Friday, August 20, 2004


I pegged an over/under the other night of 5 2/3 innings for Ron Villone's start, which would have been last night. Bob Melvin stuck with the sequence though, and pushed everyone back a day. Villone ended up going six innings, exceeding my expectations by one out.

Villone looked halfway decent through the first 2 2/3 innings. Of course, that's not very long for a starting pitcher, if you indeed want to call Villone a starting pitcher. He started losing control in the third. He got Omar Infante to bounce out for the second out of the inning, but had fallen behind him 2-0. Villone went 3-0 on the next two hitters (Bobby Higginson, Ivan Rodriguez) and walked them both. Luckily for him, he got Dmitri Young to fly out and end the inning.

In the top of the 4th, Ichiro legged out his second infield single of the game (all three of his hits tonight were of the infield variety). Randy Winn bunted (booooo) Ichiro over. Edgar Martinez was caught looking, and Bret Boone bounced out to the shortstop. End of threat.

In the Tiger half of the 4th, Ron Villone would pick up where he left off. He threw six straight balls to start off, with Rondell White drawing the four-pitch walk. After 50 pitches, Villone had thrown 25 strikes and 25 balls (says the TV broadcast). Craig Monroe (who would go 4-for-5) got 2-0 and 3-1 counts (always favorable) and eventually singled. On the 1-0 pitch to Carlos Pena, Miguel Olivo didn't reach far enough to catch the high-and-away pitch, which went off his glove and to the backstop. The runners moved into scoring position. Two pitches later, Brandon Inge would plate White (DET 1-0). Three pitches later, Jason Smith would ground to short and plate Monroe (DET 2-0). Villone fell behind 2-0 to Omar Infante before getting a flyout. Okay, we know Miguel Olivo's a crappy defensive catcher. We know having the two runners move into scoring position isn't good. Of course, we also know that throwing six straight balls to start the inning isn't good. In short, don't pin those two runs solely on Miguel. Villone had to be at least partially craptastic for those two runners to get on base in the first place.

The Mariners would cut the lead in half in the 5th. Miguel Olivo doubled with two out, and came home on a Jolbert Cabrera single (DET 2-1).

The Mariners would tie the game in the 6th on Winn's leadoff homer to leftfield (2-2).

Then Ron Villone finished with a flourish. By that, I mean that he gave it all back. Monroe led off with a homer (DET 3-2). Carlos Pena singled, and Brandon Inge hit a ball to centerfield that Winn went back for, but should have had (the play looked like Winn circa April). Inge would wind up with a triple (DET 4-2). Inge scored on a groundout to Boone by Smith, his second RBI groundout of the game (DET 5-2).

Scott Atchison took the mound for the Mariners in the 7th. He got two quick outs from Rodriguez (popout to Bucky) and Young (whiff). White would leg out an infield single on the 9th pitch of his at-bat. Monroe got his fourth hit of the game, a single to left. Pena bounced a comebacker to the mound to end the inning. The inning could have gone a little smoother, yes, but it was brilliant compared to what we were about to see out of Matt Thornton.

But first, the Mariners weren't quite done scoring. Esteban Yan of the memorable Yan-McLemore brawl came on for the Tigers in the 8th. Ichiro reached on his third and final infield single of the game. Omar Infante had to move way over to his glove side to even get to the ball, and didn't really have a shot at Ichiro, but he threw to first anyway, and the throw was wide of the first baseman. Ichiro ended up on second, then went to third on a Winn groundout. Edgar singled (DET 5-3). For a tiny bit of false hope, Boone walked on four pitches, but then Bucky whiffed.

Now for the Matt Thornton debacle. He went 3-0 to Inge (hitting 8-hole) to leadoff. Inge would walk. Smith laid down a bunt, but beat the throw from Thornton. Infante bunted the runners over. Two pitches later, Higginson doubled down the rightfield line (DET 7-3). Two pitches after that, Rodriguez doubled to left (DET 8-3). Thornton walked Young on four pitches. The fuel was thankfully done being thrown on the fire, however, as Nook Logan (I don't know what'd be better -- if the name Nook is his given name or if it's fake) bounced into a fielder's choice and Monroe's perfect night was ruined on a Boone basket catch in foul territory.

And yeah, that was pretty much it for the night. Oh yeah, this 7-3 Tiger win was achieved without the help of one Carlos Guillen, who had the night off.

Gameball: Jolbert Cabrera. 2-for-4 with an RBI single as he was the only non-Ichiro Mariner hitter to have a multihit game tonight. That said, Ichiro's continued ballooning of his batting average is nuts, and to do it with three infield singles tonight is even more nuts. What my dad always says to me is "what if Wade Boggs had Ichiro's speed?" The mind boggles.

Goat: Matt Thornton. I want this guy to do well and everything, but I don't know if I've seen much progress. He's had a couple decent outings, but he's had a good share of craporiffic ones, too. One inning, three runs, three hits, two walks, no strikeouts, 20 pitches (10 strikes). Right now, I'm not sure what makes him better than Travis Blackley, and Blackley's not with the big club. Of course, I haven't seen Thornton get visibly ticked off on the mound, either.

Normally I try to put a line of material inbetween the goat and the starting pitchers for the next day's game, but I really don't have anything this time. I just hope Brandon Inge doesn't have an 8-for-10 series hitting eighth in the lineup for the Tigers.

Johnson. Moyer. Tomorrow.

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