Looking for their first victory post All-Star break, the Detroit Tigers rode strong pitching to a 4-1 win over the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers were able to avoid being swept to start the second half, salvaging one win out of three games in Kansas City.
Starter and winner Doug Fister (8-5) held the Royals to one run in six innings of work, scattering six hits, while striking out five. Drew Smyly, Bruce Rondon and Joaquin Benoit held the Royals to one hit over the final three innings, Benoit earning his ninth save in nine opportunities.
James Shields pitched well for the Royals, but didn't get much in the way off run support. Shields was on the hook for the loss, allowing three runs and seven hits over seven innings of work.
Ageless wonder Miguel Tejada got a rare start at second base for the Royals. He supplied their only offense on the afternoon, slugging a solo home run in the second inning. Of their seven hits on the day, Tejada's was the only one good for extra bases
Miguel Cabrera and Andy Dirks supplied the power for the Tigers, each hitting a a solo home run. Brayan Pena didn't have a hit for Detroit, but drove in two late game runs with a pair of sacrifice flies.
The Tigers still look to be shaking off offensive rust caused by the break, but the pieces started falling back into place today. More importantly, the Tigers' pitching staff stepped up in a big way with a marvelous performance in a win over the Royals
Coming into the today's game, Miguel Cabrera was 1-for-7 in the series against the Royals. You can make it 2-for-8 with a home run, Cabrera taking James Shields deep with two out in the top of the first to put the Tigers up 1-0. Cabrera's line shot hugged the left field line, staying just inside the foul pole for his 31st home run and league leading 96th RBI (MLB.com video).
Even when Billy Butler should be out, he gets on base against the Tigers. With two down in the bottom of the first, Cabrera booted Country Breakfast's ground ball, setting up a Royals' threat. Thanks to thee E-5 extending the inning, allowed Salvador Perez to come to the plate. The Royals' All-Star slapped an 0-2 single to right, sending Butler to third. Doug Fister did get out of the inning unscathed on a fielder's choice off the bat of Lorenzo Cain. But what should have been a 14 pitch inning turned into a 24 pitch effort thanks to the error.
Top of two, Shields allowed a lead off double to Victor Martinez. He would strand Martinez at third, with help of a questionable call and some fundamentally unsound base running. Jhonny Peralta followed with a ground ball up the middle. Ancient second baseman Miguel Tejada crossed over the the shortstop side of the bag to make the play, his off-balance throw to first nipping Peralta as Martinez retreated back to second. Replays showed Perlata looked to be safe and Martinez should have been standing on third.
Shields made the most of the break, retiring Andy Dirks and Bryan Pena on ground balls, stranding the runner at third.
The Tigers unable to extend their lead, the Royals countered by knotting the game up in the bottom of the second. The 39 year old Tejada followed up is defensive gem with his third home run of the season, a no-doubt solo shot to left center tying the score at 1-all.
The Tigers had a brutal top of the third against Shields. Santiago popped up a bunt attempt before grounding out. Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter looked even worse, flailing away while striking out in six pitches combined.
Fister found himself in more trouble in the third. Of course, Butler did what he does against the Tigers. In this at bat, he singled with one out. Fister then plunked his 14th batter of the season, Perez getting hit in the shoulder with a high, inside fastball. But Fister was able to do what Justin Verlander couldn't last night, striking out yesterday's hero, Mike Moustakas, ending the threat.
Jarrod Dyson robbed Cabrera of extra bases in the fourth, crashing into the wall after running down a line drive in deep left center for the first out of the inning. The catch likely saved a run as well, being Prince Fielder followed with a single to right.
After Cabrera was robbed of a hit in the top half of the inning, he would extend the same courtesy to Tejada in the bottom half. Cabrera made a nice backhand stop and throw to steal possible extra bases from Tejada (cue the "quick like a cat" quips). The Tigers would then mange to turn an inning ending double play despite the speedy Dyson at the plate and Alcides Escobar running on the pitch. It helped that Dyson stumbled coming out of the box and Escobar didn't slide, but a double play is still a double play.
Andy Dirks led off the fifth with a long drive to the 410' mark dead center, but this time Dyson could not make the highlight reel catch. Dirks' fly ball barely cleared the wall and Dyson's glove for his seventh home run of the season (though both Mario Impemba and Rod Allen thought Dyson had brought the ball back), the Tigers retaking the lead at 2-1.
Again, Fister did what Verlander couldn't last night, tossing a shutdown inning after being given the lead. Bottom of five, Fister retired the top of the Royals lineup in order (including Butler!), the Tigers taking a 2-1 lead into the sixth.
Pitch count north of 100 in what would be his last inning of work, Fister found himself in a two out jam in the sixth. Cain had a one out single and stole second (the second stolen base for the Royals on the day and fifth in the series). Tejada walked with two down, setting up Escobar for a shot at a two out RBI. Peralta surprised everyone, charging Escobar's looping one-hopper, bare-handing and firing to first in one motion for a nice threat and inning ending play (MLB.com video).
Shields still on the mound for the Royals in the top of the seventh, the Tigers started the inning with a trrio of paper cuts to trigger a rally. Leading off, Fielder dropped a broken bat single into short left .Martinez moved him forward 90 feet by sending a bouncer through the right side. Slow runners on the move, Peralta then drilled a line drive off Shield's leg for an infield single, loading the bases.
The bases juiced, Sjhields made Dirks look silly for the first out, striking him out swinging on breaking balls out of the zone. Brayan Pena did come through with a runner on third and less than two our, lofting a sacrifice fly to center, Fielder crossing the plate to push the Tigers' lead to 3-1.
Santiago reached out a slapped a soft single to left, but Martinez had no shot at scoring, wisely holding up at third. The bases now loaded for Jackson, the Royals caught a huge break. Shields' first pitch was hard, wild and in the dirt, skipping straight to the backstop ... and caroming straight back to Perez at the plate, saving a run.
Jackson's bad game continued, striking out for the third time on the day to leave the bases loaded.
Put a quality start in the books for Fister. After six innings and one run allowed, Fister's day was over, Drew Smyly taking over in the bottom half of the seventh. The first out was a battle, Smyly finally striking out Dyson in an 11 pitch at bat. The Royals wouldn't reach base but did make Smyly work, needing 26 pitches to retire the side in order.
Shields was done after seven. Top of eight it was hard-throwing right-hander Kelvin Herrera setting the Tigers down in order in the eighth, keeping the Royals with two runs.
Smyly having pitched the seventh in order to face the Royals' three consecutive left-handed bats, Bruce Rondon got the setup call in the eighth. Heavy B was dominant, breaking bats while setting the side down the middle of the Royals' order 1-2-3.
After Herrera got the first out of the ninth, having set down four straight, the Tigers rallied for an insurance run. Peralta started things off by going the opposite way, doubling into the right field corner. Dirks sent him to third with a bloop Twins Hit to left. Pena drove home Peralta with his second straight sacrifice fly, though Alex Gordon did take a hit away with a sliding catch in left center.
The score now 4-1, it was still a save situation for Joaquin Benoit. Moustakas led off with a single, but the Tigers caught a break on the play. His ground ball looked to be headed into the right field corner, but it hit the bag, holding Moustakas to a single. Give the first base bag an assist, as the next batter, Tejada, bounced into a 4-6-3 double play, crushing any shot at a rally.
GAME OVER. Your final score is Tigers 4, Royals 1.
I won't call it a badly needed win, but it was nice to see the Tigers finally get a victory in their back pocket. Even better, it's beginning to look as if we can add Rondon to the short trustworthy reliever list, joining Benoit and Smyly. The big right-hander has had an excellent July, allowing a run in just one of his seven appearances this month.
Jim Leyland didn't say much of import in the post game today, spewing cliches. It wasn't as interesting as last night, such as his saying Verlander was pitching too carefully.
The Tigers maintain their 1 1/2 game lead in Central, their record now 53-44 on the season, The Indians keep pace in the division with their first post break win, raising their record to 52-46. The Royals may think they are in contention, but are now seven games back of the Tigers, falling five games under the .500 mark.
