Doug Fister held the Tampa Bay Rays scoreless over eight innings, before getting nicked for three ninth-inning runs. But just as in his previous two starts, Fister was the victim of no run support. Alex Cobb, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney combined to shut out the Detroit Tigers, leading the Rays to a 3-0 victory.
Cobb went pitch-for-pitch with Fister, shutting out the Tigers over 7 2/3 innings on five hits. But it would be Joel Peralta (1-2) who would vulture the win by retiring one batter in the eighth. Rodney shut down his former team in the ninth to earn his 12th save.
Despite running out of gas late, Fister (5-3) pitched well enough to win. Instead, he was charged with his second loss in three games. Fister has allowed all of six runs combined in his last 22 1/3 innings, yet is 0-2 with a no-decision in his last three appearances.
The hitting star was Evan Longoria, who led the Rays with a pair of hits, an RBI and run scored. Desmond Jennings tripled in a run and ex-Tiger Matt Joyce chipped in a sacrifice fly. As for the Tigers, they could only muster six hits. Alex Avila was the only Tigers wearing his hitting shoes with a single, double and walk.
Pitcher's duels are fun. Scoring runs is more fun. We got lots of the former, nothing of the latter, which is becoming an all-too-familiar scenario.
Going mano a mano, Fister and Cobb dominated early. Fister needed only 15 pitches to get six outs, Cobb a few more at 22.
Fister's hitless streak ended with one out in the third on Jose Lobaton's ground rule double to right. The second hit of the game was also off a Rays' bat, Yunel Escobar following with a single, Lobaton advancing to third.
At this point, I'll just start by saying baseball is a funny game. Last night we saw a rare play, Miguel Cabrera going from first to third on a wild pitch. We saw a rarer play tonight, Prince Fielder and Alex Avila turning a 3-2 double play, Avila making both putouts. Yes, both putouts.
Sam Fuld hit a hard ground ball to first, Fielder made a nice diving stop and immediately fired home. Seeing he was dead to rights, Lobaton stopped short of the plate, hastily retreating back toward third as Escobar was rounding second. Rather than risk a throw, Avila just continued running Lobaton back to third. Avila smartly ran down Lobaton, slapping on the tag. Being he was already at the bag, Avila then tagged out a sliding Escobar to complete the strange-but-true double play (MLB.com video, I suggest playing Yakety Sax while watching), Just like that, a possible Rays rally was nipped in the bud, or more correctly, nipped by Avila's defense.
The Tigers managed to do the same the Rays in the bottom half of the inning, getting the first two men on, then failing to score. Avila led off with a walk. Omar Infante followed with the Tigers' first base hit, a line single to left, Avila advancing to second. But the inning quickly unraveled.
Avisail Garcia grounder forced Infante at second, Avila taking third. Trying to force the issue with Andy Dirks at the plate, Garcia was caught trying to steal second. The ending came to a meek end on Dirks' come-backer to Cobb. Both the Rays and Tigers had squandered scoring chances (though you have to admit the Rays' squander was far more ambitious), the game remaining scoreless.
The pitcher's duel continued unabated into the sixth inning.
Cobb got some help getting out of the sixth thanks to Jim Leyland's irrational love of the bunt. Garcia led off with a single. Dirks was asked to bunt. Going by past results, this was not a smart decision. It wasn't.
Loney aggressively charged Dirks' wannabe sacrifice, and fired a strike to second to nip Garcia. After Dirks took second on Torii Hunter's 6-3 chopper, Cabrera was intentionally walked with first base open. For the first time in recent memory, Fielder didn't come through with a base hit after a Cabrera free pass, striking out to end the threat.
Fister and Cobb had each allowed just three hits through six. More impressive was Fister's pitch count of 61, my public school math telling me Fister was averaging ten pitches an inning.
Bottom of seven, the game still 0-0, Avila drilled a line drive into the right field corner for a two-out double. But Infante whiffed in three pitches, strikeout number seven for Cobb ending the inning.
Fister was still dealing through eight innings, having held the Rays scoreless on four hits and three walks on 92 pitches. But just as in his last start, Fister had gone begging without a run.
At this point, Fister had thrown 21 consecutive scoreless innings. His last six against the Twins, all seven against the Pirates and eight tonight. All Fister has to show for it was a loss and no-decision, the Tigers having scored all of three runs over those 21 innings.
One down in the bottom of eighth, Cobb got himself into trouble thanks to a bad decision. After fielding Dirks' perfectly placed swinging bunt, rather than holding on the ball, Cobb made a wild throw, allowing Dirks to take second.
After Sam Fuld caught Hunter's fly to deep left for the second out, you knew what was going to happen with first base open. Once again, Joe Maddon called for an intentional walk on Cabrera. He also went to the bullpen, asking for the right-handed Joel Peralta to face Fielder. It's not as odd as it sounds, due to Fielder's reverse splits. Left-handed bats were only hitting .176/.236/.294 against Peralta this season and Fielder is .241/364/.483 against right-handers (compared to .373/.463/.597 facing lefties).
Maddon won the battle of strategy, Peralta striking out Fielder, another threat wasted. A feeling that the Tigers were going to waste another quality start loomed large.
The feeling was right on the money.
Fister still on the mound to start the ninth, Fuld reached on a lead-off bunt single by diving around Fielder's tag attempt. Ben Zobrist followed by dribbling a ground ball through the hole in the right side to put runners on the corners.
Needing a sacrifice fly, Matt Joyce sent a can of corn to medium center. Garcia's throw was brutal, far off line and way high, Fuld easily scoring to make it a 1-0 game. Zobrist advanced to second on Garcia's silly throw, then third when Fister uncorked a wild pitch. Evan Longoria slapped a ground ball single through a pulled-in infield to push the Rays lead to an insurmountable 2-0.
