Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals – 4/17/12
Drew Smyly vs. Bruce Chen
After backing Justin Verlander in his complete game outing Monday night, the Tigers took the field behind Drew Smyly in his second big-league outing. Smyly came off an impressive, albeit short, outing against the Tampa Bay Rays. On the mound for the Royals was Bruce Chen, who has been with ten different teams over his career, but has found something of a home in Kansas City. In recent outings, Chen has had decent success against the Tigers, and was looking to continue that in order to break a five-game losing streak for the Royals.
Pitching Recap – Tigers
Drew Smyly only managed four innings in his first outing, his pitch count getting too high early on to remain in the game. Smyly gave up a hit in the first inning and one in the second inning. Luckily, both base runners were eliminated through great defense. A single and error in the third, followed by a second single, led to an earned run. Smyly had a dangerous moment, when the first single he gave up in the third inning was rifled right back at him, hitting him square in the back. But, he righted the ship, and kept on pitching. Two more singles in the fourth, a single in the sixth, and an intentional walk in the same inning would amount for the rest of the damage to Smyly before he finally left the game.
Octavio Dotel relieved Smyly in the seventh, giving up a double and intentional walk of his own before finally shutting down the Royals for the rest of the inning. Joaquin Benoit made an appearance in the eighth, working well around a triple, and setting the table for Jose Valverde in the ninth. Valverde finally found some of his closer form from a season ago, giving up only a walk before closing out the game and sending the Tigers out with the win.
1. Pitcher Final Lines
Smyly: 6 IP; 7 H; 1 ER; 4 K; 1 BB
Dotel: 1 IP; 1 H; 0 ER; 0 K; 1 BB
Benoit: 1 IP; 1 H; 0 ER; 3 K 0 BB
Valverde: 1 IP; 0 H; 0 ER; 1 K; 1 BB
2. Pitching Final Thoughts – Tigers
Alright, I admit I did not give Smyly enough credit. I’m not going to start giving him more credit than he deserves right now, but this kid has been damn good through two starts. Anything that could even remotely resemble rookie jitters just doesn’t exist with this kid. He was poised, pitched well, and made sure to manage his pitch count effectively. He was lights out for the entire six innings he pitched. It was a little scary to see him get drilled in the back, though. After all, Adam Wilk just took a foul ball off the shoulder a few days ago and was forced to leave the game because of it. The last thing you need if you’re a major league organization is for two of your top pitching prospects to be injured before the season is out of its first two weeks. There is, of course, the lingering question of whether or not the Royals will be able to adjust to Smyly the next time they see him (and they will, in all likelihood, see him again this season). But until that actually becomes an issue, I want to see how far he can go. He could potentially face the Rangers this weekend (which will be his first real test against a high-caliber ball club), or could have to wait and face the Mariners next Tuesday (depending on Doug Fister’s recovery timetable). Either way, I can’t wait to see what he can do for his third start. Eight innings, maybe?
This was also the first time thus far this season that Leyland has gotten to go with his bullpen the way it was drawn up out of Spring Training. Now, that’s not a bad problem to have, when starters and long relievers are able to eat up six, seven, or more innings in a game. But I’m sure everyone in the Tigers’ organization was waiting to see how the Dotel-Benoit-Valverde trifecta would work out. Seems like it’s going to work just as planned. We already knew that Benoit and Valverde worked great as a one-two punch at the back end of the bullpen. But add the Coke/Dotel choice in the seventh inning, and you’re looking at a very powerful big league pen. Dotel looked to be a little rusty, but quickly shook it off. Benoit likewise could have done without that triple, but he was able to keep the run on the base paths. When it was all said and done, it was a solid effort by the key players at the back end of the pitching staff.
Pitching Recap – Royals
Bruce Chen has been a journeyman throughout his career, but seems to have found a niche with the Royals. He has shown recent success against the Tigers, and looked to continue it by beating the rookie Drew Smyly. Chen gave up a fair number of hits early on, but kept the Tigers from doing anything with them. A single in the first; single, double, and sac fly in the second; and two singles in the third amounted for the only damage Chen gave up during his outing. After seven strong innings, Chen came out for the eighth, gave up a single, and was taken out of the game.
Greg Holland replaced Chen, but couldn’t repeat the great work of Chen, giving up three straight singles, and two RsBI, before being replaced by Tim Collins. Collins took care of the rest of the eighth without anymore damage, and Kelvin Herrera came into the ninth trying to keep things close, and give the Royals a chance to come back. After giving up a single, Herrera put the cap on the game.
1. Pitcher Final Lines
Chen: 7 IP; 6 H; 2 ER; 7 K; 0 BB
Holland: 2/3 IP; 3 H; 1 ER; 2 K; 0 BB
Collins: 1/3 IP; 0 H; 0 ER; 1 K; 0 BB
Herrera: 1 IP; 1 H; 0 ER; 0 K; 0 BB
2. Pitching Final Thoughts – Royals
Bruce Chen was great again. He may have struggled early in his time against the Tigers, but in the last year or so, he’s really figured them out. Even though he did give up six hits, only one run was scored on him (he was charged with the second, but Holland let that run come around to score). That’s a quality start, if ever there was one. What’s more, he was ready to pitch the eighth inning. Had he not struggled right away and given up the hit, he may have gotten eight innings under his belt. Regardless, he was more than impressive. Even the guys who have pretty good numbers against Chen lifetime couldn’t figure him out in any significant way.
