For the second time in three games, the Texas Rangers knocked a Detroit Tigers starting pitcher out of the game after 2 2/3 innings. This time it was Anibal Sanchez getting rocked in a 7-2 Rangers victory.
Going into tonight's game, Rangers starter Justin Grimm (3-3) was 0-3, 7.02 for the month of May. He righted the ship against the Tigers, allowing two runs and seven hits over 6 2/3 innings to earn the win.
Sanchez (4-4) had his worst start for not only this season, but in nearly two seasons. He was dinged for six runs, five earned, and nine hits, unable to get out of the third inning.
Elvis Andrus led the Rangers 13 hit attack, putting up a series worth of stats in one game. Andrus had a 5-for-5 night, his first career five hit game, finishing a home run short of the cycle. He added three runs scored, two RBI and two stolen bases. Lance Berkman had a pair of hits and two ribbies, Mitch Moreland chipping in with a solo home run.
Torii Hunter led a meek Tigers offense with two hits and an RBI. Prince Fielder drove in the other Tigers' run.
It would be the Rangers who would strike first, manufacturing a run off Alex Avila.Yes, Avila.
Leading off the bottom of the first, Andrus singled to left. He stole second, the throw from Avila took in-between hop which Jhonny Peralta was unable to knock down. Andrus took third on the throwing error.
Avila just plain missed on a Sanchez high and inside pitch to Berkman, Andrus scoring on the passed ball.
The Rangers would go on to lead the bases with a pair of singles and walk. Sanchez pitched out of the jam on the 33rd pitch of the inning, Robinson Chirinos bouncing into a 6-4 force.
Considering all that went down in the inning, to get out of it with only one run allowed was a small victory for the Tigers. Maybe the only victory they would have all night long.
Victor Martinez led off the second with a walk, advanced to second with one out on Peralta's singled. But any inkling of a threat fizzled out right then and there. Omar Infante grounded into a tailor made 6-4-3 twin killing, ending the inning
Well on his way to Tiger Killer status, Leonys Martin led off the bottom half of the second by singling, then stealing second. Andrus followed with a line drive to right which Hunter should have caught, but didn't. The liner glanced off his glove, rolling far enough for Andrus to race all the way to third. Hunter made hand signals as if he lost the ball in the lights. No matter the reason, it was another questionable play (thinking back to Hunter airmailing cutoff men twice this week, costing the Tigers runs) by an outfielder we expect better from.
The inning went from sublime to ridiculous.
David Murphy was fooled by Sanchez, but got enough of the pitch for a swinging bunt. Having no play at the plate on Andrus, Sanchez had Murphy at first ... if he didn't fire the ball into right field. Sanchez's two base throwing error set up the third run of the inning, Berkman singling through a drawn in infield.
A double play got the Tigers out of further trouble, ending the second inning down 4-0. Sanchez ended up with his second straight 3) plus pitch inning, a pitch count of 64..Sanchez would not be pitching deep into the game, unless things quickly changed.
The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard against Grimm in the third. Avisail Garcia singled, then showed off his speed by scoring without a throw on Hunter's double over the head of Cruz in right. Fielder beat the shift by grounding a single to left, Hunter crossing the plate to cut the Rangers' lead to 4-2. There was hope the Tigers would make a game of it .. but that was it for the Tigers on offense.
Meanwhile, Sanchez's bad night got worse, giving one of the runs back two pitches into the bottom of the third as the end of his outing was neigh.
Moreland led off the inning with his tenth home run of the season, a long blast to left center making it a 5-2 game.
Drew Smyly warming up, Sanchez gave the second run back as well, the Rangers stretching their lead to 6-2. Chirinos singled, was sacrificed to second and scored when Andrus reached for the third straight at bat, a two out RBI single.
That was it for Sanchez. It was it for the Tigers as well, who may just as well have headed to back to the hotel.
Jim Leyland brought out the hook, ending Sanchez's worst start of the season (6 R, 5 ER, 9 H, 2 BB, 2 K, 74 pitches) and shortest outing since August of 2011 (1 2/3 innings vs.the Braves).
