After being pushed back a day because of a sore throat, Francisco Liriano gets Detroit tonight in his first start since throwing his no-hitter against the White Sox a week ago.
The extra rest figures to do his arm some good, as he blew away his previous season high by throwing 123 pitches in his first career complete game. He didn’t throw more than 97 pitches in any of his previous five starts this season.
As Liriano tries to match Johnny Vander Meer with consecutive no-nos — the typical bid never seems to last past the second inning — he’ll be facing a team he’s 4-4 with a 4.79 ERA against in 12 starts and four relief appearances. It’ll be his first outing against Detroit this year.
Here’s a possible Tigers lineup and how each hitter has fared against him:
CF Austin Jackson: 3-for-11, .273/.429/.364
2B Scott Sizemore: 2-for-5, .400/.400/.600
DH Magglio Ordonez: 10-for-26, .385/.407/.731
1B Miguel Cabrera: 7-for-20, .350/.391/.800
C Victor Martinez: 8-for-18, .444/.474/.722
RF Brennan Boesch: 3-for-6, .500/.667/.667
LF Ryan Raburn: 4-for-15, .267/.353/.467
SS Jhonny Peralta: 7-for-24, .292/.414/.417
3B Brandon Inge: 4-for-31, .129/.156/.226
Alternatively, the Tigers could go with the left-handed-hitting Alex Avila behind the plate and sit either Boesch or Raburn. Avila has never faced Liriano.
As much success as the heart of the Tigers order has had against Liriano, the southpaw might be fortunate just to put together another quality start tonight. He had only one in five outings prior to the no-hitter.
The Cubs had a nice night last night. Javier Baez finally broke his hitless streak with not one but two homers. Willson Contreras hit a nearly 500-foot homer. Jake Arrieta, possibly pitching for the last time as a Cub, dug down for a gutsy performance, pitching into the seventh inning, working around some walks to allow only one run while striking out nine.
After the game, Cubs players sounded hopeful notes about believing in themselves, taking them one game at a time, getting the series back to L.A. for a Game 6 and Game 7. They’re professional athletes who know better than any of us that to achieve a thing you have to believe you can achieve that thing, so it’d be dumb to expect anything else from them in this situation. Ballplayers, quite admirably, don’t sound a note of defeat until they are actually defeated.
But let’s be realistic there: they’re still a dead team walking.
- They’re dead because, as we have been reminded oh so many times, only once in 35 tries has a team come back to win a seven game series in which they’ve found themselves down 0-3. That team did so because Dave Roberts worked some magic. Dave Roberts is working for the other team now.
- They’re dead because their biggest weakness this postseason — their bullpen — is not going to have its best pitcher, Wade Davis, available today in Game 5 after throwing 48 pitches in Game 4.
- They’re dead because while the Dodgers used five relievers last night, none of them were worked particularly hard and neither Brandon Morrow nor Kenley Jansen were used at all, allowing them to come in and work hard and heavy tonight if need be.
- They’re dead because the man on the mound to start tonight’s game is Clayton Edward Kershaw. Yes, he has had some less-than-glory-filled moments in the postseason in recent years, but all of those have come at the tail end of starts, when his managers have left him in perhaps an inning too long. See the above bullet point — and Dave Roberts’ early hook in Game 1 — if you think that’ll be a problem tonight.
The Dodgers lost last night, yes, but it was their first loss in the postseason. All teams have lost at least one postseason game since it went to the three-round format, so it was likely inevitable that L.A. would drop one. Heck, maybe they’ll drop two before the NLCS is over, but they’re not going to drop the next three in a row.
Last night’s Cubs win was nice for them, but it only delayed the inevitable.