Do we once again have a Rick Roll? After struggling through July, Rick Porcello has put together two starts that remind us how impressive he looked at the beginning of the season. (Remember when some people were talking about the Tigers' outstanding top three starting pitchers, not just the top two?)
Kid Rick didn't allow an Orioles hit for the first four innings (something the guy sitting behind me in Section 121 felt the need to say out loud before the fifth began), inducing a variety of ground-outs and pop-ups as he breezed through the Baltimore lineup rather confidently. Surely helping that confidence was a 4-0 lead given to him in the second inning, thanks largely to a two-run homer from Brandon Inge (his first since the All-Star break), as the Tigers' lineup pounced on David Hernandez and chased him from the game early.
The Orioles began to chip away at Porcello in the fifth inning, as it appeared he began to tire out. Suddenly, those pitches that were moving and missing the fat part of those Baltimore bats were hanging around the plate. The Orioles seemed to do a better job of working the count on him, as well. With a big lead and a fresh bullpen (thanks to Edwin Jackson's eight-inning performance on Wednesday), Jim Leyland got Porcello out of the game at 85 pitches, making sure a fine game stayed that way on the scoreboard.
And with the pitching and hitting finally coming together in the final game of this series, a rather grueling four-game affair comes out looking good for the Tigers. Winning three of four at home against a team they should beat (but whose lineup is quite formidable) will go a long way toward making sure Detroit maintains, and hopefully builds on, its lead in the AL Central.
Porcello wasn't the only rookie who shined on Thursday afternoon. Alex Avila made his major league debut, and looked like he'd been in the majors all along. Though he struck out in his first at-bat, he worked a full count, showing some impressive discipline, rather than just going up there and swinging. But in his next two times at the plate, Avila hit the ball hard, stroking a RBI double down the right-field line in the third inning and knocking a single in the fifth. And if not for a slick play by Brian Roberts in the seventh that snared a sharp ground ball, Young Alex would've had three hits on the day.
But it's been quite a while since a Tigers catcher banged out two hits, which made this one heck of a debut for the new guy. As Kurt noted in his recap, Avila saw 22 pitches in his four at-bats, and if he keeps that up, it's the sort of approach that the lineup could really use.
Comment of the Day:
And your runner-up, as this was most definitely the theme of the day.
Thanks to allikazoo and Kurt for keeping watch on the GameThread in my absence. I'd sort of forgotten how much fun a day at the ballpark can be. I'll have to get some more of that. (Plus, I have a nice tan and just look fantastic this morning.)