Archive for the '2011 Tigers' Category

What is an Ace?

The term “ace” is thrown around way too much these days.  Of course this is my opinion but I don’t think an ace is a team’s number one pitcher.  While guys Luke Hochevar and Wandy Rodriguez are probably their team’s best pitchers and are good in their own right, I don’t consider them aces.  Aces are the best of the best, the guys you want on the mound and they’re the reason your team rarely, if ever, has an extended losing streak because they put a stop to the losing.  Prior to the last few years, the last guy I consider an ace for the Tigers was Jack Morris.  He was a guy you wanted on the mound when you needed that win.

Good news Tiger fans, because while it’s been a while, the Tigers have their ace in Justin Verlander.  Yes, 2008 was rough but since then he’s been one of the most consistent pitchers in the major leagues.  This year he’s been nothing short of awesome.  He leads the league in wins, winning percentage, innings pitched, strikeouts and WHIP.  He’s third in ERA, this overall in WAR and first in WAR for pitchers.  His walk rate is the best it’s ever been and his batting average against is .184.  His OPS against is .536.  That’s a lot of numbers that point to Justin Verlander being one of the best pitchers in the league.

Of course he did it again yesterday.  The Tigers were humiliated by the Mets in the first two games of their series and Justin Verlander pitched seven innings and gave up just one run avoid the sweep.  In June, he gave up five runs in six starts for a 0.92 ERA.  The Tigers were 16-12 in June and six of those were Verlander wins.

Next up for the Tigers are the Giants so it’s first place versus first place.  Tonight it’ll be Brad Penny against Madison Bumgarner.  Don’t let Bumgarner’s 4-9 record fool you, this guy is for real.  It looks like we’re going to miss Lincecum.

Tigers and Strikeouts

Yesterday when I was at the White Sox/Nationals game, Adam Dunn went 0 for 4 with four strikeouts.  When I was looking at the Tigers box score, I noticed that Austin Jackson also had four strikeouts and was 0 for 4 (although he drew one walk).  Four strikeouts in a game isn’t a common occurance, but it’s also not too rare so here’s a little history of Tigers and bad days at the plate.  Here’s the raw data if you want to look at it yourself.

Austin Jackson yesterday was the first Tigers with four strikeouts in a game.  Last year it happened four times by four different players.  Austin Jackson, Miguel Cabrera (a little surprised by this one), Ryan Raburn and Brennan Boesch all struck out four times in one game in 2010.  Boesch’s game was a four plate appearance game but for the other three, they all had five plate appearances (so there was one time at the plate that they didn’t strike out).

The last Tiger to strike out five times in one game is Craig Monroe.  He did it on June 14, 2007.  Prior to that, it hadn’t been done since 1995 when Danny Bautista went one for six with five strikeouts.  The only other five strikeout games I could find on Play Index were Chet Labs in 1938 and Cecil Fielder in 1990 although there are still some holes during those times.

Only four Tigers have struck out at least four times in a game and hit a home run.  Marcus Thames was the last player to do it in 2008 and he’s joined by Curtis Granderson, Jim Northrup and Alan Trammell (somewhat of a surprise).  Thames is the only Tiger to strike out four times and have two hits in a game which he did in 2006.  That was a 13 inning game.

Tony Clark has the most four strikeout games in a single season with four in 1999.  Cecil Fielder (1990) and Rob Deer (1991 and 1993) were the other two to have four strikeouts games three times.  There’s a four way tie atop the list of all time Tigers with four strikeout games.  Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder and Tony Clark have eight each.  Rob Deer has seven.  No active Tiger has more then two.

Tigers Honor Sparky With Win Over Diamondbacks

With former Tigers Alan Trammell and Kirk Gibson on the other side of the field, the Tigers took care of the Diamondbacks this afternoon.  They had one good inning but that was more then enough for the Tigers to walk away with the win.

Brad Penny had one of his better starts of the season but when he left with two outs in the seventh, the Tigers were down 2-1.  They weren’t able to do much against Joe Saunders but once he came out the floodgates opened.  In all, the Tigers scored seven in the eighth.  Jhonny Peralta led the way and he went three for four with a home run, two runs and two RBIs.  Miguel Cabrera was two for four with two RBIs and Brandon Inge drove in two, his first two RBIs since coming off of the disabled list.

