The Los Angeles Angels swept their season series with the Detroit Tigers in 2013, taking all six games. Their dominance continued in their first meeting of 2014, the Angels pounding the Tigers into submission by scoring early and often in an 11-6 victory.
The loss drops the Tigers to 1-2 on the home stand. After starting the season 4-0, they have lost six of nine.
Having spent all of 2013 in the bullpen, Drew Smyly's (1-1) return to the Tigers' starting rotation was memorable ... for all the wrong reasons. The young lefty was battered for four runs and six hits in three innings, a 46-pitch second inning all but sealing Smyly's doom. Luke Putkonen came on in "relief," if you can call it that. He just tossed more gasoline on Smyly's glowing embers, giving up seven runs and five hits in just two innings.
It would be Tigers' rookie Justin Miller who stopped the Angels' extra base hit barrage, tossing a pair of scoreless innings in his big league debut.
Given a ten-run advantage, Angels' starter Jered Weaver (1-2) cruised to his first victory of the season, allowing just one run on three hits in six innings. Josh Wall crumbled in seventh-inning relief, not retiring any of the five batters he faced, charged with the last five Tigers' runs.
Hard to believe the Angels only outhit the Tigers 13-11, But with ten of those 13 for extra bases, the Angels made their hits hurt.
Howie Kendrick did most of the damage for the Angels, leading their 13-hit attack with a single and a pair of two-run homers. Rather than list the remainder of the Angels who had hits, drove in or scored runs, it's easier to list those starters who didn't - Former Tiger John McDonald was the only Angel in the starting lineup to leave a string of zeros in the box score.
The Tigers' offense didn't wake up until the game was out of reach. After they were down ten runs, the Tigers plated five in the seventh to make the score semi-respectable. But Ian Kinsler did have another nice game for Detroit with three hits, two RBIs and run scored.
In baseball, blowouts happen. No matter how good you are, there will be games like this every season where you look like the worst team in MLB. You do your best to get through the mess with as little drama as possible and move on to the next game.
But in the Tigers' case, why does it seem like the most miserable performances always have to come against the Angels?
I do have to give the Tigers credit. Even when down ten runs, they didn't fold up shop and go through the motions. If they only made Mike Scioscia nervous for an inning, it was one more than we thought possible when the Tigers looked to be completely down and out.
Top of one, Drew Smyly was rudely re-introduced into starting pitching by Mike Trout. Wonderboy, as Jim Leyland nicknamed him, lashed a double into the left field corner with one out. The ever-impressive Trout proceeded to steal third without a throw.
But Smyly retired Albert Pujols swinging and Howie Kendrick on a ground ball to strand the man expected to be Miguel Cabrera's main competition for AL MVP at third base.
Smyly found himself frowning in the second, a lead-off walk setting up the Angels to take the lead. Chris Iannetta walked on a full count, then raced from first to third on Erick Aybar's single to right. J.B. Shuck bounced to second, but it wasn't hit nearly hard enough to turn two. Iannetta scored on the fielder's choice, the Angels taking first blood at 1-0.
Make it 2-0 when the number-nine batter, career-.231-hitting lefty Ian Stewart, hammered Smyly's 85 mile-per-hour hanger to the deepest part of right center, bouncing one hop off the wall. By the time Austin Jackson got the ball back in, Shuck had crossed the plate on Stewart's long RBI triple.
A long inning was extended when Collin Cowgill worked a base on balls, Smyly's pitch count crossing the 60 mark.
If Drew hits 88 pitches before the inning ends, he gets instantly transported back to 1955.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 18, 2014
There would be no Doc Brown or Biff Tannen sightings, despite HookSlide's promises. Runners on the corners for Trout, Smyly ended an excruciating 46-pitch inning with a strikeout.
Tigers fan-favorite Jered Weaver retired the first five Tigers he faced. Don Kelly became the Tigers' first base runner by working a two-out walk. But Alex Avila's long simmering troubles with lumber continued, striking out for the 18th time this season to end the second.
Pujols led off the third with the third extra base hit given up by Smyly, a double down the left field line. Not so fast; make it five hits, four for extra bases and the Angels hitting for the cycle as a team. Kendrick's fly ball to deep right found the first row of seats for a fence-scraping two-run homer and a Halos' 4-0 lead.
