May 16, 2011. Alternate baseball reality.
It’s a cold, windy evening at Comerica park, and looks to be a pitcher’s game. The pitchers did not disappoint: the undefeated Max Scherzer, while not overpowering, made all of the right pitches at the right times, only giving up 1 run (unearned) in 7 innings. Son of Doug Drabek was also good, after escaping a bases-loaded no-out Cabrera-at-bat situation with only 1 run, getting the hot Victor Martinez to ground into an inning-ending DP. So when Al Alburquerque came on in the 8th inning, and mowed down the side with a slider even more unhittable than usual in the cold, the excitement at Comerica began to build. When Jose Valverde closed the top of the 9th with a K and a dance, the chants of “walkoff” began.
It didn’t take long. After a popup by Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta launched a blast to deep left center, and the Tigers suddenly increased their win streak to 8, and as the dugout emptied and danced around Peralta at the plate, it was hard not to wonder if we were watching the beginning of something special in Motown.
Back to reality.
As good as the Tigers’ starters have been, Detroit now has an AL worst 5.50 ERA for its relief pitchers. It’s not Valverde: he’s at a nice 1.50. And the youngster Al Alburquerque has surprised with a decent 3.46, and an amazing 15.9 K/9 inning. No, it’s the 8th inning guys, Ryan Perry (7.88) and Joaquin Benoit (7.98). Oh, and Brad Thomas (9.00), but that’s kind of a given.
Jim Leyland is unlikely to replace Joaquin Benoit as the 8th inning guy, which he confirmed by even refusing to take questions on the subject. It’s a tricky problem: so much of a relief pitcher’s success is related to confidence, and sometime knowing the manager has faith is an important part of a turnaround. But what if confidence isn’t the issue? Then you end up with a .175 Ordonez batting 3rd for 20% of the season, or a 2008 Sheffield wincing through a season as DH. Whatever happens, it would be unlikely for Leyland to make changes anytime soon.
So what IS wrong with Benoit? Bless You Boys takes a look at Benoit’s F/X data, and wonders if perhaps Benoit isn’t just overthrowing, and thinks things may work themselves out.
Today Rick Porcello takes on Jesse “Cy” Litsch, who gave the Tigers all sorts of trouble last start. But that was before we had Andy Dirks.
In other alternate reality news: Tomorrow’s probable starters: Clay Buchholz vs Jair Jurrjens
Today’s Player of the Pre-Game: Rick Porcello
Porcello looks to continue the string of brilliant Tiger starting pitching. His mission: to make it through 7 innings, and turn the game over to Alburquerque and Valverde (surely, Benoit’s, um, arduous outing yesterday means he’s unavailable today?)
Today’s Where’s Ramon? Lineup: