Given a huge cushion, Justin Verlander (3-1) cruised to his third win of the season. Verlander scattered eight hits over seven innings, allowing just two runs, striking out seven while tossing a season-high 119 pitches. The Tigers' bullpen showed some cracks, Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke allowing four late runs. Joba Chamberlain was forced to get the game's final out, recording his first save as a Tiger.
Charlie Leesman (0-1) was called up from the White Sox's Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte as an emergency starter, replacing sore-armed Chris Sale. The Tigers made Leesman's night in Detroit a short and miserable one. He was roughed up for six runs and nine hits in just 2 2/3 innings, taking the loss. The White Sox needed 5 1/3 innings from four relievers, giving up a pair of fifth-inning runs. At the time, no one expected those two runs to be the winning margin.
Bouncing back from Tuesday's 0-for-10 performance with runners in scoring position, the Tigers pounced on White Sox pitching for 15 hits. Every Detroit starter had at least one base hit.
Miguel Cabrera snapped out of of a two-week-long slump with three hits, including a home run, and three RBIs. Ian Kinsler added two hits, driving in a pair and scoring twice. The long dormant Alex Avila added three hits, a run and an RBI.
Rookie Jose Abreu led what little offense the White Sox generated against Verlander with two hits, two runs and an RBI. Dayan Viciedo added four hits and Adan Dunn made the Tigers nervous with a two-run homer in the ninth.
Local sports talk is killing me. More so than the Tigers' bullpen. The need to fill so much time every day leads to ridiculous things being said over the air about this team.
When I was in the shower this morning, the mid-day host on 97.1 the Ticket said he believed every time Davis got on base, he should steal. Every single time. No question about it. Sounds like the same strategy I would have devised when I was 10.
While making dinner tonight, I made the mistake of turning on the radio while it was tuned into the same station. The topic at the time just happened to be, "When do you start worrying about Miguel Cabrera?" Apparently, Cabrera is on the decline and has lost the ability to drive to ball, if the drive-time hosts were to be believed. Seems to me we heard the same damn arguments last season after Verlander signed his huge contract, then had a slow start.
It was refreshing to see the BS being spewed daily on the radio being refuted by Cabrera. The two-time MVP showed no trouble driving the ball tonight, hitting like the Hall of Famer he's going to be.
It's to the point where 97.1's "pundits" are little more than white noise. Or more correctly put, blithering shit-stirrers.
White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu's power made him a preseason candidate for AL Rookie of the Year. Justin Verlander got first-hand evidence of that power when Abreu launched a 93 mile-per-hour fastball into the hedges in dead center field. The monster blast was his sixth of the season, giving Chicago a quick 1-0 lead (MLB.com video).
On the plus side of the ledger, Verlander's pitch count didn't blow up, needing 15 pitches to get through the first.
Emergency starter Charlie Leesman was called up this morning to replace Chris Sale, who is suffering from a sore arm. Leesman was rudely welcomed to Detroit by Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera. Back-to-back doubles by the number two and three hitters quickly tied the game at 1-all (MLB.com video).
The ball was carrying in the early going at Comerica Park. Dayan Viciedo led off with a long double to the scoreboard in right center. You could hear a nervous murmur when Alejandro De Aza took a four-pitch walk. But the pitcher's BFF, the double play, this one of the tailor-made 6-4-3 variety off the bat of Tyler Flowers, quickly got Verlander out of trouble.
Apparently balks are contagious. Top of three and two down, Marcus Semien reached base on an infield single. The Tigers were called for their second balk in as many games when Verlander made a pickoff throw to first. An audibly upset Verlander yelled "WHAT THE (EXPLETIVE DELETED)" as Semien was sent to second.
The balk became moot when Verlander struck out Abreu to end the inning.
Looks like that Balk turned regular JV into angry JV, so I am fine with the call.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 22, 2014
Andrew Romine and Rajai Davis led off the bottom of the third with back-to-back singles. Their speed and Kinsler's bat kick-started a big inning for the Tigers.
Romine was able to advance from first to third on Davis' ground ball up the middle. In an impressive-as-all-Hell sprint around the bases, Davis was able to score without a throw on Kinsler's ground ball inside the third base bag which died halfway down the left field line. After jaws has been picked up off the floor, Kinsler was standing on second and the Tigers were up 3-1.
