The Minnesota Twins were held without a hit until the fifth inning and had just four hits on the day. But forced into duty due to an injury to Anibal Sanchez, the Detroit Tigers bullpen coughed up five runs, allowing all four of the Twins hits while walking six in a 5-3 Twins victory.
The Tigers' woes began when Sanchez was pulled from the game after tossing 2 2/3 hitless innings. The reason was a blister on his right middle finger. No word as to how long Sanchez will be out of action.
Sanchez's injury meant the Tigers needed to get at least 6 1/3 innings out of their deservedly maligned (and overworked due their own incompetence) bullpen. An extended outing from the bullpen went as you would expect.
Called up before today's game to give the Tigers a fresh arm (supposedly) capable of long relief, Jose Ortega was a train wreck inside a train wreck wrapped by another train wreck. In just 1 1/3 innings, Ortega didn't allow a hit, but walked four and was charged with four runs. If asked to throw the ball into Lake Erie, Jose Ortega would have missed. He could only hit the strike zone 11 times in 36 pitches.
Phil Coke was better, but not by much. He followed Ortega and allowed all three inherited runners to score thanks to a pair of walks and a single in an out-of-control (literally and figuratively) fifth inning. Coke did settle down to pitch into the seventh, having allowed two hits and two walks in 2 2/3 innings.
Al Alburquerque wasn't immune to the bullpen's propensity to give up runs, serving up a home run in his 1 1/3 innings of work.
The Twins got an excellent performance out of starter Phil Hughes. Allowing two runs, both in the first inning, Hughes shut down the Tigers over his final six innings. His final line was seven innings, two runs, one earned, four hits and six strikeouts. Glen Perkins pitched the ninth to record his sixth save.
The Twins didn't have much offense of their own, but eight walks propelled them to five runs. Trevor Plouffe had the big hit for the Twins, a two RBI single which gave the Twins their winning margin. Josmil Pinto added insurance with an eighth inning solo shot.
Torii Hunter was the only Tiger who had no trouble with Hughes. He had three hits on the day and a run scored. Victor Martinez drove in two runs with a sacrifice fly and home run. Miguel Cabrera chipped in an RBI double.
Lost in another bullpen debacle was the Tigers' offense having little success against Hughes, who entered the game with a 6.43 ERA. He dominated the Tigers over seven innings, retiring 16 of 17 through the middle innings. Point your finger at the bullpen all you want (and I highly encourage it), but the Tigers won't win many games with the offense we saw today.
With the bullpen yet to appear, it was all happiness and light when the middle of the order gave the Tigers an early lead for the second time in as many games.
Torii Hunter kicked of a rally by extending his hitting streak to six games with a one out single to center off Yankees' refugee Phil Hughes. Miguel Cabrera restarted the Tigers' abuse of the Target Field fences by doubling off the right field wall. Hunter raced home while Cabrera legged it all the way to third base thanks to what was scored a throwing error Sam Fuld (MLB.com video).
TIGRES ARRIBAAA!! Miguel Cabrera empuja carrera con doble para darle ventaja a los Tigres! Arriba 1-0 en primera entrada. #tigers— Tigres de Detroit (@TigresdeDetroit) April 26, 2014
Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly to left allowed Cabrera to chug home with the Tigers' second run.
Once Tigers' first inning fireworks were extinguished, Hughes and Anibal Sanchez settled into a short pitcher's duel Unfortunately for the Tigers, the injury bug once again hit their number three starter, cutting the duel short.
Sanchez was cruising along, not having allowed a hit in 2 2/3 innings. But his body English while pitching to Brian Dozier foreshadowed that something was wrong. Mid at-bat, Brad Ausmus and trainer Kevin Rand didn't take long to determine Sanchez's afternoon was over with what was later announced to be a blister on his right middle finger.
The bullpen running out of arms thanks to yesterday's five reliever fiasco, newly called up Jose Ortega took over in what hoped to be long relief. Ortega made his presence known, finishing up the at-bat by issuing a free pass. It would only be the beginning of Orterga issuing walks like so much Halloween candy.
Dozier appeared to have stolen second, but Ausmus won another challenge. Replays showed Bryan Holaday's on-target throw just beat Dozier to the bag, ending the inning.
Per @MikeBerardino that's the first time an opponent has successfully challenged the Twins. Minnesota, meet Brad Awesomeus.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 26, 2014
Bottom of four, we saw exactly why Ortega has trouble remaining in the major leagues. A lack of command.
