Friday, April 8, 2011

Bullpen problems surface as Tigers lose lead and game to O’s 9-5

It wasn’t exactly an implosion, but the bullpen definitely faltered Thursday night in Baltimore. Brad Thomas, took the loss without recording an out, as the Orioles broke a tie game open in a 5-run 7th inning, in which the Orioles sent 10 batters to the plate.

Brad Penny started for Detroit, and pitched better than in his first start against the Yankees in New York. Of course, better is a relative term, as he lowered his ERA on the season from 16.62 to 11.17 as he pitched 5.1 innings allowing just 4 earned runs.

Alex Avila continued his torrid streak as he homered for the 2nd consecutive game, and is now hitting .294 on the season, after a 1-10 start to the season. Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch both had 2 hits to contribute to the Tigers offense, that scored 5 runs and should have been enough for the win.

In Buster Olney’s blog today he notes that late in Spring Training, Manager Jim Leyland talked about his concerns with the middle of the Tigers ‘pen, and they sure came to the fore-front in last night’s loss. Detroit lost the lead on three separate occasions in last night’s game.

The good news for the Tigers, who stand at 2-4 on the season, is that they return to Comerica Park for the home opener this afternoon with a 3:05pm first-pitch, weather permitting, as rain is in the forecast for Comerica Park this afternoon.

More good news came about last night, and it will hopefully have a positive effect on the Tigers bullpen, as Joel Zumaya, who remains in Lakeland Florida as he rehabs his injured arm, has been given clearance to begin throwing again. It’s not known when Zumaya will return to Detroit and rejoin his teammates.

An interesting theory was bandied about on the internet this morning, as the is reporting that Russell Branyan who signed a minor-league deal with Arizona might be cut loose at some point, and one of the landing spots “could be” Detroit. You can read the story here.

I hope that the Tigers aren’t tempted to tinker with the lineup just because they are under .500 this early in the season. I think that the Tigers bats will be fine, and once the bullpen situation comes around, the Tigers will play the kind of ball we all expect.

In case you missed it, in the recap of Wednesday night’s game Tiger Tizzy pointed out that Alex Avila became the first Tiger catcher to drive in 5 runs in a single game, since Pudge Rodriguez accomplished the feat against the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2007.

I’m not saying Mario Impemba, the Tigers broadcaster reads Tiger Tizzy, but he mentioned that very fact during last nights Tigers broadcast.

As the Tigers host the Kansas City Royals for the opening series of the season at Comerica Park, Max Scherzer get the start, becoming the 5th different pitcher to start a home opener in Jim Leyland’s 6 years as Manager of the Tigers. Scherzer will be opposed today by the Royals Kyle Davies. In Game 2 of the series, a pair of lefties square off as Phil Coke goes against Bruce Chen, and in the 3rd and final game of the Royals series, Rick Porcello take to the mound against the Royals Luke Hochevar.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Verlander, Avila impressive, as Tigers trounce O’s 7-3

Justin Verlander had never lost to the Baltimore Orioles in his career, and the Orioles were undefeated heading into Wednesday night’s game. Somebody’s streak was going to end. Especially with the O’s off to an impressive 4-0 start, and according to Elias Sports Bureau, they tied a MLB record with 4 consecutive wins to start a season, while not allowing more than 1 run in each game.

With the Tigers ace coming off a season debut in New York where he threw 114 pitches in just six innings of work, Verlander knew he had be more efficient with his pitches.

Mission accomplished. Verlander allowed just 4 hits in 8 IP, in the game where he threw 108 pitches and struck out 9 Orioles, to improve his career record against Baltimore to 6-0. Said Verlander after the game, "Definitely feel like I am throwing the ball better than I did at this point the last couple years."

Offensively for the Tigers Miguel Cabrera (3), Victor Martinez (2) and Alex Avila (1) all homered for Detroit, with, Avila and Martinez adding in a 2-base hit each, to pace the Tigers. Avila set a career high in the game as he drove in 5 runs, becoming the first Tiger catcher to drive in 5 runs in a game since Ivan Rodriguez did so against the Philadelphia Phillies back in 2007. Avila also came a triple shy of hitting for the cycle, for the first time in his career, as he added a single to go along with his double and home run in the game.

Manager Jim Leyland told Avila to “loosen up” prior to the game. Avila and Victor Martinez had been criticized for allowing an AL leading six Wild pitches behind the plate in the Tigers first 4 games. Leyland said after the game that he saw “tension” in his 24-year old catcher as he was working behind the plate in the teams first few games. Obviously Avila took the comment to heart and relaxed.

So, as some in the media are pressing the panic button on the Tigers 2011 season, (see here, here, and here), with Wednesday night’s victory the Tigers improve their record to 2-3 as they finish up their series at Camden Yards, on Thursday night, with Brad Penny, facing Chris Tillman, for the Orioles.

Brad Bergeson started Wednesday night’s game against the Tigers, in place of the scheduled starter, Jeremy Guthrie, who spend Monday and Tuesday in the hospital with a case of pneumonia. The Tigers win on Wednesday, prevented the 2011 Orioles from tying the team record 5-0 start to the season that was set by the 1970 Orioles ball club. The 1970 team won the World Series.

RHP Ryan Perry was placed on the 15-Day DL, and the Tigers recalled RHP Robbie Weinhardt from Toledo to take Perry’s place. Weinhardt saw action in 28 games with Detroit during the 2010 season.

Tigers start the season 1-3, is it really time to panic?

Every morning when I wake up, I drink my morning coffee and hop in the internet and browse the internet for the latest news, sports scores and articles about the Tigers.

It took a 10 run outburst as they beat the Yankees on Sunday, for the Tigers to avoid starting the season 0-3, and then the Tigs lost game one of the series against the Orioles, to fall to 1-3.

But being totally honest, it NEVER occurred to me to start to panic at the Tigers less than great start.

So when I opened up my browser on Wednesday and saw this article, I was a little surprised. Later on I got to THIS, and really became puzzled.

Hey, I am as much of a Tigers fan as ANYONE, and of course I want them to go 162 and 0. DUH! Of course it won’t happen, as even the biggest Tigers fan in the world knows. But is a 1-3 start really cause to question starting lineup choices, or pitching rotations, or even take actions, whatever they may be, to avoid “panic”??

I mean seriously, the season is 162 games long. Heck I could understand panic if we were talking about the Tampa Bay Rays, or Boston Red Sox. I mean the Rays were expected to contend for the AL East, or at least the Wild Card spot in the American League, and the BoSox were picked by ALL of ESPN’s experts to win the AL East title, with 33 of them picking the Sawx to win it all.

Now, if we are on May 1st and the Tigers record stands at 6-21, yeah I would be in panic mode. Heads would roll, changes would be made, the lineup would be completely blown up, minor league recalls would take place, and firings would happen.

Heck, I might even consider re-constructing Tiger Stadium, so the team could move back to the friendly confines of “the corner” just to try and turn the season around.

OK, maybe that was a bit much, but….

Hey, in the mean-time, gang, we are 4 games into the season. Let’s avoid panic, just yet. Give the boys a chance to have a few home games at Comerica before we let panic set in. I mean, we haven’t even seen a 70 degree day yet.

It’s early, relax.

Oh and by the way, congrats to Armando Galarraga, for picking up the win in his debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who are managed, lest we forget, by former Tiger great Kirk Gibson, with Alan Trammell as his bench coach.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tigers “sick” as they lose to O’s 5-1

Maybe it was the plane food, maybe it’s a stomach virus making its way thru the Detroit Tigers locker room, no matter what the reason, and two Tigers were under the weather for the Baltimore Orioles home opener on Monday.

Closer Jose Valverde and Miguel Cabrera both had issues with the “bug”, during the game Cabrera had to make a visit to the clubhouse, and I shall avoid going into further detail. Unfortunately, for the Tigers, Valverde remained un-used in the ‘pen so his game performance wasn’t affected by the illness.

On the field, Rick Porcello made his first start of the year for Detroit, and pitched relatively well, allowing 5 runs in the loss. Included in the 5 runs scored was a 3-run homer to the Orioles Brian Roberts. With that homer allowed, Tigers pitching has now given up 10 HR in just four games this season. Prior to the inning in which Roberts hit his HR, Porcello had allowed just 4 hits. He allowed 3 consecutive his before Roberts went yard, in the 5th.

Also an issue for the Tigers has been the fact that between the pitchers and catchers, the Tigers lead the league in Wild Pitches, with 6.

I can’t say it for a fact, but my guess is that the Tigers are making a concerted effort to try and offset their reliance on the fastballs in key situations, and set them up with the breaking stuff. In May and later on during the season when it is warm, the cold weather won’t effect the pitches and make it as difficult to get a grip on the ball, but thus far the wild pitches are coming with great frequency. I can’t say that the other team’s pitchers are having the same difficulty with the ball, but both teams are pitching in these conditions, and Tigers pitchers have thrown twice as many wild pitches as their opponents. Is it pitchers or the catchers I am not sure, but no matter where you place the blame, it’s not a good start.

Jason Beck’s blog today brings to light what the Tigers are doing, specifically Alex Avila, to work on stopping the wild pitches.

