After last night's ninth inning debacle, the Tigers desperately needed a solid start to lift them up. Alfredo Simon buried them instead. The Twins shelled him out of the game with seven runs in less than three innings, and despite the offense putting up a real fight, this one was never really in doubt.
Simon has come completely unglued over the past month. Once again his command was awful Saturday afternoon, as he struggled to locate any piece of his arsenal. He missed the strike zone wildly, and he grooved pitches right over the heart of the plate when he did manage to find the zone. The Twins took batting practice off him in the second inning, scoring three on a string of consecutive hits. In the third, Ian Kinsler whiffed on an easy groundball off the bat of Joe Mauer to lead-off the inning and from there the floodgates opened. The Twins sent 10 batters to the plate in the inning. Simon surrendered four more runs, three earned, before Buck Farmer mercifully came on in relief.
The urgency to acquire a starter best be hitting a fever pitch in the Tigers' front office if they have any hopes of contending in the second half. The cries of "sell" grow louder every day on the floor of the Tiger Fanbase Stock Exchange.
Victor Martinez was not interested in going quietly, leading off the fourth with a solo shot and sparking some life into the Tigers. J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos both smoked balls to right field for a single and a double off the wall respectively. James McCann plated them both with another opposite field single, and the Tigers had a bit of life, trailing 7-3.
After a clean inning from Buck Farmer in the bottom of the fourth, the Tigers picked up right where they left off on the comeback trail. Doubles from Rajai Davis and Yoenis Cespedes plated a run and the Tigers were just three back and looking dangerous.
Unfortunately the rally came to a crashing halt when Victor Martinez was called out on a pitch that clearly missed the strike zone high and away. Martinez lost it, exploding at home plate umpire Marty Foster. Martinez was as furious as I've ever seen him,and had to be blocked by Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus from getting right in Foster's face after he was ejected from the game. Martinez had a legitimate gripe, but getting tossed in the midst of a comeback put a hole in the heart of the Tigers' order. J.D. Martinez struck out to end the inning and a potential big inning fizzled instead.
After 2.2 solid innings for Farmer, with four strikeouts to his name, the wheels started to come off in the sixth. Farmer drilled the leadoff hitter, Brian Dozier, and warnings were issued. The Tigers old buddy, Torii Hunter, made Farmer pay, unleashing a monster two-run shot into the third deck in left field. Just like that, the game was 9-4.
The Tigers' offense put up a good fight, tacking on another run and mustering a two-out threat in the 8th, but while they continue to rake, the back of the Tigers' rotation has devolved into a complete liability. They'll need a lot more than Simon offered from Shane Greene tomorrow to salvage a split in the series.
-Victor Martinez' return has sparked a renaissance in the Tigers' offense. His fourth inning home run gave him four in 21 games since returning from the DL. Martinez is batting .333/.350/.537 for an OPS of .887 since his return. Getting tossed from the game was just not smart, but it was frankly a brutal called strike at that point in the game.
-Yoenis Cespedes stroked his league leading 27th double and added a single and an RBI to his tally.
-Nick Castellanos continued his recent tear with a double, a walk and a run scored.
-James McCann had a pair of hits, a walk, two RBI and gunned down another runner.
-Rajai Davis had a single and a double, scoring two runs and continuing to defy his career numbers against right-handed pitchers.
-Neftali Feliz: It was a meaningless inning of work, but Feliz touched 98 mph, with a hit and a strikeout. Eh, who knows? You'd think a struggling reliever coming to the Tigers would be a reverse jinx...
-Alfredo Simon is absolute toast at this point. Maybe some redemption can be found in the bullpen, but the second half unraveling has already reached horrific proportions.
-Ian Kinsler completely whiffed on a routine groundball from Joe Mauer to leadoff the third inning, keying a huge rally. Simon's nightmare outing was probably inevitable, but giving away an easy out to lead off an inning, when your pitcher is going this badly, just isn't acceptable.
STREAKS AND STATS:
-In his last 22.2 innings, spanning five starts, Alfredo Simon has allowed 28 earned runs.
-Yoenis Cespedes first-inning single gave him a nine game hitting streak dating back to July 3. His double in the fifth gave him 27 on the year, tying him with Jason Kipnis for the most in the major leagues.
-Nick Castellanos has hit safely in 15 of his last 17 games, with two home runs and five doubles in that span.
-James McCann gunned down Eddie Rosario by approximately 90 feet in the fifth inning for his 14th runner thrown out on the year. He's fourth best in stolen base percentage among all catchers with 200 innings caught or more. The McCannon is strong.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: