Thursday, April 11, 2013

West Coast Weirdness: A Retrospective

This is going to be a long post, but since I haven't posted since the home opener (Hey, there's only so many ways I can say "Wow, lots of hitters have gotten off to good starts" and "This bullpen is talented enough that they don't have to be a weakness"), so I figure a longer post might make up for it. I've been watching Tigers baseball full-time since 2007, and in that time, I've noticed that the west coast is a very strange place. Or, at least, strange things happen while the Tigers are there. Sudden pitching meltdowns, silly announcers, bizarre plays, you name it. And so, as the Tigers set off for their one and only trip to the west coast this year, I've decided to take a look back at some of the weirder west coast moments of the past five years (Note: I'm not listing every west coast game from the past five years, just the strange ones. And I'm not including the postseason):


  • April 23 @ LAA: The Tigers spotted Mike Maroth an early 7-0 lead but he was unable to complete five innings (the Tigers did win 9-5). Also, the Angels put Mario & Rod on the Kiss Cam and this was shown on Fox Sports Detroit. 
  • April 24 @ LAA: This time, it was the Angels who raced out to a 7-0 lead after three innings (which partially involved Carlos Guillen making errors on consecutive plays), and yet somehow Jeremy Bonderman managed to stay in the game and give six innings. Meanwhile, the Tigers slowly chipped away at their deficit and completed their comeback in the ninth inning when Magglio Ordoñez hit a two-run homer off Francisco Rodriguez (who was in his prime at the time) to give the Tigers an 8-7 lead. However, Todd Jones would blow the save in the bottom of the ninth when Vladimir Guerrero scored on a wild pitch (and say what you will about Todd Jones, but wild pitches generally weren't an issue for him), and then would lose the game in the bottom of the tenth through a combination of his own error, a bunt, and a fielder's choice.
  • July 15 @ SEA: The Tigers had five stolen bases. Gary Sheffield stole home. Sean Casey had a stolen base (admittedly, it was meant to be a hit-and-run and the batter swung and missed, but Casey still made it to second).
  • July 27-29 @ LAA: I'm only linking to the first game in that series, but the Tigers pitchers gave up double-digit runs in all three games.
  • September 2 @ OAK: This is somewhat reminiscent of what happened in the game yesterday, albeit without the walks. The Tigers had a big lead (7-0) at one point, and were leading 7-2 after five innings, but the Athletics slowly chipped their way back into the game against the bullpen, until finally Kurt Suzuki hit a game-tying two-run homer off Todd Jones in the bottom of the ninth (and again, home runs were usually not an issue with Todd Jones). He would escape a bases-loaded, none out jam to send the game into extra innings, but the A's would win in the bottom of the tenth after a leadoff single, followed by another single on a hit and run that got tangled up in the bullpen and allowed the runner to score.
  • May 17 @ ARI: Strictly speaking, this is not a west coast game, but the Diamondbacks play in the NL West and it's the same time zone. Besides, Interleague games in National League parks already start out being somewhat bizarre because we're not used to watching Tiger pitchers bat. At any rate, the Tigers were on a five-game losing streak and the players decided to all wear the high socks as a superstition rally thing, which gave kind of a silly mood to the game. It didn't exactly ignite the offense, but the Tigers did win 3-2. The most bizarre part of that game is that the Tigers scored two runs in the fifth inning on a two-out rally that started when rookie Diamondbacks pitcher Max Scherzer walked Armando Galarraga, of all people (And as much as I love him, I've seen enough of Galarraga in the National League to know that he is not an offensive threat at all). 
  • May 26 @ LAA: Kenny Rogers, Jon Garland, and the bullpen combined for an epic pitching duel that lasted into extra innings until Bobby Seay walked in a run to give the Angels a 1-0 lead (and if I remember correctly, Seay was severely squeezed by the umpire in that at-bat).
  • May 27 @ LAA: The Tigers had another walk-off loss to the Angels (this time 3-2), but what makes it strange is that when all was said and done, the Tigers left no one on base. Their two runs scored on a Miguel Cabrera home run, and their only other baserunner was caught stealing.
  • May 28 @ LAA: This one is actually strange in hindsight. Armando Galarraga came within two outs of a complete game shutout before giving up a two-run homer to Erick Aybar, and it was arguably his best pitching performance until the perfect game two years later. What was strange about it? The home plate umpire was Jim Joyce.
  • June 17 @ SFG: Ryan Raburn hit a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning off Jonathan Sanchez to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. It caused a bit of a stir the next day when Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle proceeded to call Raburn a "scrub" in his column about the game. Also, Marcus Thames was on a home run binge at the time, and after he hit a monster shot to the batter's eye, the TV cameras caught sight of a woman in the seats who had a life-sized cardboard cutout of Barry Bonds next to her.
  • July 6 @ SEA: This game lasted 15 innings. The Tigers finally won 2-1 when the Mariners ran out of pitchers and brought their backup catcher in to pitch.
  • April 17 @ SEA: For the first four innings, it not only looked like Justin Verlander would pitch a perfect game, it looked like he'd set a strikeout record doing it. He was flat-out dominant. And then something went horribly wrong and he gave up five runs in the fifth inning.
  • April 23 @ LAA: There was an earthquake in the middle of this game. Not a big one, but that's still gotta disrupt a guy's pitching motion.
  • April 19 @ LAA: This was a really frustrating game to watch. The Tigers lost 2-0 but it really doesn't reflect how good their approach was against Angels starter Joel Piñiero. They got themselves into good counts, read his pitches, and hit the ball hard, but they kept hitting the ball right at people for the whole game. I have never seen a game like that before where the offense did not seem stymied at all, and yet still got shut out.
  • July 5 @ LAA: Dan Haren outdueled Justin Verlander 1-0, but Verlander had a serious beef with Joe West, finally getting himself ejected as he was being taken out of the game in the eighth inning.
  • September 16 @ OAK: This is the game where the Tigers clinched the AL Central, and I was there to see it. But it had a couple moments of strangeness. At one point, a bank of lights went out and there was a 20-minute delay while they got the lights working again. It was also Star Wars night, and after the game they had a fireworks show that began with a stormtrooper declaring, "The Oakland A's empire will rule the galaxy!" All I could think was, "Do they realize they just made themselves the bad guys?"
  • September 17 @ OAK: There was one little strange thing about this game, and I only know about it because I was there. The radar gun was not working. During the first inning, Gio Gonzalez was clocked at 200 MPH on his fastball and 100 MPH on his offspeed stuff. They turned off the radar gun in the bottom of the first and apparently fixed it after the game, because it was working the next day.
  • May 7 @ SEA: Octavio Dotel only walked 12 batters all of last year (and four of those were intentional). Two of those walks came in this game. The Tigers had a 2-0 lead going into the bottom of the ninth, and both Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit were unavailable. Dotel has been a closer before, so he was a reasonable choice to fill in and get the save. However, he absolutely could not throw strikes to save his life. He walked the first two batters, there was a wild pitch, a passed ball scored a run, and then Jesus Montero hit a double that scored the tying run (he would later score on a sacrifice fly off Duane Below to hand Dotel the loss).
  • May 10-13 @ OAK: Again, I'm only linking to the first game, but what characterized this series was that Brandon Inge (who the Tigers released only a couple weeks earlier) had himself a crazy good series, including a grand slam.

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