The Tigers and Orioles are off today, with the series resuming on Wednesday, with Justin Verlander on the mound against the Orioles Jeremy Guthrie.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tigers beat Yankees by a Field Goal, to claim first victory of 2011.

In a game that featured 7 home runs by both teams, pitching was obviously not at a premium in game 3 of the Tigers 2011 season. The bottom line however was that the Tigers avoided the sweep at the hands of the Yankees by picking up a 10-7 victory on Sunday afternoon. Max Scherzer notched his first victory of the year, with Closer Jose Valverde recording his first save of the season as well.

The Highlights of the slugfest:

Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera hit his 2nd homerun of the game, only to be matched by the Yankees Jorge Posada who also hit 2 home runs in the contest. Not to be out done was Tigers DH Brennan Boesch, who became the first Tiger since Dmitri Young to have at least 4 hits, 4 runs and 4 RBI’s in a game. Young’s feat came on April 4, 2005. Of the 26 hits recorded in the game, 12 of them went for extra bases. Cabrera’s multi home run game was the 19th of his career, and in a bit of irony, his last multi-home run game also came at Yankee Stadium.

Meanwhile the Tigers picked up their first victory of the young season, as the got just their 2nd win in “new” Yankee stadium, as Detroit was 1-6 in their previous 7 games in the Bronx Bombers new stadium. And the victory was all that mattered to the Tigers, said Scherzer after the game, “I got the win, even though it wasn’t the best outing”, and when Cabrera was asked how good it felt to hit his first (and 2nd) home runs of the season, Cabrera answered, “it just feels good to get the win”.

The Tigers pitching staff doesn’t necessarily catch a break as Detroit now heads to the cozy confines of Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, as the Tigers staff ERA stands at 7.92. The Orioles enter the series with a 3-0 record, for the first time since 1997.

In the Series opener against the Orioles, Rick Porcello makes his first start of the season, after going 0-2, with a 3.90 ERA during spring training. Taking the mound for the Orioles will be Jake Arrieta. Porcello has a 1-1 record with a 3.00 ERA against the Orioles in his Career.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

So much for the “brand new Penny”

As the season started, many experts voiced concerns over the fact that during the previous 11 years of his MLB career Brad Penny has a 101-80 record, with a 3.99 ERA, while pitching in the National League, and a 7-8 record with 5.61 ERA in the American League.

One game into “Brad Penny: AL edition 2.0”, the experts concerns appear to be valid.

After going 2-1 with a 3.91 ERA in spring training and coming into the season with confidence. Tigers’ starter Brad Penny gave up 3 runs in each of the first two innings before settling himself down and holding the Yanks scoreless in the next two. After the Tigers scored 1 run in the 3rd, they added two more in the top of the fifth inning go reduce the Bronx Bombers lead to 6-3, Robinson Cano hit a disputed lead-off, double in the bottom of the 5th for the Yanks, Penny got Nick Swisher to ground out, but he walked the DH, Jorge Posada, and that was the end of the day for Penny on the mound.

The book wasn’t closed on the Tigers right-hander until Russell Martin hit a 3 run homer to left-center field off Brad Thomas to give the Yankees their 9-3 lead that eventually turned into the 10-6 win. Penny ended up allowing 8 of the Yankees 10 runs, while striking out 3 and walking 4.

Penny was making his first American League start since August 1, 2009, when he was a member of the Boston Red Sox, ironically against the New York Yankees.

The Tigers and Yankees conclude their opening weekend series from Yankee Stadium this afternoon, when Max Scherzer takes the mound for Detroit, against the Yankees Phil Hughes.

If you have been paying attention to the predictions heading into the 2011 MLB season, it would appear that the opening weekend series against the New York Yankees would loom to be important.

Many writers and sportscasters have predicted that the Boston Red Sox would win the American League East, leaving the Yankees to battle for the Wild-Card slot. Of the 45 experts to pick for ESPN, all 45 picked the Sox to win the east. While 34 picked the Yankees to win the wild card, 6 of the 45 picked the Tigers to win the AL Central, while another two picked Detroit to win the Wild Card.

So, if the prognosticators are correct and the Tigers and Yankees are battling for the Wild Card slot in the playoffs, thru games 1 and 2 of the season, advantage goes to the Yankees.

Despite the fact that the Tigers can’t win this series against the Yankees, for the season opener, they have a chance to redeem themselves against the bombers in a 4-game series back at Comerica Park May 1-5.

Let’s hope that during that series, Brad Penny, has returned to the form he showed in spring training, and “Brad Penny: AL edition 2.0” is proving the so-called experts wrong.