Yesterday's hyped pitching duel never materialized between the Detroit Tigers and the Texas Rangers in a 10-4 Texas win. The duel turned out to be tonight, the Tigers beating the Rangers in a nail-biter, 2-1.
Rick Porcello (2-2) allowed just one run and five hits over 5 2/3 innings to earn the victory. Jose Valverde received credit for his fourth save, pitching the ninth. Four Tigers relievers would combine for 3 2/3 scoreless innings to slam the door on the Rangers.
Charged with the loss was Nick Tepesch (3-4), dinged for two runs and six hits in five innings. The Rangers' bullpen also slammed the door for the remainder of the game, four relievers holding the Tigers without a hit over the final four innings.
The Tigers only mustered six hits, three off the bat of Miguel Cabrera, who added a run scored and an RBI. The Rangers had a mere eight hits, the only offense generated on Geovany Soto's solo home run.
A pitcher's duel not involving Darvish or one of the Tigers' big four starters? In Arlington, where the scores are usually high?
Yes, it actually happened.
The first of many TBNTS from both teams was in the first inning .Lance Berkaman reached scoring position, singling with two ou,t followed by a Porcello balk. Adrian Beltre would go down swinging the end the minor threat.
The first Tigers threat off Tepesch came in the second inning. Victor Martinez led off with a base on balls, Jhonny Peralta drew a walk as well. But ground balls off the bats of Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago ended their threat. Wash, rinse, repeat.
The Tigers threatened again in the third, but a highlight reel throw by Leonys Martin kept the game scoreless.
Andy Dirks had advanced to second on a single and ground ball. Miguel Cabrera crushed a one hopper past Leury Garcia into center, looking for all the world like an RBI single. It was going to take nothing less than a perfect throw to nail Dirks as he rounded third. That's just what Martin did, uncorking an absolutely perfect throw which Soto caught on the fly, slapping on the tag.
Dirks never had a chance. It was that good a throw by Martin.
Garcia kept the inning alive when he whiffed on Prince Fielder's ground ball, Cabrera advancing to third. Runners on the corners and two down, a struggling Martinez bounced out to end a frustrating inning.
The Rangers would find themselves just as frustrated in the bottom half of the third, wasting a one out triple.
After robbing the Tigers of a run previous half inning, Martin ripped a line drive into the gap in right center, narrowly beating the Tigers' relay for a triple. The infield in, Fielder snatched Elvis Andrus' line drive for the second out. Porcello struck out Garcia looking to keep the game a scoreless tie.
The empty threats continued in the bottom of the fourth. Berkman and Beltre started the inning with back to back singles. Porcello then received a pitcher's BFF, a tailor made double play, a 5-4-3 twin killing started by Cabrera. Berkman now on third and two out, Moreland bounced to first, Porcello pitching out of a two on, no out jam.
It would be the Tigers to finally follow through on a threat, taking the lead in the fifth.
Dirks looped a lead off single to shallow center, advancing to second on Torii Hunter's 6-3 ground out. Cabrera would make it a 1-0 game by ripping an RBI double off the left field wall.(MLB.com video)
Tepesh made things hard on himself by plunking Fielder. Martinez's bouncer would find the hole in the side for a single, loading the bases for Alex Avila. The count 2-2, Avila hit a liner to deep center for a sacrifice fly, Cabrera jogging home to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead they would never relinquish.
Porcello immediately gave one of the runs right back.
Soto, hitting .173, hit his second home run of the season (the first came off Justin Verlander last night), a 332 foot solo shot just inside the left field foul pole to pull the Rangers to within a run at 2-1.
Tepesch was done after five innings, allowing the two runs. Lefty reliever Joseph Ortiz would toss a scoreless sixth. This would become a trend.
Jose Ortega and Drew Smyly warming up, Porcello walked Beltre with two down in the sixth. At 105 pitches and Cruz due up, Jim Leyland made the call for the right-handed rookie, Ortega.
Because Don Kelly was playing deep to prevent a double, stationed closer to Dallas than Arlington, Cruz's lazy fly ball to center dropped for a single to put runners on the corners. No problem, Ortega pitched out the jam. Moreland bounced to , the Tigers still clinging to a 2-1 lead after six full.
After Jason Frasor and Robbie Ross combined to hold the Tigers scoreless in the seventh, Ortega started the seventh for the Tigers. Once Soto struck out on a full count. A pair of left-handed bats due up, Jim Leyland called on Drew Smyly. Ron Washington countered with a pair of right-handed pinch hitters, ex-Tiger Jeff Baker and Craig Gentry.
Smyly struck out Baker swinging. He would have had Gentry on a ground ball, but Cabrera's throw pulled Fielder off the bag to extend the inning. Smyly pitched around the E-5, Kelly running down Andrus' fly to left center.
The Tigers' offense having been tucked into bed for the night, Ross set them down in order in the eighth. Going by the bullpen bible, Leyland went with his setup man in the bottom half.
Joaquin Benoit allowed a lead off single to Garcia. One down on Berkman's pop up, Beltre lined a single to center, the speedy Garcia racing to third. With bad trouble looming, this time Benoit was the recipient of a pitcher's BFF. The Tigers turned a clutch 4-6-3 double play on Cruz's ground ball, bailing out Benoit.
As much as we moan and groan about relievers walking light hitting (or any) lead off man of an inning, the Rangers broke that Cardinal rule as well (other teams do it too!). Ross walked Santiago on four pitches, replaced by Omar Infante to pinch run. Why the .316 hitting Infante didn't pinch hit is beyond me, but it worked out.
