Twins 4, Tigers 2: Offense invisible, bullpen implodes, Leyland takes the heat

Despite 5 1/3 scoreless innings from Drew Smyly, the Tigers fell 4-2 to the Twins. Jim Leyland will take plenty of heat for how he used his bullpen, though just as much grief should fall on the Tigers' limp offense.


Final - 9.28.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 2 6 1
Minnesota Twins 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 2 X 4 4 2
WP: Jared Burton (3 - 1)
SV: Glen Perkins (16)
LP: Brayan Villarreal (3 - 5)

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The Detroit Tigers bullpen wasted a wonderful performance from rookie starter Drew Smyly in a 4-2 loss to the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers' lead in the AL Central is down to 1 game over the Chicago White Sox with 5 remaining.

Twins reliever Jared Burton got the final 2 outs of the 8th, enough to receive credit for the victory. Closer Glen Perkins pitched the 9th for his 16th save. The 4th of 4 Tigers pitchers, Brayan Villarreal, took the loss, allowing a pair 8th inning runs.

Designated hitter Ryan Doumit was Twins' offense with 2 hits, his 17th home run and 4 RBI. Omar Infante accounted for all the Tigers' runs with his 4th home run. Miguel Cabrera had 2 hits, keeping his Triple Crown hopes more than just alive, but in fine shape.

If you wanted a pitcher's duel, you got one. Personally, I would have preferred RUNS.

The game started uneventfully. Considering the craziness which were the final innings of yesterday's victory over the Royals, I wasn't complaining...yet.

The first 6 Tigers went down in order against Scott Diamond in the first 2 innings, including a blink of an eye 9 pitch 2nd. Once again, the Tigers were having major issues with a left handed pitcher.

Joe Mauer worked a walk in the bottom of the 1st, the only Twins base runner through 2 innings. Smyly struck out 3 of the 7 Twins he faced to that point.

The Tigers, looking just as ineffective against Diamond as they did in their 10-4 loss on Sunday, went down in order in the 3rd. Including Sunday, Diamond had posted 6 consecutive perfect innings against the Tigers.

Twinkies SS Eduardo Escobar broke up Smyly's hitless game with a lead off single in the 3rd. After 1 was down, the every annoying Denard Span lined a single just past Omar Infante. Escobar, who broke back toward 1st base on the liner, had to hustle to beat Avisail Garcia's hard throw to 2nd.

Ben Revere moved the runners over on a ground ball, setting up a Smyly vs Mauer batter. Even with 1st base open, the rookie went right at the 2nd leading hitter in the AL. Smyly struck out Head and Shoulders' spokes-model on a 2-2 pitch, Houdini-ing himself out of a jam.

Just as thoughts of a Diamond no-hitter were cropping up in the back of your mind (admit it!), Cabrera shut up the voices in your head. Cabrera ripped a line single to left after 2 were down in the 4th, the Tigers' first hit and base runner. Unfortunately, any hope of a 2 out rally ended on Prince Fielder's foul pop.

Pitching quite ably in place of sidelined Max Scherzer, Smyly set the Twins down in order in the 4th. The clock was ticking on his night, being Smyly has never gone more than 106 pitches or 6 innings in his career.

To break out an old bromide, the Tigers threatened, but did not score, in the 5th. Leading off, Delmon Young singled to center. After the Slumping Jhonny Peralta (I'll just use that as his full name from here on out) flied out to deep center, 1st baseman Justin Morneau bobbled Andy Dirk's grounder, the Neck beating a late throw, Young safe at 2nd. Diamond would escape further trouble fairly easily, Garcia going down on a can of corn to Span, Gerald Laird grounding out 4-3.

The pitching duel continued, unabated.

Smyly did his part in matching Diamond with a 1-2-3 5th. Through 5, Smyly has sent 8 straight Twins down in order. It would be a damn shame for the Tigers to hang a no-decision on the rookie...but it sure was looking that way.

Cabrera made a bid to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead with 2 down in the 6th. He took Diamond the opposite way, missing a home run by a couple of feet as his fly ball hit off the top of the right field wall. Thinking home run off the bat and going into a trot, the ball being hit so hard, and Revere immediately grabbing the carom, Cabrera was held to a long-ass single.

