The Detroit Tigers showed no ill-effects from Wednesday night's walk-off loss and post-game controversies, bouncing back with a 5-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics. The win allowed the Tigers salvage a series split on the first leg of their two city west coast swing.
In his previous start, Rick Porcello's (8-2) six game winning streak was snapped thanks to his worst performance of the season. He got back on the winning track with 5 2/3 innings of two run, five hit ball. It's wasn't a particularly pretty outing due to issuing six walks and hitting a batter, while recording just four strikeouts. But the only runs Porcello allowed came via Nick Punto's fourth inning home run.
Thanks to Porcello's command issues, the Tigers needed an extended outing from their bullpen. The combination of Ian Krol, Al Alburquerque, and Joba Chamberlain tossed 2 1/3 innings. Joe Nathan recorded his 13th save, but struggled for a second straight game. Nathan allowed two runs on three hits and a walk, stranding the winning run on base
Detroit outhit the A's 11-9, Victor Martinez leading the way with two hits, including a two RBI double. Ian Kinsler, Don Kelly and Nick Castellanos all chipped in with two hits. Miguel Cabrera drove in a pair of runs with a ground ball and sacrifice fly.
Despite base runners a-plenty, Nick Punto drove in the only A's runs over the first eight innings with his first home run of the season. Yoenis Cespedes and Josh Reddick each had a ninth inning RBI, but the A's comeback fell a run short.
So the Tigers leave Oakland with a split. That's actually a quite an accomplishment, being it was on the road, on the west coast, and against a playoff quality opponent.
But a question remains. Who will Joe Nathan blame today for his ninth inning struggles?
You know you were thinking it.
Oh, yeah. One more thing...
The Detroit Tigers have the best record in the AL at .600, on pace for 97 wins. Isn't baseball fun?— Patrick OKennedy (@Tigerdog_1) May 29, 2014
Top of one and facing Jesse Chavez, the Tigers loaded the bases with one out. Don Kelly and Miguel Cabrera walked, and a Victor Martinez single leaded the bases for J.D. Martinez. But just as went down against last night Scott Kazmir last night, a double play bailed Chavez out of trouble. Martinez weakly bounced into an inning ending 6-4-3 double play, the Tigers' offensive funk continuing.
Rick Porcello was forced to pitch out of a first inning jam as well. John Jaso hit a ground ball into the shift, Ian Kinsler unable to make the play and managed to beat Nick Castellanos' throw from short right. Two out, Brandon Moss worked a full count walk. But Procello retired Yoenis Cespedes on a ground ball, ending the A's threat.
Porcello's command, which has been on point almost all season, took a powder in the second. He hadn't walked three batters in a game all season, entering the game with a 1.4 BB/9 rate this season. So Procello loaded the bases with no one out on a single by Alberto Callaspo and full count walks to Josh Reddick and Nick Punto.
Eric Sogard at the plate, Porcello was bailed out in the same was as Chavez - via the double play. Porcello fielded a comebacker, starting a nicely turned and badly needed 1-2-3 double play. The A's scoring opportunity proceeded to go up in smoke. Porcello dodging a huge bullet when Coco Crisp bounced to first with runners on second and third, the A's wasting a bases load opportunity.
The Tigers took advantage by taking the lead in the third. Ian Kinsler snapped an 0-for-11 skid on a ground ball inside the third base bag, good for a two base hit. Don Kelly moved the runner to third with a ground ball to the right side. The A's were conceding a run, trading an out for a run by playing the infield back. Miguel Cabrera accepted the deal, driving in his 45th run of the season with a bouncer to short. Kinsler crossed the plate for a 1-0 lead, the Tigers taking first blood for a third straight game.
Porcello was waging war with his command, the A;s finally taking advantage in the bottom of the foruth. Callaspo reached base via the A's fourth walk of the game, and rode home on Nick Punto's home run (Anyone but $%$%^$#@(#$@#! PUNTO!) which cleared the right field wall at the 362 mark. The journeyman Tiger Killer's first home run of the season put the A's up 2-1.
Kinsler had snapped out of a funk with a double in his previous at-bat. The hitless skein turned into a multi-hit day in with one out in the fifth. Andrew Romine on first with a single, Kinsler slapped a liner into the right field corner for his second double of the day. Romine scored without a throw, knotting the game at 2-all (MLB.com video).
Kelly followed with a smash off of the leg of Chavez, Kinsler advancing to third on the infield single. Cabrera proceeded to drive in his 46th RBI of the season with a Texas Leaguer to right which dropped in front of Josh Reddick. Kelly was a sitting duck, caught in no-man's-land and would be forced out at second. So score it a 9-6 fielder's choice, Cabrera earning his second RBI of the afternoon what was credited via baseball's arcane rules as a sacrifice fly.
Regardless, the Tigers had bounced back from Porcello's rough fourth to re-take the lead at 3-2. But Detroit's starter was far from being out of the woods.
Crisp and John Jaso led off the bottom of the fifth with back-to-back singles, putting runners on the corners with no one out. Porcello went to work, striking out Donaldson and retiring Moss on a foul pop. But he would need help in getting out of the inning. One strike away from getting out of trouble, Cepedes hit a shallow looper to left. A charging Martinez made a tumbling shoestring catch, ending the inning and saving a run.
It was the second time in four innings Porcello had put a runner on third with no outs, and did not allow a run.
Martinez ended the bottom of the fifth with a marvelous defensive play, then started the top of the sixth with a lead off single. Two outs later, Martinez was still on first. Castellanos extended the inning with his second single of the day, Martinez aggressively taking third on Moss in left.
But the scoring opportunity withered on the vine thanks to Romine's can of corn to left.
Two outs in the sixth, Porcello's command once again went missing. Facing the number eight and nine hitters in the A's order, Porcello walked Punto and plunked Sogard. Rather than be out of the inning (and his day over, as he was over 100 pitches), Porcello was forced to take on the top of the order in Crisp. Brad Ausmus took a mound visit, not pulling his starter.
But Porcello could not get the final out, going to a full count before walking Crisp. He had loaded the bases without allowing a hit. At that point, Ausmus had no choice but to pull his starter.
Strategy ensued. Ausmus went to his left-hander, Ian Krol. Bob Melvin countered by pinch-hitting the with the right-hand swinging Derek Norris in place of Jaso.
Krol did the job, but Cabrera had to run to San Jose to flag down Norris' foul popup. But score one for Ausmus, the Tigers having dodged another bullet.
Speaking of dodging bullets...
Ausmus caught grief for placing Kelly in the two hole. Donnie Baseball led off the seventh against once top closer and now shaky setup man Jim Johnson. Kelly reached base for the third time on a one out single. Cabrera followed with his first hit of the day, a bouncer through the left side.
VMart then cleared the bases by yanking the first pitch he saw past a diving Callaspo and first base bag into the right field corner. Kelly scored easily, Cabrera running through a Dave Clark stop sign to score the Tigers' fifth run of the afternoon. Martinez's second hit of the day increased the Tigers' lead to 5-2.
Obviously there is something in the air out west. Al Alburquerque got the seventh inning assignment and walked the first two A's he faced, giving Tigers' pitching eight free passes on the day.
But just as Porcello lived dangerously to come out unscathed earlier, so did Alburquerque. He struck out Cespedes, induced a ground ball from Callaspo and retired Reddick on an infield popup. Another stress-filled inning, another WHEW at the end of it.
Bottom of eight and up three, Joba Chamberlain took over in setup duty. his lights out season processed post-haste with by tossing a scoreless frame.
What a pleasant surprise Joba Chamberlain has been this season. Clearly, this was everyone’s best case scenario.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 29, 2014
Good thing Martinez gave Joe Nathan a three run cushion. For the second day in a row, Donaldson crushed the first pitch he saw from the Tigers' closer, rifling a double into the left center field gap. At least that pitch remained inside the O.co.
