The Detroit Tigers started their road trip with a bang, exploding for seven third inning runs to take a 10-1 lead over the Minnesota Twins. The Detroit bullpen did their damnedest to get the Twins back in the game, but the Tigers held on for a 10-6 win.
Tigers' catcher Alex Avila was forced to leave the game in the fifth inning after suffering a leg injury. Avila is reported to be day-to-day with a left leg contusion.
Rick Porcello (3-1) was the benefactor of the Tigers' offensive explosion. He would pitch into the sixth, allowing four runs (two scoring after he was pulled) on six hits, striking out four.
The Tigers' bullpen put fear in the hearts of no one, allowing two inherited runners to score and charged for another two over the final four innings. Detroit needed four innings of relief, and five relievers to get it. Justin Miller and Evan Reed were the main culprits in allowing the Twins to make the night far more interesting than it ever should have been. The Tigers were forced to use Joe Nathan in the ninth, who closed out the game in a non-save situation.
It was not a good night to be a Twins pitcher, especially if the pitcher is starter Kevin Correia (0-3). He allowed eight runs, seven earned, on eight hits over a mere 2 1/3 innings. The short outing did a number on Correia's ERA, now 7.33 after starting the night at 5.74. Anthony Swarzak gave up the final two Tigers' run in his relief effort, runs which seemed, for a time, they would be actually needed.
Torii Hunter led the Tigers' 15 hit barrage with three hits, two for extra bases, two runs scored and three RBIs. Rookie Nick Castellanos had two hits, a home run, two runs scored and three RBIs. Rajai Davis had another big game with three hits, adding a stolen base, an RBI and scoring a run.
Jason Kubel got the Twins back into the game with three hits, a run and RBI. Brian Dozier added a home run, Kurt Suzuki drove in a pair with two sacrifice flies.
To sum up a game which took a far too long 3:38, the Tigers' offense was gangbusters. Porcello was quite good for five innings, but he really needs to get out of the sixth. It turned a good outing into an average one, at best. What about the elephant in the locker room, that being the bullpen? Krol was fine, and should have gotten out of the seventh, if not for Ian Kinsler's first error as a Tiger. Chamberlain didn't allow a base runner and Nathan is throwing well.
As for Miller and Reed? I was taught if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
An uneventful first inning led to fireworks in the second. The Tigers' half of the inning featured a Twins error, a no-doubt home run and a TOOTBLAN.
The rally was kicked off by independent league Cinderella Chris Colabello's two-base fielding error on Austin Jackson's pop fly to right. Nick Castellanos followed by putting a charge into first pitch he saw from Kevin Correia, sending a fat 89 MPH fastball well over the high right field at Target Field. The rookie's third home run of the season gave the Tigers first blood at 2-0 (MLB.com video).
TIGRES ARRIBAAA!! Nick Castellanos le da ventaja a los Tigres con HR de dos carreras! Arriba 2-0 en segunda entrada desde Minnesota. #tigers— Tigres de Detroit (@TigresdeDetroit) April 26, 2014
Alex Avila continued his hot hitting with a single to center. Light-hitting Andrew Romine surprised everyone by muscling up, doubling off the right field wall at the 365 mark. Add Avila to those who were surprised. He didn't get a good jump and was nailed at the plate on Brian Dozier's relay throw (MLB.com video).
Porcello found himself in a two on, one one out jam the the Twins' half of the second. Jason Kubel went the other way, golfing a liner down the left field line which landed fair and bounced into the stands. Then came the TwinsHits.
Josmil Pinto hit a liner back up the middle which caromed off Porcello and into foul territory, Kubel taking third on the play. The Twins got on the scoreboard on Kurt Suzuki's sacrifice fly to left, making it a 2-1 game. Porcello looked as if he was out of trouble after sawing off the bat of Sam Fuld. But the ball somehow carried into short left, landing just out of Romine's reach for a single.
Porcello would end a paper cut filled inning by striking out Pedro Florimon looking, stranding a pair.
The Tigers would quickly get the run back, and then some.
Torii Hunter took his best swings in a week, keeping the Tigers' barrage on the right field wall going with a line shot off said wall for a lead off double. Having advanced to third on a ground ball, Hunter jogged home on Victor Martinez's RBI single.
Jackson sent Martinez to third when he lined a double off the scoreboard in right center. Castellanos made it three runs driven in over two at-bats by smoking a line drive past Correia for an RBI single. The ball was hit so hard, Jackson was forced to hold at third.
Avila walked to load the bases for Romine. In a nice at-bat, Romine worked a full count, fouled off a couple of pitches, then drew an RBI walk. Ron Gardnehire was forced to go to the bullpen, pulling Correia after 66 pitches in 2 1/3 innings.
