Tigers are now 7-3, and have increased their Central lead to 1 1/2 games, thanks to a dramatic 9th inning performance by Justin Verlander. (link via stephen).
Verlander looked headed for an oh-no-not-again outing, with 8 great innings and a shaky 9th, until he put away Alex Gordon in dramatic fashion. In fact, after Leyland visited the mound and left JV in, he told the ace “you’re going to get me fired.”
Meanwhile, the offense still struggles, and had to rely once again on unlikely heros. The best hitter in the league is in his worst slump since his rookie season: Cabrera is now 0-for-his-last-21, and has not looked good doing it.
The team is struggling in clutch situations. They have failed in half of their attempts with a runner at 3rd and less than 2 out, and have trouble advancing runners (they have grounded into 11 DP, and have yet to successfully bunt).
Ryan Raburn is, literally, the worst hitter in the league right now, with a .065 BA (lowest) and a .212 OPS (not even close: next worse is Miguel Olivo at .274). He has the further distinction of being the only American League starter who has yet to record his first RBI. And as early as it is, there is not a lot of reason to trust that it will improve dramatically any time soon–Raburn’s CAREER BA for the month of May is .169. Then there is his fielding…Raburn’s career UZR at 2B is negative 14.0, which is a fancy way of saying he is the worst 2B in the league. So Ryan Raburn may have the current distinction of being the worst hitter AND worst fielder in the league simultaneously. That is not easy to do.
Nonetheless, Jim Leyland has opted to give Babe Inge a much-needed day off against lefty Bruce Chen (but see below!), pointing out that while Raburn is only batting .065 overall, he hits lefties much better, posting an .083 so far for the season.
Yet the Tigers are 7-3. So how are they winning? Starting pitching, and Austin Jackson. The Tiger starters have only allowed an average of 3.60 runs per game, 2nd best after Texas (2.40). And as far as leadoff hitters go, the Tigers have spent several seasons at the bottom of the league, including last year with Austin Jackson. So far this year though, Jackson has gotten on base at an incredible league-leading rate of .511 (.600 leading off the game), and consequently leads the league in runs scored (11).
Today Drew Smyly , a fan following, and a and a well-rested bullpen will take on the dreaded Bruce Chen, who always seems to give the Tigers problems. Well, not seems, he does: especially Inge (.043), Peralta (.111), and Jackson (.133). Tonight would be as good a time as any for Cabrera to get back on track–against Chen he is 9-18 with 3 HR.
MLB has reviewed Delmon Young’s Bigtop Twirl in LF against the White Sox, and decided it was an error after all. In protest, Ol’ Smokey has pencilled Delmon Young in at LF tonight, leaving the less peripatetically inclined Andy Dirks to watch the upside of every inning from the DH seat. (Young, by the way, has crushed Bruce Chen, 6-11 lifetime).
Today’s Player of the Pregame: Don Kelly
The versatile Kelly will be entrusted with protecting Drew Smyly from shoulder-seeking dugout missiles off the bat of Prince Fielder.
Today’s Smokey-Going-All-Out-on-Matchups Lineup: