Welcome to Talkin' Tigers, a weekly piece recapping the most important talking point from the week before about the Detroit Tigers while taking a look ahead.
The Detroit Tigers enjoyed a bounce back week, sweeping the Oakland Athletics, but then fell back to earth in a significant way, losing three straight games against the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend.
In all of the games, both the wins and losses, what was the constant theme for Detroit? Pitching. In every game they won, the Tigers received quality pitching, including a walk off win against the Oakland Athletics last Monday. In every loss, a starter has had a bad inning leading to the team's demise.
Between Drew Smyly's rough outing on Friday, Anibal Sanchez's bad fifth inning on Saturday and Rick Porcello's inconsistency Sunday night after previous brilliance, the Tigers are back on a bad run that can be attributed to pitching. While the offense routinely failed to produce in the clutch, all the losses were the result of starters falling apart in games where they needed to be better.
"That's gonna happen sometimes when you get a ground ball pitcher, some of them are going to find holes," Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus said after Sunday's game, attempting to help explain Porcello's struggle. Holes or not, the Tigers' staff has to find a way to avoid and pitch around the one inning clunkers that have been costing their teams in the standings. Detroit was on a nice run or quality starts, but with three tough losses, that momentum has been torpedoed.
"I think the day off will help everybody," Ausmus said, when pressed on how Monday's open date on the schedule might help players like Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez rest up. Ausmus's general answer was correct. In addition to bulky sluggers, it needs to help a weary pitching staff get it's collective head screwed on straight, especially with the Los Angeles Dodgers coming to town and another vital series with the Kansas City Royals upcoming.
The first place Dodgers are seventh in runs scored (361), while maintaining a .261 batting average as a team, good for sixth in the league. In other words, the series should be a fine heat check for Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, both of whom have pitched better in their latest starts.
While hitting is nice, consistent pitching is always the key to playing winning baseball, both in the monotonous regular season and in the playoffs. Just look at this past week and weekend if any further proof of that is still needed.
Player Of The Week: Rick Porcello. Sunday night's awful start not withstanding, Porcello deserves credit this week for his excellent, economical complete game shutout of the Oakland Athletics. It was a beautiful 95 pitch effort which saw Oakland players take some terrible swings. It also kept alive a scoreless streak for Porcello which reached 25 innings. Whether he was touched up or not, that was great news.
Play Of The Week: Rajai Davis beats the Oakland Athletics. In a moment that will be discussed for some time, the Tigers got a "super slam" from the normally light hitting Davis on Monday night to win their game against Oakland on the night members of the 1984 squad came home. Considering the moment, it was the biggest regular season hit for the Tigers in some time, and helped aid in a sweep of the Athletics, Detroit's main competition near the top of the American League. The moment could be one that's discussed forever, especially if the Tigers go on to bigger and better things this fall.
The Challenge Ahead: Breaking up bats, arms in harmony. It seems when the Tigers score runs in bunches, they get good starting pitching as well. Somehow, the Tiger bats are going to have to find a way to put forward a big effort during a game where a starter gets tagged for multiple runs in an inning. We've yet to see a Detroit comeback like that most of 2014, so perhaps the offensive and pitching harmony will break up this week.
Question For This Week: Can Detroit get less streaky? This season, it seems the Tigers either find wins in bunches or get beaten badly for several consecutive days. Somehow, they have to find a way to stop the streakiness, answering big losses with bounce back wins. A good start would be series against the Dodgers and Royals, two of the better teams Detroit will face to close out the first half.
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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