Cabrera hit the ball hard in his first at-bat. He hit it even harder in his second. Cabrera went with a Leesman breaking ball, sending it on a line to right center. The ball hit the top of the wall at the 365' mark and skipped over the wall for a two-run homer. Cabrera's first big fly since April 4 was just his second of the season, extending the Tigers' lead to 5-1 (MLB.com video).
Productive outs. Productive outs. Productive outs. Productive outs.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 23, 2014
After Avila laced a single to left, Robin Ventura had little choice other than pull his starter. Right-hander Zach Putnam would strike out Romine to extinguish what had been a dumpster fire of an inning for Leesman.
The Tigers sent 10 to the plate against two ChiSox pitchers, scoring five runs on six hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly, extending their lead to 6-1.
Kinsler manufactured a threat in the fourth with aggressive base running. He walled with one out, then advanced to second and third on wild pitches as Cabrera was striking out. He would ultimately be stranded, but it was nice to see a Tigers' base runner put pressure on the opposition.Taking the extra base is a foreign concept to the Tigers' fan base.
While the Tigers were getting busy with the bats, Verlander was getting busy missing White Sox bats. Through five innings, the Tigers' ace had allowed one run on four hits, striking out four. Verlander's pitch count was at 75, which was about three innings' worth in his last start.
The Tigers continued to force the issue on the bases after J.D, Martinez singled with one down in the fifth. As Castellanos was striking out, Martinez stole second, taking third when Flowers throw skipped into center. Avila drove in the Tigers' seventh run when he greeted White Sox reliever Scott Downs by doubling to right, his third hit of the night.
Davis extended Detroit's lead by turning a single into a leg double, Avila crossing the plate to make it an 8-1 game.
Thw White Sox strung together three hits in the sixth, the rally capped by Arbreu scoring on Alexei Ramirez's two-out single, to pull with six at 8-2.
Verlander remained on the mound to start the seventh. As his pitch count crossed 100, Evan Reed was warming up. If Reed was going to pitch, it would have to wait until the eighth. Verlander wrapped up a solid seven-inning, 119 pitch performance by retiring Semien on a pop up.
Top of eight, Al Alburquerque found himself in some serious trouble. As usual, trouble for Alburquerque began with a base on balls, walking Adam Dunn with one out. A pair of singles loaded the bases and earned him a visit from pitching coach Jeff Jones.
I really don't want to do this tonight, Tigers bullpen.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 23, 2014
De Aza worked a full count before driving home the third Chicago run with a sacrifice fly. The inning ended without further incident on a ground ball to Romine.
The Tigers threatened to extend their lead in the bottom half of the eighth. Kinsler reached on the second Chicago error of the night, Cabrera following with a single, his third hit of the night. But much like last night, the Tigers threatened, but did not score. Hunter swung away on a 3-0 pitch, bounced to third and Kinsler was easily thrown out at home, nipping a rally in the bud.
A five-run lead ninth inning lead should be safe. So Phil Coke got the garbage time assignment. The not-a-fan-favorite got the first two outs before giving up a run on Semien double and Paul Konerko single.
No problem, right? Just need one out, right?
Coke served up a meatball to Dunn, who deposited the ball deep into the right field seats. What had been an 8-1 lead had been slowly cut down to 8-6. The bullpen being the main culprits, Alburquerque and giving up six hits and four runs.
So courtesy of Coke, Joba Chamberlain got an unexpected save opportunity. Joe Nathan quickly started warming up as Chamberlain walked Viciedo on four pitches. The inning had started with a five-run lead. The White Sox now had the tying run at the plate in Ramirez.
It wasn't pretty, Chamberlain not exactly slamming the door. But he did get it shut. J.D. Martinez stumbled while he made an awkward-looking catch of Ramirez's line drive, but held on for the final out.
WHEW. GAME OVER.
Never a dull moment in Tigers baseball land. But they get the win. 8-6 is the final!— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 23, 2014
The bullpen must have cut a deal with an antacid company, because that game should have been long over. But a win, is a win, is a win. The Tigers remain in first place with a 10-7 record, a game up in Central on the 10-9 Kansas City Royals.
Due to an injury to Felipe Paulino, the White Sox will send another recent minor league call up to the mound in game three of the series. Andre Rienzo gets the ball for Chicago, while Drew Smyly toes the rubber for Detroit.
Paulino's spot in the White Sox rotation will be filled by the 25-year-old right-hander, who is making his first start of the 2014 season. Rienzo had 10 starts for the White Sox last season, posting a 2-3 record and 4.82 ERA in 56 innings.
Forced to pitch out of the bullpen for three weeks due to days off and postponements, Smyly is looking to get back on a starter's wavelength. His first start in two seasons did not go well. The young lefty allowed four runs and six hits, walking two in just three innings. Most alarming was an elevated pitch count of 82, causing Smyly's early exit.
Wednesday's first pitch is scheduled for 7:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
The Tigers changed up their lineup, getting the bat of J.D. Martinez on field with a start in left. Rajai Davis slid over to center field, giving Austin Jackson a night off. Martinez had a nice game with a single, walk and a run scored.
The Tigers have become better at manufacturing runs this season. But there's a fine line between manufacturing runs and manufacturing outs. They crossed that line when Alex Avila was thrown out attempting to steal in the second inning.
Did Alex Avila forget he's slower than Victor Martinez?— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 22, 2014
Earlier today Lynn Henning of The Detroit News went on his monthly Twitter rant as to how Comerica Park punishes good hitters. Phil Coke's Brain gave us visual evidence.
Miguel Cabrera's third-inning home run was his first in 13 games. In those 13 games Cabrera hit .170/.250/.255 with four RBIs, proving even he has streaks where he's human. Tonight was also only his third multi-RBI game of the season.
Rumors of Albert Pujols' demise were premature. The Hall of Fame bound first baseman went yard twice tonight, joining a very exclusive club.
Congrats to Albert Pujols, newest member of the 500 home run club! pic.twitter.com/kiZ8Fwo7ff— SB Nation MLB (@SBNationMLB) April 23, 2014
Miguel Cabrera: There's been plenty of talk as of late about Cabrera's slow start. Too much, really. Cabrera reminded everyone he's still an offensive force with a single, double, home run and three RBIs in five at-bats. Even better, two of the hits were stung to the opposite field. When Cabrera is hitting the ball hard to right, you can be sure he's swinging the bat well. Cabrera's impressive numbers continue to pile up.
Miguel Cabrera now has 158 games with at least 3 hits in his career. Since 2003, that's the 5th-highest total in the major leagues.— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) April 23, 2014
Ian Kinsler: Kinsler had his ninth multi-hit game of the season, adding a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs. He's hitting .319 on the season with an .845 OPS.
Ian Kinsler refuses to not get on base.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 23, 2014
Justin Verlander: At this time last year, it was Verlander who was under the microscope thanks to a huge contract and a slow start. Seems he's no longer broken. Verlander lowered his season ERA to a nifty 2.18 after allowing two earned runs in seven innings. With those seven innings, Verlander now ranks 13th on the Tigers all-time innings-pitched list with 1805.
Rajai Davis: The veteran scored a run on a spectacular dash around the bases and raised his on-base percentage to .385 with two hits. He won't keep it up long-term when playing against right-handed pitching, but right now Davis is playing too well to be taken of the lineup.
Alex Avila: An important piece to the Tigers' offense has been missing thanks to Avila's horrid start. But early in the season, stats can change quickly. Avila raised his batting average 58 points, .175 to .233, with three hits in his first three at-bats. Avila ended the night at .227 after a 3-for-4 night. He's 4-for-8 with two RBIs in the series.
Al Alburquerque: Al-Al labored through a long eighth inning on 28 pitches, allowing a run on a walk and two hits. But he was still far better than...
Phil Coke: There really isn't much more to add about Coke that hasn't already been said. Wash, rinse, repeat. Coke has been awful for two seasons and remains completely untrustworthy. It's hard to believe the Tigers don't have a better option at Toledo. At least Coke has kept his sense of humor over what's becoming an untenable situation.
Coke called HR ball an "incidental 2-seamer." Asked if he meant accidental: "No, that was an incident in the OF seats. Someone almost died."— Jason Beck (@beckjason) April 23, 2014
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GAME 16 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Evan Reed's impressive relief outing, retiring all four batters he faced while throwing high 90s heat, was enough to take PotG with 61%.