The Royals’ bullpen really struggled to get the job done tonight, and that seems like it’s been the problem for the last six games. Granted, the Royals’ starters have been giving up a lot of runs lately, basically taking their offense out of some of these games. But the bullpen has to be able to put the nail in the coffin in these close games. Chen pitched a gem of a game, and got a loss to show for it. If this bullpen can’t back their starters in games like these, then the Royals are quickly going to go from “Toughest Competition for the Tigers in the A.L. Central” to back at the bottom of the division. Again.
Hitting Recap – Tigers
The bats were rolling on both sides tonight, but neither team could put the runs on the board, despite racking up 19 hits together. Brennan Boesch started out with a single in the first. Delmon Young singled, Ryan Raburn doubled, and a sacrifice fly by Ramon Santiago drove in a run in the second. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder hit back-to-back singles in the fourth, and then the Tigers’ offense was shut down until the eighth inning. Andy Dirks would single to knock Bruce Chen out of the game, before Boesch, Cabrera, and Fielder would hit consecutive singles and add two more runs. Ramon Santiago would add a single of his own in the ninth, but the Tigers wouldn’t put up any more runs.
1. Hitting Final Thoughts
The offensive effort was admirable, but somewhat lackluster when it’s all said and done. Yes, ten hits are great for one game. That alone shows what kind of potential the offense has. But when ten hits only amounts to three runs, that shows that something isn’t quite clicking yet. Maybe it’s still early in the season. Maybe everyone is still a little weak from the virus that was roaming the clubhouse last week. Whatever the case may be, Cabrera isn’t clicking just right, Fielder’s power is being dampened, and Raburn still can get over his first-half woes. Luckily, winning games means that everyone else is chipping in. Which I guess is what it means to be a team. Overall, it wasn’t the greatest win, but a win is a win, and the pitching was fantastic.
Hitting Recap – Royals
Like the Tigers, the Royals put a lot of hits on the board, but with nothing to show for it. Bourgeois started things off with a single in the first, followed by a Billy Butler single in the second. Eduardo Escobar had a single in the third. Following an error, Alex Gordon singled in the Royals’ only run. Butler added another single in the fourth, and Mike Moustakas put up one of his own. Butler had his third hit with a double in the sixth. Jeff Francoeur drew an intentional walk in that same inning, but nothing came of it. Brayan Pena doubled in the seventh, and a second intentional walk to Gordon gave the Royals another scoring chance. Francoeur hit a ball to the outfield that Boesch misplayed, turning a single into a triple in the eighth. Pena walked and stole second in the ninth, attempting a rally, but to no avail. The Royals fell 3-1, extending their losing streak to six.
1. Hitting Final Thoughts
It wasn’t a bad effort by the Royals today. Despite how good he was, they still managed seven hits off of Smyly, but just couldn’t do anything with them. The Royals are missing a few pieces that would make them a competitor in the league, and one of those pieces is a bat that can strike fear into opposing pitchers and drive in runs. Billy Butler does that a lot of the time, but he was coming up in the wrong situations in this game. The Royals are really hoping that Moustakas, Gordon, or Hosmer takes over that role. All three have that ability, but just can’t get it going lately. If the team wants to turn things around quickly, it’ll need those three guys to start playing at their true potential.
There was only one error in this game, and it’s really unfortunate that the rules dictate that it must be an error. In the third inning, Drew Smyly took a hard hit ball right off his back. Ignoring the pain, he still had time to try and make a play at first base, and just threw the ball away trying. Escobar was given the single, and took second base on the throw. It was a heartbreaking error from a team that, to this point, has now only committed two errors on the season.
The defensive gems, like the error, came from the visitors as well. After giving up singles in both the first and second innings, Smyly had both base runners immediately erased. In an attempt to steal second, Bourgeois was noticed by Smyly, who quickly threw to Fielder, who then relayed the ball to Santiago for the tag out. Then, after Butler’s first single in the second, Jeff Francoeur bounced into a double play, ultimately giving Smyly two very easy innings.
Tigers vs. Royals – Final Thoughts
I know I picked the Royals to win this game, but I couldn’t be happier that I was wrong. I was very skeptical of Smyly, but I think he’s starting to show his true colors. It’s only been two starts, and I’m sure he’ll have a hiccup or two down the road this season, but it’ll still be fun to see what he can do for this team. Especially if he does end up pitching against the Rangers on Sunday.
Tonight, these two teams will wrap up the series with Max Scherzer taking on Jonathan Sanchez. Sanchez really struggled in his last outing, which elevated his ERA quite a bit. Hopefully the Tigers can have similar luck against him. Also, with both one good and one bad start under his belt, this third try may finally show us which Max Scherzer we can expect to see for the season to come. Check out the game tonight at 8:10 EST.