Wednesday night didn't have a pretty end for the Detroit Tigers much-maligned bullpen. Thursday afternoon, the offense helped cover up another rough outing, as the team responded whenever the Chicago White Sox drew close in a 7-4 win.
As they had done plenty of times in the series, the White Sox were the first to get things going with the home run ball, when Adam Dunn crushed a pitch to right center field for the quick 1-0. The Tigers responded quickly themselves with an electrifying triple from Austin Jackson, and one batter later, Nick Castellanos brought him home with a single to tie the game.
Detroit added another run thanks to a single by Ian Kinsler, a wild pitch, and a single by Miguel Cabrera. Rajai Davis played long ball in the fifth, and Max Scherzer motored through the White Sox lineup in the meantime, keeping them off the scoreboard with mostly strikeouts until the top of the sixth inning. Torii Hunter lost a ball in the sun allowing Dayan Viciedo. A sacrifice fly later, the White Sox had cut the lead to 3-2.
Unlike the previous night, the Tigers' bullpen got the job done in the late innings. Al Alburquerque held the fort through a dangerous seventh inning, and when Detroit loaded the bases in the bottom of the inning, Miguel Cabrera came through, extending the Tigers' lead to a comfortable 5-2.
Those runs would prove necessary. Joba Chamberlain took his turn as the bullpen's latest whipping boy, giving up three hits and two runs, but did manage to depart with the lead intact. Detroit's offense picked him up in the bottom of the eighth, when an RBI single from Bryan Holaday and a double from Davis extended that lead to 7-4.
Joe Nathan fanned two in the ninth inning, and got the final out via a strange interference call in order to save Detroit's win, and more importantly, a season opening series split with the South Siders.
Top Tiger: Rajai Davis. Despite Cabrera shaking off rust and collecting two hits and three RBI, it was Davis who supplied all the major power on Thursday, falling a triple shy of the cycle in an impressive day at the plate. Both hits helped Detroit extend their lead, and kept the bullpen out of danger. Not only is Davis supplying the speed, he's getting the job done with the power, as well.
Bungling Bengal: Joba Chamberlain. He had a great run of spotless appearances, but Chamberlain ran into the same trouble that many others in Detroit's bullpen had faced down recently: hard-hit balls. Three hits in a tenuous eighth inning won't get the job done
The Turning Point: Miguel Cabrera's bases-loaded single. With last night's trouble lingering in their mind, the Tigers knew they had to add some insurance runs, lest things get into the late innings and be a bit too close for comfort. After Kinsler popped out harmlessly, Cabrera simply ripped a pitch up the middle and scored two important runs. Though Chicago would cut the lead to 5-4, the Tigers had beaten them down with a solid play.
Play Of The Game: Alexei Ramirez's infield defense. Even from the opposing dugout, it was hard to ignore the defensive impact of Ramirez, who made several plays at shortstop reminiscent of his younger days. In the later innings, he stabbed a ball and seemed to injure his arm, but promptly got back up. Long known for his range, Ramirez turned back the clock on Thursday in spectacular fashion, and made things happen for Chicago defensively.
Stat Of The Game: 2, the number of runs the Tigers' bullpen allowed on Thursday, both by Joba Chamberlain. It's becoming a stat to watch, as Detroit's bullpen ERA has climbed to 5.73, which is the bottom of the barrel in the American League. If Detroit doesn't manage to score five or more runs in a game, their chances of winning plummet in 2014.
What's Next: The Tigers, who've played the majority of their games at home in 2014, hit the road again to take on the Minnesota Twins for a three game set that starts Friday. Rick Porcello (2-1) will oppose Kevin Correia (0-2).
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