Category Archives: Scherzer

what to do in the ALDS

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Win, but terrify everyone first.

It is difficult to discuss these last two games in any coherent way. We survived them, obviously, but now when I try to force my brain in that direction, it just starts gibbering and screaming nonwords into my skull. First there was the ASFDGLIJA; and then there was the GGGLARLIASLDFJK and then they all ASDL;KFJAS;DLKFJSWS!!!

It all started with the rainout, which was continued with the incredibly painful loss. Then Max Scherzer pitched so well for 6 innings, and the bullpen VERY NEARLY lost it, and Papa Grande threw ALL THE PITCHES but somehow the Tigers scraped through.

The game was briefly and horrifyingly prolonged when Alex Avila, pursuing a foul ball that should have been the last out of the game, slipped on the stupid Yankee Stadium on deck circle patch and fell down, missing the ball. Unlike Comerica or, say, Fenway Park– CIVILIZED ballparks– the on deck circles in New York are these rubbery Yankee logo’d things. When it rains, they get slick. Then they become HAZARDS and DANGERS and they should be BANNED because the Yankees are FILTHY BALLPARK CHEATERS.

Anyways, the Tigers got out of that one, but it should not have been quite so drama-laden. Death to the Yankee Stadium on deck circles. AS IF ALEX AVILA HAS NOT HAD TO DEAL WITH ENOUGH THIS SEASON.

Tonight Verlander was not at his sharpest (neither was Sabathia, who gave up the same number of runs but lasted only 5.1 innings to Verlander’s 8. Rain situations like the one that started this series ruin everything for everyone). The Yankees tied the game up in the top of the 7th. The crowd was stunned, appalled, filled with a sense of foreboding and dread.

But Delmon Young stepped up in the bottom of the inning and hit a ball over the wall, all YAY DETROIT and TAKE THAT YANKEES ON BEHALF OF MY TWINKIE SERVICE. If you were watching, you know what it was like. If you were not, I cannot describe to you the sense of relief this home run generated. The game was not yet over, but to get the lead back after everything had seemed to be slipping irrevocably away… holy cats.

And then there was Papa Grande, tired out after those many, many pitches in the previous night’s efforts. He threw a ball that almost murdered Derek Jeter in the head, but he recovered for the save and the Tigers win. He did not do much of a dance, but he did make a fancy upward motion with his arms that gestured to the sky and pulled his jersey out of his pants at the same time.

This is what I have been like while watching the games:

FredFred tomorrow. No matter what happens, remember: he’s still just a kitten. Be nice to him. Go Tigers.

lots of busted Tiger hands, but Max has no such excuse

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Ryan Raburn jammed a finger on his hand while sliding into second base. Brennan Boesch has a torn ligament in his thumb that will require surgery at some point. Both were out of the lineup Monday with their pained paws.

But what was Max Scherzer’s excuse? His paws were in great shape, so far as any of us know, and after we all saw him get tormented by the Royals, you would think that if there WAS an injury brewing in his fingerbits, the team would be quick to get that news out. Injuries explain bad outings. Suddenly forgetting how to pitch to Alex Gordon and his royal blue buddies… that probably does not have a good explanation behind it.

There is a bit of a cushion in the division, but the Tigers DO need to string some wins together, and with the games at home… well. We need to win. You hear, Max? DO YOU HEAR?

Because of the cushion, I am refusing to freak out. Pitchers have bad outings. Even Justin Verlander has days when he’s off, and Max is not Justin Verlander (nobody but Justin Verlander is Justin Verlander). So I am calm. I am totally calm. Calm calm calm.

riding back to victory with Max and his Ks

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Bringing back a TC from last season as it becomes relevant again, mmm, yes.

Max Scherzer gave up 5 runs in the second inning. The Tigers were not scoring against Jeremy Guthrie. If that doesn’t spell DOOM then I don’t know what does, aside from the letters D, M, and O. Even after the Tigers finally broke through and scored, it was just one run, and it was a weeny sac fly. It seemed like we were going to have to resign ourselves to a stupid loss against a stupid team because Justin Verlander was not pitching and the Tigers therefore were not obligated to make any special effort to win the game.

Then the 6th inning happened. Jeremy Guthrie remembered that he was Jeremy Guthrie. It went a little something like this:

-Austin Jackson grounds out. Andy Dirks grounds out. There are 2 outs in the inning, everyone makes sad sighing sounds.
-Magglio doubles.
-Miggy hits a two-run homer.
-Victor singles.
-Jhonny sihngles.
-Avila hits an RBI ground-rule double.
-The Rhino hits a two-run single.
-Jeremy Guthrie is removed from the game and sent to ruminate on his shame.
-Betemit lines out to end the inning.

