Detroit Tigers: What We Learned This Week

Although it wasn’t like their opening week when the Detroit Tigers started a perfect 7-0 to start the season, this past week perhaps cracked opened a sliver of the future and allowed a chance to peer into what the future of the rest of the season might look like for the Tigers.

Here’s what we learned this week about the Tigers.

The Royals aren’t going anywhere: After coming within an inning of winning the World Series, much doubt loomed over the Royals this past offseason about their sustainability of success due to losing key pieces of their World Series club. But after storming out to an 8-0 start, the Royals showed they aren’t going anywhere.

The Tigers and Royals finally locked horns for the first time this season earlier this week. It was a much anticipated match up between the divisional foes. Many believe the Royals and Tigers are currently the best two teams in the American League, but the first two games, the Tigers hardly filled the part.

In the first game the Royals tagged the nearly unhittable Alfredo Simon for six runs in just 4 1/3 innings, and cruised to an easy 8-1 win. In game two the Tigers were nearly no-hit by Chris Young and the Royals’ bullpen until Nick Castellanos singled in the 8th inning. The hit was rather meaningless and only accomplished keeping the the Tigers from being no-hit as the Royals won the game 4-1.

But the Tigers showed that they are a good team too as David Price played stopper and nearly threw a complete game shutout. But Lorenzo Cain made sure that didn’t happen in the 9th by hitting a home run to blow the shutout for Price, but Price would still record the complete game and get a big win for the Tigers.

The Tigers would salvage split with the Royals and leave Kansas City in first place, but if there was any doubts about the legitimacy of the Royals it has certainly been washed away. The remaining 14 games with the Royals will be compelling to say the least.

Shane Greene woes continue: 23 IP, 12 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 11 K, 0.39 ERA those are Greene’s gaudy numbers over his first three starts of the season. After only giving up one earned run over his first 23 innings pitched, Greene surrendered 15 runs over his 8 1/3 innings pitched.Unfortunately,  Greene’s calamity would continue on the south side. The White Sox got Greene for five more runs in just a short 2 2/3 innings of work for struggling right hander. Inflating Greene’s ERA to 5.56 on the season and 16.88 over his last three starts.

Is it too early to worry? Who knows. Obviously Greene wasn’t going to pitch to the tune of an 0.37 ERA all season, but Greene is also better then the 5.66 ERA he currently owns. Opponents are slashing .460/.517/.720 over Greene’s last three starts. Quite clear he’s not fooling anyone with anything he’s throwing up there at the moment. If Greene is going to fall back in order it’s pivotal his command cleans up. You cannot walk 10 batters over your last four starts and expect success. Especially when Greene’s strikeout rate has fallen from 9.1 last year to just 5.6 this season.

Greene has shown flashes of brilliance this season. It’s too early to have too much concern now, but if Greene goes out and pitches a fourth straight clunker, it maybe time to worry.

Brad Ausmus Bullpen Management: On Wednesday night, the second year skipper showed off his less than dazzling bullpen management skills. In the eighth inning of game two of the series with the Chicago White Sox, the Tigers were leading 6-3 going into the bottom half of eighth inning. Joba Chamberlain was called upon to try and get the ball to the Tigers’ closer Jokaim Soria for the ninth.

Chamberlain started out the frame by retiring the first two hitters he faced. Then the wheels started to fall off. With two-outs Micah Johnson continued his impressive night by collecting his third hit. Adam Eaton followed the Johnson single with a single of his own to put runners on the corners with two-outs and Melky Cabrera due up. Here is where Ausmus terrible bullpen management begins.

Cabrera this season is hitting .369 from the left side of the dish, but just a mere .074 from the right side. Ausmus did have lefty reliever Blane Hardy warming up and was ready to go. Instead of electing to bring in Hardy and turn Cabrera around to his weaker right side of the plate, Ausmus decides to let Melky hit from the left side and  let Chamberlain work out of his jam. Cabrera would hit a game tying three-run home run off of Chamberlain, but that was only the beginning.

So the lead is gone and Joba has now given up three straight hits. Time to pull him, right? Nope. Jose Abreu singled after Cabrera homered. Four straight hits. Still in there. Adam LaRoche kept the hitting barrage going adding a single of his own to the meltdown. Five straight hits. Runners on the corners again with two outs. He’s done, right? Nope. Avisail Garica singled too which plated the go ahead run. Six. Straight. Hits. Chamberlain was finally pulled in favor of Hardy, who would come on and retire Gordon Beckham on just three pitches to end the 8th. But the damage was done.

The Tigers mounted a little rally against White Sox closer David Robertson. Getting the tying run to third with one out. But rookie James McCann over ran first base, giving the White Sox a free out and Jose Iglesias would ground out to end the game.

Look, it’s not like Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has given Ausmus a bullpen with a lot of talent. There is a lot of uneasiness with everyone in the Tigers current pen not named Joakim Soria. But to leave Chamberlain out there to face Cabrera, then let the White Sox record three more hits before finally giving him the hook is unacceptable and was a pitiful display of bullpen management.

Victor Martinez might be breaking out: It’s been a rough go to say the least for Tigers’ slugger Victor Martinez. The MVP runner up is slashing .217/.320/.265  on the year, but perhaps Martinez is finally starting to get going. Over the last two games against the White Sox, Martinez recorded five hits. Two of the five going for extra bases, which was more extra base hits then he had in the entire month of April.

It’s a small sample size, sure. But just remember last time Martinez came back from a knee surgery: he slashed .258/.314/.380 in the first half of 2013, but then once Martinez got fully healthy he went on an absolute tear hitting .361/.413/.500 in the last 66 games of the year. It’s only five hits, but it might be the start Martinez needed to get himself going. Now if he could only get that other Martinez hitting, too.

Justin Verlander is on the comeback trail: After his third MRI, the doctors finally cleared Verlander to resume throwing. The inflammation in Verlander’s triceps has finally gone away, but it’s probably going to be at least a month before Verlander is back up in the big leagues contributing to the rotation. Regardless, it’s still outstanding news for a rotation that was already looked upon as not nearly as good as years prior.

Luckily for the Tigers Kyle Lobstein has done great work filling in for the injured Verlander and has really began to blossom into a quality hurler over his last three starts. With Lobstein pitching well it gives the Tigers the luxury to allow Verlander to rehab as long as he needs to get right and hopefully start giving the Tigers quality innings yet again.



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