As exciting as it was to see the Tigers' offense come alive in their first win of the season Wednesday night, it was good pitching from Jeremy Bonderman and the bullpen that finally broke their losing streak. If you needed a reminder of that, the pitching staff provided a sobering one last night, while also making it pretty clear that this team's long-term problems weren't solved with one win.
Accentuate the Positive?
In writers' workshops, we always tried to start out with a positive criticism before tearing a classmate to shreds. So let's begin on a good note: Both Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco appear to be out of their respective slumps. Maggs hit his first home run of the season (giving him his first RBI, as well), showing off that familiar whip-like swing that usually means a ball is landing in the seats. And Polanco went 2-for-4 with two RBIs. If both batters are heating up, that could go a long way toward solving what's plagued this team. Unfortunately, it doesn't matter how many runs are scored, if the bullpen insists on giving up huge amounts of runs.
Eliminate the Negative
A slightly nagging question on my mind after Wednesday's game was why Zach Miner hadn't been used when the bullpen had to hold down a lead. Was there anything to read into with that? In Spring Training, Miner was being touted as an important part of the bullpen, someone who would be pitching important set-up innings. One theory could be that Jim Leyland was nervous enough about his infield defense that he didn't want to put a sinkerball pitcher on the mound. But maybe we got a more illuminating answer last night.
Nate Robertson had already given up the lead when he left in the sixth inning. But at 4-3, the Tigers were still in the ballgame. That is, until Miner got generous with the walks. He managed to get out of the sixth without a walk to Coco Crisp coming back to bite him. But in the seventh, consecutive walks to Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz (who had to be happy Robertson was no longer in the game) gave Manny Ramirez an opportunity to build a more imposing lead. And he obliged by driving both runners in.
But I don't mean to single out Miner because he wasn't the only reliever that hemorrhaged runs in this game. Francis Beltran also walked two batters (one intentionally), though those runners didn't come around to score. Yorman Bazardo, however, might have cost himself a major league job with his performance after taking over for Beltran. Any chance the Tigers had at a comeback - and they did cut the margin to two runs - were destroyed with Bazardo's eighth inning. Two walks, three hits, and four runs later, Detroit was flattened. Even Jason Grilli was probably thinking, "Hoo! That stunk!"
Both Tom Gage and Danny Knobler write this morning that changes are likely to be made, possibly as soon as this afternoon. Something has to be done, because this bullpen really has been as bad as people feared coming into the season. (Detroit Tigers Thoughts has ideas on how the bullpen should be shuffled.) Two guys will probably get the boot, as Leyland wants to go back to a 12-man bullpen and he'd prefer another left-hander among the relief corps.
Apologies for not sticking around in the Game Thread discussion last night. Besides wireless connectivity issues here at Fort Casselberry, a long couple of days apparently caught up with me around the fourth inning and I crashed. Not that it matters. But if you were hanging out, looking for someone to chat with, I apologize for leaving you to listen to crickets chirp. Or maybe very few wanted to endure that bullpen meltdown and changed the channel. Anyway, we're back at it again tonight.