Memorial Day was a good one for Tigers fans at they took on their not quite so arch-nemisis, the Minnesota Twins, in some afternoon action. This was definitely a back and forth game. The Tigers jumped to an early 3-0 lead, went down 5-3, then came back and won it. Brad Penny got off to a nice start with three shutout innings but then he gave up a run in the fourth and four in the fifth for another rough outing. To his credit, he’s been good for most of May and he almost got his ERA down below 4.00 but his last two starts have pushed him back closer to five.
Dave Purcey pitched a shutout inning in his second game as a Tiger. I was out of town when most of this droppped but the Tigers traded Scott Sizemore to the Athletics for left handed reliever Dave Purcey. This guy was off to a nice start with Oakland although he’s never thrown more then 50 innings in a season in the majors (mostly with the Blue Jays). Purcey has already been traded twice this year because earlier in the season, the Blue Jays designated him for assignment and he the A’s scooped him up. So far, so good because he’s throw two shutout innings for us.
Alberto Alburquerque pitched a shutout eighth and he was in the right place at the right time to pick up the win. Jose Valderde pitched a shutout ninth to pick up his 13th save of the season.
Miguel Cabrera hit his tenth home run of the season and Victor Martinez joined him with a two run shot in the sixth to tie the game up. For Victor it was his fifth of the season. Ryan Raburn got another start at second base and it looks like they’re going to try to force him to play there. You wonder how long that’ll last because he’s not even hitting .200 either. As a team, Tiger’s second basemen have just a .615 OPS. The sad thing is, that’s the bottom end of the middle of the pack because third base has been the least productive (.538) and centerfield (.610) are worse and right there with them is left field (.616). So much for my prediction of Brandon Inge having a break out season this year.
The win puts the Tigers record on the winning side at 27-26. The Indians have lost two in a row so the Tigers now sit five games back. Just as important, they have a four game cushion between themselves and the third base White Sox. Tomorrow it’s Max Scherzer against Brian Duensing. I’ll be at the game whether it’s hot or not. Duensing has lost five straight after a pretty good start to the season. This isn’t your typical Twins team though.
The Tigers ended their five game skid this afternoon behind a stellar outing by Rick Porcello. He needed just 84 pitches to get through eight shutout innings and he gave up just a hit and two walks. Oddly, Porcello gave up nine fly balls to nine ground balls so he wasn’t his typical self but everything stayed out on the field. That matches Porcello’s longest outing. He’s pitched eight innings four times (once in 2009 and three times last year) but he’s never gone the distance yet. Jose Valverde threw a shutout eighth to preserve the shutout.
The Tigers only got seven hits but they pieced together a couple of runs. Casper Wells singled home Victor Martinez in the second inning and then Jhonny Peralta belted a solo home run in the fourth. For Peralta it was his seventh home run of the season.
The Tigers are once again .500 as they come home to take on a tough Rays team. Phil Coke gets the nod for Detroit and Jeremy Hellickson throws for the Rays. Hellickson is off to a nice start in his first full season so it’ll be interesting to see what we do against him.
The Tigers are in the midst of yet another streak, unfortunately this time it’s of the losing variety. They’ve dropped four in a row to once again fall to .500 and they sit at an even 22-22, tied with the Royals and six games back of the Indians in the American League Central. On Monday, I was listening to the ESPN Baseball Today podcast and both Keith Law and Eric Karabell said they thought the Tigers were the best team in the division at that point. I wonder if they still think that after the beat down at the hand of the Pirates last year.
The Indians still have the best record. I’m still not convinced they’re the best team in a weak division but you can’t argue with the results so far. At this point, even if they play .500 ball the rest of the season, they’ll finish with 87 wins which means they’re a contender. Of course the they have a tough weekend series against their intra-state rivals, the Reds.
Last nights loss was a tough one. Ramon Santiago belted a solo home run in the top of the sixth inning to tie the game at 1-1 but then in the bottom of the sixth, Brad Penny was pummelled. Brayan Villereal couldn’t stop the damage and by the end of the frame, it was 7-1. Joaquin Benoit actually pitched a shutout inning and hopefully that gets him on track but then Jose Valverde was touched up for three runs in the ninth in his tune up appearance. Final score was 10-1.
Max Scherzer gets the start today and he looks to improve on his perfect 6-0 record. You can’t argue with the results but some of Scherzer’s underlying numbers are troubling. For a guy with a 2.81 ERA, he sports a 1.39 WHIP. His walk rate is high and his home run rate is very high. He either needs to improve on this or eventually things will come back to haunt him. Still, when you’re striking out almost a batter an inning, you can make some mistakes. Anyway, we’ll see how he does this afternoon. Game time is 1:35.
It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. When I left, the Tigers were on a winning streak. Then they went on a losing streak. Now they’re winning again and they’ve pushed their record to a game above .500. Throw in a no-hitter for some excitement and it’s been all good.
The big question is, are the Indians going away. Sparky always said to wait for the 40 game mark as an indication of whether a team is “for real” or not and we’re getting awfully close to that. As it stands, the Indians are 23-11 and that’s good for the best record in baseball. They’re also out to an impressive 5 1/2 game lead in the division and that’s easily the best right now. If you’re looking for some good news for the Tigers, they’re close to passing the Royals (I know, it’s still bizarro world) and it just seems like it’s a lot easier to make up ground when you’re chasing one team as opposed to multiple teams.
Matt Joyce of all people leads the American League for the batting title. Of course last year we had the Omar Infante controversy but Joyce looks like he’s finally established himself as a bona fide starter. Curtis Granderson, another former Tiger, leads the American League in home runs. Still, Miguel Cabrera is second in OPS, although he’s pretty far behind the one year wonder, Jose Bautisa. Bautista and Carbera are also 1/2 in walks as well.
On the pitching side, it’s nice seeing the Verlander/Scherzer combo clicking. Oddly, the Tigers are 3-5 when Verlander is the starter and one of those was the no-hitter. Up until then, Verlander was good but not great but in all five losses, the Tigers put up three or fewer runs on the board. The Tigers are 7-1 when Scherzer is on the mound although his 1.40 WHIP worries me. He’s also let eight home runs leave the park already. When anyone else is on the mound, the Tigers are 9-12. That’s not horrible but with the way our pen is struggling, it’s still a hole. Phil Coke is the worst offender and the Tigers are 1-5 in his starts.
The Tigers are getting little productivity from their number one hitter. Between Austin Jackson’s 32 games and Will Rhymes 4 batting leadoff, they have a combined .275 OBP. That’s the worst out of any other spot. Number three hitters (23 games by Ordonez and 9 by Rhymes) are a combined .277 OBP. It doesn’t matter how well Cabrera is hitting if he doesn’t have guys to drive in. Numbers are courtesy of Bill James Online.
Game two against the Twins is tonight. There’s no competition from the Wings (where I was at, both games were on right televisions right next to each other so I was able to watch both) so that’s good. Game time is 1:10 and it’ll be Phil Coke against Scott Baker. I’ll be listening to some of this in the car.