Penny gave up two runs in 6 2/3 innings.  That’s two straight solid starts for him and not a win (for him) to show for either one of them.  Al Alburquerque picked up the win and he’s now 5-1.  He struck out two and he now has 46 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings.  People wanted Joel Zumaya back and they pretty much got him in Alburquerque this year.

I went to the White Sox game today.  First time I’ve ever been to U.S. Cellular Field and now I’m going to go to the White Caps game tomorrow assuming the rain holds.  I’m watching the Giants beat the Indians right now if their 3-0 lead holds, it means the Tigers will have sole possession of first place.  It’d be fitting because we knocked off the Diamondbacks for the Giants.

The Tigers make up a game against the Blue Jays tomorrow so they lose their second day off in the month.  Max Scherzer throws for the Tigers and rookie Zach Stewart goes for the Jays.  Game time is 6:05 on this one.  The Indians travel out to Arizona to take on the Diamondbacks and the White Sox have the night off.

First Place and Magglio Ordonez

For the second straight day, the Tigers sit in a tie with the Indians for first place in the American League Central.  On Sunday, they kind of backed right into it because the pen struggled in their finale against the Mariners but fortunately, the Indians continue to sink quickly.  Also of note is the White Sox aren’t too far behind.  They sit 3 1/2 games back now (but five in the loss column to Detroit) and if I had to bet now, it’ll be the Sox and the Tigers duking it out in September.

Today marks the return of Magglio Ordonez.  Enrique Gonzalez was sent down to Toledo and now we’ll see if Ordonez can be an effective player in this tail end of the first half.  He was solid in his rehab stint (11 for 39 with two home runs).  Hopefully the time off did him some good because he’ll face a solid rookie pitcher in Alex Cobb tonight.  It’ll also be interesting to see where he bats in the lineup.

The Tigers had a chance to beat Felix Hernandez yesterday but a bad inning (partially thanks to a misplay by Ramon Santiago on a steal attempt) by Rick Porcello gave the Mariners the lead in the fifth and the Tigers could never recover.  It was also disconcerting seeing Joaquin Benoit give up that two run shot because that put things out of reach and he had been throwing so well lately.  Alex Avila had a nice day at the plate and he drove in runs on two different at bats and he even picked up his third stolen base of the season.

The Tigers take on the Rays tonight in a makeup game then the Indians roll into town.  The Indians aren’t playing so a Tigers win puts them in sole possession of first place for the first time this year.  Phil Coke throws for the Tigers.

Phil Coke Is Shaky In Return

The Indians lost again yesterday and a Tigers win would have put them just a half game back of first place.  It wasn’t to be though because the Rangers bounced back on Phil Coke, who made his return to the rotation last night.  He gave up six runs on ten hits and he didn’t strike out anyone in five innings.  Those kind of numbers make me wonder if he’s over his bone bruise.  I didn’t get to see the game so I don’t know how his mechanics look but it wasn’t pretty.

Adam Wilk gave up a solo home run to Adrian Beltre in his two innings of relief.  Enrique Gonzalez threw a shutout inning to close out the game for the Tigers.

Don Kelly put the Tigers on the board in the first inning with a solo home run in his first at bat but that would be the last time the Tigers would have the lead.  Kelly also drove home the Tigers third and final run on a ground out in the ninth.

Now the Tigers come home to play the Mariners beginning tomorrow.  The Mariners have been a surprise this year and they sit two games over the .500 mark.  Justin Verlander throws against Doug Fister in the opener tomorrow.  The Indians are playing at Yankee Stadium this weekend so I like our chances of making up some more ground heading into the Tigers/Indians series next week.



I must be losing it.  The Tigers don’t have a day off.  They play four against Seattle.

Rick Porcello Leads Tigers In Win Over Rangers

The Tigers got it done again. I don’t know what’s more encouraging, the fact that Rick Porcello had another nice start or that the Tigers’ hitters are taking it to a pretty good Rangers pitching staff.  38 hits in two games is nothing to shake a stick at and I like the fact guys up and down the lineup are getting it done.