Donaldson would come around to score on a pair of ground balls. Unfortunately, the throw from Romine was in the dirt Cespedes' grounder, Cabrera whiffing on the back-hand scoop. Scored it an RBI infield single.
Nathan got a big out when Callaspo was punched out looking. But Nathan's struggles continued when Reddick made it a one run game with the third hit of the inning, a two out double.
Nathan fell behind 3-0 on Punto before battling back to 3-2. Nathan had trouble putting away the diminutive infielder, ultimately walking him to put the winning run on base.
Jed Lowrie pinch-hit for Sorgard. The rally ended there, Lowrie bouncing to Cabrera to end an extremely stressful ninth inning. At least the ending was far more pleasant.
Tigers win 5-4, Joe Nathan gets a save because baseball stats are dumb.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 29, 2014
The west coast swing wraps up with three games in Seattle. The Tigers are hoping for a bounce-back performance from Justin Verlander (5-4, 4.04 ERA), the Mariners counter with Hisashi Iwakuma (3-1, 2.39 ERA).
Detroit catches a break in missing King Felix Hernandez in this series, but don't catch a second break. They still have to face Iwakuma, who finished third in the AL Cy Young vote last season. In spite of a disabled list stint which forced him to miss the first month of the season, Iwakuma has picked up from where he left off 2013. In four of his five starts, Iwakuma has pitched into the seventh or later, while walking just two in 37 2/3 innings. He is coming off his worst start of the season, allowing four runs in seven innings, including two home runs in a 4-1 loss to the Astros.
Verlander has been making mechanical tweaks in his delivery recently, but has yet to see positive results. In his first eight starts this season, Verlander was 4-2 with a 2.67 ERA. But his last three games have been disastrous, posting a 1-2 record and 8.31 ERA, allowing 18 runs and 28 hits in his last 17 1/3 innings.
It's another late start for the Tigers. Friday's first pitch at Safeco Field is scheduled for 10:10 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Rob made the best discovery of the afternoon:
Rod Allen anecdote: The Tigers' FSD color man mentioned Torii Hunter and Ian Kinsler were mentoring Nick Castellanos at dinner last night. A good sign, considering the locker room mess after the walk-off loss.
If I ever get to the point where I'm seen playing a toy saxophone at any sporting event, I give everyone permission to slap me silly.
Despite the play ending in a force of Don Kelly, Miguel Cabrera was credited with a sacrifice fly on his RBI bloop in the fifth.
More west coast weirdness. Just look at the advertising to the left of Jesse Chavez.
STREAKS AND STATS:
Nick Punto's home run was his first since August 12, 2013. Of course it was, and of course it would be against the Tigers.
Two doubles on the day gives Ian Kinsler 19 on the season, tying him with the Twins' Trevor Plouffe for the AL lead.
In multi-hit game news, Ian Kinsler now has 22, tying him for the AL lead. Victor Martinez cracks the top ten with 18 multi-hit games, good for ninth in the AL.
Rick Porcello: It was ugly at times with six walks and a hit-by-pitch, but ultimately Porcello allowed just two runs on five hits. He missed a quality start by a 1/3 of an inning. Quality is relative, but I'll take a two run outing from my fourth starter and run with it.
Ian Kinsler: Snapped a short 0-for-11 slump with two doubles and an RBI.
Victor Martinez: Two hits, the biggest of which was a two run double in the seventh to give Detroit pitching some much needed breathing room.
Austin Jackson: Jackson had a great April, hitting .307/.391/.520. Things changed, for the worse. He now in the month from Hell, entering the day hitting .215/.257/.312 in May. Hell month continued with an 0-for-4, two K day, dropping Jackson's average to .250.
Joe Nathan: He didn't engender much goodwill after last night's comments or confidence by struggling through the ninth today. Fans are EXTREMELY unhappy with Nathan. To make things even messier, Nick Castellanos' fiancee tweeted this in the ninth (it's since been deleted, which explains why I'm using a screencap).
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GAME 49 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
A lights-out Anibal Sanchez deserved better than a no-decision, but he did walk away with the PotG balloting, taking all but seven of the votes cast.