At the start of the inning it was 5-1 Orioles. When the dust settled after all that, it was 6-5 Tigers and the entire tone of the game had changed. Max came back out with a fire in his eyes– a blue fire in his right eye and a brown flame in his left– and set about destroying the Birds in the time he had remaining. His last inning was Verlander-esque: well over 100 pitches, he was hitting 95 mph and above on his fastball. Despite allowing two singles, he struck out the side in his last inning. The very last batter he faced, JJ Hardy, was K’d on a slider of such majesty that it would make David Cone nod in solemn approval.

Thanks to a combination of not-sad Phil Coke and the usual Papa Grande, the Tigers hung on and won a game that they seemingly had no business at all winning. Max finished up the night with a very weird line (7.0 innings, 5 runs [4 earned], 7 hits [2 HRs], 0 walks, 10 Ks, and the Win), but it’s all good. We’ll take it.

the Society to End the Abuse of Alex Avila

illustrations by Samara Pearlstein

Friends, citizens, fellow felines, I must bring this to your attention. Are you tired of seeing a foul tip by the opposing team result in a scene like the above?

Are you tired of seeing Alex Avila grimace in manly pain as his mask gets knocked off, or he gets a bat to the helmet, or yet another foul ball goes screaming off his instep? Does it sadden you to see this noble catcher, a true national treasure, threatened by carelessness, incompetence– even sometimes malice? Does your heart cry out in sympathy, as indeed it must for all intelligent, caring, red-blooded baseball fans?

Did you know that the All Star catcher is an endangered species? It’s a fact.

Don’t let this majestic creature disappear in a flurry of bruises and semi-concussions. Take notice. Take action. Raise awareness. Join the Society to End the Abuse of Alex Avila today.

(SEAAA, pronounced see-AAAAAHHH, like the body of water followed by a hearty beardy-man scream)

Two more things:

July 27th was Max Scherzer’s birthday. He turned 27 years old. July 27th was also Dave Dombrowski’s birthday! He turned 55 years old. Unfortunately the Tigers could not get a win for Max and Mr. D on their special day (extra-unfortunately since Max pitched relatively well, and was stuck with the loss). To make up for this oversight in some small way, I’ve given them a bouncy castle.

Everyone likes a bouncy castle.

And here is what I think about every time I have to watch John Danks pitch:

The Dank Danks in its reeking Chicago-pinstriped cave. A most horrible lurking creature indeed.

ETA: Oh, I nearly forgot. ROAR OF THE TIGERS WILL BE AT COMERICA FOR THE SATURDAY AND SUNDAY GAMES. This weekend! Weather permitting! On Saturday I will be wearing a 2009 Brandon Inge All Star Game jersey (haters gonna hate, etc). On Sunday I will be wearing this shirt. If you see me, feel free to say hi. Or stare awkwardly. You know, whatever.

the Max Scherzer bobblehead, Roar of the Tigers style

–Yes, I know that there was an official Max Scherzer bobblehead giveaway this season. It was appropriately heterochromatic and therefore fairly awesome, but I was not going to be in Detroit for that game (and have no one in my immediate family who’s within the giveaway age range anyways). I also thought the nose wasn’t big enough.

–Yes, I know I probably could have picked one up on eBay or something, but where’s the fun in that?

–Yes, I know this is pretty wonky. Let us all remember that Roar of the Tigers is comfortable working in two dimensions, and approaches the third with awkward, ungainly, staggering steps, like a newborn foal that has maybe been drinking a little bit. And let us not even speak about the fourth dimension.

–So here is this thing.

–Yes, it bobbles.

the spine-tingling horror of nearly losing to the Twins

photo by Samara Pearlstein

I think it’s actually worse right now, with the Twins suffering so much in the standings. I don’t like seeing the Tigers lose to the Twins normally, because they’re the Twins and this is the AL Central (although stronger negative feelings will always be reserved for Whichever Team is Currently Employing AJ Pierzynski, So Long As That Team is in The Central), Game 163 is still a sore point, etc. But these are not normal times for the Twins, who are currently a whole bunch of games behind the Royals in the standings.

So the prospect of losing to them is even MORE terrible than usual, because it’s not just losing to the Twins, it’s losing to this absurdly bad parody of the Twins we know and love to dislike.