That was the end for Fister, who had received all of zero run support in last two starts, allowing two runs in 15 1/3 innings. You would think he was back with the lowly Mariners.
Drew Smyly took over for Fister. After getting the second out of the inning, Desmond Jennings crushed a long triple off the base of the scoreboard in right center. Longoria beat another not very good throw to push the Rays' lead to a truly insurmountable 3-0.
Up 3-0, Maddon went by the bullpen bible, calling on his closer, ex-Tiger and crooked cap aficionado Fernando Rodney, to get the final three outs. His having blown five saves and 4.94 ERA kept a window of hope open.
On cue and giving Tigers fans flashbacks, Rodney walked the lead-off man, Victor Martinez. Peralta struck out, but Avila kept the inning going with a single to right.
The tying run was at the plate in Infante. Rodney struck him out, leaving it up to Garcia, who sent a lazy fly to center to end another shutout loss. The Tigers had stranded a runner in scoring position for the fourth straight inning.
A scoreless game over. You final score is Rays 3, Tigers 0.
The Tigers have now been shut out three times in their last eight games, and for the sixth time this season. Yet they are one of the highest scoring teams in the game, go figure. Having gone 2-6 in their last eight, the Tigers have scored just ten runs in their losses and 20 runs in the two victories. You would have to think there is a happy medium between ten run blowouts and being shutout.
The Tigers have yet to find it.
If there is a silver lining tonight, it's the Indians losing again. At 31-26, the Tigers hold a two game lead over the Tribe, who have lost four in a row, 3-7 in their last ten, falling to a game over .500 at 30-29.
To tarnish the silver lining, just think where the Tigers would be in the standings if they would stop getting shut out. The Tribe are folding, but the Tigers have yet to take advantage.
In the rubber game of the series, the Rays start Roberto Hernandez (3-5, 4.87 ERA), who will face undefeated Max Scherzer (7-0, 3.42 ERA). The finale is a matinee, first pitch 1:08 PM. If the Tigers get shut out again, I'm gonna...
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
There was some lineup confusion before the game. Kelly Johnson was in the Rays starting lineup as the left fielder, batting third. Turned out he was a game time scratch to due to back tightness. Sam Fuld replaced Johnson in left, inserted in the batting as the lead-off man. Originally batting lead off, Matt Joyce was bumped down to Johnson's original slot, third in the order. Got it? Good.
Prince Fielder's fourth-inning single extended his hitting streak to ten games.
Confusion reigned in regard to Alex Avila's double play. Fielder was given an assist, but Elias Sports Bureau called it unassisted.
Avisail Garcia misplayed James Loney's fly to center into a lead-off single in the fifth. He broke back on a fly ball to shallow center, fooled by Loney's big swing. Cue the cries for Austin Jackson from the fan base.
When's Jackson coming back?— Grey (@spacemnkymafia) June 6, 2013
Fake Jim Leyand got in a dig as well.
Play the kid more, they told me. He's ready, they said— Fake Jim Leyland (@FakeLeyland) June 6, 2013
Meanwhile, on the radio broadcast...
And then Jim Price professed his love for cereal. This radio team, you guys.— Detroit4lyfe (@Detroit4lyfeRob) June 6, 2013
The game scoreless going into the seventh, the Tigers fan base was rightly getting restless. No one is happy when quality starts are continually being pissed away.
The "don't score when Fister is pitching" strategy doesn't seem to be working for Detroit for some reason. Maybe try something different.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) June 6, 2013
Bob Wojnowski nailed it in regard to the Tigers' Jekyll-and-Hyde nature on offense.
Tigers are the lowest-scoring high-scoring team in MLB history.— Bob Wojnowski (@bobwojnowski) June 6, 2013
Jhonny Peralta had a bad night, striking out three times. You have to wonder if other things are on his mind...
Peralta 0-for-4 w/ 3 swinging Ks tonight. Entered game hitting .338. Any guesses as to what he'll be batting when MLB finally ends suspense?— John Niyo (@JohnNiyo) June 6, 2013
Post game, Jim Leyland was in cliche mode:
Whomever got a big hit was going to win it.
Tip your cap to 'em.
Fister and Cobb were terrific.
When asked what's up with being shutout three times in eight games, Leyland blamed it on facing good pitching. Actually, he's right. Jeff Locke has a 2.45 ERA, Jeanmar Gomez is at 3.07 and Cobb lowered his to 2.39. But it's still frustrating as Hell to see a team with the talent the Tigers have on offense swing bats like the Astros on a bad day. It's been happening far too often as of late, good pitching or not.
Rod Allen quote of the day:
"Something the Tigers need to do in the future is give Fister some run support."
No kidding, Rod.
Doug Fister: His third straight quality start with nothing to show for it.
Alex Avila: Reached base three times, plus had the defensive play of the game.
Jim Leyland: At least he used Drew Smyly in a high leverage situation. Even if he didn't come through, it's how Smyly should be used.
Anyone with access to a baseball bat in the vicinity of Comerica Park: Another damn shutout.
Drew Smyly: In a game the Tigers were having trouble scoring, allowing a third run to score in the ninth was the death knell.
Jim Leyland: Another mid-game bunt backfired on the Tigers, Andy Dirks bunting into a fielder's choice in the sixth. Memo to Jim Leyland - STOP WITH TH ... Hell, I give up. Go ahead and give away outs. Screw it, bunt in every at bat! See if I care. So there!
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