Rangers Cruz To 3-1 Series Lead

The Narrative: Jose Valverde is a very good pitcher. However, he’s not a very good pitcher because of his 49 saves this year. He’s a very good pitcher who has benefited from the sequence of the hits he’s given up, the timing of the walks he’s allowed and the landing spots of the balls that have been put into play by the opposition.

In the eleventh inning of tonight’s game, Jose Valverde gave up four runs, and the game. However, as quick as I normally would be to slay a sacred cow, it was not his fault.

Detroit went up two nothing in the third inning thanks to a double from Miguel Cabrera. Then, in the sixth inning Ian Kinsler, Elvis Andrus, and Michael Young all drove in single runs taking the temporary lead until Brandon Inge, yes, that Brandon Inge hit a solo home run in the seventh.

Thanks to the relief work of Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, Phil Coke, Darren Oliver, Mike Adams and Scott Feldman, the score stayed that way until . . .

Anatomy Of A Poor Managerial Decision

Bad managerial decisions normally get their own subheading in these summaries, but Jim Leyland literally cost his team the game in the top of the eleventh inning.

With Jose Valverde left in the game to pitch his fifth inning in the last three days, Josh Hamilton led off with a double to right field. Michael Young followed by striking out on five pitches. Then, Jim Leyland decided to walk Adrian Beltre to face Mike Napoli, and set up the double play.

The only problem is that Beltre’s on base percentage was a measly .312 against right handed pitchers this season. Meanwhile, Napoli got on base more than 40% of the time when facing RHP.

Making matters even worse, without Napoli driving in the winning run, is that if the Rangers catcher doesn’t hit into a double play, the intentional walk guarantees that Nelson Cruz comes up to bat.

The Most Important Play Of The Game

As hinted at above, Mike Napoli’s one out single with runners on second and third in the top of the eleventh scored the winning run and increased the Rangers probability of winning by 27.4%. And just to make things certain, Nelson Cruz followed Napoli’s at bat with three run home run, further increasing his team’s WPA by 12.8%

The Biggest Disappointment Of The Game

Normally, I give this award to a moment in the game when the losing team had the best chance to tie it up or get ahead, but ended up failing. However, tonight, Delmon Young had an at bat so atrocious that nothing else from tonight’s game comes remotely close to comparing with it.

The Shamsky Award

Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.

Miguel Cabrera is so good. He hit a two run double tonight and took three walks from Rangers pitchers, increasing the Tigers’ WPA by 30.7% in a losing cause.

The Aggravating Things That The Managers Did

Batting your best player third in the order isn’t ideal because history indicates that the third batter comes up to bat more often with two out than other spots in the top half of the order. However, over the last two games, Miguel Cabrera, batting third, has found himself in several opportunities that he wouldn’t have if he was batting elsewhere in the lineup.

Ian Kinsler was allowed to steal third base with only one out and the number two hitter in the order up to bat. That is almost never a risk worth taking. Fortunately for the Rangers he was safe, but barely.

Why wasn’t Justin Verlander pitching this game again?

Ron Washington called for Miguel Cabrera to be intentionally walked with none on and one out in the eighth inning, with Mike Adams pitching. Victor Martinez then hit a single through the right side because Michael Young was holding the runner.

In the top of the tenth, Yorvit Torrealba was due to lead off. If ever there was a moment to use a pinch hitter that would be it. Torrealba struck out. If a manager is that afraid of going down to one catcher, don’t use your other catcher as the designated hitter.

The Statistics You Won’t Believe

Runners only attempted to steal on Matt Harrison six times this season. Half of them were successful.

Rick Porcello had five strikeouts the first time through the Rangers order. He hasn’t had more than five strikeouts in a start since July 29th.

Before striking out to end the fourth, Michael Young had 36 previous three and zero counts. Had made an out exactly one time in those 36 instances.

Through five innings, Rick Porcello had thrown 46 strikes and 13 balls.

Before tonight, Brandon Inge had one career regular season home run on an 0-2 pitch. It came on June 23, 2006 vs Chris Carpenter, who was pitching for the St. Louis Cardinals tonight.

Joaquin Benoit’s appearance tonight was just the third time this season that he pitched on three straight days.

The intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning was the tenth in postseason history with bases empty. It happened four times to Barry Bonds.

From Nelson Cruz’s glove to Mike Napoli’s: 3.38 seconds.

The Thing We Learned From The Broadcast That Wasn’t Completely Useless

Ken Rosenthal reported that after his home run last night Victor Martinez asked Yorvit Torrealba to tell Colby Lewis that he wasn’t showboating when he went around the bases. It took him a long time because he was in a lot of pain.

The Roberto Benigini Award

Jose Valverde ended his pregame press conference by telling the moderator, “Thank you, Mama. Time to go sleeping now?”

The Best New Nickname To Come Out Of The Game

Let’s go with Alto Reed who played the National Anthem before the start of tonight’s game. It sounded a lot like this:

Stray Observations Of The Game

Ryan Raburn: He may not have the best arm, but boy is he not fast at all.

According to Tim McCarver, Ramon Santiago looks a lot like Placido Polanco. I do see one thing in common.

An interesting question: Do you think BABIP goes up or down in rainy weather? I think it would go up considering it limits the reaction time of infielders and balls are usually hit hard enough not to visibly slow down until they’re already in the outfield.

Miguel Cabrera is making Jim Leyland look like a genius for batting him third.

Elvis Andrus shariffing* a line drive.

It was nice to see a third base coach (Dave Anderson) get some credit for the Texas Rangers first run of the game.

Before Al Alburquerque walked Ian Kinsler he threw two warm up pitches to the backstop.

Nelson Cruz has a good arm. Miguel Cabrera doesn’t have good legs. Sending the runner in the eighth inning would not have been my call, but Detroit’s third base coach Gene  Lamont has come under fire the last two games for not being aggressive.

When Tim McCarver farts, his weight transfer is impeccable.

Giving Mike Scioscia credit for Mike Napoli’s catching abilities is like crediting a stop sign for a green light.

I have a feeling that looking back on this series, we’ll likely forget how close it truly was.

So, the baseball game preempted something called X-Factor. People were neither amused nor enthused.

*Shariffing refers to making a routine athletic play appear extraordinary. Ex) Jeter sharifed that grounder. The term is named for Sharif Kumar, a regular showboat from a high school phys ed class with my friend Adam circa late 1990s.