Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Verlander Throws a No-No

On Tuesday nights I have a Family Law class that lasts until 8 P.M. and causes me to miss the first hour or so of the Tigers game. Tonight we had some gawd-awful guest speaker droning on about parental rights for same sex couples and leaving me wishing I had brought my samurai sword to class so I could perform perform hara-kiri right there on the class room floor. Instead I was stuck feigning interest in the lecture however by the time 7:05 rolled around I abandoned any pretense of note taking and brought up the Yahoo! Game Channel to follow the action in the Tigers-Brewers game. As I've written in the past I love using Yahoo! Game Channel to follow games on the internet because (other then the fact they pay me in baggies of Double Stuf Oreo's each time I mention their product) the graphics they use to update the games make me feel like I'm watching a game being simulated on the Atari 2600. After I opened the browser window with the game in it I minimized it and quickly went to look for movies to dump into my Netflix queue. After browsing through their recommendations and being offended at the mere suggestion that I would enjoy "Krull" I went back to check on the game and was surprised to see Verlander had breezed through the first inning with two strikeouts in about 1 minute and 43 seconds. At this point I looked up and noticed that "Butch" was still lecturing about child custody laws and decided it was time to take a little sojourn around the law school halls. I left the room, stopped by the bathroom, went to the vending machine and text-messaged a friend in the hallway before returning to my seat. I checked the game again and was stunned to find out that Verlander had already breezed through three innings without allowing a hit during the seemingly few minutes I was out of the room. I remembered back to the last time Verlander was on the mound and how dominant he was against the Rangers and that's when I first sensed that something special was in the works. Even though I couldn't witness it, I could just imagine Verlander on the mound having command of all three of his pitches and carving up the Brewers lineup. This image made the last twenty minutes of class agonizing as I couldn't wait for it to finish so I could rush back to my apartment (thankfully I live right across the street from school and can be home from class in about 15 seconds, trust me there have been many days I've hurried to get the hell out of there so fast you'd think I was being chased by ravenous grizzly bears, but I digress) and catch as much of this game as possible and I was hoping the Tigers could put together a big inning to buy me some time. Unfortunately Suppan was essentially matching Verlander pitch for pitch making the game move along at a brisk pace. I was on the edge of despair and burning holes into the guest lecturer with my eyes, giving her a look that was imploring her to please shut the hell up because history was potentially being made about two miles from where we were sitting and I wanted a chance to watch it. Then, miraculously, she just stopped talking and dismissed the class. I immediately told my friend Matt what was happening in the game and we dashed back to my apartment in time for the top of the fifth inning. What happened after that was too exciting to write about coherently so I'm copping out and doing this bullet point style.

1: As the dashing frequent commenter Rudy pointed out in the comment's, tonight's game was just as exciting as any of last years playoff games including the Magglio walk off that won the ALCS. Of course the stakes tonight weren't nearly as high as a playoff game but the anxiety and ultimate exhilaration of the final three innings was equal to anything I felt last October. I was living and dying with each pitch Verlander threw over the last third of the game and by the ninth inning I was pacing back and forth in my apartment, intermittently stopping to kneel six inches from the screen, rock back and forth and try not to puke from nervousness. I can't imagine being in Verlander's shoes at that time, (I would have had to lie down in a fetal position between pitches) and I was afraid he was going to get too amped and make a mistake. Instead he got even more locked in and when the final out landed in Maggs glove I leaped off the ground, did a 360 spin and gave Matt the obligatory awkward high five, which was essentially the same reaction I had when Maggs won the ALCS minus the part where I tore of my clothes and ran through the streets nude while defecating.

2: Speaking of Maggs he had one of the two necessary amazing defensive plays that occur late in every no-hitter. When Corey Hart (notice I'm not making a "Sunglasses at Night joke) lined that ball into right field in the seventh inning I thought the no-hitter was over. I even muttered out "Oh shit" and slapped my hands together before I saw Magglio come sliding in on his back and catch the ball next to his face about a foot off the ground. I've always been critical of Maggs seemingly indifferent attitude in the outfield and when the ball left Hart's bat I was expecting to see Maggs taking a siesta on a pile of blankets in rightfield as much as I was expecting him to come sliding in to make the catch. Also I take back every bad thing I've said about Neifi Perez (which is a lot) after the double play he started tonight. That was amazing and is almost enough to justify not only his spot on the team but his existence in the universe, which I called into question during my Season Preview

3: It's official. Verlander has arrived. I've thought he's been pretty underrated nationally given the spectacular start to his career but now everyone knows who he is. I don't just mean knowing him by name only, but recognizing that he is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Here is a 24 year old R.O.Y. with three plus pitches, a fastball that tops 100, playoff experience and, if he continues to pitch like this for the next 3 weeks or so, a potential All-Star game starter. That's pretty amazing for a guy three years removed from being drafted and is my age, (Oh shit, what have I accomplished........umm I met Burt Reynolds at a car dealership this became depressing fast).

4: The atmosphere at tonight's game was extraordinary. I used to be bitter about the emergence of bandwagon fans over the past year or so and the increasing difficulty in getting tickets but I'm over it (at least until playoff time when I'm pressing shoulders with homeless guys trying to get a spot to peer through the fence in right-center). I'm glad over 33,000 people were there to support Verlander tonight and stand on their feet in appreciation for the performance they just witnessed. I've always wanted to be in attendance for a no-hitter or brawl more than any other feat in sport aside from winning a championship and I'm a little jealous of those who were able to witness it. I also loved the fact that the whole team got caught up in the moment. The fist pumps, the way Casey sprinted off the field following Neifi's double play and Pudge ripping his mask off and running out to Verlander as soon as Hardy's ball left his bat. I love this team and the fun they have playing with one another. It's everything the Pistons were before they turned into whiny and unaccountable jerks. Yeah, I'm still a little bitter about the whole way the Pistons season ended.

5: Tony Graffanino had no chance tonight. None. I've never seen so many uncomfortable, check-swing hacks from one player in a whole season let alone a single game. Also I bet J.J. Hardy's reaction to the 102 MPH fastball on the black in the ninth was similar to Spottswoode seeing Michael Moore in "Team America", "Jesus T***yf***ing Christ".

6: I didn't get a great look at Verlander's girlfriend after the game but from what I saw it looked like a pretty nice pull on his part. Man I wish God had given me a talent that allowed me to be fabulously wealthy and date beautiful women, oh well at least I know I could kick Justin's ass in Tecmo Super Bowl.

7: Anything that leads to clips of Jack Morris during his Tiger days is alright with me.

Go Tigers!

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