What didn't work out was asking Dirks to lay down a sacrifice bunt, taking the bat our of the hands of someone who is hitting .294/.345/.549 over his past 14 games. Soto was all over Dirks' not very good bunt, throwing out Infante at second, any rally essentially stopped dead.
More pitching change bingo ensued, Washington calling on righty Cory Burns. Hunter would fly out, Cabrera was out swinging. There would be no insurance runs for Jose Valverde tonight.
Tigers up 2-1 in the bottom of the ninth, it was Potato-coaster time.
Valverde fell behind Mitch Moreland 2-1 before he bounced to Infante for the first out. He proceeded to walk Soto on five pitches to put the tying run on, because that's what he does.
First pitch swinging, Infante had to range to his right to grab Baker's ground ball. Unable to make a play on the lead runner (Ian Kinsler pinch running), Infante had no choice but to throw out Baker.
Kinsler on second with two down, Gentry bounced out 4-3 to end the game.
WHEW. Papa Grande didn't exactly slam the door, but he closed it all the same.
The Tigers recovered nicely from the "OMG WHAT'S WRONG WITH VERLANDER" game to take a hard fought win over the Rangers. A nice, nice victory.
Raising their record to 23-17 with the win, the Tigers remain in a first place tie in the Central with the Indians. The Royals are in third, 1 1/2 back. The Rangers fall to 27-15, but still clutch to a large seven game lead over the Athletics and Mariners in the West.
In game three of the weekend series, the Tigers send strikeout artist Anibal Sanchez (4-3, 2.05 ERA) to mound. He'll face Rangers rookie Justin Grimm (2-3, 4.28 ERA). First pitch is 8:05 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Rick Porcello is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.
LHH have a .684 OPS vs Porcello this year.Last year they hit .883.This year RHH are killing him .880— tiger337 (@tiger337) May 18, 2013
But Porcello has bounced back quite well after his "Death by paper cuts" game in Anaheim.
Porcello has a 3.32 ERA, 8.1 K/9 since the LA debacle.— Matt Snyder (@snyder_matthew) May 18, 2013
Leyland also agreed that how a guy puts an outing like Porcello's LAA debacle behind him can indicate maturation. I'd have to agree.— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 18, 2013
I'll take 5 2/3 innings, one run and five hits against the powerful Rangers from my
fifth starter every damn time and run with it. Who knew Porcello would out-pitch Justin Verlander in Texas?
Before anyone bitches about Tom Bookens sending Andy Dirks in the third inning, it was the right call. All 30 third base coaches in baseball would have sent the runner. But you can't outrun a perfect throw. That's exactly what Leonys Martin did, his pinpoint throw home would have made Rick Ankiel or Jeff Francoeur jealous. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the opposition.
Rod and Mario were trolling Tigers fans spending a few minutes in the fourth talking about MLB saves leader and former fan scapegoat Jason Grilli.
Yes, Rod and Mario. Praise Jason Grilli. Way to know your audience.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) May 18, 2013
Rod Allen quote of the night, talking about Miguel Cabrera: "He's absolutely cold blooded and he knows it. Look at him!"
He's also very, very good at hitting baseballs. Already having a ridiculously good season with runners in scoring position, Cabrera' numbers got even better with an RBI double in the fifth.
Cabrera is now hitting .509 (27-for-52, 2-2B, 5 HR) with runners in scoring position this season. 2-for-2 w/ RISP today. #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 18, 2013
Cabrera is also doing things with a bat few Tigers have ever done.
Cabrera now has 62 hits in first 40 games -- most by a Tigers player through 40 games since George Kell had 64 in 1950. #tigers— Rick Thompson (@Thompson_Tigers) May 18, 2013
Miguel Cabrera is a right-handed hitter who doesn't get many infield hits--and he's hitting .378. A HOF hitter in best years of his career.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) May 18, 2013
FSD fact of the game: Rod Allen informed us Jim Leyland has an iPhone and iPad. Mario Impema added he also texts. WHAT?
The result of tonight's game is secondary. I SENT A GODDAMN TEXT TODAY— Fake Jim Leyland (@FakeLeyland) May 18, 2013
Can someone please stop Jim Leyland before the Tigers attempt another bunt? Please? You would earn my utmost gratitude. Along with that of many others...
And now they bunt with another guy who can't bunt. Way to go.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) May 18, 2013
I. HATE. BUNTING.— Eric Wayne (@PhilCokesBrain) May 18, 2013
I was yelling Boo-urns when Dirks bunted.— MattinToledo (@MattinToledo) May 18, 2013
Rick Porcello: Four straight good starts (he missed out on a fourth straight quality start by 1/3 of an inning) for Porcello since the debacle against the Angels. According to the saber-minded Lee Panas of Detroit Tigers Tales, Porcello now has four consecutive games with game scores of 54 or more. The last time he accomplished the feat was May, 2011. (MLB.com video highlights)
Miguel Cabrera: Reached base four times on three hits and a walk, added an RBI and a run scored.
The bullpen: Ortega, Smyly, Benoit and Valverde had their moments, combining for two hits and no runs over 3 1/3 innings.
Bouncing back after Thursday's craziness to beat the Rangers 2-1, I'm not going to call any Tiger out. I'm thrilled with the W.
GAME THREAD ROLL CALL:
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TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
With 38% of the vote, Don Kelly narrowly defeated "no one was deserving" for BYB PotG.