Bullpen Falters Again As Tigers Cough One Up In Arizona

This one certainly won’t go down well with the viewing public, and it’ll probably give Dave Dombrowski a headache. With Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan unavailable, Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque, and Ian Krol combined to cough up an 8th inning lead as the Diamondbacks won 5-4 to even up the series.

Everything looked okay in the top of the 8th, as the Tigers rallied from 3-2 down against rumored trade target Brad Ziegler to take a 4-3 lead on Torii Hunter’s two-run double. Things were set up for Hunter by singles from Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera, and Kinsler got into a rundown on a Victor Martinez grounder to prevent a double play. J.D. Martinez singled off Ziegler (literally – a line drive up the middle that hit the pitcher) to load the bases, setting things up for Hunter to give his team the lead. Arizona turned to lefty Eury De La Rosa, and he got a huge strikeout of Alex Avila with one out to keep runners at second and third. Kirk Gibson decided to force the Tigers into a decision: he intentionally walked Eugenio Suarez to load the bases, with the pitcher’s spot due up. To this point, Rick Porcello had thrown 77 pitches, striking out five in seven innings and allowing just five hits, largely cruising. Either the Tigers would have to let him hit with two out and the bases loaded in a 4-3 game, or they’d have to turn to a depleted bullpen that, minus Joba Chamberlain, doesn’t really have any reliable arms in it.

With three lefties due up and Porcello set to see some of them for the fourth time, Ausmus decided to go for the runs and send Rajai Davis to pinch-hit against the lefty reliever. Davis got ahead 3-0 but ended up striking out looking. Thus, Ausmus had to turn to his bullpen with a one run lead, and they weren’t up to the challenge – particularly his lefties. Phil Coke got Didi Gregorious, but he issued consecutive walks to Ender Inciarte and David Peralta, putting two on with one out. Ausmus then turned to Al Alburquerque, who induced an Aaron Hill flyout before walking Paul Goldschmidt – it appeared as if he had no interest in pitching to the latter. With another lefty coming up – Miguel Montero, whose OPS against lefties is under .500 – Ausmus called on Ian Krol, who got ahead of Montero 0-2 before throwing one right in his happy zone. Montero grounded one up the middle to give Arizona a 5-4 lead.

The Tigers got a two out walk against Addison Reed in the ninth, but curiously, Don Kelly was allowed to hit with Nick Castellanos still on the bench. Kelly was robbed of a hit by Hill, ending the game.

A game such as this will only put more pressure on Dave Dombrowski to get the Tigers some relief help before the trade deadline, which is a week from Thursday. Agree or disagree with the decision to pinch-hit for Porcello, there is no disputing that the 8th inning walks – particularly the pair Coke issued to lefties – cost the Tigers the game.

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