When Justin Morneau homered in the 7th inning to put Minnesota up… holy cats. What a terrible feeling. The more I thought about the possibility of losing to the Twins– THESE Twins– the worse I felt. I know the Tigers have been streaky all season long, but how bad do you have to be to let these particular awful Twinkies come back on you and win a ballgame that you were already leading? Seriously think about that. It makes me a little bit physically ill to contemplate it, which probably says more about me and my unhealthy relationship with baseball than anything else, but you know, whatever.

And Scherzer! What the heck is up with him? Last time out he was so bad that we had to blame his evil twin, and this time around he allows Morneau to go yard twice, he uncorks a couple of wild pitches, he gives up 7 runs in 6.2 innings, he lets the freakin’ Cuddler steal a base off of him… I mean, really. Bad feelings piled on top of bad feelings.

Leyland must have been napping when he let Scherzer face Morneau, but at least he woke up enough to put Charlie Furbush in to face Jim Thome. Maybe all the yelling from the Morneau homer disturbed his slumber. In any event, Furbush put Thome away, the Tigers small-balled up runs in the 7th and 8th, and all’s well that ends well…. I guess.

There IS something depressing in the fact that the Tigers have only barely won the first two games of the series, and only pulled out the first one with the help of a controversial-at-best call on a ball that bounced through the stands. Shouldn’t these be blowouts? I’d be more comfortable if Detroit was treating the Twins like the rest of the league has, i.e. ruthlessly exposing their weaknesses one by one and then smashing any remaining Minnesotan confidence to teeny tiny Will-Rhymes-sized bits. Instead the Tigers are playing them close and giving them all sorts of chances to win. Scary.

I blame Evil Twin Max Scherzer

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

For reference in these notes, Jerry Remy is the Red Sox color commentator, Don Orsillo is the Sox play-by-play man, and Heidi Watney is the on-field reporter.

–Apparently weather held up the Red Sox flight from Cleveland last night, so the Cleveland-to-Detroit bus ride option came into play. Dustin Pedroia was the bus organizer. He doesn’t like flying in general, even more so when there’s bad weather. Heidi said about half the team went. The flight delay was not as bad as originally expected, though: even with the weather, the plane arrived half an hour earlier than the bus.

–“It takes some getting used to. You look out there and think, man, that center fielder is playing shallow!” Jerry Remy on the cavernousness of 420 feet to center at Comerica.

–Scherzer was just not sharp at all. He threw a ton of pitches early and seemingly could not get a handle on the strikezone (he only walked two, but somehow it felt like more). The three-run homer that he gave up to Jacoby Ellsbury was just… ouch. His ‘pickoff move’ to first appeared, impossibly, even more vague and terrifying than usual. Not the Good Max today. This must have been Evil Twin Max, the one with the blue eye on the left and the brown eye on the right. And a goatee, of course.

–Evil Twin Max went to the University of Kansas, but is barely literate. He throws a curveball. He has an on-point pickoff like Justin Verlander but he never knows when to use it. He wears number 73. Oh, and he’s evil.

–Adam Wilk made his big league debut. He gave a very good account of himself: 3.2 innings, two hits (both singles), one walk, and a single run that wasn’t even earned because Scott Sizemore had had his glove eaten up by an awkwardly bouncing ball. Now, the Red Sox DO have a history of struggling against pitchers they’re seeing for the first time, especially lefties. But let’s be cautiously optimistic for now, because it’s nice to find something good to say about this game.

He had good movement on his slider and changeup. He had a longish at-bat with Dustin Pedroia at one point, and got him to strike out swinging with a fairly wicked change. Hey! Optimism!

–The Red Sox announcers became Deeply Concerned when the cover came off the tarp in the middle of the fourth inning.

–They had photos of Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Gonzalez back in 1999/2000, when they were both in the Marlins minor league system. OH MY HOLY PAWS. THESE BABIES. THEY LOOK LIKE PLUCKED CHICKENS. NESN showed these photos while Heidi was interviewing Cabrera. He roomed with Gonzalez in the minors for at least a little bit, and they are still friendly. He was around Josh Beckett at the same time, but they didn’t get to know each other because Beckett was being fast-tracked to the Majors.

They also had a photo of circa-2000-Beckett, with no chin scruff, and aaauuuuggggghhhhh he looked about twelve years old. BABYFACE BECKETT.

–Ryan Perry seems to have cut off all his mullet-y hair, and he’s trimmed his beard way back. He seems to have more beard left than scalp hair, though NESN didn’t have any shots of him with his hat off so it’s hard to tell for sure.

