After 11 games, the Detroit Tigers have lost in so many different ways that cliches seem to the only recourse in describing their latest downfall. One step forward, two steps back. Games in which both the offense and pitching come together are still rare for this club. Following the kind of comeback effort that could arguably fuel a team-rallying turnaround, the Tigers managed almost no offense against Gavin Floyd under admittedly brutal conditions for baseball. If he wasn't there already, Floyd joins the ranks of those who have the Tigers' number, who just present an insurmountable obstacle.
Rather than wonder yet again why Detroit's lineup still can't generate the run production that we all expected (Carlos Guillen's absence most certainly didn't help matters), I'll use this recap to focus on what had to be the turning point of the game, one highlighted by commenters in yesterday's Game Thread.
Bring in the Southpaw, Skipper!
Ever since Tim Byrdak was released in Spring Training, the presumption has been that Jim Leyland wanted a second left-hander in his bullpen to go along with Bobby Seay. (Leyland has said as much himself.) That finally happened when Clay Rapada was brought up from Toledo on Friday, and one would have to assume that both of these pitchers would be utilized against dangerous left-handed hitters in late-inning situations. The White Sox have three such hitters in Nick Swisher, Jim Thome, and A.J. Pierzynski.
Verlander was tapped out by the eighth inning. And by pitching that far into the game, he had accomplished perhaps the most important task of the day, which was to save the bullpen after they had to throw nine innings the night before. By that point in the game, the weather conditions had made it difficult for Verlander to control the ball, made frighteningly apparent with his pitch to the head of Orlando Cabrera.
I understand Leyland's desire to stick with the guy who had pitched a hell of game, almost matching Floyd's brilliance inning for inning. If Leyland wanted to reward him for that effort, he could've at least tried to ensure Verlander didn't take the loss. Besides being the designated situational left-hander, Seay has been the Tigers' best reliever this season, having not allowed a run in four appearances. Verlander had hit two batters to load the bases and bring in another run, and Pierzynski was next up. Situations like this are why Seay is on the team.
Sure, Seay could've given up a single to Pierzynski, as well. There's no guarantee he wouldn't have. And if that happened, maybe we'd all be saying that Leyland should've left Verlander in, as he'd pitched well enough to deserve finishing the inning. Fair enough. He had two strikes on Pierzynski. But I'll repeat what I said two paragraphs ago: Verlander was gassed. I'll also repeat what I said three paragraphs ago: Leyland had two left-handers in his bullpen. Why have these players if you're not going to use them?