Day two of my quiet vigil beside the dying corpse of the Tigers season went much like the first game. With a dizzying array of possibilities before me on a Sunday afternoon, I again watched the Tigers play the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays again shelled Tigers pitchers. The Tigers again failed to muster much offense. The Tigers again made mental mistakes. JD Martinez moved up in the order, but everything else was eerily similar. Fangraphs could have published their win probability graph before the game began. Baseball is a flat circle.
After Alfredo Simon retired the first batter, the Blue Jays got down to business. Josh Donaldson and Edwin Encarnacion both hit home runs in the first inning. After the home runs, Alfredo Simon threw a pitch that sailed near Troy Tulowitzki's head and over James McCann's glove. Home plate umpire Bob Davidson was not having it. He immediately took off his mask and warned both benches. This was a nice bit of theater, exhibiting as it did a belief that Alfredo Simon has command of his pitches. Kevin Pillar hit the third home run of the game in the second inning. Ryan Goins made a bid as well, but it was caught on the warning track in deep centerfield. The Blue Jays' power onslaught is vintage '90's baseball and Alfredo Simon was not prepared to enter Toronto's time machine. The balls would not stop flying over the fence. This game recalled the golden age of dingers when everyone was huge, the bats were all corked and capable pitchers were like rare jewels, highly sought after and coveted. Alfredo Simon is decidedly not Pedro Martinez.
Russell Martin hit the Blue Jays fourth home run in the fourth inning, making it 6-0, Blue Jays. Later, Kevin Pillar left first base and was nearly to third when Gose caught a fly ball, but Gose was left looking for a cut off man that did not exist. Pillar had time to get back to first and instead of turning two, the Tigers had a man on first and two outs. Alfredo Simon promptly walked the next batter. If Donaldson had hit a home run instead of grounding out, this string of events would have been the perfect microcosm for this game and this season. The Tigers left the inning without any further damage, but the lingering, consistent mental mistakes are not a good look for the Tigers.
At this point, Stockholm syndrome started taking effect. The Tigers are not making the playoffs anyway and the Blue Jays are actually a lot of fun. It was Baseball Day in Canada and the Blue Jays fans came en masse. The Blue Jays wore sharp jerseys with the words "Blue Jays" emblazoned in red across the chest, setting off the crisp, sparse, white uniform. There was a fan giveaway of red jerseys, creating an ocean of red, white and blue at the ballpark. The Blue Jays dugout was vibrant and excited, their enthusiasm fueled by a seemingly infinite amount of home runs. The Rogers Center was loud and the crowd was into it from the first pitch. Watching their enthusiasm for the game and their team was a reminder of how and why baseball is so fun. We are all bound by webs of geography, family and history to our baseball teams, for better or worse. I would not trade my Cabrera shirsey for Joey Bats apparel, but I may root for the Blue Jays when the leaves begin to change, the days get shorter and the Tigers go dormant to focus on project reboot.
In the fifth inning, Alfredo Simon hit Edwin Encarnacion with an eephus pitch. The crowd went wild, but Simon was not ejected from the game due to the fact that he clearly did not intend to hit Encarnacion and for that matter, why would you throw a purpose pitch at 55 mph? Should he have been ejected on principle for throwing such a horrible pitch? Maybe, but that is another matter. Kudos to Davidson for passing up a perfectly good opportunity to stage an ump show.
In the seventh, Nick Castellanos hit a deep double and Kevin Pillar crashed into the wall trying to make the catch. Pillar would remain in the game, but Buehrle's night was done after an effective and efficient six innings. A ground ball by McCann drove in the Tigers second run, but Lowe avoided further damage. Buerhle ended up throwing six innings, allowing five hits, two walks, two runs and striking out two Tigers. The Tigers threatened again in the eighth when Miguel drew a walk and JD hit a two out single, but Victor Martinez grounded out to second, ending the threat.
Bruce Rondon had a forgettable eighth inning, giving up three runs on a combination of hard hit balls and a walk. Blaine Hardy cleaned up the mess, striking out Jose Buatista to end the inning, but at 9-2, the damage was done. The rest of the game was a formality and the Tigers left town with the city of Toronto on its feet, cheering on the Blue Jays.
Elsewhere in the world of baseball, things are glorious. Jered Weaver gave up eight earned runs in six innings and Austin Jackson hit a home run. Eventually spring will come and the Tigers will press the reset button, but first there is more punishment and shame on the way. Thankfully, the Tigers get a day off before heading to Kansas City for a three game series.
Drew VerHagen: In relief of Simon, VerHagen pitched two scoreless innings with two strikeouts. He got into some trouble in the seventh, but worked out of it well. He was hitting 96 mph and looks like – dare we dream? – a potential asset in the bullpen.
Nick Castellanos: Nick collected three hits, two of them doubles. Good job, Nick.
Alfredo Simon: Big Pasta proved once again why he is probably better suited for a relief role. He struggled with command and gave up four home runs. However you look at it, that is too many home runs.
Bruce Rondon: Rondon's struggles have continued as he managed to get through only two thirds of an inning while effectively pouring water on any chance of a Tigers comeback.
Tigers' Baseball Bats: The Tigers were outscored in this series 29-6. The pitching has been very bad, but the baseball bats are not making enough contact with the baseballs and it is creating problems too.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- The Blue Jays hit 11 home runs over the three game series.
- The Tigers fell to 60-70, making themselves at home in the basement of the Central division.
- Miguel Cabrera came into this series red hot, but the Blue Jays slowed him down as the big man went 1-11 with one walk and one run batted in.
- Castellanos' nice game at the plate comes at the end of a solid month for the young third baseman in which he hit .264/.323/.529.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: