Sunday, September 18, 2016

A wild weekend of wins

Last weekend I was treated to free tickets to a pair of Tigers night games from two different work colleagues--Friday against the Orioles, then Monday vs. the Twins.  This year's team has been an inconsistent squad that doesn't look likely to make the playoffs, but it's still fun to get down to Comerica Park for a game or two, especially when it's free!

Friday night's affair had me in the seats behind the right field wall just a few rows back.  I'd sat there thanks to the same work friend back in July for a tilt with the Twins, which unfortunately didn't go Detroit's way.

It was a beautiful night for baseball, plus I was excited to see likely AL Rookie-of-the-Year Michael Fulmer on the hill for Detroit.  He definitely didn't disappoint.

Here's a look at my scorecard:
A few notes:
  • Fulmer went a strong 7 IP while giving up just 2 ER, a.k.a. a quality start.  Naturally the bullpen, in this case Alex Wilson, hung him out to dry in terms of a decision, then vultured the win when Detroit came back.  Anyway, it was a treat seeing a guy who has future ace written all over him
  • See that little "7!" for Hyun Soo Kim's at-bat in the 3rd?  I like to use a "!" when I see a big play I'd like to remember.  In this case, LF Justin "Mendoza" Upton made a nice grab to take away a homer from the Orioles LF, though he made it look effortless.  Not unlike Upton's plate appearances--three strikeouts as part of an 0-4 day
  • Baltimore scored their three runs on just five hits, with Adam Jones leading the way with a pair of singles and a walk.  Surprisingly, Detroit held big star Manny Machado in check with an 0-4 day I didn't see coming
  • Miguel Cabrera had a similarly rough day with three Ks; his rough day along with a typical Upton performance and not much (until late) from Victor Martinez stalled the offense
  • Not J.D. "Every day I'm hustlin'" Martinez, though--he singled in three straight ABs and walked, scoring Detroit's first run
  • V-Mart hit a dramatic eighth inning blast to break the tie, and that was more than enough for closer Francisco Rodriguez to send us home happy
With a new winning streak on the line I headed back after work Monday evening for another beautiful night, this time to watch a divisional matchup against Minnesota.  This time I was sitting behind home a bit towards the visitors' dugout, WAY the hell up, which was a lot of fun thanks to the view:
One of Fuji's favorite players, Kurt Suzuki, was in the lineup for the Twins, so I took a few shots.  Here he is before his second inning AB:
Stepping up to the plate:
And taking a hack:
He went on to strike out, but I can't imagine he felt that bad--Tigers starter Daniel Norris finished with a crazy 11 in 6+ IP.  Norris had himself a night, striking out every Minnesota starter at least once except SS/3B Eduardo Escobar.

More scorecard goodness:

  • Suzuki managed just one hit but it was a big one:  a solo homer, one of two allowed by Norris.  2015 All-Star 2B Brian Dozier hit his 40th in this game as well
  • Detroit's own 2B, Ian Kinsler, started things off with a solo homer, and unlike the previously-mentioned Twins game from July, I didn't miss it!  The Tigers came close to scoring another run on a J.D. Martinez grounder, but after the umpires originally ruled him safe, the Twins challenged and the call was correctly overturned
  • Norris was cruising for a while, but as with two of the three pitchers out of the bullpen that night he gave up a pair of walks, which made things more difficult than necessary
  • Still, the pen locked things down for 2 2/3 innings and this time Shane Green swiped himself a win
  • Tyler Collins took over for Upton in left after the latter injured his leg, possibly on an attempt to snag Dozier's eventual homer.  Collins performed exactly as Upton would have at the dish (for a fraction of the cost) by going 0-3 with a strikeout
  • Fill-in 3B Andrew Romine surprised me by having a pretty nice game, going 1-1 with a double, HBP, and walk, the latter of which tied the game back up in the bottom of the 7th
  • That was a fun rally, as SS Jose Iglesias followed with a double that scored Romine.  The Twins challenged the very close play at the plate and lost.  The very next play was an Ian Kinsler sac fly that featured another bang-bang play at the dish, and this one went the Tigers' way as well
  • Cabrera was having another off night when he decided to give the Tigers a bit of insurance with a moon shot to right-center to make it 4-2
  • Rodriguez made things much more interesting in the bottom of the 9th this time after getting two outs.  He walked Byron Buxton and Dozier, then got OF Robbie Grossman to ground out to short
I'm going to guess these are the last games I'll end up attending this year, but at least I finished on a high note with a pair of wins, one of which was secured by a late homer!

On a closing note, if you're still reading this, Fuji, I kept a small souvenir for you that I'll send at some point in the future.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Player collection update: Tony Gwynn

Having taken care of getting my Tigers PCs all scanned and posted, I've moved on to tackling the major 90s quartet of Griffey/Gwynn/Maddux/Ripken.  Where I'm at with this project right now is starting with all of each player's cards found in my complete sets (in addition to what's already been scanned and posted otherwise--think hits, better inserts, and stuff from trades).  I've scanned and labelled those cards for each guy and can now get them posted.  I began that task with Ken Griffey Jr. in a post in late July, coinciding with Junior's Hall of Fame induction.

I didn't choose today's player because of anything related to his career.  Instead, I decided it would be great to honor one of Fuji's all-time favorites on the same day I show off a trade package from him over on TMM.

Naturally, the player in question is Tony Gwynn.  If you were a baseball fan at all in the 80s and 90s I don't need to tell you a thing about him--you already know you witnessed a legend.  And in case you're too young to have watched Mr. Padre play, I'll try to sum him up as best as I can.

Gwynn was his generation's answer to Ted Williams' hitting ability, without the complicated relationship with the media and fans.  He brought a passion and respect for the game that rivaled the greats.  If your favorite hitter studies video of each at-bat obsessively after or even during games, he has Tony to thank--and keep in mind Tony was working with video the quality of VHS tapes!  And, perhaps best of all to his fans, he was a home-grown star (San Diego State) who played every single one of his 20 years for his Padres.

So here's a look at some of the more interesting cards of Gwynn I scanned for this project:

Tony was an oddball:

Tony's game was like a work of art:

Tony could hit:

Tony could run:

Tony could field, too:

Tony appeared in some of my favorite sets:

Tony was featured on some great inserts, too:

Tony was a portrait of a professional:

I'm proud (and lucky!) to have witnessed a large part of Tony's career and joined the ranks of his fans.  And I'm also proud to have boosted his PC count over 200 to a healthy 221.  Keep in mind I still have lots more to scan because of other cards I've purchased or acquired from generous traders.  That's next on the agenda after showing off my set pieces from the last two players in that holy 90s quartet!