For some reason, the Tigers have had trouble winning in Pittsburgh for the last few years. They lost 2 of 3 in 2009, and they also lost 2 of 3 last year, so maybe losing 2 of 3 isn’t all that unexpected. And in those past series, the lone win was a low-scoring affair. That is what we had today. It didn’t look like it would be that way at first, since the Tigers put two runs on the board before the first out was recorded. I don’t intend on weighing in too much on the whole Quintin Berry issue, but while I think odds are that he’s on an unsustainable pace, I don’t have a problem with playing him until/unless he regresses. It certainly paid dividends today, although perhaps not in the way you might expect initially. Berry picked a good time to launch his first big league home run, a shot to right that gave the Tigers a quick 2-0 lead.
Miguel Cabrera followed with a hard-hit lineout to right field, but after that, Kevin Correia became just as tough as the rest of the Pittsburgh staff. I had noticed yesterday that Brad Lincoln was pretty much hitting his spots with every single pitch. I didn’t see that as much with Correia, but he had a lot of the Tigers hitters flummoxed.
Meanwhile, any suspense about whether Justin Verlander could get his no-hitter this time went out the window right away when Alex Presley bunted for a base hit to lead off the game. Stuff like that tends to make Justin Verlander mad, and for six innings, he got straight busy. The strikeouts have been down recently, although apparently that’s by design, according to Jeff Jones on the pregame show. They want Verlander to get quicker outs because teams have started to foul off a lot of his pitches and extending their at-bats. It seems to be working, and he’s still leading the American League in strikeouts. However, things took an abrupt turn in the seventh inning. Maybe Verlander was preoccupied with think about his previous at-bat, where he sent a ball fairly deep into the outfield, but for some reason, he got off his rhythm for only a four-batter span, but it was enough for damage to get done. All four hit the ball extremely hard (for an out, a single, a home run, and then another single). I’ve spent this entire series worrying about Pedro Alvarez (who I know from the time he hit a grand slam against the Mud Hens late last year, and those of you who know me can guess the rest of the story), and he did hit that first single, but it was Garrett Jones who got ahold of a hanging changeup and sent it over the fence.
I could sense the collective feeling of dread from all of Tiger fandom, especially after Quintin Berry stole second on a Miguel Cabrera strikeout, which allowed the Pirates to walk Prince Fielder intentionally to get to everyone’s favorite whipping boy, Delmon Young. But give credit where credit is due: He got the job done with an RBI single. And that gave him a two-hit game. Credit also goes to Quintin Berry, who had two walks to go with his home run. Justin Verlander took over after that and it was smooth sailing to victory (well, with a little help from Ryan Raburn, robbing Josh Harrison of a home run after Verlander had thrown him a hanging breaking ball).
I have a couple observations about two hitters in particular. One is Alex Avila. I’m going to have to pay attention to his at-bats over the next week, but since his return from the disabled list, he has been getting offspeed pitches (mostly sliders or changeups) about half the time during his at-bats, and he’s not doing much with them. He struck out last night by swinging at three straight sliders, and he was thrown a lot of offspeed pitches again today. According to Texas Leaguers Pitch f/x (which won’t have data from this game until tomorrow), he is being thrown these pitches for strikes more often that not (whether they are called strikes or swinging strikes). He’s either going to have to make an adjustment or he’s not going to be able to miss fastballs when he does get them (and he did swing through at least one 94 MPH fastball today).
The other player I’ll discuss is Jhonny Peralta. It seems like he’s been the model of warning track power for about a week now. He’s sent Andrew McCutchen to the wall numerous times in this series, and he was doing the same on the homestand. Rod Allen might say he needs to get back in the weight room. However, the Tigers are now headed to Texas, which is much more home run-friendly than Comerica or PNC Park. If he keeps that same approach, some of those drives will make it into the seats. Stay tuned.