Even though the Texas Rangers left the ailing Prince Fielder at home, they brought the spirit of his big bat with them and pounded out 14 hits in an ugly 9-2 blowout of the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Detroit's rookie pitcher Robbie Ray was making another start, and did well to escape trouble early. In the second inning, though, his wildness and inexperience caught up with him. Ray allowed a walk, a double and a single to make it 2-0 Texas.
Little did he know the hits would keep on coming and coming. Texas put up three runs the very next inning after a double by Adrian Beltre and an error on a ball hit by Mitch Morland. The Rangers had built a commanding 5-0 lead, and the Tigers weren't threatening it or Yu Darvish, who didn't have his best stuff early, but worked around trouble to hold the lead.
It extended when Shin-Soo Choo left the yard in the fourth with a two-run shot, and built even more when Michael Choice doubled down the line to make it 9-0. Detroit's overworked bullpen kept that major damage at a minimum the rest of the way however, stringing together innings from Evan Reed, Phil Coke, Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque, with only Reed allowing any earned runs.
The Tigers came back with some light hitting in the sixth, finally solving Darvish and scoring a pair of runs off singles from Miguel Cabrera and Don Kelly. It was too late however, and Detroit's runs were nothing but a speed bump for Darvish, who finished off his fourth win of the year in a tidy 106 pitches.
Danny Worth pitched a scoreless, exhilarating ninth featuring a baffling knuckleball which netted him two strikeouts, but the Tigers still lost their fourth game in a row, all of which have come in similarly ugly fashion after a beautiful road winning streak.
Top Tiger: Danny Worth. With the bullpen feeling the effects of some lopsided results lately and rough starting pitching, the infielder was pressed into duty in the ninth inning, and did his job shockingly well, getting two strikeouts via his knuckleball. If Detroit needs a hand(or an arm), Worth can get the job done just as much as Don Kelly. The last time a Tigers' position player pitched in a game? June 29, 2011 when Kelly hurled against the New York Mets.
Bungling Bengal: Robbie Ray. It was bound to happen to the rookie, especially after a string of excellent starts and a solid beginning to his career. On Thursday, the young man simply hit his major league wall for the first time, getting pelted by the Rangers and their band of professional hitters. Ray didn't have control, and often gave up loud hits sprayed all over the park. His defense didn't help him with several messy plays, but every major league pitcher has days like Ray did on Thursday. It was just a matter of time.
The Turning Point: Darvish escapes a wild first inning unscathed. During an ugly 24 pitch first inning, the Tigers got a walk and a hit off of Darvish to pressure the Rangers' starter quick. Unfortunately for Detroit, they didn't cash in any runs right off the bat to give Ray a boost of confidence on the scoreboard. As a result, Texas was able to settle in and go about their business of slamming the Tigers on the scoreboard throughout the rest of the game. Things could have been different had Detroit cashed in one run.
Stat Of The Game: 109, the total number of pitches the Tigers' relievers threw on Thursday afternoon, including Worth's 20. After the three game debacle in Cleveland—particularly Wednesday's elongated affair—Detroit badly needed to get their bullpen back in shape. It didn't happen in game one against the Rangers, a team that can wear out a staff. As a result, Detroit will option Ray to Toledo and replace him with fellow rookie Corey Knebel
Play Of The Game: Danny Worth strikes out two. With outs difficult to come by on Thursday for Detroit's staff, the Tigers got three from the unlikeliest source: infielder Danny Worth, who knuckled his way to two strikeouts. The fans roared their approval as Worth carved up the Rangers, getting his final strikeout looking. After the game, Brad Ausmus said the team planned to have Worth throw a bullpen session every 10-14 days as a potential "trump card."
What's Next: The Tigers will try to shake off the four game losing streak on Friday night in the second game of the series, as Anibal Sanchez (1-2) goes against Scott Baker (0-0). The game begins at 7:08 p.m.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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