Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wednesday Thoughts - Verlander Wins #22, Wake's Quest for 200 and More

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The Tigers rallied to defeat the Indians 8-6 today as Justin Verlander won for the 22nd time this season. Verlander is now 22-5 and became the first pitcher since 2008 to win 22 games in a season. More importantly for the Tigers, today's win capped off a 3 game sweep of Cleveland and opened up an 8.5 game lead atop the AL Central. Verlander wasn't at his best today, surrendering a pair of two-run home runs to Shelley Duncan, but he was bailed out by a 7th inning Grand Slam off the bat of Victor Martinez as Detroit won their 6th in a row. Verlander has now won 10 straight starts, and he currently leads the league in Wins (22), ERA (2.44), and strikeouts (232). The last pitcher to lead the American League in all three categories, aka the Pitching Triple Crown, was Johan Santana back in 2006. The feat has only been accomplished 4 times in the American League since 1950.

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Tim Wakefield, the 45 year old Red Sox knuckleballer, cannot buy a win these days. Despite being backed by the #2 offense in the Majors, Wakefield has now gone winless in seven starts since getting his 199th career win on July 24th. Tonight was especially brutal. Playing in Toronto, the Sox jumped out to an early 3-0 lead after just a half inning. But the lead would be short lived as Toronto would tie the game in the second, and then go up 5-3 in the third. Still, thanks to a 4 run 4th keyed by a Jacoby Ellsbury 3-run home run, Boston would retake the lead and Wakefield would actually leave the game up 8-5 after 5 innings and in position to get that coveted 200th win. Enter Boston's bullpen. Toronto got one back in the 7th to cut it to 8-6 and then the wheels absolutely came off in the 8th. Daniel Bard loaded the bases with nobody out, but then got back to back strikeouts of Dewayne Wise and Yunel Escobar. Then, just when you thought the Sox were going to escape unscathed, he issued back to back walks to Eric Thames and Jose Bautista to tie the game up at 8 and rob Wakefield of his win. Then, to add insult to injury, Matt Albers entered the game and immediately surrendered a 3-run double to Edwin Encarnacion. The Sox would go on to lose the game 11-10 and failed to gain ground on the front running Yankees. So hopefully for Wakefield and the Sox, the 8th time is the charm. Wake takes the hill again at home against the same Blue Jays team on Tuesday.

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Tiki Barber's agent is saying that he's 'flabbergasted' that his client didn't get a chance to win a job this season. Only the Miami Dolphins had Barber work out for them after the end of the lockout, but Miami opted to go with 31 year old Larry Johnson (who had all of 2 rushing yards last season), among others, instead. It should be noted that Johnson did not make the team after rushing for 46 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries during the preseason. We talked about Barber's chances of coming back back when he first announced his unretirement back in March. The reality is he's 36 years old, he hasn't played football since the 2006 season, and if he'd really shown something when he worked out for Miami, they would've given him a chance. Now I suppose it's possible that someone will still give Barber a chance this season. Injuries happen. Shoot, we saw the Saints go into a playoff game with something like 7 running backs on injured reserve forcing them to start Julius Jones. So maybe in that scenario, a veteran like Barber would make sense. But right now, how do you justify giving someone like Barber reps over anyone? So Tiki's agent might be flabbergasted, but I don't think anyone can really be all that surprised that people weren't chomping at the bit to sign Barber. Not yet at least.

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On opening day of 2010, you had Peyton Manning in Indy, Matt Schaub in Houston, Vince Young in Tennessee and David Garrard in Jacksonville. Oh what a difference a year makes. Peyton Manning hasn't yet recovered from neck surgery and will miss his first game since 1997. Instead the Colts will start the season with Kerry Collins, who led the Titans in passing last year and actually retired back in July. Vince Young is also gone from Tennessee as they'll start 35 year old Matt Hasselbeck whom they signed from Seattle during the offseason. Jacksonville's situation is perhaps the most bizarre. David Garrard was cut by the team this week just days before the season opener against Tennessee. Now, the Jags turn the team over to 30 year old Luke McCown who threw just 18 passes during the preseason and has played just 16 games since being drafted out of Louisiana Tech in 2004. Only Matt Schaub remains from last year's starters at quarterback in the AFC South. Is this the year the Texans finally make the jump to the next level as a result?

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Three games on the slate today as the second round kicked off. Spain got 43 points from the Gasol brothers (24 for Marc and 19 for Pau) as Spain overcame a solid performance from Dirk Nowitzki (19 points) and a double-double from Chris Kaman to defeat Germany 77-68. Tony Parker continued his strong tournament with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists to lead Spain past Turkey 68-64. And Lithuania reached triple digits while shooting 63% from the field to defeat Serbia 100-90. Here's an updated look at the standings of the second round for Group E. Keep in mind, matches played in the first round against teams that made it into the second round count against the standings. Group F plays tomorrow.

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