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White Sox 7, Tigers 5: Early hook hangs another loss on Detroit

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Drew Smyly (33) makes a throw against the Chicago White Sox in the first inning at US Cellular Field.  Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Drew Smyly (33) makes a throw against the Chicago White Sox in the first inning at US Cellular Field. Mandatory Credit: Mike DiNovo-US PRESSWIRE

Final - 5.14.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 3 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 12 0
Chicago White Sox 2 0 0 0 2 3 0 0 X 7 10 1
WP: Zach Stewart (1 - 1)
SV: Addison Reed (3)
LP: Luke Putkonen (0 - 2)

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Drew Smyly had thrown 69 pitches. Manager Jim Leyland pulled him after the fifth. The question many fans asked -- in the game threads, on Twitter, and probably everywhere else, too -- was "why?" (Or more likely "What the ---- is Leyland thinking?")

The decision looked even worse after the White Sox put three runs on the board against reliever Luke Putkonen within minutes of the pitching change. Chicago went on to beat Detroit, 7-5. The Tigers are back beneath .500.

I figured we'd hear more from the manager during the post game. He said kind of what I thought he'd say, too.

"Drew Smyly was OK," Leyland said during the Fox Sports Detroit post game. "I didn't like the way they were getting the ball up in the air early on him."

This is a point that's fair. Smyly had a 44 percent ground-ball rate entering the game. He did not get any batter to hit a ground ball until the third inning. He appeared to be leaving a few too many pitches up. By then he'd already allowed a monster home run to Adam Dunn. For the game, the Sox had two ground-ball outs and nine fly balls. Dayan Viciedo hit a hard shot off him as well in the fifth.

Smyly also spoke after the game: "I thought I was making pretty good pitches ... They came out really aggressive. They were swinging at a bunch of stuff. Two pitches I just left right over the plate, and they killed me."

Leyland said the reason for using Putkonen was that several right-handed batters were coming to the plate. He noted it started off well enough, but the Sox kept putting balls on the ground that found their way around defenders. Still, Duane Below would have been my first choice in that spot.

Let's say a 0 means Leyland was completely wrong, and a 10 means he was totally right. I find it hard to rate Leyland's pitching move too close to either side. Maybe it was a 4 or 5. I can see why some might argue it was the wrong move -- especially after it resulted in three runs for Chicago. But given Smyly wasn't having his best game, and given the upcoming matchups in the sixth inning, I can see some of Leyland's logic, too.

One thing is for certain: There just aren't a lot of relievers who can be trusted in a close game.

Earlier posts:
White Sox 7, Tigers 5


Prince Fielder - 3 hits, breaking out of 0-for-22 slump, 2 RBI

Miguel Cabrera - 3 hits, too

Delmon Young - 2 hits, RBI


Jim Leyland - Don't feel like his decisions were as bad as some people say, but he played a part in the loss. (Bunt city didn't help matters.)

Luke Putkonen - He got a bit unlucky ... but he did allow three runs

Tigers batters in general - 3 for 17 with runners in scoring position, 13 stranded


The Tigers DID have a chance to score some more runs in the second inning with two and two out, but the third-base umpire ruled foul on a shot down the line that appeared to be fair on replay. That moment was certainly part of the equation in the loss, though far from the biggest issue.


Justin Verlander. Hey, you know BYB voters like their pitchers