The Tigers salvaged a split of their four game series with the Athletics yesterday and they need a nice start by Justin Verlander and an Inge-less Athletics lineup to do it. He threw seven solid frames and came out after that because a callous on his throwing hand broke. Still, he needed just 104 pitches to get through seven innings to pick up win number four. From there, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde pitched a solid inning each to close out the game. Benoit gave up a walk but that’s now two straight for Valverde where he hasn’t allowed a baserunner.
Of course it’s the offense that’s still been frustrating. I talked about this in the preseason but the guys I were most worried about were Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta and how it’d be unrealistic for them to repeat their 2011 seasons. I didn’t think they’d struggle this much though and once you get past Prince Fielder in the lineup, it thins out considerably. Fortunately Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks have picked up some of the slack but at some point you’d expect them to come back down to earth as well.
On Austin Jackson, his splits are just bizarre. He’s hitting .382 against right handed pitching but only .179 against left handed pitching. As a right hander, you’d think this trend would eventually end. Then again, six of his eight home runs have come against lefties and that’s in only 86 plate appearances versus two against right handers in 180 plate appearances. He’s also getting a lot of production in that first at bat of the game where he’s hitting .423/.483/.769 and four of his eight home runs have come in that leadoff at bat. Two more of his home runs have come when he’s led off in the inning other then the first.
It’s Drew Smyly against John Danks tonight. The Tigers are now within breathing distance of slipping back into first place and these division games are pretty important considering the team’s slow start.