White Sox 2, Tigers 0: The somewhat triumphant return of Daniel Norris

Bless You Boys

Three hundred and eighty-one days ago, Daniel Norris pitched the eleventh inning for the Detroit Tigers — a 6-5 win over the Twins — and earned the save, the first of his career to that point (and his only one to date).

In the ensuing eons, much has happened: civilizations rose and fell, animals and plants were domesticated, and the USB Pet Rock was invented. And much of it was good.

Tonight, Norris once again donned the Olde English D and summitted the 15-inch mountain of dirt. He had himself a pretty nice start, but the Tigers could only muster up a trio of singles and dropped the series opener, 2-0, to the Chicago White Sox.

Norris’ 2022 season started in the Chicago Cubs’ bullpen, and it did not go well, to say the least: thirty innings, an ERA in the mid-6 range, 21 walks, and seven home runs surrendered. So, the Cubs released him and the Tigers scooped him up on a minor-league deal. He indicated to the Tigers’ brass that he’d like to get back to starting, so they sent him to Toledo; over three stars and 8 23 innings he looked pretty good. Plus, he has an arm and a heartbeat and isn’t on the IL, so there’s a decent chance he was going to start a game for the Tigers. That’s just how it is these days.

Michael Kopech made his 21st start for the White Sox this season, and the results up to this point have been… ehhhh, alright, I guess. He had a 3.38 ERA coming into today, but his FIP was 4.63 so that means he’s been a little lucky. His strikeouts per nine innings is down a couple of ticks from last year, but for 2021 he was in the bullpen most of the time, so you’d think if he was transitioning to starting, that’d come down a bit naturally, which it appears to have done. His walks per nine innings are up too, but this is the Tigers we’re talking about, so he needn’t have worried about that, really.

Norris had a 1-2-3 first, but had trouble finding the plate in the second, walking a pair — and if you think the Tigers don’t take walks, the White Sox are somehow worse at it, so that was more than a bit concerning. His slider looked to have a bit more horizontal movement than it used to have, and he also occasionally mixed in a curveball, not something he’s really known for. Also, his follow-through seemed to vary a lot — sometimes his left leg swung up wildly after delivering the pitch, sometimes it didn’t, and sometimes he fell off to the third base side. (“Paging Dr. Fetter.”)

In the bottom of the fourth Norris got into a bit of trouble, putting runners on first and second with two outs via a single and a hit batter, but he got Yoán Moncada to hit a soft liner back to the mound and the side was retired. At this point you could’ve called him “effectively wild,” but there wasn’t much in the way of hard contact, so that’s good.

Some big baseball news broke during the game, though.

I thought this was a pretty fair take on the whole situation, out of many good ones:

Which reminds me… hey, Bartolo, you busy the next couple of months? How’s the arm feeling? We might need ya.

Anyway, Norris’ night ended with two outs in the fifth after a double from AJ Pollock. He threw 64 pitches (38 for strikes), struck out one and walked a pair. Jason Foley got Andrew Vaughn to ground out to shortstop, and that closed the book on Norris. Let’s call the experiment a success so far, shall we?

Kopech’s night ended after six innings: no hits, three walks, 11 strikeouts, 85 pitches, 56 strikes. Javier Báez, who’d been hearing plenty of boos from the White Sox crowd all night, greeted Reynaldo López in the seventh with a clean single to right and then raised his arms to acknowledge the crowd after making it to first base. (There were also audible “Fire Tony” chants from the crowd as well, presumably due to Kopech’s early exit.) Báez read López’s move and stole second base, and took third on a fly ball to right, but Jeimer Candelario struck out on a full-count slider to end the inning.

Alex Lange took over for the seventh, and with one out Chicago strung together a couple of singles, including a pop-up to left on which Akil Baddoo hesitated and to which he couldn’t catch up. With two outs he walked Pollock to load the bases, and Andrew Vaughn hit a soft pop fly to right that fell in front of a diving Willi Castro, scoring a pair of runs. Lange then hit Adam Engel with a very wild curveball to re-load the bases, but a grounder to shortstop was the third out and the damage was limited.

Look, I know the stakes are pretty low in this lost Tigers season, but you can’t keep running Baddoo out to left field and have him make plays like that (and lousy throws like we’ve seen fairly often). Some more seasoning in the minors would do his defensive abilities some good, and goodness knows he hasn’t been doing much with a bat lately either. I’d imagine Daz Cameron would have made that play, just sayin’.

Wily Peralta came on for the eighth, and he walked the first two batters he faced and went 3-0 to Yoán Moncada. But then he got Moncada to fly out, then struck out Josh Harrison and Lenyn Sosa. Nice bounce-back from Peralta there.

Liam Hendriks came on for the save, and the Australian showed why he’s one of the best closers in the league: he allowed a single to Báez but that was pretty much it.

However…

With two outs, Miguel Cabrera hit a grounder to short. Game over, right? Well, yes, that’s how it turned out — but the ball clanked off shortstop Sosa’s glove and rolled over to second baseman Harrison. Cabrera, moving slowly (even for him) out of the batter’s box, after all of that, got thrown out at first.

*facepalm*

I don’t care if you’re a Hall of Famer, on the first ballot. And I know your knees hurt. But you gotta run that out. If he’d had made it to first, the Tigers would’ve had runners on first and second with two outs — arguably not a great situation, but it’s something, right?

Yeah. It’s August, I’m salty tonight, and the Tigers lost pretty meekly. That’s about all I have to say.

“Not Great, Bob!”

It’s sobering when you stack ‘em all up beside each other, isn’t it? Especially since Skubal’s year is basically done now.

Prediction for the April ‘23 rotation: Manning, Brieske, Turnbull, Dave Rozema, Old Hoss Radbourn.

Numbers and Such

  • As of the start of tonight’s game, the only Tigers hitter with an OPS+ of 100 or over is Harold Castro. For reference, league-average OPS is, by definition, 100. Roughly speaking, that means that Hittin’ Harold produces 7% more runs than a league-average hitter.
  • Daniel Norris’ previous start was in an “opener” role for the Cubs earlier this season on May 7 against the Dodgers, in the second game of a doubleheader. His start before that was the same sort of thing for the Tigers in a doubleheader on August 2, 2020.
  • The last time Norris regularly started games was for the last two months of the 2019 season, with nine consecutive three-inning starts. Over those 27 innings he did pretty well with a 3.33 ERA, .683 OPS-against, seven walks and 27 strikeouts.
  • I should have quit you, a long time ago.
  • On this day in 1981, IBM released its “Personal Computer,” from which we get the general abbreviation “PC” to denote, well, a computer owned by a person. The original price was $1565 (adjusted for inflation, that’s $5101 today), and that didn’t include a monitor or a disk drive of any type.

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