Anthony Swarzak got the call in long relief. Calling it "relief" is being generous. Correia's ERA bore the brunt of Swarzak's relief.
The Tigers kept circling the bases. Rajia Davis slapped a single to right, Castellanos scored and the bases stayed loaded.
Ian Kinsler joined the hit parade with a hard ground ball down the the third base line. Trevor Plouffe made a diving stop, but hustling from second, Romine beat him to the third base bag. Kinsler was given a hit and RBI, the bases remained filled with Tigers.
The Tigers having batted around, Hunter came through with his second hit of the inning, also slapping a single through the right side. Romine and Davis raced home to make it 9-1 Tigers. TwinsHits for EVERYBODY!
Runners on the corners, a fun inning finally came to an end when Cabrera bounced into a 5-4-3 double play. The Tigers sent 11 to the plate against two Twins pitchers, scoring seven runs on seven hits and two walks. In something you might see once in, well, forever, Miguel Cabrera was responsible for all three outs in the inning. As always, you can't predict baseball.
Having sat for some time as the offense was doling out copious amounts of run support, Porcello didn't miss a beat with a shutdown bottom of the third. He followed that up with a shutdown bottom of the fourth, having retired seven straight since Fuld's broken bat single.
The battery changed in the fifth when Bryan Holaday replaced Avila, who had been gimpy after being thrown out at the plate. Porcello gave up his first hit since the second when Fuld singled. But he was quickly eliminated on an inning ending double play off the bat of Florimon.
Detroit's bats woke up from a two inning slumber against Swarzak, the Tigers increasing their lead to 10-1..
The rally was short, you missed it if you blinked. Hunter led off with his second double of the game, scoring on Cabrera's line drive single off the right field wall.
Porcello had been on cruise control, but ran out of gas in the sixth, unable to retire a batter. He quickly gave a run back when Dozier led off with a long home run to left. After a mound visit from trainer Kevin Rand and Brad Ausmus, Joe Mauer singled and Plouffe walked.
That was enough for Ausmus. Porcello got the hook, replaced by Justin Miller. Porcello's final line was decent - 86 pitches, two runs, six hits, four strikeouts and a walk, pitching five full innings and to three batters in the sixth. That was the only nagging point, the fact Porcello couldn't get out the sixth inning.
Colabello rudely greeted Miller with an RBI single, the Tigers' lead cut to 10-3. Kubel smashed a drive off the base of the wall in center, an RBI double which pulled the Twins within six at 10-4. All this, and there was still no one out. A pop up and sacrifice fly off the bat of Suzuki later, it was 10-5.
That was it for Miller, Ausmus wanting lefty Ian Krol on the mound. Krol did his job, striking out Fuld to end a long inning. The Twins sent eight to the plate, scoring four runs on four hits and a walk off three Tigers pitchers.
Davis created a two out threat in the seventh with a single (his third hit of the night) and a stolen base (his eighth of the season). But that's where he would remain, Kinsler bouncing out.
The bullpen not engendering any confidence, the Twins chipped away at the lead in the seventh. Krol retired the first two batters he faced before Kinsler booted what should have been a inning ending ground ball off the bat of Mauer. Evan Reed took over and served up an RBI double to Plouffe. Of course he did.
After seven full, the Tigers were still up on the Twins, but a nine run lead was down to four at 10-6.
Joba Chamberlian was warming up, but Reed remained in the mound. He started the eighth by nearly having his head taken off on Kubel's line shot single. One down, Reed walked Suzuki, forcing another Ausmus trip to the mound to make a pitching change.
RT @DNR_Rogo: Tigers go to pen again. Target Field plays "Same 'Ol Situation" by Motley Crue. I laughed.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 26, 2014
It should not take four relievers to pitch into the eighth inning when the score was 10-1 in favor of the Tigers. It just shouldn't. Ever.— Catherine Slonksnis (@CSlonksnis) April 26, 2014
As Chamberlain took over, closer Joe Nathan was warming up. Chamberlain went to three ball counts on both batters he faced, but got out of the inning unscathed. Fuld bounced into a fielder's choice, pinch-hitter Chris Herrmann popped up to Castellanos.
It feels funny to claim the Tigers' were clinging to a four run lead heading into the ninth, but the bullpen really makes you feel like no lead is safe.
Despite having a nine run lead after 2 1/2 innings, in the bottom of ninth the Tigers had Nathan in the game, hoping to close out the Twins with no dramatics. The always hard to retire Mauer slashed a one out single to left.
But that's where the drama came to an end.
Plouffe watched strike three go by for the second out and Colabello bounced to first.
GAME OVER! Your final score is Tigers 10, Twins 6. The happy totals include 10 runs, 15 hits, four doubles, a two run home run, two walks and just one strikeout. The offense was great.