Four different players had three hits, two more had two hits and every Tiger in the starting lineup got at least on hit in the 8-1 in yesterday.  Austin Jackson went three for six with three RBIs and Casper Wells went three for six with a pair of doubles.  None of the Tigers 20 hits left the park and they left 12 men on base but fortunately the pitching was good enough to get it done.

Rick Porcello pitched six solid frames and while he struck out just two batters, one of those was pretty timely.  In the bottom of the sixth, he had two runners on with two outs in what was then a 4-1 game and he punched out Nelson Cruz for the final of the inning.   The win pushed his record to 6-3 and he gave up six hits and a walk.  David Purcey pitched two shutout frames and then Dan Schlereth pitched a shutout ninth to close out the game.

The Indians won so the Tigers deficit in the AL Central is still a game and a half.  Phil Coke returns to the lineup tonight and the Rangers throw the undefeated Alexi Ogando.   We saw him way back on April 11 and he shut us out over seven innings.  It’d be nice to hand this guy his first loss of the season.  Then the Tigers get a much needed day off.

Boesch’s Big Night

Prior to last night’s game, Brennan Boesch was 0 for 10 lifetime against Colby Lewis.  He broke that slump with a pair of home runs against the Texas starter and he went on to have a career game.  When the dust settled, Boesch was five for six with a double, two home runs, five RBIs and three runs.  Not too shabby.

Max Scherzer struggled again but we didn’t need much from him because of the early lead.  At this point, you wonder if he’s nursing an injury or something.  With Charles Furbush in the mix, you wonder if it’d make sense to have Scherzer go on the 15 day disabled list (dead arm or something).  That way he can get some rest, get a rehab/fine tuning start down in Toledo, and come back in time to make an impact like he did earlier in the season.

Joaquin Benoit has now had nine scoreless outings.  Looks like he’s back.  And his ERA is down from 7.98 to 5.24.  During those nine outings, he’s struck out nine and walked two.  I think he’s back.

Alex Avila hit his ninth home run and he’s hitting .280.  I’m not sure how much consideration he’s getting, but for a catcher, those are All Star numbers.  He also has more RBIs (32) then he had all of last year (31).  His strikeout rate is up a little though and his walk rate is down but it doesn’t seem like it’s throwing him off much.

Tonight, it’s Rick Porcello going up against Matt Harrison.  The Indians lost again so the Tigers now sit just 1 1/2 games back (two in the loss column) of first place.  They play Cleveland next week so hopefully we’ll have made up that last amount of ground by then and we can take over first place in front of a home crowd.

Tigers Head to Texas With Some Momentum

The Tigers now sit just 2 1/2 games back of the first place Indians after taking two of three in Chicago over the weekend.  The Tigers have won five of six but they’re heading to Texas to take on an equally hot Texas Rangers team that’s won five straight.  Josh Hamilton will also be in the lineup and the last time we saw him, he got hurt on that fluky play coming into home plate.  The bad news is, he’s also been hot.

At some point in time, we’ll go back and revisit some of my predictions (which were pretty poor) but one of them was that Rick Porcello will step it up. Since April 15, he’s had just one rough start and he’s won five of six.  Even in his two no-decisions, he had good starts.  He’s even pitching deeper into games although he’s had two extended breaks during the season.  With Phil Coke on the disabled list and with his recent success, I think those breaks will come to an end.

The good news, and this is where we tie in my prediction, Rick Porcello is striking out more batters.  The bad news is his walk rate is a little higher as well but it’s in line with what he did in his rookie season.  Still, I like that near one strikeout increase per nine innings and once he gets into the six range, we’re going to see the Rick Porcello we were hoping for back when the Tigers drafted him.

Andy Oliver was up and now he’s back down with Toledo with Phil Coke coming back on Wednesday.  He had one decent start and one poor start and hopefully he can keep improving with Toledo because I think we’ll see him at some point in time later in the season.

Brandon Inge hit the DL with mono and Omir Santos is up.  Don Kelly has gotten the past couple of starts but Danny Worth is another option at the hot corner.

The Tigers don’t get a break because they start things off against the Rangers tonight.  Max Scherzer tries to right his ship and the Tiger hitters will go up against Colby Lewis.

