I've already written that Jim Leyland's use of his bullpen has baffled me so far this season. I don't understand bringing Zach Miner into a tied ballgame in the sixth inning, for example. But in fairness to Leyland, perhaps, today's game was a painful example of what the injuries to Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney have wrought upon the late-inning relievers. If those two - or even one of them - were healthy, I don't think we would've seen Jason Grilli in the seventh inning today. Unfortunately, we did. And Grilli proceeded to fulfill Tigers fans' worst fears.
There's really no kind way to put this. (Though I'll try to be more delicate than I was when sending a text message to Mike McClary after Grilli left the game. If my thumbs had the strength, there would've been many more expletives.) Grilli was a total gas can today. He flat-out stunk.
If a tied ballgame were a carton of eggs handed to Grilli, he not only would've dropped the eggs on the floor, shattering the shells, and pooling yolk and white all over your kitchen tile. But he would've then slipped on the viscous puddle, gone feet-first into the air, came crashing back down ass-first into the sticky, gooey mess, getting it all over his clothes, spreading and spraying the now-inedible sludge across the floor and onto the walls.
Even worse, Grilli would've pulled the person who was trying to help him up down to the floor with him, causing the innocent to also fall injuriously, soil his or her clothing, and causing a further spread of slop around the room. And you know what? Grilli might not have even cleaned up the mess, leaving all that broken egg to cause a salmonella outbreak in your household. And all he was supposed to do was put the damn eggs in the refrigerator.
Though I might be guilty of a little embellishment, that's essentially what Grilli did in the seventh inning today. Without recording a single out, he gave up a double, a single, and a home run. And here's the part that might really cause your dinner to reflux up on you: all that havoc occurred on just three pitches.
The carnage looked as if it would be even worse when Grilli served up singles to the next two batters, and then advanced them by throwing a wild pitch to Juan Uribe. But a base-running brain cramp by Carlos Quentin trying to score another run allowed the Tigers to turn a double play, stanch the bleeding, and throw Grilli a life preserver. (Was that just two different metaphors in one sentence? Hey, that's how bad things went in this inning.) After the smoke cleared (that's three metaphors), the Tigers were three runs down and the game was essentially over.
Grilli isn't the only - though he's the most obvious - reason why Detroit lost this game. Nate Robertson wasn't very good, giving up five runs on a day when his lineup finally managed to generate some offense. But just as the Tigers began to push some runs across the plate and perhaps get this machine in motion, the pitching couldn't hold it together. And that's the kind of stretch this team is in right now, the kind every team goes through at some point. When they pitch well, the bats are cold. When the batters finally heat up (led by the newest sensation sweeping Tigers Nation, Clete Thomas), the pitching melts down.
Does it all seem worse because it's at the very beginning of a season for which expectations were extremely high? Almost certainly. Is it still too early to panic? Most definitely.