The Tigers went down Sunday in Seattle with a rather lackluster 4-0 defeat that mostly served to burnish the reputation of Mariners rookie Roenis Elias more than anything else. It was a dreary affair that featured a tired looking club looking forward to a week at home.
Sunday's loss wrapped up a 20-game stretch -- 16 of which were on the road. This was also a portion of the schedule that many anticipated would present challenges. It featured a trip to Fenway Park and a west coast swing to wrap it up.
Prior to the stretch starting the Tigers were playing very solid baseball but my hopes for the road-intensive stretch weren't exorbitant. There was no question that 12+ wins over this time would be excellent. 10 or 11 wins would be good and even nine wouldn't be the end of the world.
Of course, they started out on fire. Six straight wins in Baltimore and Boston featuring excellent work from their entire pitching staff (a shutout week from their bullpen for instance) and timely hitting led by Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera. Upon leaving Boston, when they could finally leave Logan International, it appeared a slam dunk that they would get beyond the 12-win mark for this 20-game stretch.
But, as we know, baseball doesn't always unfold as we envision. The Indians were ready to play some good baseball. Michael Brantley was ready to play some all-star level baseball for a few days, Brad Ausmus decided to employ Phil Coke for multiple innings, Joe Nathan belched out a blown save, and suddenly they were swept.
This led to getting smacked around for a few days by the Rangers in the first sustained string of poor starting pitching for the Tigers on the season. Other than Anibal Sanchez, each Tigers starter posted an appearance where they were taken to the woodshed. With the trip out west looming, including the first place Oakland Athletics, things looked a bit ugly.
To be honest, the trip to Oak-town and Seattle was okay in my world. This had to be a road-weary ball club and after enduring a 10-0 pummeling to open things with the A's, the Tigers rallied to win three of the next four games. Only Josh Donaldson's moonshot walk-off against Nathan marred that mini-run.
Losing the final two matches in Seattle wrapped up the 20-game period at 10-10 for the Tigers. It ended with a whimper after starting with some loud barking. 6-0 to start and 4-10 to the finish line. What does it all mean?
To me, it means they have passed through a chunk of the schedule that always, from the time the schedule was released, looked to possess significant challenges. They didn't post an ugly 7-13...they ended up treading water and that seems fairly acceptable. Nobody has enjoyed the beat downs they've endured these past two weeks. Two blown saves in the 9th inning were painful pills to swallow. The route to "10-10" was a very rocky road indeed. The 162-game schedule is rarely a leisurely Sunday drive however. There are potholes and construction delays all the time. The Tigers found some recently.
Now is their chance to take a day off and re-emerge into the sun. Certainly they have more challenges at Comerica Park this week. The power-laden Blue Jays roll into town looking to mash every hanging curve and ill-located heater they can get their bats on. Then the suddenly resurgent Red Sox come to down probably looking to give the Tigers some of the medicine that was served to them by Detroit recently at Fenway. Are the Tigers ready to get some home cooking and get back on track? Should be a fun week to see them tangle with these two AL East clubs.
*The Tigers affinity for drafting Vanderbilt products the last several years leads me to predict that Commodores righty hurler Tyler Beede will be the Tigers pick. Predicting the draft from afar is akin to throwing a dart in the local pub after six beers, but if Beede's stock has dropped just enough after a slightly disappointing college season, hopefully the Tigers will pounce on the talented arm.
*Many draft observers feel the Tigers will take one of the high-velocity college closers. With the Ryan Perry Experience in my mind, this doesn't thrill me. I suppose that isn't really fair. Perry flaming out doesn't mean Louisville's Nick Burdi or Virginia's Nick Howard will disappoint. (I did get a load of Burdi's delivery on TV this weekend however. Very upright and different looking. Looked like it would be hard to keep the ball down consistently. Maybe at 100-mph you can get away with that.) I do wonder if a college closer will be able to demand "slot money" for a signing bonus. If the Tigers can save some money in the first round by drafting a talented reliever perhaps they'll be able to draft some of the prep righty starting pitchers said to be available in the subsequent rounds and pay these guys out of their college commitments. I have no idea what bonus demands for Burdi or Howard would look like however.
*Some Tiger batter will have to do something fairly incredible to surpass Victor Martinez for "at bat of the year" when he won his match with Hisashi Iwakuma on Friday night. Amazing moment.
*Rick Porcello showed us a lot in the victory at Oakland on Thursday. Porcello wasn't sharp. He also had a homeplate umpire, Paul Emmel, that wasn't a good fit for Porcello's game. He was getting the benefit of the doubt very seldom. There was traffic on the bases continually. Porcello rose to the occasion with quality pitches time and again to limp within one missed strike-three call on Nick Punto of posting a quality start. It was a day where a younger Porcello may have caved for a big crooked number on the scoreboard. It didn't happen on Thursday.