Fear Factor

Sometime it’s the moves you don’t make as opposed to the ones you do that come back to haunt you.  Yesterday I wrote about the Tigers troubles at second base.  Scott Sizemore is gone (and I think they gave up on him way too early), Wil Rhymes is at Toledo and now the Tigers have a mish mash of Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Danny Worth playing second base.    Who knows when Carlos Guillen will be back but he’s been somewhat pegged as the savior so until his fate is clear, the Tigers won’t make a move.  What’s probably the most frustrating part of all this is, the Tigers had a good second baseman and they let him go.

After the 2009 season, the Tigers decided not to offer Placido Polanco arbitration.  He had a good but not great year and the Tigers were worried he was going to take it because Scott Sizemore had been pegged the second baseman of the future.  He had his share of injuries in 2010 but still had a nice year but in 2010, he’s hitting .321 with 18 walks and 16 strikeouts.  You put him in the number two spot in the lineup for the Tigers and this is a much different team.  He’s averaging a little over $5 million a year for the Phillies and my guess is, the Tigers could have gotten him a little cheaper then that had they held on to him.

Hopefully Rhymes gets back on track and can help the team.  Or maybe Carlos Guillen has another half season in the tank.  Still, not holding on to Polanco for another year (or two) was still a big mistake.

Tigers Squeak By Twins

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.

Rick Porcello Helps Tigers End Skid

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.

Another Streak

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.

Getting Caught Up

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.

Wrong Direction

The Tigers took their four game winning streak into a three game series at home against the Mariners and simply laid an egg.  Three games, three mediocre outings by the Tigers starters and a grand total of six runs over three games.  The Mariners offense is pretty bad and they managed to rack up 24 runs over the three game set.  That’s not good.

Most disconcerting was Justin Verlander’s start on Wednesday.  His April woes seem to continue and while his ERA is a solid 3.64, he’s given up at least three runs in his last three starts.  I know that’s not bad, but this is our ace and since his complete game on April 11, he’s seen his ERA go up by almost half a point.

Right now, the Tigers offense is middle of the pack.  They have a .250 batting average (probably before today’s game) with 104 runs.  Offense seems to be down across the board though.  The Indians have the best batting average but they sit at just .271.

Speaking of the Indians, they have the best record in the American League right now.  I’ll go out on a limb and say it’s not going to last but the Twins and White Sox are both six back with the Tigers just ahead of them four games behind first place.  In fact the Indians are the lone team with a winning record right now.

In fact things are downright odd.  In a league with 14 teams, only five have winning records.  The Royals are right at .500 and then eight teams have losing records.  The same goes in the National League.  There’s only five teams with winning records, four teams dead even at .500 and then seven teams below the .500 mark. It’s definitely a weird start to the season.

And next up are those Indians with a three game series beginning tomorrow night.  This harkens back to 2007 when these two teams duked it out for the division title most of the year.  The opener will have Max Scherzer going up against Jeanmar Gomez.  Gomez has had a tough time this year so I like our chances.  The Indians are 9-2 at home so they’ve had some success in their own ballpark.

White Sox Sweep

The Tigers took care of business behind some solid pitching this weekend with a three game sweep over the Chicago White Sox.  It’s the Tigers fourth straight win and they now sit at 12-10, tied with the Royals and two losses back of the Indians.  I could have done without the slow start, but if you would have asked if I’d have taken 12-10 after 22, I would have taken it so the end result isn’t all bad.

What I thought was going to be a weakness (the rotation) has turned into the Tigers strength.  The Tigers gave up three runs in the series opener (Verlander gave up three solo home runs) and since then, they held the White Sox scoreless.  They’ll take the shutout inning streak into a three game home stand against the weak hitting Mariners tomorrow.
I like the season Brennan Boesch is having.  His power isn’t quite there yet, but 10 walks versus 12 strikeouts is something I’ll take any day.   And despite not having a starting role, he’s managed to play in 21 games, whether it was because he was hot at the plate or because of injuries.  I don’t expect him to hit even.300 by season’s end but .280 with a .750 OPS out of a guy who started the season as your fourth outfielder isn’t all bad.