That would ultimately cost the Tigers a possible lead.

Fielder singled Cabrera to 2nd, bring up the Tigers' much derided DH. Going with the pitch, Young's ground ball found the hole in the right side. In the case of a slow runner vs. a bad thrower, you have to take your chances. So Gene Lamont windmilled Cabrera home.

It wasn't even close.

Out_medium

Revere came up throwing, shockingly sending a one hop bullet to Mauer. Cabrera was out by 10 feet, the game remained scoreless. No word on who the imposter with the good arm was in right field for the Twinkies, as it sure wasn't Revere.

Smyly would get the first out of the 6th, the 9th consecutive Twin to take a seat. With 3 left-handed bats due up and having watched his pitch count closely, Jim Leyland decided Smyly had done enough for one evening. Phil Coke took over fot LOOGY duty. Having shrugged off his August from Hell, Coke easily sent Ryan Doumit and Trevor Plouffe packing to end the inning.

But Diamond was no diamond in the rough, helped by the Tigers pretty much hacking at any and everything he threw, pitching a another ridiculously easy inning, a 1-2-3 7th.

Fielder showed how ironic his name was by muffing Morneau's ground ball for an error to start the bottom of the 7th. With the switch hitting Doumit at the plate, and Coke having proved he's best used as a LOOGY, it was time for a pitching change, right?

WRONG.

Yes, Doumit's numbers against left handed pitching weren't great. But Coke has thrown nothing but batting practice against right-handed bats this season. He's become a LOOGY. Why take a chance when Octavio Dotel is warming up? Why put Coke in a position to fail after doing his job against the 3 consecutive left-handers?

Why?

Regardless, Leyland rolled the dice with Coke...and crapped out. Doumit drilled a 2 run home run to left, ending Coke's night and giving the Twins a 2-0 lead.

Of course, now Dotel came to the rescue. He allowed a couple of scary warning track fly balls, but left the inning unscathed.

While the internet full of tubes was still cursing Leyland out in the top of the 8th, Austin Jackson's ground ball went through Plouffe's wickets at 3rd. He was safe at 1st on the fielding error.

Up next, Infante. After one swing, his crusty manager was bailed out and Diamond's night was over.

Infante clubbed a no-doubt 2 run home run over the high wall in left, tying the game at 2-2. The calls for Leyland's job slowed to a crawl...for the time being, anyway. The cries for a head on a platter would be starting again shortly.

Burton came on in relief for the Twins, keeping the damage to a minimum when Cabrera grounded out to end the inning.

It being a brand new game, Villarreal started the bottom of the 8th for the Tigers. He immediately put himself in a massive jam thanks to lacking in command and composure.

Wild off the bat (or mound, actually), Villarreal walked Span. Revere bunted him over. Villarreal crashed and burned from there on out. The Tigers elected to intentionally walk Mauer. Villarreal nearly threw the first pitch to the backstop, Laird having to use every inch of his vertical to avoid a wild pitch. Villarreal proceeded to make a bad situation worse by ignoring Span, who got such a big jump he stole 3rd without a slide, and walking Morneau to load the bases.

For the 2nd time in 2 innings, Doumit would twist the dagger in the Tigers' back. He hit a Villarreal pitch on the screws for a 2 RBI double to left center and a 4-2 Twins lead. Villarreal, suddenly finding his command and composure when down 2 runs, struck out Plouffe and Matt Carson to end the inning.

Down to their final 3 outs, Young, Peralta and Dirks came up snake eyes against Twins' closer Glen Perkins in a 1-2-3 inning.It was cake, as they say.

Game over.

You know it's going to happen and I can't blame an infuriated fan base tonight. Let the second guessing of Jim Leyland begin.

Before we all panic and flame away, keep in mind the Tigers have Justin Verlander on the mound tomorrow and Anibal Sanchez Sunday. I like the Tigers' chances in the next 2 games.

