The Tigers rode a broomstick out of Chicago to Cleveland last Sunday night. On Thursday, they were swept out of town with it. Michael Fulmer and the Tigers’ defense were a complete mess, and they spent three hours in the headlights of an 18-wheeler with a Chief Wahoo logo painted on the front as it bore down on them, losing 9-3 as the Indians took four in a row.
Michael Fulmer just didn’t have it tonight. Much like Verlander before him, the Indians seem to hit the Tigers’ best starters better than anyone. A Francisco Lindor solo shot put the Indians on the board in the first. Later in the inning, with Jason Kipnis on third, John Hicks botched a rundown after Miguel Cabrera gunned home on a fielder’s choice. Hicks failed to run the runner back to third and threw early instead. Worse, the throw was high, deflecting off the tip of Candelario’s glove into left field as Kipnis raced home.
It only got worse from there.
The Indians were all over everything Fulmer threw in the second inning. Singles from Roberto Perez and Tyler Naquin prefaced a two-run double from Lindor. Jose Ramirez then lofted a high fly ball to right that just kept drifting out on the wind and eventually cleared the wall by a few feet to make it 6-0. At that point, Ramirez had homered 11 times in 73 AB against Tigers pitching.
The Tigers pushed across a run in the third when Jeimer Candelario led off with a double and eventually rode home on a Nicholas Castellanos single back through the box. Fulmer responded to this symbolic show of run support with a quick third inning to restore his pitch count to manageable levels. It didn’t last long.
In the fourth, Dixon Machado botched a routine grounder right at him, allowing Tyler Naquin to reach first. A Bradley Zimmer single and heads-up baserunning from Naquin allowed him to reach third. Fulmer then nicked Francisco Lindor’s elbow as the latter checked his swing, loading the bases. Yet another seeing-eye groundball between first and second, seemingly the 4243rd of the series, made the score 8-1 and ended Fulmer’s night. Chad Bell escaped the jam allowing just one run, but the game was already over.
To his credit, Chad Bell handled himself well enough to move this game along. He spun four scoreless innings with three strikeouts against six hits, proving that the Indians’ lineup isn’t quite the unstoppable juggernaut they appeared against more talented pitchers. Then again, the Indians may have been fatigued from running the bases that much.
For his part, Trevor Bauer pretty much cruised in this one. He punched out seven and didn’t allow a walk. There were some hard hit balls, but most went for outs. As Dan Dickerson wrote in his article on the Indians’ run prevention today, they consistently appear to have mastered the art of pairing their defense and pitching to shut down opposing offenses.
In the plus column for the Tigers, Leonys Martin continued to swing a hot bat, posting a three hit game, and scoring in the seventh after a Cabrera double and a Castellanos RBI single to make it 9-2. Doubles from John Hicks and then Dixon Machado—who was robbed of another double by CF Bradley Zimmer earlier in the game—made the score 9-3 in the eighth, but this one wasn’t in doubt after the second inning.
This play had a 45% catch probability, but @Bzimmer5 was up to the challenge.— #Statcast (@statcast) April 13, 2018
The @Indians CF covered 65 feet in 4.0 seconds to rob a hit in support of @BauerOutage.
That’s a grab! pic.twitter.com/QhNpgSZkIu
The Tigers gave hints of respectability in their first three series, but the Indians are the first high caliber team they’ve faced, and we’re probably in for a rough stretch as the Yankees come to town this weekend. Things ease up again after that. In the meantime, the Tigers need to get their act together defensively. This isn’t going to get any easier with as many self-inflicted wounds as we’ve seen already.
Michael Fulmer was just bad
When a good pitcher has a terrible night, it can look as though the hitters just know what’s coming. It looked like that an awful lot in this game. The Indians treated the Tigers’ new ace the same as the old. Fulmer needed his changeup badly against a highly flexible and talented Indians lineup, and he struggled to command anything but his fastball effectively. The Indians whiffed just twice against him. For whatever reason, Fulmer attacked just about every hitter on the inner third, almost exclusively, failed to work up and down much at all, and the short line drive swings of the Indians made him pay repeatedly. Hurry back Chris Bosio, and best wishes for your health.
The average exit velocity off Fulmer's 2-seam fastball tonight -- 100 mph. Off his 4-seam, 99 mph— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) April 13, 2018
Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio will be out the next couple weeks to rest at home after undisclosed medical issue. Rick Anderson will continue to fill in.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) April 12, 2018
Tigers defense was offensive
Beyond a pair of ugly errors by Hicks and Machado, the Tigers’ defensive positioning seemed quite lacking in this series overall. We saw it in Daniel Norris’ rough inning on Wednesday, and we saw it again on Thursday. Ball after ball grounded through the gap between first and second. These weren’t lasers. A lot of them were just solid ground balls. But everything seemed to find a hole. Often this is just bad luck, but you have to wonder if the Tigers are doing a good job of positioning to the hitter and to the pitch.
Fulmer was pounding left-handers in, and yet Machado was shaded toward second base consistently. With Cabrera at first, and seemingly holding a runner within moments of every half-inning getting underway, the Indians did what everyone but the Tigers would expect; they flared soft line drives the opposite way, and pulled hard ground balls through the hole.
Statcast dropped this gem on us during the first inning
This is Miguel Cabrera's career base hit spray... pic.twitter.com/iPgdfiRAki— Daren Willman (@darenw) April 12, 2018
I miss those purple ones, personally.
Who was the Tigers’ least offensive, err, Player of the Game?
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