And then there’s Miguel.  He does know how to get those personal problems that plagued him this spring out of our minds.  He now has a six game hitting streak and in three of those games he had a pair of hits.  He leads the team in RBIs and in runs (in fact he leads the league in runs) and just wait until things warm up and he starts hitting more out of the park.

Brad Penny’s start on Saturday was encouraging.  Jarrod Washburn was starting to come to mind but he turned things around with some shutout frames in the middle game of the series.

It’s Phil Coke versus Felix Hernandez in the opener tomorrow.  I’m thinking about making my way down to the game although the weather isn’t looking to hot.

Justin Verlander Strikes Out Number 1,000

A little over five years ago, Justin Verlander broke onto the scene and somewhat surprisingly made the 2006 team as the Tigers broke camp after a couple of spot starts the year before in 2005.  Since then he’s established himself as a bona fide ace and he hit a major milestone yesterday with his 1,000 strikeout.  He needed only 1,100 1/3 innings to do it and while Verlander is still only 28, he’s getting into some select company.

You wouldn’t think 1,000 strikeouts for the same team would be a lot but 1,000 on the nose puts him tied for 14th with Joe Coleman.  With 100 more strikeouts, he’ll be in the top ten.  Mickey Lolich is the lone Tiger with more then 2,000 strikeouts with 2,679 and Jack Morris just missed the mark with 1,980.  In contrast, his 85 wins puts him at 24th all time on the Tiger list.

The Tigers once again evened their record to 10-10.  It’s bizarro world this year because if you had put a gun to my head and asked me what order the teams in AL Central would finish, I would have probably chosen the exact opposite of how it is right now.  Fortunately there’s 142 games still for the team to get back on track.

The Tigers will see a familiar face this afternoon when the take on the White Sox.  Brad Penny tries to right the ship and the Tigers will face Edwin Jackson.

There and Back Again

On Friday, things were looking up.  The team won their fourth straight game and pushed their record to an even 7-7 on the season.  Two games (and only three runs) later, and the Tigers are back to two games below .500 where they sit in fourth place in the AL Central.  Probably the only good news is, misery loves company because the fifth place team is the Minnesota Twins at 5-10.

At least lately, offense has been the problem.  The Tigers sit near the middle of the American League with a .240 batting average and while that’s something they can recover from, the fact that they’re second to last in ERA doesn’t make for a great combination.  It seems like every game brings a different challenge and so far, they haven’t quite been able to put it all together.

Yesterday’s game was the perfect example.  Brad Penny was solid through four innings then he got knocked around in the fifth and probably pitched an inning too long and gave up another in the sixth.  The pen (Brad Thomas in this case) gave up an inherited run but for the most part, held on.  Then of course the offense laid an egg with just a single run off of a Casper Wells homer and five total hits.  And this isn’t the Yankees, because the A’s sit at 8-8.

Even the Tiger hitters that were getting it done early are now struggling.  After starting out 11 for 29 in his first eight games, Jhonny Peralta has gone one for eighteen in his last seven.  The only guy hitting above .300 is Miguel Cabrera at (.304) and since April 9, Magglio Ordonez has played in just two games.

Some good news, and that’s the fact that the Tigers now head to Seattle for three games before coming home.  The only team in the American League with a worse record then the Mariners is the Boston Red Sox.  They have a MLB worst .214 batting average so if the Tiger hurlers can’t get back on track against these guys, you wonder who they can get back on track with.  Max Scherzer gets the nod in the series opener tonight and Jason Vargas goes for the Mariners.  Game time is 10:05.

Three Series Down, Three Series Lost

The Tigers wrapped up their third series of the season yesterday and for the third straight time, they lost the series.  And it’s just in time for the Texas Rangers to come into town and they’re only 8-1 and the defending AL champs.  Unfortunately, there’s not just one thing we can look at and say “that’s been the problem.”  On Saturday they got a really nice start from Phil Coke and the Tigers only put one run on the board.  Then on Sunday they get five runs and Rick Porcello got knocked around.  Justin Verlander has, as expected, been the most consistent starter with Max Scherzer right behind although even though Scherzer is 2-0, his numbers aren’t all that great because of the rough start against the Yankees.

