Our main character is sitting in the corner of the room. This room was bare except for a chest of drawers sitting on an ancient wooden floor. This chest of drawers was empty; if there had been anything in them our main character would have put them on. As it was, our main character wore no clothes. Our main character was shivering. Not from being cold, but from the alcohol that was being dumped down a dry throat. A glass bottle of Jim Beam, you know, the one you buy in bulk from your local warehouse grocery, the bottle was nearly gone, and on the old wooden floor another bottle lay on its side, as empty as the chest of drawers. A slow roar began to grow from the other side of the room. A small television, not seen before, was suddenly glowing with flickering lights. The roar kept growing louder and louder, it became distinct, the sounds of a crowd. Our main character threw the bottle to the ground in surprised glee. Our main character leapt from his crouch and exposed himself to the television, his drunken depression a sudden forgotten memory.
I attempted to write up this narrative in the event that Detroit blew their first game on National Television. Through seven innings I was fairly certain that this narrative would be defined as a success. I assumed that there was no victory here, this evening on Sunday Night Baseball, for these baseball Tigers. I assumed there was no wee bit of light to be found in this gloomy narrative, no hope to cast it afire.
Then the top of the eighth inning happened. The narrative, to my joy, was destroyed.
The Detroit Tigers had teased us all for six and two thirds of an inning. They scored two measly runs in six and two thirds of an inning of painfully bad baseball against Homer Bailey, a pitcher who has allowed 32% of all runners to get on base this year. The Tigers then went and scored four times in the span of five outs against arguably the best relief corps and best reliever in baseball. Here are how many times batters get on base against the four relievers who allowed four runs before getting five outs:
Jose Arredondo: 26%
Sean Marshall: 31%
Logan Ondrusek: 32%
Aroldis Chapman: 17%
Left handed Aroldis Chapman came into the game with a 6-3 lead. Granted, there were two on and there was no one out. But up to this point he had faced 11 batters on the year and struck out 54. There was nearly a 50% chance he would strike someone out. Coming up for the Tigers were a limp pinch hitter in the lefty, Brennan Boesch, a career minor leaguer and lefty batter Matt Young, and Austin Jackson player who struck out 181 times last year. Even if he allowed contact, players have his .191 on balls in play this year.
Chapman promptly allowed a single to Boesch, hit Young with a pitch (it grazed his jersey, which is a good thing. Have you seen Matt Young? Have you seen an Aroldis Chapman fastball? He would have died!) to score a run, and then with the bases loaded Austin Jackson hit a ground rule double to tied the game.
Baseball makes no sense. BASEBALL MAKES NO SENSE.
What makes even less sense is the fact that the Tigers then had the game tied, had the bases loaded, and had Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Delmon Young up next. They scored one more time. On a wild pitch with Cabrera up at the plate. Chapman got Miggy out on a weak ground ball, struck Fielder out, and got Delmon Young to bounce out to second to end the inning.
But the Tigers lead 7-6 and Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde came in to shut the door on the Cincinnati Reds and won a series. THEY WON A SERIES!!!!!!!!!
Drew Smyly started, went three innings, and got hurt. I think that’s an adequate way of summarizing his performance; the rest is just filling in details. He worked through a scoreless first inning, then became the victim of a double steal and single in the second inning, allowed a leadoff home run in the third and then apparently developed a blood blister, retired the side, and didn’t live to see the fourth. I don’t mean to suggest that Drew Smyly died today in between the third and fourth innings, but his middle finger died after straying too close to a thrown grenade (which is a metaphor for a baseball that is being hit hard by the opposition!).
So, in summary, on Sunday evening the virgin Drew Smyly started the first Sunday Night Baseball game of his career. He flopped like a limp noodle, stymied by a bloody middle finger (which is also a symbol of the Tigers season). He got hit hard, and he didn’t pitch that well. No one can really blame him though. That blister was totally disgusting. I don’t know if you had a chance to see it, and if you didn’t faint then you are a stronger person than I. (Really. Well, maybe not, but it was gross!).
You know what, I don’t want to talk anymore about this blister, but I do want Jason Beck too:
Smyly gave up three runs on four hits in three innings, including a Todd Frazier two-run single in the second and a Zack Cozart home run leading off the third. That’s the pitch, he said, where he first felt it.
“I had a mini-cut from my last start,” Smyly said, “but it wasn’t a blister or anything. So I had some type of stuff on it to keep it safe. It was holding all the blood in, so it was getting mushy. So every pitch, it was getting mushier and mushier, and it started going down my finger.”
Impressively, Smyly retired the middle of the Reds’ lineup in order after Chris Heisey’s third-inning double, using offspeed pitches to try to avoid breaking it open. As soon as he got to the dugout, he went to head athletic trainer Kevin Rand.
Once they went to manager Jim Leyland, he couldn’t believe what he saw.
“It’s the worst one I’d ever seen in my life,” said Leyland
As a fan of the Tigers should not be shocked by Smyly’s struggles, even without a blister problem, for two reasons. One, Drew Smyly has slowly began to face reality and while he hasn’t been smacked around, he hasn’t had a game where he gave up less than three runs since May Ninth. Observe:
Now, I think we all know that Drew Smyly wasn’t going to have a 1.59 ERA all season, and I think closer to a 4.00 ERA is what most of us expect.So what can we expect from here on out? Does Smyly continue to allow 3-4 runs per start, provide negative win shares and basically make sure the offense needs to score 5-6 runs every time out?
I sure hope not! But like you, I have no clue. I sure hope these blisters don’t keep showing up like those annoying talking warts on those wart-b-gone commercials!
Austin Jackson is the other name I want to focus on here, simply because in the second game back from his DL stint, he flat out wont the game for the Tigers.
What is Austin Jackson doing different this year for the Tigers?
If you didn’t catch it on the first couple dozen clips, you see Devin Mesoraco setting up low and inside to receive Homer Bailey’s fastball. Bailey slips on the damp mound, the ball tails outside, and Jackson simply goes with the pitch, launching it into the opposite field and over the fence for his sixth home run on the year.
Why focus on this play instead of the eighth inning double? Well, the eighth inning double that tied the game was power against power. Jackson knew what he was going to get, and he was just quick enough to turn the 100 MPH fastball around.
No, this home run was certainly more impressive. I can’t tell you how many times he got that pitch last year where he rolled his wrists over and tried to pull the ball, simply resulting in a soft ground ball to the left side.
Yeah, so I’m smitten by Jackson, and gosh darn-it I’m so stinkin’ glad he’s back. Not only does it mean we can stop hearing about how Quintin Berry could be an everyday player (hahahahaha, who am I kidding?), but it means that the Tigers get their most dynamic firestarter back right when most of the Tigers offense is starting to heat up.
Well, Sunday Night certainly was a really poorly played game that turned into a really great comeback. What’s better is we get to marinate on this victory for nearly 45 hours! That’s right the Tigers play no one on Monday, and then on Tuesday they go to Wrigley Field to play the Cubs.
The Cubs. Huh. You mean the team that is supposedly the worst team in baseball?
Silence falls as the television slowly fades to black, our main character slowly returns to his bottle, in the corner of the bare room. He brushes a spider web from his face as he drains the last of the Jim Beam. He looks around wildly, desperately, for another distraction…