To think the Tigers needed their setup man and closer after being up nine runs is infuriating, but also unsurprising. At least Chamberlain and Nathan did their jobs, ending a long game that ended up being far more tense than it ever should have been.
Saturday's game two features Anibal Sanchez (0-2, 3.54 ERA) facing Twins' right-hander Phil Hughes (1-1, 6.43 ERA).
In his last start, a lack of run support and three seventh inning runs meant Sanchez would remain winless on the season despite tossing six shutout innings in 3-1 loss versus the White Sox. Hughes was knocked around like a pinata in his first three appearances before recording a win and a quality start in an 8-3 victory over the Royals last Sunday..
First pitch at Target Field is set for 2:10 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Tonight's game featured something quite rare - the Tigers scoring first for just the third time in the last 12 games. Detroit is now 5-2 this year when scoring first.
It's been some time since the Tigers' system has produced a good hitting position player. That's changed with the arrival of Nick Castellanos. His 13 RBI in April are the fourth most by a Tigers rookie in franchise history and the most since Matt Nokes had 14 RBIs in the division winning season of 1987.
The Rod Allen quote of the night came after Miguel Cabrera bounced out, moving Torii Hunter to third.
"He's just trying to hit a ground ball to the second baseman."
Allen was trying to sell Cabrera giving himself up. God forbid, I hope the Hell not! Moving runners along is NOT part of Cabrera's job description. Driving them in is.
The Tigers' seven run outburst in the third was the most the team scored in a single inning since plating seven in the ninth against the Mets on August 25, 2013.
The eight April steals for Rajai Davis ties him for the sixth most in Tigers history and is the most in April since the immortal Brian Hunter stole 11 in 1998. Hunter stole 42 in 1998 after swiping 74 the previous season.
Post game Brad Ausmus said he was concerned about Rick Porcello after he took a liner off his elbow earlier in the game, accounting for his mound visit with the team trainer in the sixth. Ausmus says he expects Porcello to make his next start.
I thought I was watching a Tigers game. Turned out I was watching "Fargo."
It was Twins Bomber Hat night at Target Field. You betcha Marge Gunderson approves.
Nick Castellanos: A very nice game for the Tigers' prize rookie with two hits, and was robbed of a third. Castellanos has three home runs and 13 RBIs on the season, hitting .274/.324/.468.
Torii Hunter: Hunter slumped during the home stand, hitting .250/.250/.281 with only one extra base hit in eight games. He snapped out of his week long funk with three hits. Hunter gets extra veteran credit for going to Brad Asumus after talking to Avila about his injured leg.
Rajai Davis: Another huge game for the speedy outfielder, who is absolutely raking at .354/.419/.477. Davis stole second in the seventh, giving him eight steals in April. In 2013 Austin Jackson led the Tigers with eight ... for the entire season.
The body of Alex Avila: It would figure once Avila started hitting, he would get hurt. He came up limping thanks to an awkward slide while thrown out at the plate in the second. The beat-up catcher refused to come out of the game, but it was obvious he was hurting, unable to run full speed. After gingerly jogging to first while bouncing out in the fifth and given a talking to by Hunter, Brad Ausmus pulled Avila from the game. There's no reason to be a hero with a big lead. Bryan Holaday finished out the game behind the plate.
The official reason for Avila leaving the game was a left shin contusion. He is considered day-to-day.
Rick Porcello's inability to get out of the sixth: What had been a pretty darn good outing quickly turned meh thanks to a rough sixth. Porcello entered the inning having allowed one run on four hits. When the sixth was over, Porcello's once nice looking stat line had devolved to allowing four runs on six hits in just five innings, unable to retire the three Twins he faced in the sixth.
Rob has thoughts on what happened to Porcello in the sixth, the liner he took earlier in the night may have affected him more than first believed.
The Tigers' bullpen supplies more drama than a reality show featuring Real Housewives: Justin Miller allowed two inherited runners to score and was charged with another, in just 2/3 of an inning. Evan Reed allowed an inherited runner to score, giving up RBI double, a single and walk in his 2/3 of an inning.
There's literally nobody who can be warming up in the Tigers bullpen that when announced won't make me audibly groan.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 26, 2014
Kurt Mensching: The Detroit News columnist gets a HISS for his Monday column proclaiming the Tigers' bullpen is better than first believed. Tigers' relievers have been a dumpster fire ever since. Mr. Mensching contacted me tonight, and is taking FULL RESPONSIBILITY for the current situation. He apologizes profusely and wishes we "please never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever speak of this again."
TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
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GAME 19 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Rajai Davis won the PotG balloting with 47% of the vote, thanks to a huge afternoon with three hits, one a home run, two RBIs and a run scored in a 7-4 win over the White Sox.