The pen has also had their rough outings.  Throw in an injured Ryan Perry and Joel Zumaya and it makes for a much shorter pen then the Tigers were looking at coming into spring training.  Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde have done their job, but you’re only going to see them if the rotation and the back end of the pen does what they’re supposed to do.

On the hitting side, Miguel Cabrera has done his job and Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch have been nice surprises but Magglio Ordonez and Victor Martinez have yet to heat up.  As expected, Austin Jackson has also come down to earth and he’s tied with Josh Willingham for the AL lead with 14 strikeouts.

Just looking ahead, this Rangers series is just what the Tigers don’t need.  Fortunately they’ll have Verlander and Scherzer both throwing.  Then they head out west to play the 4-5 Athletics and the 2-7  Mariners.  Those west coast series can be tough but they’re also teams the Tigers should be able to hang with.

Joel Zumaya once again ran into a wall and his throwing program has been halted.  Once again he felt some discomfort in his throwing elbow so he’ll sit for another couple of days.  Also at the bottom of the Zumaya story is some talk about Benoit and whether he’ll see more then one inning of work.  Yes, he’s had some injury concerns in the past but I also hate how bullpens are used these days.  Let’s hope that if the Tigers need that big out in the seventh, we’ll see the best pitcher in there.  It also looks like Ryan Perry will be back April 22.  Gametime is 1:05 and I wish this game were next week because I would have gone down to the ballpark.

Bullpen Falters, Tigers Fall to 2-4

Ryan Perry was the latest casualty.  He wears contacts and he has an eye abrasion so he can’t put his contacts in for about a week.  That put him on the 15 day disabled list and in his place, Robbie Weinhardt got the call up.  And the bullpen needs all the help they need right now because they once again cost the Tigers in a game where they should have picked up the win.

Brad Penny got off to a nice start (two runs through five) but then ran into a walk in the sixth when he gave up a two run home run to Andruw Jones.  Brayan Villereal got the Tigers out of the sixth but then the bottom of the seventh (the Tigers had taken a 5-4 lead) was a disaster.  Brad Thomas and Enrique Gonzalez were tagged for five runs in the frame and even Dan Schlereth gave up an inherited run.  I know it’s early, but this is a bad trend because especially the Tigers back three in the rotation don’t give me a lot of confidence (right now). Knowing the pen isn’t going to be there to pick up the slack could lead to a rough April.

Brennan Boesch had another nice game with a a double, a single a run and an RBI.  Austin Jackson went two for five in his first multi-hit game of the season.  And it also looks like, at least early, his spring strikeout to walk ratio was an anomaly because he’s already struck out ten times with just three walks so far.  In fact he’s struck out at least once in all six games.  Alex Avila belted a solo shot and he walked and scored a run as well.

Today is opening day.  It’ll be the Tigers and the 4-2 Royals at 3 pm.  Max Scherzer will go up against Kyle Davies.

Slow Starts Abound With 1-3 Tigers

First off, the 1-2 start by the Tigers didn’t worry me too much.  The Yankees are still an elite team and that lineup is just brutal.  I knew we were in trouble when the pen didn’t get the job done after Justin Verlander’s solid start.  Throw in one game against a better then usual Orioles team and a lineup full of sick players and I’m not too concerned that the Tigers are 1-3.  If they start 10-20 I’ll be worried but with the Royals coming up, the Tigers can turn things around in a hurry.

A lot has been made of Alex Avila’s slow start and that continued today.  He did draw a walk, but he’s now 1 for 10 in three games.  Probably more worrisome is Magglio Ordonez, who’s one for eleven (he got his first hit today).  The slow start is one thing but the fact that his ankle is giving him some troubles are another.  This is our number three hitter and we can have him struggling for long.

Also of some concern was Brad Penny’s start on Saturday.  Yes, the Yankees are good but he had a tough time getting anyone out.  Phil Coke struggling out of the pen is also a tough sign.  He’s given up runs in each of his two appearances so it’ll be interesting to see what he can do when he pitches a little deeper into the game.

Still, a two game winning streak puts the Tigers back at .500.  And the Royals aren’t going to stick as the first place team and the Tigers are right there with the 1-3 Twins.  If this stuff continues through the end of this week though, then that will be a different story.

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