Yes, I know last night’s game was terribly frustrating. The Tigers lost their third one run game of the season. Clearly what we need to do is panic first, and then assign blame. I think that the common responses are that it was Urbina’s fault for blowing the lead, and Trammell’s fault for burning through his pen. Let’s look a little closer at those assumptions.
OK, so it’s hard to defend Ugie here. Uribnia has pitched poorly enough this season to make people stop complaining about Bobby Higginson – which is quite a feat. While he did induce a couple weak bouncers, one of which took a turf hop, he also allowed two walks and a long fly ball to the warning track.
Now what should the Tigers do with Urbina? The popular mantra is “Trade him.” I’m not against trading Urbina, but not right now. While the bullpen should be a strength, I’m not convinced yet. German, Farnsworth, and Ginter (in his one appearance) have looked sharp. However German doesn’t have a strong history to convince me he can continue to pitch at this level. Farnsworth has looked great before only to erupt. And Ginter, well he won’t be your high leverage guy. Walker has been and will be adequate in the lefy specialist role. That leaves Percival, who has a history of being good, and a more recent history of being ok and injured. Despite Urbina’s struggles, given the other question marks in the bullpen the Tigers still need him.
Now demoting him from the set-up role for a game or two might be a consideration, but I doubt Trammell will do it in the near term.
While Trammell may have turned to the bullpen too early, and too frequently, his early moves paid off. German came in and picked up an out and induced a comebacker to the mound (which he failed to field cleanly). Walker came into face Jacque Jones who struggles against lefties, and induced a weak grounder to second. Of course it scored the run but it wasn’t the fault of Walker. Farnsworth came in and looked very good for an inning and a third.
Trammell then went with Urbina in the 8th, as he had to do. Urbina is the set-up man, and Trammell probably wanted to get him out there in a high leverage situation so he could bounce back from Friday. It didn’t work. Trammell came back with his closer in the 9th, which he had to do. He certainly couldn’t send Urbina back out there, and his other option was Matt Ginter. Nothing against Ginter, but Trammell went with the guy who gave him the best shot to get his hitters up again. It didn’t work.
Trammell put each of his pitchers in with a chance to succeed, and both Urbina and Percival didn’t execute. While I think he went to the pen to early, once he took Maroth out I didn’t mind his moves at all.
The move that really bothered me was sacrifice bunting in the 5th inning. The Tigers had already scored two runs on Monroe’s homer. Inge drew a walk to put a runner at first and nobody out. Mays was looking shaky. At this point color man Rod Allen said, “I’d have Infante lay down a bunt here. Trammell knows that he has to score as many runs as he can against the Twins.” I was thinking to myself how ridiculous that statement was when Infante squared to bunt. Now Infante got the bunt down and successfully advanced Inge, who ultimately was stranded at third.
The problem is that Trammell let a pitcher who was on the ropes have a free out, and in doing so reduced his run opportunity for the inning. It’s great to bunt a guy over if you need a run to tie, or take the lead, or even an insurance run in the 8th. But in the 5th inning it makes no sense.
So Trammell wasn’t perfect, Urbina and Percival weren’t good, but neither was the offense. The Tigers only managed 7 hits, six of them singles. And even of the singles, two were fisted bloopers and a third was a ground ball that was moving slow enough for shortstop Jason Bartlett to catch up with it in the outfield. The Tigers didn’t play that well last night, and still had a chance to win it (blow it) against the reigning division champs. Take some solace in that.
Other game thoughts
-Pena continues to have quality at-bats. It doesn’t look like his swing is quite right, and he seems to be falling back toward first base and fouling off some hittable pitches. However, he’s not swinging at bad pitches and now has 9 walks on the season.
– The rest of the team didn’t seem so patient though. I don’t have a count, but it seemed like they were swinging at the first pitch quite often. Rodriguez didn’t seem to be seeing the ball at all as he was swinging at everything. Magglio Ordonez still hasn’t had a hard hit ball.
-Craig Monroe is looking better than I expected in center. He did a nice job tracking down a long fly ball, and made it look easy. Even his throwing error from right was a well thrown, though ill-advised throw. It was right on the base, knee high.