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Rookie Robbie Ray Dazzles Early, Often as Detroit Tigers Win Seventh Straight Game

May 6th, 2014 at 11:18 PM
By Max DeMara

Not knowing what to expect from a rookie, the Detroit Tigers got more than they bargained for with young Robbie Ray Tuesday night, as the youngster looked the part of a solid major league starter, pitching five solid innings and watching his offense batter the Houston Astros to the tune of an 11-4 win.

'Robbie Ray IMG_1205' photo (c) 2014, Roger DeWitt - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Getting his career off to a rocky start, Ray put two on in the first inning. Each were softly hit balls, but Ray calmly pitched around the jam, striking out a pair and getting a groundout to help end the threat. Miguel Cabrera quickly backed his hurler up by socking a solo home run in the first to make it 1-0.

Detroit returned the soft hit favor to Brett Oberholtzer, loading the bases on him in the third on three straight pitches. Torii Hunter's sacrifice fly made it 2-0, an a single by Victor Martinez extended the Tigers' lead to 3-0.

Setting in, Ray retired nine straight before surrendering a walk. He showed an impressive ability to command pitches, getting five strikeouts. After Houston started to collect some hits and a run, Evan Reed came in for Ray and induced a timely double play to end the inning. Detroit added two in the seventh on an RBI single by Cabrera and a sacrifice fly by J.D. Martinez to make it 6-1. A Danny Worth single plated two more, and Detroit was out in front 8-1.

Houston's bullpen helped things get much uglier in the 8th. After two runners reached, Cabrera cleared the bases with a double, then J.D. Martinez picked him up to help Detroit to an 11-1 lead. Following Al Alburquerque, Justin Miller had a rough ninth inning allowing three runs to score, but Detroit had already done enough to survive another rough bullpen outing.

Top Tiger: Robbie Ray. With a robust offensive output, there were plenty of ways to go including Miguel Cabrera, Torii Hunter, Ian Kinsler or even Danny Worth, but it's hard to ignore a rookie making his first big league start and dominating the way Ray did. He navigated around trouble in the first inning and then retired nine straight while striking out five. That was good enough for his first career major league win. Give the young man plenty of credit.

Bungling Bengal: Justin Miller. Lately, the Tigers can't go one game without having the bullpen figure in the decision. Most of the time, that's for the worse, as it was again on Tuesday night. Miller did his best Phil Coke impersonation, giving up runs with the game out of control. For a bullpen that will eventually become extremely competitive job-wise, it wasn't a good impression for Miller to make on a night when things probably should have been much tidier.

The Turning Point: Robbie Ray's great escape in the first inning. Ray wasted no time finding trouble in his big league career, getting into the dreaded first-third jam with nobody out. Instead of folding, Ray calmly struck out the next two batters he faced, then induced a groundout. From a confidence standpoint, that was a huge development for Ray. The outcome could have been different had the Astros put up a crooked number in the first inning, but Ray's poise shined through, allowing Detroit to take control.

Play Of The Game: Jose Altuve's diving stop in the third. Altuve robbed Miguel Cabrera of a single up the middle. Later, Altuve made another fantastic play, jumping to rob a hit. Altuve is a defensive wizard, and he proved it again on Tuesday by being plenty active.

Stat Of The Game: 4, the number of hits and RBI's Miguel Cabrera collected. After looking lost at sea for a while, Cabrera has rebounded in a major way, and is once again beginning to terrorize opposing pitchers. Don't look now, but suddenly, Cabrera's average is up to .293. That's bad news for the rest of the league.

What's Next: The Tigers continue their four game set with the Astros, sending Rick Porcello (4-1) to the hill. He'll be taking on Brad Peacock (0-2) tomorrow night at 7:08.

Max DeMara is a contributor for @Pistons_101 and @tigers_101. Follow each to connect with him there on Twitter.

Tags: Baseball, Detroit, Detroit Tigers, Evan Reed, Ian Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Jose Altuve, Justin Miller, Miguel Cabrera, MLB, Robbie Ray, Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez

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