Monday, September 21, 2009
Entering this road series with the never-say-die Minnesota Twins, most Tigers fans were just looking for one thing: a single win. Just one little W to keep the AL Central lead at a comfortable margin and slow down that oncoming Twinkie Train that kept appearing closer in the rear-view mirror. Well, things weren't looking very good heading into the finale yesterday. The Tigers fell Friday night when their bats went silent. They dropped a Metrodome special on Saturday afternoon when Nervous Don Kelly was inserted late in the game as a defensive replacement in a move that could best be described as "curious, shocking, and well, just very, very curious." So it all came down to Sunday. Maybe the most important ballgame of the year. So who else would you want toeing the rubber on such an occasion than Nate Robertson?? Wait, what?? You mean the same Nate Robertson that achieved an almost unimaginable 6.35 ERA last year while pitching basically the whole season as a starter? Couldn't be! The same Nate Robertson who allowed more earned runs than anybody else in the entire American League last season?? That guy?? You're telling me he is being trusted to take the ball for a reeling Tigers team, go out, and win a game to possibly save the entire season? It seems improbable, but then again, this team's drive for a spot in October has been anything but conventional all season long. So Nate when out and decided to make the season even crazier...and won the biggest game of the year.
Of course, Nate's performance isn't going to conjure up any memories of Steve Carlton or Warren Spahn, Hall-of-Fame left handers from yesteryear. He allowed his fair share of baserunners, threw a million pitches in a shot period of time, and only wound up lasting five innings. But he got the job done. He stayed away from the big inning, kept the ball down, and somehow kept the suddenly Ruthian slugger, Michael Cuddyer, from making his customary trot around the bases. It was far from a heroic or memorable performance, but on this day, it didn't need to be. It just needed to be enough. It was.
And now, the picture becomes a little more clear. The finish line that looked miles away after the Don Kelly Experience on Saturday now looks like to be well within reach once again. The Tigers, a team that has maintained a firm grip on first place since May 10th, find themselves ahead by three games with 13 to play. A day off tomorrow and then a mad dash to the finish (13 games in 13 days). You get the feeling now that the worst is finally over. The pesky Royals did their best in the last 10 days to make some waves and rock the boat from side to side. The Metrodome did its part on Saturday to recall the ghosts one more time for a final send-off. And Sunday could have been the finishing touch. A loss, a sweep, and for all intents and purposes, a season that would not be recovered. But the Tigers, behind Nate Robertson circa 2006, and the sizzzzzling Placido Polanco, weren't ready to throw in the towel just yet. They got the one win they came to Minnesota for at the time they needed it most. Tiger Nation can finally exhale for a minute. After all, Nate's next start won't be for another five days...
-Just try and keep me away from that Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs movie...ain't gonna happen. That was one helluva book when I was growing up, and needless to say, I was pretty jacked up when I found out it was being made into a movie. I know most great books don't translate as well to the big screen, but I'm still holding out hope that turns out to be the exception, and not the rule. The only unfortunate part is that the HSL's longtime movie buddy, B-Shoke, has jumped ship from the D and is now living in Atlanta, making a Meatballs outing a virtual impossibility. Maybe it's for the best, though. There were in fact, some very sick double features back in the day, including a "Nobody else will ever find out about this" night that included back-to-back viewings of The Chronicles of Riddick (not one of Vin Diesel's finest) and Garfield: The Movie (we might have been the only ones in the place over the age of 9). Throw in the not-so-memorable evening when I practically had a nervous breakdown walking in to see the dark and ominous flick The Crow when I preferred the much more kid-friendly 3 Ninjas Kick Back, and I might just have to wait until the DVD comes out to see if these meatballs really do come down from the sky.
-Bizarre finish to the Michigan State game in South Bend on Saturday. Kirk Cousins misses a wide open Larry Caper in the back of the end zone for the go-ahead score, then flings a mindless game-ending pick on the very next play when a field goal still would have sent the contest into overtime. I wasn't aware that Cousins was in fact the "cousin" of Gus Ornstein.
-Prediction of the week came Thursday afternoon during another Tigers shellacking at the hands of the Kansas City Royals. KC was at bat with men on the corners when former Tiger Josh Anderson came strolling to the dish with his punchless piece of lumber. Sitting in the Copa's upper deck, I commented, "At least they can't do any more damage now." After all, when Anderson was with Detroit, it was a miracle if he hit the ball out of the infield twice in the same week. He hadn't hit a homer all year. Hearing this, die-hard Tigers fan and part-time psychic Ricky Lee offered up this straight-out-of-left field prediction. "I guarantee he's going to hit his first home run right here. Just watch." Again, a couple pitches into the at-bat, he repeated his claim. Not many people are out there calling home runs for players that haven't hit one in their last 267 trips to the plate, so nobody took it too seriously. But then it happened. The count went 2-0, Anderson got the green light, and Armando Galarraga went into his special bag of tricks and decided to literally throw a fully inflated beach ball in the direction of home plate. Anderson turned on the pitch with every muscle in his 195-pound frame and sent it flying on a dead line towards the right field bleachers. An absolute laser beam, the ball cleared the fence by a good 25 feet and Anderson had his first round tripper of the year. But more importantly, the bizarre words of Ricky Lee had come true. It ranks near the top of the list of live in-game baseball predictions. But one must take into account that it was, in fact, the lifeless right arm of Armando Galarraga that served up the pitch, and by rule, 25% credit is automatically taken away on any home run call. A final prediction: Anderson will never hit a home run in the big leagues again and will be a professional calf-roper within the next 3-5 years.
-Why do baby clothes need pockets? You see these little infants all the time walking around in their miniature cargo pants and you can't help but wonder, "What exactly is lil' fella carrying around in there?"
-You ever hear someone say, "Ewww, I hate frosting" when birthday cake slices are being doled out? Yeah, I've heard it...and let me just say this. Anyone who says such a thing is not your friend. Seriously. Stay away from them. They are scary people, and they are up to no good. It's OK to prefer the cake portion over the frosting side, but it is not OK to simply dismiss the frosting as "gross" or "icky." Saying these things makes you a Communist, and more importantly, the world's biggest lush.
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