Luke Putkonen was quickly warming up, but the carnage against Smyly continued when Iannetta's fly ball landed fair in the left field corner, bouncing into the bullpen for a ground-rule double. That's five hits for multiple bases, six overall for the Los Angeles California Angels of Anaheim. The inning could have been much, much worse, but Ian Kinsler was able to double off Iannetta when he grabbed Aybar's liner.
Shockingly, Smyly would get out of the third without allowing anymore extra base hits (or hits, period), but his pitch count stood at a ridiculously high 82.
The Tigers got their first hit off Jeff Weaver's brother in third, Andrew Romine snaking a single through the right side. He was eliminated when Rajai Davis bounced to third. But Davis's speed would put himself into scoring position, stealing second for his sixth swipe of 2014.
Two down, Torii Hunter got the Tigers on the scoreboard with an RBI single to center, Davis crossing the plate to cut the Angels' lead to three. Miguel Cabrera took a freebie, extending the inning with a walk. But Victor Martinez struck out swinging to end the inning. It was only Martinez's second K of the season.
After 90 minutes, three innings, four runs and 82 pitches, Smyly's night was mercifully over. Putkonen took the ball to start the fourth.
Luke Putkonen kept up the one-extra-base-hit-per-inning pace, serving up a one-out double to Stewart. Putkonen then changed things up, plunking Cowgill.
The inning blew up from there. Putkonen tossed glorified batting practice.
Trout cleared the bases with a two-RBI double. Kendrick cleared them once more with his second home run in as many innings (it was originally called a double, Halos skipper Mike Scioscia winning a replay challenge), pushing the Angels' lead to 8-1.
After four innings, the Tigers' combined pitching stats were painful to look at 108 pitches, eight runs, nine hits, eight for extra bases, three walks and a hit batsman.
The game was essentially over at this point. Then again, when the Angels play the Tigers (to mix metaphors), a loss is par for the course.
The last time the Tigers beat the Angels was August 26. Of 2012. They're 0-9 against LAA since then.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 19, 2014
Sixth inning was more of the same, the Angels teeing off on Putkonen. Cowgill doubled, Trout walked and Pujols made it 11-1 with a line-drive home run to left.
Of the 11 hits Tigers' pitching had served up, only one had been a single. The Angels' slugging numbers had passed "ridiculous" and were now "ludicrous" - three home runs, six doubles and a triple to spice things up.
Ausmus finally yanked Putkonen after Pujols went yard. If he hadn't, the game would have likely lasted into the wee hours of next Monday. Thrown to the wolves was the just-called-up rookie reliever, Justin Miller. Turned out he was ready for battle.
Miller did everyone a favor and retired the next three Angels to end the inning. Actually, it was the Tigers defense which ended the inning, Kelly and Kinsler making nice plays to take hits away from LA.
Bottom of seven, Weaver was pulled by Scioscia, replaced by right-hander Josh Wall. The Tigers immediately lit him up, loading the bases. Avila led off with a double, followed by a Romine walk and Davis single. Kinsler forged ahead with his attempts to make Tigers fans forget Prince Fielder ever existed, belting a two-RBI single to right.
Nick Castellanos pinch-hit for Hunter, driving home the fourth run of the inning with a single to left. Not wanting to "Putkonen" the game, Scioscia yanked Wall, replacing him with Kevin Jepsen.
A pair of RBI ground outs off the bats of Cabrera and Martinez made the score a far more respectable, dare I say manageable, 11-6.
The Tigers refused to go quietly into the good night. Jackson kept the inning alive with a single, Kelly then slapping a double down the left field line. Unfortunately, Avila couldn't go 2-for-2 in the inning. He bounced to second, stranding a pair of runners in scoring position.
To the Tigers' credit, they made the Angels nervous by batting around, scoring five runs on five hits and two walks. But it was too little, too late. Down five runs at 11-6, it only raised the Tigers' win expectancy to 4.6% -- though the comeback made you wonder what could have happened if Putkonen hadn't been shelled.
The eighth and ninth, Phil Coke and Evan Reed tossed scoreless innings, respectively. But the Tigers could do no more against the Angels' bullpen.
Tigers take a loss that was uglier than the final score showed. They'll try tomorrow to snap a 0-10 losing streak against LAA.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 19, 2014
Game over. Your final score is Angels 11, Tigers 6. At least the Red Wings won.