Ortega walked Joe Mauer, earned a mound visit from pitching coach Jeff Jones, then proceed to use that advice to plunk Trevor Plouffe.
We then saw why the Tigers have kept Ortega around, as he pitched out of a jam of his own doing. Chris Colabello popped up, Jason Kubel struck out and Josmil Pinto bounced to short, Cabrera doing a pirouette thanks to slapping on the tag after leaping for Adnrew Romine's off line throw.
That would be high point for Ortega. The inning over and the Tigers no-hitter was still intact. Sanchez and Ortega had allowed four base runners on three walks and a hit batter, but no hits.
Meanwhile, Hughes was having no command issues through five innings. He had retired 14 consecutive Tigers since Cabrera's first inning RBI double.
Ortega would have none of this throwing strikes nonsense as the game entered the fifth.
Seven of his first eight pitches missed the strike zone, walking Fuld and Aaron Hicks, causing an already overworked bullpen to start stirring.
Things went from bad to worse when the Twins tried to give the Tigers an out, Bryan Holaday saying "No thanks!" Eduardo Escobar dropped a sacrifice bunt, Holaday making the correct move in firing to third, but his execution was lacking. The Tigers' backup catcher fired the ball into left field, Fuld scoring on the error.
The game went from ridiculous to ludicrous, Ortega ending his outing by walking Dozier to load the bases. Aumus had no choice but to pull Ortega, replacing him with Phil Coke.
But Coke couldn't throw strikes either. He walked Mauer on four pitches, Hicks strolling home to tied the game at 2-all. But the no-hitter was still intact!
Coke long having burned all his bridges with the fan base, he just poured more fuel on the fire. He fell behind Plouffe 3-1, then we saw why Coke didn't throw strikes. Given a pitch to hit, Plouffe slapped a two RBI single to center, giving the Twins a 4-2 lead.
So much for the no-hitter. God help us, there was STILL no one out.
Coke elevated the inning from ludicrous to high comedy with a wild pitch, then walking Colabello to re-load the bases.
A struggling Coke finally got a break when the Twins stopped taking pitches. Kubel struck out swinging, Pinto bouncing into an inning ending double play.
It was over.Finally.
The bottom of the fifth was one of the most ridiculous innings I've ever witnessed by Tigers pitching, and I've seen some damn ridiculous crap over the years.
The ugly fifth inning totals: Against Ortega and Coke, the Twins scored four runs one hit, five walks, a stolen base, a throwing error and a wild pitch.
The Tigers did end Hughes' out streak at 16 straight, Hunter doubling with two down in the sixth inning. But Cabrera's fly ball to deep right died at the warning track, ending the inning.
Coke actually threw strikes and looked like a middling big league pitcher (but not God awful) in a scoreless bottom half of the inning, sandwiching a Hicks double around a pair of ground outs and a K.
Hughes still on the mound, the Tigers had a base runner reach scoring position with two outs for the second straight inning. Jackson singled, then stole second with two out. The Tigers failed to score for the sixth straight inning, Romine flying out to center to strand Jackson.
Coke did manage to recover a semblance of what dignity he has left, pitching into the seventh. He was replaced by Al Alburquerque, who got the final out of the inning.
To no one's surprise, the never say die Tigers refused to roll over and play dead. Top of eight and Jared Burton having replaced a very good Hughes, Detroit would load the bases with one out.
Alex Avila pinch-hit for Holaday, drawing a lead off walk. Rajai Davis extended his hitting streak to five games with a single. One down, Hunter fooled everyone by bunting for a base hit, loading the bases for Cabrera.
Time for the big hit? Not today.
Cabrera is swinging better, but still not at the level we've come to expect. He ended the inning by bouncing into an easy 5-4 double play.
With no one up in the pen, the game was put in Alburquerque's hands to finish. It had been too long since a reliever had allowed a run, so Alburquerque took care of that issue post haste.
He served up a long, one out home run to Pinto. It was only the thirds Twins base hit of the afternoon. Pinto's fifth home run of the season increased the Twins' lead to 5-2.
With a three run lead and a save in the offing, Twins closer Glen Perkins answered Ron Gardenhire's call. Martinez greeted Perkins by turning on a fastball, sending it well into the left field seats. His fourth home run of the season pulled the Tigers within two at 5-3.
Alburquerque allowing the home run loomed large when Jackson followed with a ground rule double to right.