–They saw a guy in the crowd wearing a Lawrence Tech sweatshirt with a football design on it. Underneath that it said Undefeated since 1932. Remy was very impressed for a minute, then realized that Lawrence Tech might not even have football. (It doesn’t.)

–Carl Crawford had two triples, one off of Evil Twin Max and one off of Perry. I mean… it is what it is. Crawford’s speed + the Comerica outfield = triples.

–The infield was badly puddled by the 8th inning. I understand that they wanted to get the entire game in because it’s only fair to give everyone a full shot at it, and they want to give the fans their money’s worth and all that, but come on. It had been raining for a while, and it was supposed to continue raining. The state of the infield was getting bad for the infielders and downright dangerous for baserunners. The score was 14-1– it’s not like this was a tied or even remotely close game. It was already an official game. They should have just ended it. Playing the 8th was stupid, and keeping the game hanging in a delay instead of declaring it over shortly after they brought the tarp out was WICKED stupid.

–NESN had Jim Rice in the studio today (in addition to the anchor, Tom Caron, they rotate Rice, Dennis Eckersley, and Peter Gammons). Obviously they cut to studio when the game went into a delay. Caron was talking about how they couldn’t continue to play with standing water on the infield because it was bad for the infielders. Rice went off on this rant about the fact that nobody thinks of the outfielders! Always the infielders! And back in his day, they only got one pair of shoes, so playing in puddles was the worst! Nowadays these guys get 15+ pairs of shoes and it’s no big deal!


–They played more of the Heidi/Cabrera interview, since they had to fill airtime with the delay. Heidi said something like, “You know it’s a close clubhouse when the other guys are all right here watching you.” The camera, which had been focused on Heidi and Miggy, panned out to show Joaquin Benoit and some other guys standing there, hovering around the interview. Miggy said he didn’t think they were there for him, they don’t even say hi to him, they were probably there to look at Heidi.

Papa Grande suddenly appeared on the bench next to Cabrera, all staring pop-eyed at him right over his shoulder. Miggy started laughing, saying, “Papa Grande, Potato Grande, Big Papa!” like he was trying to introduce him to Heidi but could only get out variations on his nickname. Heidi just looked confused. Valverde laughed and shot off the bench as quickly as he had appeared on it, sprinting away onto the field.

Then they panned out again and everyone had fled except for Leyland, who was silently observing the interview with his ominous sunglasses on. Miggy, unprompted, said something about Leyland being one of the greatest men he’s ever worked with. Heidi said, “You had to say that, he’s standing right there.”

Miggy started laughing again and said, “I have to say that! He writes the lineup!” Everyone else cracked up. Fin.

–This has nothing to do with the Tigers, but here’s a photo of Ndamukong Suh in Paris without a shirt on. You’re welcome (or something).

Welcome, Andy Dirks! We promise we support great pitching outings sometimes. Just not today.

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

Andy Dirks, up to take the place of Magglio Ordonez, made his big league debut on Monday. Cause for celebration? He went 1-for-2 with a walk, and all of his limbs appear to be in good working order, which makes him a marked improvement over the brittle husk of Magglio’s Surgically Repaired Body already. Mild yay.

His parents and girlfriend were in the stands to watch him do Olde English D things, a fact that FSD enjoyed. They made sure to show the parental reaction after Dirks’ first hit (a single), and they sent their new in-game interview-random-fan-in-the-stands reporter up to ask them some questions, including my favorite: “Did you think he’d ever make it here to Detroit?”

Really. What are they going to say to this? “Nah, y’know, we kinda thought he’d top out at double-A, everything since then has just been a bonus.” You’re talking to his mom, lady, even if nobody else ever thought he was going to make the big leagues, she did, and even if she DIDN’T, she’s certainly not going to SAY so. I mean, basically everything that gets asked in these little ‘yay look here is a fan let us speak to him or her’ chats is a stupid question, but that one in particular stood out as a question with really only one answer.

He did get picked off at first base, and didn’t look too good doing it, but it could have been much worse. They could have been Miguel Cabrera’s parents, in the ballpark watching what HE did in this one. What did Cabrera do? Let us not speak of it, except to say that it was something that sounds a whole lot like ‘terror’, and he did it twice.

As for the rest of the game… poor Max Scherzer. He gave up ONE run in seven innings, and that run wasn’t even earned. He walked ONE Blue Jay, and he didn’t allow ANY extra base hits. He made several plays off the mound, coming in on dribblers/bunts/whatevers and fielding them correctly despite the fact that his natural throw to first is a soft and horrifying rainbow. What did he get for his efforts? Nothing. NOTHING.

