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Pirates 4, Tigers 1: Tigers' offense disappears, Doug Fister is his own worst enemy

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PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22:  Alex Presley #7 of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes a sliding catch in foul territory against the Detroit Tigers during the game on June 22, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 22: Alex Presley #7 of the Pittsburgh Pirates makes a sliding catch in foul territory against the Detroit Tigers during the game on June 22, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Final - 6.22.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1 4 2
Pittsburgh Pirates 2 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 X 4 9 0
WP: A.J. Burnett (8 - 2)
SV: Joel Hanrahan (18)
LP: Doug Fister (1 - 4)

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The Detroit Tigers fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-1, A.J. Burnett pitching 6 scoreless innings for the win. With the victory, Burnett raised his record to 8-2 on the season. Closer Joel Hanrahan pitched a 1-2-3 9th for his 18th save.

Doug Fister allowed 4 runs, though only 2 were earned, which was more than enough to take the loss, falling to 1-4. Fister was both off his game early, unlucky all night long, while receiving absolutely no run support. Fister also had trouble fielding his position, as if he needed even more adversity.

Andrew McCutchen paced the the Pirates' offense with 3 hits, Rod Barajas adding a pair of singles. The Tigers' limp offense could only muster 4 hits against 5 Pirates' pitchers, and have scored just 4 runs in their last 3 games. This does not bode for a good weekend against a vastly improved Pirates team.

In the Pirates' half of the 1st, Fister allowed 3 consecutive hits, and mixed in a wild pitch, leading to 2 runs. Alex Presley led off with a double, scoring on a Neil Walker single. Walker ultimately scored on a 5-4-3 double play.

The Pirates' raising their BABiP continued in the 2nd. Pedro Alvarez and Barajas opened the inning with singles. On an a 2-0 pitch, Burnett managed to get a sacrifice bunt down. Fister immediately pounced on the ball, and threw to 3rd, believing he was going to nail the lead runner. Fister would have too...if he hadn't fired the ball into left field. Alvarez scored easily.

Compounding the mistake was Jim Leyland starting Dr. Strangeglove in left field, Delmon Young. Young handled the ball like it had been greased up by Jose Valverde's sweat, fumbling around long enough to allow Barajas (a slow of foot catcher) to score all the way from 1st without a throw. The official scorer deservedly gave Fister and Young errors, making the runs unearned. Small consolation when you're down 4-0.

While the Pirates were essentially killing Fister via 1000 paper cuts, the Tigers found Burnett neigh unhittable, with only 1 hit through 5 innings. Burnett stranded Quintin Berry at 3rd in 1st inning, which would be the Tigers' only threat early on. In the 6th, the Tigers kicked up their heels. But with Austin Jackson and Berry on base and no one out, Miguel Cabrera grounded into an easy 6-4-3 double play and Prince Fielder popped up to end the middling threat. Burnett's evening ended at that point, with 6 innings pitched, 2 hits and no runs.

Fister settled in nicely after his early struggles, striking out 7, giving up 4 runs, only 2 earned. He also left after 6 innings, pulled for a pinch hitter. I hate NL style baseball.

The Tigers' offense finally came alive with 2 out in the 7th. Jhonny Peralta and Ramon Sanitago drilled back-to-back doubles (narrowly missing back-to-back home runs) to get on the board, shrinking the Pirates' lead to 4-1. But Jackson struck out with 2 on to end the rally before it could truly get started.

From that point, it was fait accompli. The Tigers not threatening, the Pirates never in danger. The Tigers' scuffling bats could do little against 4 relievers, the Pirates were able keep their 3 run lead despite Luis Marte pitching 2 innings of of 1 hit relief.

I'm not bent out of shape over the Tigers' losing the opener, especially after winning 4 consecutive series. The pitching, save for a few blips, has been stellar. When you pitch well, you're never out of a game. Thing is, you also have to hit and catch the ball, which remains an issue. The less said about the defensive gaffes in the 2nd inning, the better. And I have to admit the offense going belly up is a concern.

Missing bats be damned and bad defense regardless, if the Tigers win tomorrow, tonight's snooze-fest is likely forgotten.

Bullets:

  • Jim Leyland after the game: "It was just one of those nights." Yes, it was.
  • I hope this latest defensive butchery will end the ridiculousness of playing Delmon Young in the outfield. Period. End of story. He makes Brennan Boesch look like a a Gold Glover. If someone on the Tigers' staff is reading this, do us all a solid and hide his glove. No, shred his glove, just to be sure.
  • As much as I bitched about the Tigers' defense, at least they are turning double plays. 3 double plays in the first 4 innings kept Fister out of even more trouble,.
  • If you had told me going into the season the Tigers would only have 1 win from Fister 3 weeks into June, I would have had you committed. Yet here we are, 3 weeks into June, and despite a 2.72 ERA, Fister has a single, solitary victory. Baseball is a funny game.
  • Santiago's RBI double in the 7trh means the Tigers have now gone 138 games without being shutout. Whatever. I'd give back several of those games where the Tigers had a meaningless run to gain a few wins over the past several weeks. Much like Justin Verlander's 6 innings pitched per start streak, their not being shutout since July of 2011 is an empty stat.
  • Jason Grilli is alive and well and pitching for the Pirates. Once run out of Detroit on a rail, Grilli has found a home with the Pirates, posting a 2.28 ERA and 1.16 WHIP since the start of 2011. Those numbers are even better now after putting the Tigers down 1-2-3 in the 8th (Berry, Cabrera and Fielder). For what it's worth, in 8 MLB seasons before signing with the Pirates, Grilli had a 4.74 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Relievers, can't live with 'em, can't figure out when they'll figure it out and become good.
  • The Tigers are 9-5 in their last 14 games, but just 4-3 in their last 7. Which is the real Tigers team? Or do we even know?

3 ROARS:

Luis Marte: His 2 innings of 1 hit relief was the Tigers' top performance. The Tigers need someone other than Luis Marte to be their top performer.

Ramon Santiago: An RBI double has to be good for something. In this case, it's good for a roar.

Quintin Berry: The only Tiger to reach base more than once, with a pair of walks. Yes, I'm grasping at straws.

3 HISSES:

Delmon Young: When the Tigers play in National League parks, they Tigers should petition for a DF (Designated Fielder) in place of Young. As much as I dislike NL style baseball, I'd rather watch pitchers bunt instead of seeing Young lose a battle to the death with a rolling baseball.

Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder: They were invisible, combining to go 0-8. As Leyland said, it was one of those nights.

Doug Fister: The 2 unearned runs were ultimately Fister's own fault. When you dig your own hole, you get a hiss.

GAME 69 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

The aptly named "DotelCokeVillarrealBenoit" beat Berry and his walk off hit 62% to 27%.