BULLETS:

  • The Tigers are 84-73, their lead in the Central falls to a single game with 5 left to play. The White Sox beat the Rays 3-1. That's September baseball, gang.
  • Thanks to tonight's loss, the Tigers fall 8 games under .500 on the road at 34-42. Not cool. Not cool at all.
  • The Tigers are 12-3 at Target Field since the start of 2011. Well, make it 12-4. That's a great record, but I still want to dance on the grave of the house of horrors known as the Metrodome before I shuffle off this mortal coil.
  • Mario Impemba's promo give us the quote of the night: "Try Mario olives, taste the Mario difference...no wisecracks, Rod."
  • Despite how well Drew Smyly pitched, there was no way the Tigers would let him go past the 6th. They haven't allowed it all season, and weren't going to do so now. In 17 starts, Smyly has thrown over 100 pitches just 3 times (99 once), topping out at 106, and had never gone deeper into a game than 6 full innings. The white glove treatment of Smyly continued in start 18, pitching 5 1/3 innings while throwing only 87 pitches.
  • Led by BYB editor Patrick, the talk of arbitrary pitch counts came to the fore on Twitter after Smyly was pulled. Considering the turn of events, hindsight being 20-20, would you have used Smyly deeper into the game, regardless of his youth?
  • Omar Infante finally got to Scott Diamond in the 8th, but how easy was his night to that point? Diamond stood at 79 pitches through 7 innings. Averaging a hair over 11 pitches per inning, Diamond hadn't even worked up a sweat. Might as well start calling Diamond a Tiger Killer.
  • Right handed hitters have hit .390 with a sky-high 1.011 OPS against Phll Coke in 2012. So why was Coke facing switch-hitting Ryan Doumit again? I'm not going to blame Coke when he's put in a position to fail. Doumit's 2 run shot falls squarely on Leyland's shoulders.
  • Octavio Dotel may not be lights out against left handed bats either (how Doumit would have batted), as a .301 batting average against attests, but I like his chances far more than I do Coke's in that situation.
  • Jim Leyland cliche central: "It was a good game." "Diamond was very good." "We got beat, it's simple." "I'm not down about that at all."
  • Leyland on Villarreal: "Villarreal just didn't have it:"
  • Leyland on Smyly: "He was only going to go 85-90 pitches." "It was a no-brainer, I can't take a chance on leaving him out there too long." "We're in a little bit of a dilemma now because of fhe uncertainty of""Scherz'"

MIGUEL CABRERA TRIPLE CROWN WATCH:

Where does the Tigers' MVP candidate stand in the Triple Crown categories going into the final 6 games?

Batting average - .326: Cabrera leads, Joe Mauer narrowly trails at .323.
Home runs - 42: Josh Hamilton heads the pack at 43, Cabrera is tied for 2nd with Edwin Encarnacion.
RBI - 133: Cabrera has relatively comfortable 8 RBI buffer over Hamilton.

  • 1st inning: GO 5-3. .326.
  • 4th inning: Line single to left, .327.
  • 6th inning: Single (which should have been a double) off the wall in right, .328.
  • 8th inning: GO 5-3, .327.

Cabrera leads Mauer by 5 points in average, .327 - .322. The power standings stay the same.

The Triple Crown is in play.

SCREEN CAPS OF THE NIGHT:

MLB rule of the day: All Tigers catchers must have, at bare minimum, a 2 day growth of beard at all times. G$ complied.

Gmoney_medium

How not to issue an intentional walk, by Brayan Villarreal.

Ibb_medium

3 ROARS:

Drew Smyly: There's pressure? What pennant race? Who's Max Scherzer? 5 1/3 innings, 87 pitches, 0 runs, 2 hits, 5 strikeouts.

Omar Infante: Kept Leyland's wolves at bay with his 8th inning big fly.

Miguel Cabrera: Ends his-mini-slump with 2 hits, raising his lead in the batting race.

3 HISSES:

Jim Leyland: I'm fine with using Phil Coke against left handed bats. Using a LOOGY, which is what Coke has become, against right handed bats is asking to be second guessed to high heaven...or Hell, as the case may be Second guessing commenced immediately after Coke's pitch left Ryan Doumit's bat.

Brayan Villarreal: Any talk of Villarreal being in line for closer duty anytime soon ended tonight.

Tigers' offense: 6 hits and 2 runs against the bottom feeding Twins won't cut it in a pennant race.

GAME 156 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

It's common knowledge. Break the American League strikeout record, win BYB PotG. Thus, Doug Fister wins with 89% of the vote.

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