The Tigers still have 16 games left with the last place White Sox in 2013. The Tigers head to Chicago on a high note to play four of those 16 games with the Sox. They end the month with an eight game home stand as the non-waiver trade deadline arrives. The stretch run will be here before we realize it.
Game one with the White Sox features an elite pitching match up, Max Scherzer (13-1, 3.19 ERA) facing Chris Sale (6-8, 2.85 ERA). For both starters, their last appearance was as teammates, pitching for the AL in the All-Star Game. Scherzer tossed a scoreless first inning, Sale received credit for the win by pitching the second and third. First pitch at the Cell is scheduled for 8:10 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Another game, another milestone for Miguel Cabrera. Home run number 31 was the 352nd of his career, passing Dick "Don't call me Richie" Allen, and tying Ellis Burke for. 86th on MLB's all-time list. In other news, Ellis Burke had 352 homers?
Cabrera's home run also resulted in another lopsided baseball.
Doug Fister has already locked up the team hit by pitch crown by a ridiculous amount:
Updated Tigers HBP leaders: 14 -- Fister 2 -- Alvarez, Downs, Porcello, Sanchez, Scherzer, Valverde, Verlander.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) July 21, 2013
Weird stat of the day: Andy Dirks' last three home runs have come on the 21st day of the month. Home run number five came on May 21, number six on June 21 and the seventh today, July 21. It also says volumes about your main left fielder when he goes a month at a time between home runs.
The Twitter version of Donnie Baseball has a scouting report on Country Breakfast:
Billy Butler scouting report: Strengths: Unexplainable ability to hit vs. Tigers Weaknesses: Running, walking, throws fit whenever he Ks— Donnie Kelly (@AceRHPDonKelly) July 21, 2013
Rod Allen quote of the day came after a nice defensive play by Cabrera:
He's a pickin' and grinnin' today.
I suddenly had a Hee Haw flashback. Thanks a ton, Rod.
This was ruled a foul tip in the seventh inning, forcing Smyly to have a four strike whiff:
Umpires (shakes head).
Things change, often for the better. Joaquin Benoit has now tied Jose Valverde for the team lead in saves!
Benoit still has a 0.00 ERA since being elevated to closer, going 5-for-5 in save situations. Has 9 saves on season, tying him for team lead— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 21, 2013
By the way, the Mud Hens bullpen has an old-time Tigers feel. Knowing pitching in relief is the quickest way back to Detroit, Jeremy Bonderman has joined Valverde in the Toledo bullpen.
Doug Fister: The Tall Man has been either really good or really bad as of late. Today we saw the really good Fister on the mound, scattering six hits over six innings, allowing just one run.
Andy Dirks: A roar is appropriate when you hit the game winning home run.
Bruce Rondon: Pitched a dominant eighth inning, easily retiring Butler, Perez and Cain in order. Rondon hasn't allowed a base runner in his last three appearances.
Drew Smyly: Another scoreless outing for the lefty. Smyly has not allowed a run in his last 11 appearances.
Brayan Pena: Didn't have a hit, but was still productive at the plate. Two sacrifice flies gave the Tigers a pair of late insurance runs.
Torii Hunter: Has become one of the most frustrating players on the Tigers. Has streaks where he plays like the Hunter of old, then remembers he's 37 years old and has an awful stretch of games. Hunter is in midst of one of those awful stretches, with just one hit in the three game series. Today, Hunter was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Aujstin Jackson: Was just as bad as Hunter at the plate this weekend, 1-for-11 with six strikeouts. Jackson struck out three times today, including a huge K with the bases loaded and two down in the seventh.
Billy Butler: Great nickname, but a PITA to the Tigers. Holding Country Breakfast to a single in four at bats is a big win for the Tigers' pitchers.
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|4||stevenyc||When you want to avoid a sweep, you become the Fist of Goodness.|
|3||NCDee||Second Half Vark Returns!|
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Alex Avila led the Tigers with three hits and two RBIs in a loss to the Royals. Avila also led the PotG vote, carrying 65% of the ballots.