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Burning Questions: ALDS Game 2

It was deja vu as the Orioles used a big eighth inning to crush the Tigers' hopes again.

Patrick Smith

After every Tigers playoff game, Greg Eno will ask (and answer) burning questions.

Can the Tigers recover from such a brutal loss?

They'll have to. There's no time to wallow in self-pity in the playoffs. But you have to think that there are some unhappy campers wearing the Old English D. The best-of-five ALDS format can put you on the verge of elimination awfully fast. In a span of 22 hours, the Tigers went from opening this series to being down, 2–0.

If you score five runs in an inning, you ought to win that game, no?

I don't know, ask the Oakland A's after their play-in game in Kansas City.

But yes, a five-run inning typically means you've won the game. But with the Tigers bullpen, you have to keep scoring ... and scoring ... and scoring.

Justin Verlander retired the first eight Orioles hitters to start the game. Yet he ended up with 101 pitches in five-plus innings. What happened?

A little bit of this, a little bit of that. The Orioles nickeled and dimed him, and Nick Markakis dollar-billed him with a two-run homer that staked Baltimore to a 2–0 lead in the third inning. Verlander started strong but seemed to labor as the game went on. I thought a key inning was the bottom of the fourth. The Tigers exploded for that five-run inning in the top of the frame yet Verlander couldn't shut the door, surrendering another one of those two-out RBI hits that the Orioles are becoming famous for in this series.

Verlander wasn't as good as I thought he'd be, but the start he had was superb. In the past, if JV started that strong, you could forget about touching him that night. In Game 2 on Friday, he just couldn't bring it.

Did you see Verlander's face when the TBS cameras caught his reaction to Ezequiel Carrera's misplay in center field in the sixth inning?

Yes, and I have no problem with it. Verlander is 31-years-old, he's the Tigers' All-Time leader in just about every postseason pitching category, and he's a Cy Young winner. Carrera is a Four-A player who's made two unacceptable defensive blunders over the past couple of weeks. Verlander can look at him any way he'd like.

How about J.D. Martinez?

The moment certainly isn't too big for him. Another home run and he seems to thrive in these playoff games. The storybook season continues.

Back to the bullpen. Any issues with how Brad Ausmus used it?

It started out good, with Anibal Sanchez pitching two clean innings after Verlander was lifted after one batter in the sixth. Sanchez did his job, bridging the gap to the eighth inning.

But ...?

Yeah, you knew there was a "but" coming, and that came in the form of the bozos who pitched in the eighth. Joba Chamberlain and Joakim Soria looked awful for the second straight game, and in a blink of an eye, a 6–3 lead had totally evaporated and the Tigers were down, 7–6.

But you can't really blame Ausmus. I know some folks think he should have stuck with Sanchez for one more inning, and that's fair, I suppose. But Sanchez is still an unknown factor; you don't know how far you can stretch him out right now. He threw 30 pitches. Another inning would have meant his pitch count would have crept near 50. Does he have 50 effective pitches in him at this time?

Hey, I'm asking the questions here. Here's another toughie: did you like third base coach Dave Clark's send of Miguel Cabrera home in the eighth inning?

No. The Tigers got greedy. They had the makings of a big inning. It could have been runners on second and third with nobody out and J.D. Martinez at the plate. The 6–3 lead could have ballooned. Usually you don't want to make the first out at third or home. Besides, it wasn't exactly a close play at the plate.

The Tigers still had a runner on second with one out, but instead of a quiet Baltimore crowd and some momentum going Detroit's way, you got that feeling in the pit of your stomach that the Tigers were only going to score one run in the inning. And that's exactly what happened.

The Tigers could have buried the Orioles in that inning and they let the Birds off the hook.

So, Delmon Young. Is that an extra dagger?

Naah. Delmon has played for half of MLB, not just the Tigers. And it's well known that he is a playoff performer. Got to give him credit. Soria hung a lazy slider and Delmon didn't miss it.

Yogi Berra once said, "If you don't got a bullpen, you got nothing." What do the Tigers have?

I appreciate the old school reference, but this isn't cute anymore. The Tigers have been blasted out of three straight postseasons at various levels largely because of shaky work from the pen. Yes, they have other issues as well, but the bullpen has served up too many signature playoff moments to the opposition since 2011.

So people should lay off Brad Ausmus?

Did Ausmus make the trades? Did he orchestrate the signings? Now, you can critique his use of who he has, but who he has is who he has.

Wow, that was very Dr. Seuss. OK, so we should blame GM Dave Dombrowski?

Well yes, but it's not that simple either. To DD's credit, he has brought in people over the years with shiny resumes, but for whatever reason — maybe there's something in the water at Comerica Park — they haven't always performed as advertised. Soria and Joe Nathan are the latest examples of this phenomena. Soria has been mostly bad since coming over from Texas, and Nathan has been high maintenance since coming over from Texas.

Maybe the Tigers should stop acquiring pitchers from Texas?

Oh, if it were only that easy.

So is this series over?

Never say that before the clinching win is in the books. Despite the nightmares in Baltimore, I still have the feeling that the Tigers will take this series to five games. The Orioles have used two huge eighth innings to bury the Tigers (12 runs total in the two eighth innings combined). That's beyond fluky.

David Price in Game 3. Thoughts?

Hmm ... Sunday afternoon at home, a must-win situation, Tigers coming off two bad losses. Where have we seen this before?