Everything that could go wrong for the Tigers went right today as the team got clutch hitting from a couple big bats and good pitching performances to take three of four from the flu-depleted Boston Red Sox.
The shaky bullpen had been much of the story through the first week of the season, as set-up man Bruce Rondon struggled mightily and failed to lock down the eighth inning. Actually, pretty much everyone not named Wilson has had their struggles early on in the young 2017 season.
After two incredibly disappointing performances, Rondon was demoted to Toledo for wunderprospect Joe Jimenez early Monday morning and seemingly under a mandate to lose weight and improve his conditioning.
More after the jump!
The Tigers’ bullpen woes reared their ugly heads in this series against Boston, but with the ace on the mound, the Tigers faithful—and those between the white chalk lines—hoped for the best.
Justin Verlander vs. Chris Sale lived up to the hype, as these matchups usually do. Both pitchers were, for the most part, on top of their game. Sale had what was described by Detroit News maven Lynn Henning, “no hit stuff.”
Verlander did have his struggles, and gritted his way through portions of the game. He also didn’t appear to have his slider, relying mostly on his fastball and a deadly snapdragon curveball to handle the Red Sox lineup. Outside a second inning in which a Nicholas Castellanos error helped lead to a Red Sox run, Verlander didn’t have a whole lot of trouble. Though the Red Sox lefty was indeed dominant, Verlander matched him and kept the Tigers in the game despite the early Red Sox lead.
In the sixth inning, Ian Kinsler jumped on the Tigers’ old AL Central nemesis, belting a homerun off Sale to left-field to tie the game at 1.
In the seventh, Verlander got out the first two batters of the inning, but Brock Holt walked. Brad Ausmus walked out to the mound under a canopy of boos and consulted with his ace before turning on his heel and marching right back into the dugout. Verlander induced the next batter to pop up to end the minor Red Sox threat.
After Justin Wilson relieved Verlander in the eighth with a scoreless frame, the Tigers bats woke up against Sale in the eighth. With two outs in the inning, Andrew Romine continued his torrid start to the 2017 campaign, nothing another extra base hit on a ground rule double. Following the Romine double, Sale clearly pitched around Kinsler to get to Nicholas Castellanos. Castellanos, who has struggled against Sale in his career, laced a single to left field to score Romine while Kinsler took third. Following a missed catch error on Holt at third, Castellanos made it down to second. Though Miguel Cabrera flied out harmlessly to Mookie Betts to end the inning, following a pitching change, the Tigers had the Red Sox right where they wanted them.
Francisco Rodriguez came in to pitch the ninth and pitched around a leadoff single to newly-minted Tiger-killer Mitch Moreland, notching two strikeouts and a force out to lock down the save. The mighty Red Sox were vanquished, and now the Tigers have to go fumigate the visitors’ lockerroom in advance of the Minnesota Twins coming into town tomorrow.
• The Tigers are 5-0 all-time in 5 Verlander/Sale matchups.
• Nicholas Castellanos is second in MLB with an 80% hard hit rate, but only bats .231 when putting those balls in play. League average hard hit rate is 32%. Basically, he’s getting a little unlucky on hard hit balls.
• Rod Allen is on vacation according to a follower.
• Justin Upton was scratched prior to Monday’s game with a stiff upper back. He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow.
• James McCann took a foul tip to a delicate region. He went down like a sack of bricks, but stayed in the game.
• Verlander has gone 110+ pitches in his second start of every season since 2013, according to Baseball-Reference. (H/T)
• With Rondon back in Toledo, Justin Wilson is now the Tigers’ primary set-up man. Joe Jimenez will likely be eased into lower leverage situations.
• Jimenez will wear 46 with the Tigers. 46 was most famously worn by 20-game loser Mike Maroth.
• Verlander and home plate ump Dan Bellino sniped at each other at one point in the game, but smoothed things over after a brief chat. (Post-chat, Verlander appeared to get some calls he hadn’t been getting earlier in the game, though he said the zone didn’t change.)
• Comerica Park, at 17, is now the oldest stadium in Detroit. Huh.
• If JaCoby Jones starts thunderclapping he’ll take over the world.