This time it was the starting pitching, rather than the bullpen, that put the Tigers in a hole they couldn’t climb out of. Starter Daniel Norris, who was also celebrating his 24th birthday, struggled with fastball command all game and found himself on the bench in the fifth inning. Norris had problems commanding his fastball in the zone and appeared at times to be rushing his delivery and/or glaring balefully at his landing spot on the mound.
More after the cut!
Whatever the issue, Norris was unable to rein it in and left the bases loaded with nobody out in the fifth inning. Shane Greene, who’s also struggled at times this season with his command, managed to steer the Tigers out of murky waters by allowing only a single run when he walked a batter with the bases loaded.
The Tigers then turned to Anibal Sanchez to finish out the game. Sanchez continues to flummox Tigers brass and Tigers fans alike, as he struck out five batters in four innings…and gave up four runs, including two on a massive two-run bomb to longtime nemesis Nelson Cruz. While there were some positives to glean from this latest Sanchez performance, particularly the fact he was able to go four innings and help some overworked bullpenmates get much needed rest, his Tigers tenure continues to dangle over a precipice.
The Tigers’ offense ran into hard throwing lefty James Paxton. Paxton featured a 97mph fastball, with a little deception and some “moving parts” that made him very tough to pick up. The 28-year-old Paxton, who’s often been hurt in his MLB career, is putting together a strong 2017 campaign. Paxton came into tonight’s game sporting a lofty 30.6 % K%, and has already been worth 1.3 WAR for the Mariners so far this season. Paxton also lowered his ERA to 1.39 (his FIP is 1.09, so this is likely not all smoke and mirrors).
Paxton gave the Mariners seven dominant innings, allowing no runs on four hits and one walk, while striking out nine. Nick Vincent and Edwin Diaz finished off the game, sending the Tigers packing without so much as a roar.
Things of Note:
• Both José Iglesias and Miguel Cabrera are progressing, and likely to be activated soon. Iglesias will be activated in advance of Thursday’s game. Cabrera, barring an unexpected setback, will be back on May 2nd.
• Brad Ausmus was again peppered by the the media about the bullpen, particularly Anibal Sanchez. Ausmus was asked if he considered having Sanchez walk Nelson Cruz in the at bat that resulted in the two-run homer (Brad said no, it wasn’t the right play). He was also asked why he even used Sanchez; Ausmus pointed out the overtaxed or unavailable arms. Seems everyone needs reminding that Brad can’t just stick to his two reliable arms for the entire season.
• While he did strike out twice, James McCann went 1-for-3 off the tough lefty Paxton. He’s only batting .188, but has so far managed to cut down his strikeout percentage by 10% while also bumping his walk rate by 10%. McCann’s also boating a .810 OPS. He’s doing all this with a .097 BABIP. Yes, .097. #smallsamplesize but still.
• McCann and Avila have combined for 9 homeruns so far this season, more than any other MLB club at the position. #TeamCatcherPlatoon
• Shane Greene voiced his support for Sanchez after the game. “He knows we got his back. He’s in here every day trying to get better. We believe in him. He just has to believe in himself.”
• Sanchez managed to last four innings and rest a tired bullpen. He gave up a lot of solid contact, though, including that two-run shot to Cruz. How much longer can the Tigers keep running him out there?
• The Tigers have a few interesting long-relief options in Buck Farmer, Warwick Saupold, and Drew VerHagen. Saupold must wait a few more days if he’s to be recalled, since he was optioned down on the 20th.
• J.D. Martinez seems to be progressing in his recovery from a spring training foot injury. Martinez ran on Monday and was the “best he’s felt” according to Brad Ausmus.
• There’s currently a three-way tie atop the AL Central between the Tigers, Cleveland Indians, and Chicago White Sox.
• Tigers can take the series win with Verlander on the mound for the matinee finale.
• Andrew Romine met his wife in a ceramics class and seems sensitive about it.
• James McCann once duct taped his little brother to a desk chair.
• Craig Monroe is obsessed with crawfish and admitted to tricking his daughter into eating gator nuggets by telling her it was chicken.
• Michael Fulmer’s wife revealed he was a high school mathlete.