Smyly did get the call from the bullpen. After the Rangers stole their third base of the night (replays showing Avila threw the runner out), a fly to center got the Tigers out of the inning,
Smyly stayed out of trouble until the sixth. Andrus reached base for the fourth straight at bat, doubling into the left field corner. Beckman drove him home on a long one out double to left center.
Phil Coke would pitch the final two innings for the Tigers, the game long fait accompli.
The Tigers couldn't counter against Grimm. He would only allow a pair base runners after the the Tigers scored in the third. Hunter had an infield single in the fifth, Martinez doubled in the sixth. Both would be stranded. Grimm would be pulled by Ron Washington with no one on and two out in the seventh after his best outing in three weeks.
Michael Kirkman, Tanner Scheppers and getting in some work, closer Joe Nathan, would shut down the Tigers for the remainder of the game, retiring the last 11 batters in order.
Game mercifully over, your final score is Rangers 7, Tigers 2.
With a win tomorrow, the Tigers can still salvage a spit in Texas, which I would taken coming in. I just didn't expect it to be Rick Porcello to be the Tigers starter to get one of the wins.
At 28-15, the Rangers are the only team over .500 in the lowly West division, holding a seven game lead over the Athletics.
In Sunday's finale of the four game series, the Tigers ask Doug Fister (5-1, 3.06 ERA) to salvage a split with the Rangers. He'll face left-hander Derek Holland (3-2, 2.93 ERA).
John Kurk alert! The game will be broadcast on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, first pitch 8:05 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Texas weather in Texas...
RT @thompson_tigers: 88 degrees at game time, highest 1st pitch temp. of the season for the Tigers. Low has been 35 degrees on 2 occasions.— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) May 19, 2013
Miguel Cabrera had an 11 game hitting streak snapped early in the week. He's just gone ahead and started another one. His first inning single gave Cabrera a five game hitting streak.
Since 8/1/2011, Miguel Cabrera has 348 hits in 255 games -- that's 31 more hits than anyone else in baseball during that time. #tigers— Rick Thompson (@Thompson_Tigers) May 19, 2013
Alex Avila's first inning defensive performance will not go on a highlight reel, neither will striking out looking on three pitches in the top of second. The second inning wasn't much better, the Rangers stealing a base and getting clocked in the nether regions with a foul tip. The frustration level with Avila is rapidly rising.
Not Avila's finest inning. Or season.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) May 19, 2013
Not a good 40 minutes for Alex Avila. Not a good 40 games for Alex Avila.— Scott Warheit (@swarheit) May 19, 2013
Avila drops to 16.7 percent on throwing out baserunners (4 in 24 SB attempts). Also has passed ball. Not been his night so far— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 19, 2013
Despite driving in a run in the third, Prince Fielder's bat has been quiet for the past week. How quiet?
That's Prince's second RBI since May 5, and his first in 7 games. #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 19, 2013
Torii Hunter took advantage of the human element in the fifth. He stuck out on a pitch in the dirt and had started toward the dugout, but home plate umpire Mike Muchlinski claimed it was a foul tip. Replays showed Hunter didn't come close, it was a legit swinging K. He would single on the next pitch, but the evening being what it was, the Tigers couldn't capitalize.
The game felt over long before the ninth inning, much in thanks to a flaccid Tigers offense disappearing late.
Tigers in the last two innings: six outs on 17 pitches. #phoneditin— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) May 19, 2013
Torii Hunter: The only Tiger with more than one hit.
Drew Smyly: Cooled down the hot Rangers, allowing one run over 3 1/3 innings.
Phil Coke: Pitched two scoreless innings.
Anibal Sanchez: Has been pitching so well this season, Sanchez may have been due for a bad start. This was a really bad start, the third shortest outing of his career. His ERA rose from 2.05 to 2.77, allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings.
Alex Avila: Had a brutal evening behind and at the plate. If a player ever needed a day off, it's Avila, who is now hitting .180.
Defense: The worst played game of the season. Two errors, a passed ball, three storlen bases allowed and a triple which should have been caught. A sloppy night all around.
GAME THREAD ROLL CALL:
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Rick Porcello's fourth consecutive good start sent the Tigers' fifth starter the top of the PotG vote at 64%.