In his last start, Rick Porcello suffered through more bad luck and awful bounces in 2/3 of an inning than most pitchers will have in a month. Regardless, he was crucified by the Tigers fan base after allowing nine runs in a painful to watch appearance against the Angels.
After the 2012 postseason, Jose Valverde was tossed aside like so much trash, believed to be washed up, not only as a closer, but as a major league pitcher. He went begging for work this past offseason. Not one team thought Valverde had anything left.
The Tigers would finally take a chance with Papa Grande, and that was only due to their bullpen being in disarray.
This afternoon Porcello and Valverde combined to pitch 7 1/3 innings against the team with the best record in baseball, the Atlanta Braves. The much-derided pitchers allowed just five hits and three runs, striking out seven. Porcello would earn the win, Valverde the save.
Baseball, as they say, sure is a funny game.
Porcello was brilliant in spring training, and it was hoped this would be the season he lived up to the vast potential he showed as a rookie in 2009. Unfortunately, that pitcher disappeared when the season started. Before today, Porcello had made four appearances, three of those starts, posting an 0-2 record and 11.08 ERA.
Until today, Procello had been an anchor on what is the best one-through-four starting rotation in baseball. Against the Braves, we finally saw the starting pitcher who gave fan happy thoughts of an unbelievably good one through five starting rotation (which could still happen if Drew Smyly ultimately takes over the fifth spot). The other four starters have lived up to the preseason hype.
Today, Porcello did as well.
Only time will tell if Porcello will stabilize the final spot in the rotation. But for one afternoon, all is well.
As for Papa Grande, he looked for all the world like a legitimate big league closer against the Braves. His first appearance against the Royals was OK, but it wasn't at all clean, closer to a mirage than the real thing.
Today was the epitome of a clean save.
Valverde's fastball had movement, the splitter was working to perfection and he pounded the strike zone. He would strike out two in a 1-2-3 inning which had absolutely no drama.
In our co-managing editors' chat during the game, Kurt blurted out what many of us have to be thinking:
This Valverde thing is kinda working. Today was night and day compared to the first game. My optimism is quickly increasing!
If he hasn't already, Jim Leyland is on the verge of buying into the Big Potato as well.
Leyland on Valverde: "We don’t want to put the cart before the horse, but we’d certainly like him to be the guy." #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) April 27, 2013
That's one of the reasons why I love baseball. You can never, ever predict it.
WIN PROBABILITY CHART:
Two members of the BYB staff were at Comerica Park this afternoon. Allison tweeted a picture of Eric, aka Phil Coke's Brain!
I don't tweet one night and we score 10 runs and and set a new franchise strikeout record. If we lose today you'll know who to BLAME!— Eric Wayne (@PhilCokesBrain) April 27, 2013
With Allison today is her significant other, an Internet superstar baseball blogger for NBC Sports. He has a suggestion for the Tigers.
Please @tigers bring back urinal troughs.— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) April 27, 2013
Deep analysis from Tim McCarver while Rick Porcello was pitching in the first inning: "It was once Sears and Roebuck, not just Sears." PLEASE START YOUR RETIREMENT. TODAY!
Despite McCarver being on hand, here was one plus to the game being carried by FOX.
Feels odd watching a Tigers game without the Bernstein family telling me to sue everyone every 10 minutes.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) April 27, 2013
What a difference a week makes. Porcello threw 47 pitches during his infamous start against the Angels, recording just two outs. He needed just 23 pitches to get through the first two innings today.
Then came the third inning. The lack of an out pitch once again bit Porcello, as shown by 21 pitches, two walks, four hits, a blown double play and three runs allowed.
When you put yourself at the mercy of the Tigers' defense and you don't miss bats, bad things can happen.
Kris Medlen opened the game by throwing six consecutive balls, but still had a easy opening inning. How? Austin Jackson was picked off by Medlen after drawing a lead-off walk.
Kris Medlen recorded his first out before recording his first strike.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) April 27, 2013
Speaking of slumps... (Well, I wasn't, but needed a segue)
Meanwhile, Prince hasn't had a hit since Sunday. On an 0-for-12 streak since his 5th inning HR vs. CJ Wilson in Anaheim. #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) April 27, 2013
Fielder would break out of the 0-for-12 skid with a fifth-inning single.
Not slumping is Miguel Cabrera, his third-inning single extending his hitting streak to 11 games.
The video below is for those of you too young to get the "Chicks dig the long ball" reference from the game recap. Former Braves stars Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux are involved. To be correct, they weren't "Former Braves" at the time of the ad.
We take a break for a mid-game Comerica Park craft beer report from Allison:
@tigerdog_1 having founders KY breakfast stout, a special of their regular stout. Had a ghettoblaster earlier but that ones easy to find— Allison Marie (@norunsupport) April 27, 2013
Her beer review is one word:
@tigerdog_1 yumz— Allison Marie (@norunsupport) April 27, 2013
Rogo attempts to explain Porcello's cruising through the middle innings...
Drew Smyly frantic as he realizes he left his Porcello voodoo doll in California.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) April 27, 2013
The Tigers have done some serious damage to the ERA of Braves starting pitching in this series. Last night Paul Maholm started the night with a 1.03 ERA, exited sporting an ERA of 3.30. Medlen entered today's game with an ERA of 2.16, and was knocked out of the box with a 3.26 ERA.
On the flip side, Porcello's ERA was a ginormous 11.08 entering the game. After 6 1/3 innings, Porcello's ERA was back in single digits at 8.84. I'll take it!
Issuing the Tigers a warning, Eric has problems with the music used for the seventh-inning stretch.
If Build Me Up Buttercup becomes our Sweet Caroline I'm going to start tweeting about the Blue Jays— Eric Wayne (@PhilCokesBrain) April 27, 2013
Lynn Henning jinxed Joaquin Benoit. Before Justin Upton came to the plate...
There were those -- including a lot of clubs -- who thought the Tigers were gambling on a 3-year deal to Joaquin Benoit. Tigers won the bet.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) April 27, 2013
... although he does give up the occasional HR.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) April 27, 2013
Weird random baseball stat of the day: Last season, Justin Upton hit his twelfth home run on September 1. After going yard today, Upton has a dozen home runs in April. Amazingly, 11 of them are solo shots.
Breaking news: Bunting is dumb. Asking players who rarely bunt to lay one down late in the game is dumber. Today's example was Alex Avila in the eighth. UGH.
In the post game presser, it's all good with Jim Leyland.
"We beat a good pitcher."
"We played a good game against a good team, won a couple of good games."
Rick Porcello: A badly needed positive start for Porcello, even more so when you factor in just how badly his previous start ended.
Omar Infante: The ex-Brave provided a huge amount of pop from bottom of the order with three hits, three RBIs and a three-run homer.
Austin Jackson: Shaking off a brutal slump which started on the West Coast swing, Jackson reached base four times on two hits and a pair of walks.
Jose Valverde: This can't be the same pitcher we saw get crushed in the 2012 postseason, can it?
Drew Smyly: I have to give Smyly props for his seventh inning. Two batters, eight pitches, six strikes, two K's.
Alex Avila: Average is down to .169 on the season after an 0-for-3 afternoon, which included a failed sacrifice bunt as well.
Tim McCarver: On general principle.
GAME THREAD ROLL CALL:
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TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
Eight innings, five hits and, oh, yeah, 17 strikeouts! Player of the game could have been no one other than Anibal Sanchez.