Flashbacks to Placido Polanco’s great catch last season that caused his shoulder to explode. Desire to curl into small ball in the corner and hide from the TV showing me these things: very strong.
FSN North, which is what I am forced to watch these games on, showed a clip of Jim Leyland being interviewed/cornered and harangued by reporters after the game. When asked about Thames he said “he’s not good,” and started in on this whole thing about how it was his fault, he probably should have taken Thames out, had Rayburn out there, but if the Twins tied it up he would have wanted Thames’ bat, but it was his screw-up and he felt, in short, terrible and responsible. He said that Thames “is not real good” two or three times. Since baseball managers usually answer these questions with things like “he’s day to day” and “we’re not sure yet”, this does not bode well.
Please be OK, Marcus!