I suppose it’s nice that he didn’t get the loss (that honor went to Joaquin Benoit), but it is infuriating because he should have had a win. He DESERVED a win. He pitched a win-worthy game! But the bats could not make it happen and Benoit made the Toronto bats happen, and pfeh. I spit upon the cruel treatment of Max Scherzer in this game.

Things we learned from a series sweep of the Wrong Sox.

illustration by Samara Pearlstein

–Max Scherzer is good at throwing a small white ball near the midriff sections of Chicago-employed creatures. Like, really good. Really REALLY good. There are people out there who will talk about Max Scherzer’s arm and Max Scherzer’s knowledge of the lineup and even Max Scherzer’s rapport with Savior Avila. But we all know the real reason for his success.

Max Scherzer is so good because he is seeing the strike zone in extra dimensions, far beyond what normal human beings can see. And this, of course, is because of his magical eyes.

–Every time the TV cameras zoom in for a closeup on Max Scherzer’s eyes, a kitten gets gently, lovingly hugged somewhere in the world.

–Brent Lillibridge is a wood elf. Brent Morel is a mushroom. Nobody should trust a team with this many Brents on it.

–Alexei Ramirez is an alien who crash-landed at Roswell and is trying to remain hidden in plain sight by joining a professional baseball team. Evidence.

–It doesn’t really matter how the bats perform when Ryan Raburn gets the start at second base, it is still going to give us a horrible spine-tingling shiver every time we see him penciled in next to that 2B.

–Miguel Cabrera is what opposing pitchers and managers see when they fall into uneasy, nightmare-riddled sleeps. So he’s going to be walked intentionally 5,000 times until Victor gets healthy again, and a couple thousand more times after that.

–Brandon Inge has been kind of yippy in the field lately, but we must take deep breaths and remember that things will be OK and we can’t let the words of the haters take up residence in our minds. Make your mind a happy place for Brandon Inge, and happiness for you will follow.

–Sure is nice when good pitching is backed up/rewarded by good hitting.

–When mascots interfere with FSD broadcasters, everyone wins. On Sunday Trevor Thompson got bothered by both Paws and the giant Easter bunny, and it was good.

–Rod Allen eats his hot dog with mustard, a little ketchup, and a few onions. He also likes it slightly burnt.

–Casper Wells takes a foul ball to the shin, Brandon Inge decides this means he needs to draw an Easter egg on it. This actually happened. I want to know who thought it was a good idea to allow Inge a silver sharpie.

–The essence of true happiness cannot be found in something so prosaic as the result of an early regular season baseball game… but when you decisively sweep the Wrong Sox, you can come quite close to it.

Max Scherzer pitches like a baseball god, gets nothing.

insert ‘Maxwell’s silver hammer’ joke here

So I was going to write a whole bunch of angry things about Ryan Perry, and how he RUINED EVERYTHING, and how he did this AWFUL UNSPEAKABLE THING to Max Scherzer, and really we are talking MASSIVE RUINATION here, but I figure he probably doesn’t need me to tell him about that, you know? I am sure he feels pretty terrible right now all on his own. He has to know that he screwed up (against division rivals) (twice, in two nights) (part of this is your fault, Jim Leyland). What good does it do for me to add to the pile?

Let us speak instead of MAXWELL M. SCHERZER.

(Anyone know what the ‘M’ stands for?)

A VERITABLE FEAST OF PITCHING WONDERS. Scherzer went the full 9 innings. He allowed a total of four hits, only one of which went for extra bases (a Delmon Young double). He only gave up one walk. He only gave up one run. He struck out nine. It only took him 106 pitches to accomplish all of this.

It was a fantastic outing. It was the kind of outing that makes the fans swoon, definitely another love-letter-worthy game. It was, in fact, the kind of outing that we like to imagine Justin Verlander might still have if he could just remember how to reign in his pitch counts.

Liriano was basically just as good (five hits, one walk, seven Ks, no runs over 7 innings), but not quite as efficient (104 pitches through 7). And by the time Scherzer’s day was done, that one run didn’t make much difference, because Jhonny Peralta had made some scoring happen and Scherzer was guaranteed a no-decision at the absolute least.

He got the very least.

Sigh. Poor Maxwell. He deserved something better. Pitching like that, he really, REALLY deserved something more. But it was not to be. Partly this is the fault of the bats, and partly it is the fault of Ryan Perry, but we are not talking about that. Only Scherzer. Our wonderful and wonderfully screwed Max Scherzer.

In any event, this is what I feel about the Twinkies after these past two games: