20-14, 1st place, 1 game up on Cleveland. Hypotenuse game of the series coming up, and it will be for all the marbles. Or at least half of them.
Get Al Alburquerque out of Detroit. At least for a while. Please. This has gone on long enough. Game 34 was Tigers 6, Indians 4, Tigers Bullpen -3.* The bullpen pooped the bed yet again. What is that – 10 times this season already? Take away the walk-offs – it happens – and it’s still 7 times. (I think. I’ll check it out.) Rather a lot for a team with 14 losses.
* I’m conveniently leaving the Indians pen out of it.
Danny Worth has been out with a heel contusion for a while, but is close to rejoining the Mud Hens. This is good. We’d all like to see him raise that batting average down there. Along with Quintin Berry. Makes you wonder what’s happened to them. Devastated by not making the big club out of camp? The International League is a pitcher’s league, true, but the numbers on these guys… yikes. Up and down the Toledo roster, the batting numbers are pretty frightening. Only 1B Jordan Lennerton has put up anything halfway decent.
Even though the Tigers fell short last night, you’ve got to be encouraged by rally after rally in the late innings. 7th, 8th, 9th – they just kept coming. And speaking of encouragement, the good signs for Alex Avila keep coming every now and again. On what looked to be an effortless swing the first time up, he sent a fly to deep CF that chased Michael Bourn back and back and back.
OK, excluding the walk-off loses, I count (7) games so far where the bullpen has either lost the game outright (1), blown up (3), or let the score slip out of reach (3). While we’re playing the blame game for losses, let’s assign (2) to starting pitching and give the batters (5) (which will include the 3 walk-offs, all in low-scoring games). Come to the bullpen’s defense, someone. I’m sure there is something positive to say. I feel more like being negative after being disappointed by Smyly and Al-Al (and all the more disappointed given the low pressure nature of their latest assignment).
Tigers pitching in the Late/Close split (includes some but not much starting pitching): 11th in the AL in ERA, 10th in BAA, 9th in WHIP. Tied for 2nd (worst) in runs allowed.
What’s up with Austin Jackson? All the good numbers are going down down down over his last 19 starts (though he still manages to score runs). But there has been some hitting anemia going on in that leadoff spot. It’s not good. While Victor Martinez has actually been worse over that same stretch (that’s right – you have to consider that he’s “coming around” only by comparison to an especially horrid start), AJax’s fade has been more damaging to the team.
Let us take a moment to recognize the main reason Detroit has won 20 and could “easily” be 25-9 right now, and to congratulate the contributors: The starting rotation. Only 2 stinkers in 34 games. 17-9 with a 3.27 (AL best) ERA, and also the fewest runs overall allowed. Only 11 HR allowed (AL best). Tops in K/9, 3rd best in walks allowed. 2nd in WHIP, and 6th in BAA. Is that wow good? I’m saying it is.
Rick “The Outlier” Porcello takes the mound today, with (individual, positive sense) regression to the mean on his and our side.
POST-GAME: INDIANS 4, TIGERS 3 (10 INNINGS). Quality starts for Rick Porcello and Zach McAllister, but hardly easy going. An exciting one, but also a heartbreaker of a giveaway. The bullpen blows another one, right? Yes and no… maybe. Each team paid for costly mistakes early. 3rd inning, Torii Hunter, yet again, overthrew the cutoff man (and the throw was wide of 3B besides) to allow Michael Brantley to take 2B on a single. Brantley scores as a result. 4th inning, Lonnie Chisenhall’s throwing error on a routine play leads to an Omar Infante sac fly and a Tigers 3-2 lead. Then it became a contest in stranded runners and failed rallies. McAllister, incredibly, with bases loaded and 1 out, retires Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder easily. Porcello gets Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into a bases-loaded, inning-ending 4-6-3 (very sharp play by Infante). Phil Coke gets Brantley to ground into a 2 men on, inning-ending 4-6-3. But then came the 9th, when “closer” Jose Valverde reminded us how things can go when you’ve got nothing but a fastball and can’t locate it, and Darin Downs reminded us that he’s not a shutdown guy, and meanwhile the bats have nodded off completely. Valverde walking Michael Bourn (same as a double, essentially) to lead off the 9th was where the game went irretrievably south. Yes, make no mistake – this one was on the bullpen. No shortage of clutch failure, though, spotlight on Miggy and Prince. Victor Martinez looked absolutely sickly at the plate. Let it be known that Miggy committed 2 more errorless errors at 3B. Best play of the game was Jhonny Peralta to Brayan Pena to gun down Asdrubal at the plate in the 10th. Two outs, no runs in! That should have turned the tide. The pinch-hitting by Mark Reynolds and Bourn won the game for Terry Francona and Cleveland. Meanwhile, Ryan Raburn was 0 for 2 but made a very nice play in RF and another great effort there, more than can be said for Hunter today.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Mark Reynolds, Michael Brantley, Michael Bourn
HONORABLE MENTION: Rick Porcello, Zach McAllister, Brayan Pena, Yan Gomes, Joe Smith, Phil Coke, Omar Infante
NOT SO GOOD: Jose Valverde, Darin Downs, Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder