Tigers 8 @ Cubs 4

Box Score / Highlights / Condensed Game

Sixth Inning: Let’s get right to it. Matt Garza has one on and no outs with a 3-run lead. Miguel Cabrera hit a ground ball to Joe Mather at third base. The ball hit Mather in the heel of the glove and he then kicked it towards second base, everybody’s safe. Following a Prince Fielder flyout, Delmon Young singled and Jhonny Peralta doubled. That tied the game. Gerald Laird then bunted his way on and Ramon Santiago’s groundout gave the Tigers the lead. The Cubs would not score again; the Tigers would tack on 3 more against the bullpen for good measure.

Seventh Inning: Castro fielded a one-hop bullet off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. I can’t do the play justice in print. Suffice it to say, Castro had no business fielding the ball – never mind completing the out at first in plenty of time.

Eighth Inning: Deservedly-maligned defensive liability Alfonso Soriano showed off the one trait that provides value as he meanders about in LF. Since his first days in LF as a member of the Washington Nationals, Soriano has been routinely underestimated as an outfield arm. Not the strongest arm, but incredibly accurate, Soriano’s deftly factors in the way his throws tail as well as providing a manageable bounce for the catcher to handle. Tonight he cut down Quintin Berry at the plate to the end the 8th. A beautiful throw, magnificent putout…it’s a shame it was wasted in a game that was basically over.

Offense: In two different innings (2nd & 5th) the Cubs got three hits. In the 2nd it was three straight hits, in the fourth it was three hits in four batters. Both times the Cubs put up two runs on the board, but both times it felt as though the Tigers got off easy. Not a bad night from the offense, but they weren’t able to put away the Tigers early, and when Mather & Garza gave the Tigers some help they took advantage of it and stormed back to claim the game for themselves.

Final Thought: When the Tigers jumped on Garza in the 6th, it was by swinging early and often in the count. In that inning, Garza faced 8 hitters, only Peralta let more than one pitch pass without swinging. Garza threw 94 pitches in 6 total innings, 70 for strikes. In the 6th he threw 16 pitches to those 8 hitters; 4 of those hitters swung at and put in play the only pitch they saw, only two hitters saw more than two pitches. The Tigers weren’t terribly patient for the first five innings either, but they’d had little success at putting balls in play early in the count – Garza was missing bats and getting weak contact.

It’s not the first time a team has employed a ‘swing early and often’ method against Garza. When that happens and if he’s getting too much of the plate (as was partly the case in the 6th), I’d love to see him waste a few pitches early in counts. I realize encouraging your pitcher to get behind in counts flouts conventional pitching strategy, but Garza has to change it up when hitters come out attacking because he’s so consistently in the zone. The Tigers were chomping at the bit to swing at every offering. He works so fast on the mound, the 6th inning flew right by and the Tigers put up 4 in no time. I think he’d have benefited from a change of pace.

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