Detroit Tigers at Atlanta Braves
3/31/12: Justin Verlander vs. Tommy Hanson
Today marked the last of the Tigers’ spring telecasts, which means that now I must wait patiently until Thursday for Opening Day. (Yes, I know that there is a game on Wednesday, but unfortunately I will be under the knife/groggy/impaired while it is going on, and will regrettably miss it.) So let’s kick off the MLB season right, with a fond farewell of Spring Training and a full recap of today’s game.
Pitching Recap/Final Thoughts – Tigers
Without fail, today’s game was going to be a moment of magic, as Justin Verlander took the hill for Detroit. And sure enough, he did not disappoint. Verlander started out strong, allowing one hit in the first three innings. Back-to-back hits in the fourth inning put the Braves on the board, but Verlander would quiet things down from there, allowing only one more hit, while striking out five. Final Line: 6 IP; 4 H; 1 ER; 5 K; 0 BB.
This game actually only lasted six innings, which is why Verlander was the only pitcher necessary for the entire game. What was most impressive/promising though was his pitch count. They were trying to get 100 pitches out of him in this outing (even though he probably wanted to throw 150), and while he got close, he was far enough away that he would have likely gotten through the seventh inning, and maybe even the eighth. That’s what you want to see out of your ace this early. Hopefully that translates into success in the month of April and beyond.
Other than the pitch count, Verlander did what he does best. He didn’t make many mistakes, seems to have his wicked breaking ball in form, and was just overpowering everyone. I can’t wait to see the Red Sox try and take him on Thursday afternoon.
Pitching Recap/Final Thoughts – Braves
Like Verlander, there was only one pitcher in the game for the Braves this afternoon. Tommy Hanson went to work for Atlanta, and had just a little less luck than Verlander. The Tigers jumped on him for an early hit and RBI, then Hanson settled in and scattered three more hits over the next three innings, before giving up a home run in the fifth. Despite the good game, Hanson took the loss, as the Braves fell 2-1. Final Line: 6 IP; 5 H; 2 ER; 1 K; 1 BB.
Hanson looked pretty good today. The Tigers’ lineup in this game looked to be what it will on Opening Day in Detroit…which can be a very scary thing for a pitcher. Imagine if two of the best hitters in the game were a possibility in the first inning. If you allow even one of the first two batters to get on base, Cabrera and Fielder will get to bat. The Tigers’ lineup is deadly, no matter how you look at it. So bravo to Tommy Hanson for basically shutting it down all afternoon. Other than the home run in the fifth, Hanson pitched a pretty damn good game. It’s a shame that it got canceled after six innings, otherwise it would have been interesting to see how the rest of the Braves’ pitching staff handled the late innings. Hanson is being given the Opening Day start for the Braves. Regardless of how much you know about baseball, Opening Day is a big deal, and for a pitcher to be given the Opening Day start speaks volumes about what that pitcher accomplished in the previous season, and what hopes the club has for him in the coming year.
Hitting Recap – Tigers
Austin Jackson is the wild card in the lineup this season, as he needs to have a pretty good season of plate appearances to show management that he belongs in the leadoff spot. Jackson opened the game with a single, then stole a base, before a ground out by Cabrera allowed him to score the first run of the game. Jhonny Peralta singled in the third, while Cabrera and Prince Fielder hit back-to-back singles in the fourth. The last run of the game wouldn’t come until the fifth, when Clete Thomas hit a solo home run. The Tigers finished up the day with five hits, two runs and a victory.
- Hitting Final Thoughts
I love when the team shows up and starts hitting. Granted, five hits isn’t exactly a massacre, but it can really demoralize a pitcher when regardless of how good he’s throwing, the opposition is still racking up hits. Especially when two of the players for the opposition are Cabrera and Fielder. They’re going to get a lot of action this season, and even when they’re not hitting bombs, they’re still getting on base, making thing difficult. Because the back half of the lineup isn’t exactly a cakewalk, either. Delmon Young, Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, and Ryan Raburn all have their own power potential, and it can quickly go from two outs with no one on to two outs, no one on, and a lopsided score of 3-0 or 4-0. I hope the American League steps up its game, otherwise it’s going to be a long season for anyone not named the Detroit Tigers.
Hitting Recap – Braves
The Braves got a few knocks of their own to keep pace with the Tigers for most of the game. Ross knocked a single in the third inning, followed by a Freeman single and Uggla double and RBI in the fourth. Bourn added a single in the sixth, before the game was called by rain. Unfortunately, four hits and one run would not be enough to win this game.
- Hitting Final Thoughts
The Braves aren’t bad, by any means. Even without Chipper Jones in their lineup (who is probably past his prime anyway, and I believe is seriously considering retirement after this season), they still have Uggla and others to pick up the slack. Uggla even has a little bit of speed, as he tried to stretch his double into a triple. It’ll be interesting to see how the Braves compete in the N.L. East this year. Despite their collapse down the stretch last season, they still held the N.L. Wild Card for most of the season. While they may not be able to beat the Phillies and take the N.L. East title, they may still stand a chance of taking one of the two Wild Card spots at season’s end.
The Braves committed the game’s only error, when the catcher, Ross, threw behind Cabrera at second base in the fourth inning. The ball sailed into center field, and Cabrera was able to take third base. The Braves also turned the only double play, however, as Clete Thomas grounded into the play in the third, putting out both himself and Jhonny Peralta. Other than those, it was a pitching duel until the rain-induced end.
Tigers vs. Braves – Final Thoughts
It was great to see a game that was more or less a battle of Opening Day lineups. The minor league players have essentially made their ways to their respective camps, and the big boys are getting full game action. It didn’t hurt that I had the pleasure of Mario Impemba and Rod Allen on a cold Saturday afternoon in Michigan. I’m ecstatic for Thursday, and I’m making sure that I’m coherent and out of the hospital before 1:05 p.m. If I’m not, then there will be trouble.