As will the Tigers, more often than not. I'm going to forget this game ever happened and quickly move on.
The pitching matchup for game two of the series features Angels' left-hander C.J. Wilson (2-1, 3.92 ERA) taking on Max Scherzer (0-1, 2.70 ERA).
After being shelled by the Mariners in his first appearance, Wilson's last two starts were cakewalk victories. The Angels pummeled the Astros and Mets by a combined score of 23-3. Wilson pitched well for the Halos in the wins, allowing just three runs and 10 hits, striking out 16 in his last 15 innings.
What a difference a year makes for Scherzer. He has pitched well enough to win all three of his starts, but unlike 2013, Scherzer only has a loss to show for his efforts. In his last appearance, the reigning Cy Young struck out ten in a losing effort against the Padres, but also allowing four runs on four hits and three walks in five innings.
Saturday afternoon's first pitch at Comerica Park is scheduled for 1:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Happy birthday to Miguel Cabrera, who just happens to have the same numbers at the same age as one of the greatest offensive players in the history of the game.
Miguel Cabrera turns 31 today. At the time of his 31st birthday, Hank Aaron had strikingly similar numbers. pic.twitter.com/eNoQzZCZPc— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) April 18, 2014
Cabrera is always an offensive force, but even more so on his birthday.
Happy Birthday to @MiguelCabrera! He enters tonight's game hitting .444 (17x40) w/ 5 doubles, 1 HR and 6 RBI in his career on his birthday.— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) April 18, 2014
His 31st birthday was an exception to the rule, Cabrera's slump moved forward with an 0-for-4 night.
The first inning felt odd, to say the very least. Drew Smyly took the mound at the start of a game for the first time since September 2012.
I'm not sure why Ausmus is starting this game with his top reliever, but whatever.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 18, 2014
Jason Beck noted the fans appreciated Mike Trout more than Jered Weaver.
There were more boos at Comerica Park for Mike Trout when he stepped to plate than there were for Jered Weaver when he took mound.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) April 18, 2014
Understandable reaction. All Trout did was finish second in the MVP vote. He never threw a fastball at Alex Avila's head, then went into hysterics over being tossed.
By the time the Tigers were down six runs in the fourth, I was getting damn cranky.
@blessyouboys I need a bumper sticker that says, "I'd rather be watching the Red Wings game."— Al Beaton (@BigAlBYB) April 19, 2014
But things were looking up, at least a little, after seven. A smidgen of hope is better than none at all.
The Tigers' win expectancy is now up to 2% after that inning. That's a serious improvement over "HAHAHA ARE YOU JOKING?"— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 19, 2014
Another ex-Tiger returned to the place of his former glory. Brennan Boesch, who was once the Tigers' right fielder of the future, is now an Angel. He was signed by the Halos in January, and was called up from Triple-A Salt Lake City on Wednesday. Boesch entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh, flying out in his only at-bat.
Torii Hunter was removed from the game in the seventh for a pinch-hitter. Post game, Brad Ausmus said he had no lingering injury issues; he was just getting Hunter out of the game.
Justin Miller: One game, one ROAR. The newest Tiger tossed two scoreless innings, retiring six of the seven Angels he faced.
Ian Kinsler: The Tigers win the trade again! Three hits, two RBIs and a run scored for Kinsler. He's hitting an unsustainable .351/.373/.526, but it'll be fun while it lasts.
Drew Smyly: Tonight's performance was the last thing anyone expected from the talented left-hander. It was a rough re-introduction to starting pitching.
Luke Putkonen: Best typo of the night belongs to our own Catherine, posted as Smyly was pulled from the game for Putkonen.
Well, maybe give him a chance first ... RT @CSlonksnis Puke Putkonen in for the Tigers.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 19, 2014
Actually, it may have been a Freudian slip? Putkonen was rocked for seven hits and five runs in just two-plus innings of work.
Miguel Cabrera: The only Tiger without a base hit? Cabrera. His birthday was a disappointing one, 0-for-4 with an RBI on a ground out. It's hard to believe, but Cabrera's OBP is now over 20 points lower than Alex Avila's (.286 to .308).
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GAME 12 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Ian Kinsler's two hits, home run and four RBIs in a win over the Indians made Prince Fielder's trade partner the runaway player of the game, taking 98% of the vote.