There is so much not to like about a sweep at the hands of the Royals. The Tigers had a chance to really lock down the AL Central this week, but instead they managed to play some of their worst baseball of the season. There is reason to be frustrated with the offense, and we’ll cover that in a minute, but the bigger issue in this series was on the run prevention side of things.
It is easy to point to the bullpen as a major problem this series. The team did blow 2 late inning leads and the pen turned a 1 run game into a 5 run game. They issued too many walks to a team that doesn’t walk (7 pen issued walks and a HBP in the 3 games). Thursday game they allowed 2 homers. Zach Miner continued his seesaw season and followed up several good and important outings against Cleveland and Tampa Bay by getting shelled. In general there was nothing good to say, even about arms like Seay, Rodney, and Ni who have been reliable for the most part this year. Their failures were glaring and significant, but it wasn’t all the pen.
Tigers starters threw 299 pitches in the the 3 games, and yet the faced exactly one batter after the 6th inning (Rick Porcello allowing a single to Yuniesky Betancourt). Porcello was efficient, but not particularly effective. Justin Verlander held the Royals to 1 run, but it wasn’t easy and he rang up 112 pitches in 6 innings. Jarrod Washburn just got hammered and allowed 10 baserunners in 5 innings and could have easily allowed more than the 3 runs that crossed the plate.
And then there was the outfield defense in the first game in which every ball turned into an adventure. Run prevention all around was not good this series, and probably the biggest reason for the sweep. But the offense isn’t immune from criticism.
Getting shut down by Tejeda didn’t bother me. He’s pitched well this year and his stuff was nasty on Wednesday. The offense didn’t get shutdown by Lenny DiNardo as they got to him for 7 hits and 3 walks in 5 inning, and they added 8 more hits against the Royals bullpen. That they hit into 5 double plays was more a matter of freakish happenstance than anything else (yes, the Tigers hit into lots of double plays anyways but 5 qualifies as freakish).
My bigger issue was the Tigers not beating up on Bruce Chen and the tattered Royals bullpen with more voracity. This is a team that used to feast on left handers and now they tend to fester. And with the Blue Jays throwing 3 southpaws at the Tigers this weekend that is troublesome.
You don’t get swept by a bad team without multiple things going wrong. In one way or another the Tigers completely collapsed for 3 games. Maybe it was the 400 people in the stands each night, or a let down after 3 breathtaking games in Tampa. The good news is that the lead in the Central is still safe, but the Tigers did waste a tremendous opportunity this week.