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Why wasn’t Joe Jimenez used in Friday’s loss vs. Mariners?

Manager Ron Gardenhire could have used his bullpen better in the 5-4 loss.

Cleveand Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers had another one of “those” nights on Friday, losing a 5-4 contest to the Seattle Mariners after coughing up a 4-0 lead in the seventh inning. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire used three different relievers after starter Michael Fulmer faltered, but none could get the job done before Detroit’s lead was gone. Meanwhile, setup man Joe Jimenez and closer Shane Greene, the two best relievers on the roster by several metrics, watched from the sidelines.

First, let’s lay down the specifics of this situation. Fulmer started the inning by walking Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. After a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Bosio, Fulmer induced the ground ball he was looking for with two men on base. Unfortunately, Ryon Healy’s dribbler wasn’t hit hard enough, and the Tigers settled for one out at first base, moving both runners up. With Buck Farmer furiously warming, Fulmer gave up a soft single to Ben Gamel, which scored two runs.

Here, Gardenhire could have gone a few different ways.

He opted for Buck Farmer, who has pitched well lately, but walked two batters without coming very close to the strike zone on Friday, loading the bases. Gardenhire could have tried to push Fulmer through the rest of the inning, but his command was faltering. Gardenhire also could have used Jimenez right then and there.

Personally, I didn’t mind the move to Farmer. As noted, he has been pitching well lately; since coughing up five runs in his first outing of the year, he had a 1.45 ERA in 20 appearances, with 19 strikeouts in 18 23 innings. Command has been an issue — he has walked 11 batters (now 13) in that same stretch — but it wasn’t a serious problem until Friday evening. Given his recent track record, though, Farmer deserved the opportunity in a high leverage situation.

After that, Gardenhire used Daniel Stumpf against the left-handed Dee Gordon.

We’ve expressed our disdain with Stumpf’s performance previously, but he did his job on Friday. He induced a routine fly ball from Gordon, and retired the only batter he faced. Stumpf is a struggling reliever that came in with the bases loaded and one out, and only surrendered a sacrifice fly. A strikeout would have been nice, but Gordon only fans at a 14.3 percent clip. Nice job, Daniel.

Then, Warwick Saupold came in.

This is where Jimenez should have been used. The M’s had runners on first and second base with two outs, and were still trailing 4-3. The Tigers had a lead to protect, but opted for one of the worst relievers in their bullpen. Saupold has a shiny 2.25 ERA in 16 appearances, but has more walks than strikeouts, and a 4.89 FIP that is over twice as high as his ERA. That he gave up consecutive two-out hits to blow the lead was not surprising.

Jimenez would have been the better option. His statistical profile is far better than Saupold’s, and he has generally been very good at protecting close leads this season. He is viewed as the “eighth inning guy” by Gardenhire, but should have been called upon to get a much more crucial out in the seventh.

And for those concerned about Jimenez’s workload — count me among this group — he doesn’t have to get four outs in this scenario. If the Tigers call upon Jimenez to get the final out of the seventh, they could still go to another reliever, like Louis Coleman or even Saupold himself, to pitch the eighth, starting with a clean inning.

Ultimately, this doesn’t matter.

Yes, it’s a lost season of sorts. The Tigers are rebuilding, and if you’re being hardcore about it, losses are maybe even more important than wins. But until the Tigers are fully out of the playoff race — they could have come within a half-game of first place with a win — they should do everything they can to win games. Friday’s seventh inning was a comedy of errors from multiple pitchers, but one that might have been avoided if the Tigers had used Joe Jimenez instead.