The nuts and bolts of an eventful Saturday in Detroit.
Game One: Scoring
- Top of the First: Rick Porcello started the game with two strikes on leadoff batter, Ian Kinsler, and that’s the most dominant he was in the shortest outing of his career. Kinsler singled on the third pitch, and then it was over. Elvis Andrus walked on a 3-2 slider, Josh Hamilton then homered on an 0-1 count and it was 3-0 Texas before an out was recorded. Porcello got in front of Beltre, 0-2 before the third baseman singled up the middle. Michael Young grounded to Brandon Inge at second, Beltre held up to avoid running into a tag, and Inge threw wildly to first for an error. After a visit from everyone’s favorite person to see in the first inning of a game, Cruz immediately singled home Beltre to make it 4-0 and there were still no outs. After David Murphy singled to right to load the bases, Mike Napoli strolled to the plate, the owner of a six home runs in 62 career at bats at Comerica Park. Somehow he struck out looking for the first out of the game. Mitch Moreland came up and took a 2-2 fastball to the right and through the infield for a two run single. 6-0 Texas. Ian Kinsler came up for the second time and sent an 83 MPH breaking ball over Austin Jackson’s head in center field for a bases clearing triple and an 8-0 lead. Andrus then lined out to second and Josh Hamilton grounded out to second, both on fastballs. The inning, was finally over.
Quick thoughts: Porcello got his ground balls. The defense failed him early and he couldn’t recover. I watched the first inning twice, and I think a lethal combination of an extremely hot Ranger offense met with an uncommonly flat Porcello fastball. PitchFX didn’t even pick up his sinker as a “sinker”. They picked up a flat two-seam fastball. It was roughly 40 degrees out and bitterly cold. That might have had been a factor, that might not have had anything to do with it. And frankly, there’s really no point in breaking down an aberration.
- Top of the Second: If you thought there was a snowballs chance in hell that Porcello could somehow muster a couple innings out of his arm, you were sorely mistaken. Adrian Beltre took an 82 MPH breaking ball into left field for a leadoff double. Beltre pulled up lame and had to be taken out for a pinch runner but that didn’t change a thing. Three fastballs later, Porcello had given up two more singles up the middle to Young and Cruz and the Rangers led 9-0.
Quick thoughts: Duane Below entered the game at that point, and promptly shut down the Ranger offense for six full innings. They only managed four hits off of him the entire time and he didn’t walk a batter. It was incredibly impressive, considering how they were teeing off Porcello. Obviously it’s early, but Below looks like he could be a very valuable member of this 2012 team. I just wonder if they should be saving him for blowouts and insignificant outings such as these.
- Bottom of the Fourth: The Tigers offense has been rather dormant of late. It seems there are too many hitters mired in slumps and they can’t string anything together. Not that it mattered in this game, as a 9-0 deficit is normally a steep hill to climb for an offense that’s on its game. Austin Jackson led off the inning with a solo home run, his third of the year. After Brennan Boesch struck out looking, Miguel Cabrera singled, Prince Fielder struck out swinging, and then Delmon Young doubled to straight center field. Ryan Raburn struck out swinging to end that threat, but the Tiger made it 9-2, which, I suppose, is something.
- Bottom of the Eighth: Gerald Laird grounded out and Jackson flied out to start the eighth. Brennan Boesch then singled and Rom Washington felt like Matt Harrison was done, especially as a lefty facing Cabrera. He brought in the righty Koji Uehara, and it did nothing to change the outcome. Cabrera homered to make it 9-4. At least the Tigers weren’t getting shut out.
- Top of the ninth: Mike Napoli hit another bomb. His seventh home run in 65 at bats in Comerica Park. This came of Daniel Schlereth who was demoted to Triple-A after the game in what was probably the most deserved demotion in the history of all demotions.
Quick thoughts: That was it for the first game. It was forgettable and irritating, but Below looked awesome and Cabrera and Jackson both hit bombs. I don’t know about you but I like to track my tater trots.
Game Two: Scoring
In the nightcap, Justin Verlander threw 115 pitches in six innings became the first starter to beat the Rangers this season. Neftali Feliz tossed a 119 pitch complete game in the loss. That’s baseball, the team that deserves to win, doesn’t always win. See: Texas game six and seven of the World Series last year.
- Top of the fourth: Nothing happened through the first three innings, in fact, Feliz had retired all nine men he had faced. Verlander had struck out X and while he was seemingly inefficient, he wasn’t exactly all that hittable either. Yet, to lead off the fourth he walked Michael Young on four straight pitches. And you know how that would end. Alex Avila somehow allowed a passed ball. The guy trains with hockey goalies, at least it seems like it. Regardless, Young stood on second with no one out. Cruz flied to deep left field and Young took third on the tag. The Daniel Murphy hit a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0. In 30 innings that are not the 9th frame, Justin Verlander has allowed 1 earned run. That Murphy sac fly was an unearned run as he most likely wouldn’t have scored if not for the passed ball.
- Bottom of the fourth: Austin Jackson was the 10th straight batter Feliz retired. Things were looking excellent for him. Then he hit Brennan Boesch. Miguel Cabrera struck out on a foul tip, and there were suddenly two outs and a flat-footed Boesch on first base. Then Fielder walked and there were runners on 1st and 2nd. Delmon Young singled through third and short to tie the game up. Alex Avila walked to load the bases and then Ramon Santiago singled right up the middle and two runs came home. 3-1 Detroit.
- Top of the eighth: It was not an easy night to be a Tigers reliever. Benoit got Andrus to line out on seven pitches and then struck Josh Hamilton out after another seven pitches. He then allowed a single to Michael Young and promptly walked Nelson Cruz. David Murphy singled Young home to make it 3-2. Benoit got Yorvit Torrealba to ground out to end the inning, and preserve the lead for the Tigers in a game that, while they didn’t ‘need’ it, they certainly wanted it more than most. This was a team that had ended their season last year and had scored 20 runs off them in the first two games this year.
- Top of the ninth: Not sure why I’m doing this other than the fact that I’m fascinated with the fact that Jose Valverde walked the leadoff man, Mitch Moorland, struck Mike Napoli out, walked Ian Kinsler, and got Elvis Andrus to line out before he threw a first pitch splitter to Josh Hamilton. Before that, every single one of the 24 pitches before that, he had thrown his four seam fastball. In the end he threw three splitters to Hamilton, the last one getting him to swing and miss for the third strike and the final out of a tight and intense ball game.
Final thoughts: I posted a quick reaction piece before this one, and the commentors basically agreed: Texas is good.
Verlander in his post game interview agreed with them. In fact he called them the most difficult lineup in baseball right now. There are many people who agree with him.
Walkoff Box Score Bullets
- Austin Jackson has seen his average drop to .281 as the season has gone on. He’s scored 12 runs which puts him in the top 15, and he has a nice OPS of .905. Still striking out, but his hits continue to fall and he has 9 walks, which has kept his OBP at .379.
- Brennan Boesch is struggling. Leyland said in between games that Boesch just needs to get his at bats and relax. Sure, that’s easy enough, but I think I remember him saying the same thing last year around this time as well. Boesch is hitting .213 with one homer, one walk, and 10 strikeouts in 61 at bats.
- Miguel Cabrera has simply responded to his 0-for-22 slump with a 8-for-21 spurt and his first homer since April 8th came today. Best pure hitter in baseball.
- Prince Fielder isn’t struggling, but his power isn’t there yet. He hit those two home runs against Boston on April 7th and since then, has two extra base hits. But he’s hitting .327 with a .397 OPB. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard from a few Brewers bloggers that Fielder’s home runs come in bursts. Like bursts from a Tommy Gun.
- Delmon Young is getting hits when he needs to get hits, and that’s what you want from your fifth hole hitter. He’s hitting .288 with a .345 OBP. Against Texas he has four hits and two doubles. Sure, he’s walked only twice and I highly doubt he has any plan of attack other than…swing if it looks good, but it’s working so far and that’s exactly what everyone expected.
- Jhonny Peralta, the bateador professional. Seven doubles on the year. Personally, I’d like to see him hit in front of Young as he is a poor man’s Victor Martinez with RISP, but I doubt that’s ever going to happen.
- Alex Avila has gotten a few days off recently and only has 4 at bats (three walks) since Tuesday. And an OBP of .349 out of your seventh hitter isn’t anything to complain about.
Now, our two favorite topics.
- Ryan Raburn is running out of time before he looses his starting job, and that’s going to be an even bigger disaster if it’s the next guy we’re going to bring up. Raburn is hitting 3-for-41. That’s .073. There’s no excuse, no explanation. He simply needs to hit, because if not…
- Brandon Inge could start seeing time against right handers, like he did against Feliz. That’s probably the worst decision anyone could make. Inge is not only hitting .059 (1-for-17) on the year, he’s making bonehead plays at second base, the only reason he was supposed to be in the lineup. His error in the first inning of Saturday’s twin bill probably kept Porcello on the field instead of nursing a bad inning in the dugout, with the score decidedly less lopsided. I posted an explanation before his promotion of why it was okay for him to be on the team, but when he’s batting against right handed pitching, the purpose doesn’t exist, and if he’s making errors at second, well there are plenty of other names capable of doing that.
Andy Dirks is a few days away from being cleared to play…Ramon Santiago is simply awesome, won the game for Verlander…Gerald Laird continues to rake at the plate which is an incredibly disturbing thing to actually say…Don Kelly is contributing at every level and usual…and Danny Worth is rotting in Triple-A.
Tomorrow’s game pits Drew Smyly up against the underrated Colby Lewis. If the Tigers can get a win, they split the series, which will be a huge accomplishment considering what happened the first two games.