In the end, the Pinto home run was moot, unlike the Tigers' bullpen. Perkins would gather himself, proceeding to strike out Castellanos, a pinch-hitting J.D. Martinez and Avila, ending a another long, uncomfortable game.
Game over. Your final score is Twins 5, Tigers 3.
Commence bitching about the bullpen. I'll join you. Unfortunately, I don't have an answer to the relief issues and I doubt the Tigers do, either. Remember, they're the ones who called up Ortega.
Sunday's series finale features Justin Verlander (3-1, 2.18 ERA) facing Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson (3-1, 3.63 ERA).
Two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery, Gibson was lights-out in winning his first three starts, allowing just one run in his first 19 1/3 innings. But a 13-6 loss poked much of the air out of Gibson's balloon, the Rays rocking the 26-year-old for seven runs and ten hits in just three innings. Gibson's ERA rose from from a miniscule 0.93 to more realistic 3.63 in the loss.
Verlander is looking more and more like the "Must see JV" of 2011-12, having allowed just two runs in four of his five starts. Verlander has struck out 22 over 19 innings in his last three outings, all victories.
First pitch on getaway day at Target Field is set for 2:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Alex Avila was held out of today's lineup due to the leg contusion he suffered Friday night. It's only a precautionary measure and Avila fully expects to be in the starting lineup on Sunday. He would enter the game in the eighth inning as a pinch-hitter and draw a walk. Avila played the final two innings behind the plate. This is a man who has had sparks fly off his face mask while taking a foul ball off his head. A mere bruise will not keep Avila from donning the tools of ignorance.
Torii Hunter entered today on a five game hitting streak. Over those five games, Hunter is 9-for-22, hitting .409/.409/.545 with three RBIs. He took no time in extending his streak to six games with a first inning single.
You can't predict baseball, case number 107:
Per Dickerson: Davis is hitting .350 vs RHP in 50 AB's. No, I don't understand it either.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 26, 2014
If you're looking for a bullpen arm, take your pick from the pool of mediocrity at Toledo.
Odds are excellent after today's bullpen implosion, the Tigers will be forced to call up another arm for Sunday's game. Post game, the team has announced they will do just that.
Prior to tomorrow's game, the Tigers will recall the contract of RHP Justin Miller from Triple A Toledo. #tigers— Tigers PR (@DetroitTigersPR) April 26, 2014
Miller does not have to spend ten days in the minors due Sanchez's injury. Seems a DL stint will be in the offing.
FSD understatement of the day, via Mario Impemba:
"The numbers for the bullpen, they're getting a little bit frightening."
Hell, today's relief stats alone are NSFL.
Ortega: 1 1/3 IP, 4 R on 4 BB. Coke: 2 2/3 IP, 2 H, 2 BB. Al-Al: 1 1/3 IP, 2 H, 1 R. All runs today surrendered by the Tigers 'pen.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 26, 2014
Torii Hunter: The 39-year-old has recovered form a rough patch and is back to raking. Three more hits today has Hunter at 6-for-11 in the series, hitting a slick .310/.338/.521 on the year.
Victor Martinez: Drove in a pair of runs with a sacrifice fly and a home run.
Austin Jackson: The only Tiger other than Hunter to have more than one hit. Jackson continues to pound the ball, hitting .314/.381/.543 in 2014.
Blisters: Sanchez had great stuff and looked to be on track to pitch deep into the game. A blister said otherwise, thrusting to the fore a bullpen already in disarray.
Jose Ortega: Things with more accuracy than Ortega - Everything on the planet. Things with more command than Ortega - See previous answer.
God help us all if Ortega was the Tigers' best relief option to be called up from Toledo.
Phil Coke: Yes, he wasn't charged with a run in 2 2/3 innings, pitching into the seventh. But this fifth inning sequence was disastrous for the Tigers.
Coke relieved Ortega.
Mauer walked, Hicks scored, Escobar to third, Dozier to second.
Plouffe singled to center, Escobar and Dozier scored, Mauer to second.
Mauer to third, Plouffe to second on wild pitch by Coke.
Coke would get out of trouble from there, but the damage was done. Coke threw 46 pitches in his 2 2/3 innings, but only a little more than half were strikes at 25.
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GAME 20 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
There were issues with the polling widget, so lets go with Nick Castellanos. A very nice game for the Tigers' prize rookie with two hits, one a home run, two runs scored and a team leading three RBIs.