Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins – 5/27/12
Rick Porcello vs. P.J. Walters
The Tigers were coming off of back-to-back wins in the first two games of a weekend series with the Twins. These were the first such wins in over a month, and much needed to get Detroit rolling again. The Twins are still looking to find a foothold in the A.L. Central, falling to 11 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians. The Twins were looking to avoid the sweep behind P.J. Walters, while the Tigers turned to the young Rick Porcello.
1. Pitching Recap – Tigers
Rick Porcello was coming off a so-so start in Cleveland that left him – and the Tigers – with a loss. Porcello started by giving up a single in the first, followed by walks in the first and second. A single and hit batter in the fourth would put men at the corners in the third. But it wasn’t until a double and single in the fourth that Porcello gave up his first run. A single, stolen base, and double in the fifth added another run, and a second single gave the Twins the lead. An intentional walk was the last of the damage for that inning. Two more singles in the sixth would be the rest of the damage for Porcello’s day.
Duane Below relieved Porcello, and gave up only a single in the seventh inning. Brayan Villareal came in to the eighth inning, and a dangerous triple was there to meet him. Closer Jose Valverde pitched the ninth, giving up a single and a walk before finishing the game, and giving the Tigers the win.
a. Pitcher Final Lines
Porcello: 6 IP; 9 H; 3 ER; 2 K; 3 BB
Below: 1 1/3 IP; 1 H; 0 ER; 0 K; 0 BB
Villareal: 2/3 IP; 1 H; 0 ER; 1 K; 0 BB
Valverde: 1 IP; 1 H; 0 ER; 0 K; 1 BB
b. Pitching Final Thoughts – Tigers
After four years, Rick Porcello is still a mystery to me. He has moments of brilliance, where you can clearly see what it was the brought him to the majors with almost no minor league experience. And then there are times when he looks like he’s never played in a major league game before in his life. And then there are times, like today, where you can’t really tell which way things are going to go. Three earned runs in six innings is still a quality start, but the nine hits are just way too many. If this were an anomaly, I’d have less of a problem with the outing. But it’s not. In his last four starts, Rick has given up nine, six, eight, and nine hits. Now granted, Rick is a ground ball pitcher, and a good number of hits are going to come from the defense just not being able to stop everything from getting through the infield. But if Rick ever wants to become that pitcher that the Tigers thought he would be when they drafted him, he’s going to have to learn to give up fewer hits. Because hits turn into runs, and runs drop a pitcher from elite to good to mediocre to terrible.
Duane Below still continues to prove he belongs in the majors, and is pitching like he deserves a chance in the rotation. I would like to believe that towards the All-Star break (as the Tigers try to set things up so that the rotation goes Verlander, Fister, Scherzer, Porcello, Smyly for the remainder of the season), it may become necessary for someone to take a spot start. I hope that goes to Below. He’s been fantastic out of the bullpen this season, almost got his chance before Fister came back from the disabled list, and has just continued to go about his business. Villareal has been a nice surprise, as well. He made the team out of Spring Training in 2011, but just didn’t have the stuff to stay in the big leagues for long. Now here he is, back with the team in 2012, and he doesn’t have an earned run blemish yet. Hopefully he can keep it up for a while longer.
Valverde is starting to look a little more like the closer Detroit knew and loved in 2011. He’s still not pitching clean ninth innings, but at least he’s saving games again, just like he’s supposed to. Will he end up with 49 saves again? Who knows, but at least he’s pitching better now.
2. Pitching Recap – Twins
The Tigers saw Walters two starts ago, and the new addition to the starting rotation turned in a quality start that ended in a win. He was looking for a repeat performance in this outing. The first inning was rocky, as Walters allowed a walk, single, RBI single, and another walk to the first four batters he faced. Walters gave up a single in the third; a double, walk, and hit batter in the fourth; two singles and an intentional walk in the fifth; and a walk and single in the sixth. Despite all of these hits and walks, Walters was still able to stay out of trouble, only giving up two earned runs during his time.
Jared Burton replaced Walters, and gave up two singles in the seventh. Glen Perkins came in for the eighth, giving up a single of his own. Finally, the closer Matt Capps made an appearance in the ninth, and promptly gave up a lead-off single, right before he was greeted to a blown save on a two-run home run.
a. Pitcher Final Lines
Walters: 6 IP; 7 H; 2 ER; 4 K; 5 BB
Burton: 1 IP; 2 H; 0 ER; 0 K; 0 BB
Perkins: 1 IP; 1 H; 0 ER; 2 K; 0 BB
Capps: 1 IP; 2 H; 2 ER; 0 K; 0 BB
b. Pitching Final Thoughts – Twins
Walters has shown some good stuff for the Twins through four starts. He’s still in a lot of ways a rookie (having only four starts with the Cardinals in 2009 and 2010), so his success is noteworthy. Despite the seven hits, he still only gave up two earned runs. For a starting rotation that has seen its fair share of struggles this season (including moving one of its perennial rotation members to the bullpen), having a pitcher like Walters break through the crap is just the step in the right direction the Twins need.
Despite the woes of the starting rotation, the Twins’ bullpen has been pretty decent this season (Capps’s blown save being an exception, of course). They’ve pitched their game and done well doing it. If they can keep that up, then with any luck for the Twins, they’ll at least be able to play spoiler for someone come season’s end.
3. Hitting Recap – Tigers
Everyone came to hit today, and things got rolling right away in the first inning. Quentin Berry led off with a walk, followed by a single from Andy Dirks, an RBI single from Miguel Cabrera, and a walk from Prince Fielder. Things continued to look up in the third, when Quentin Berry singled and stole a base. Fielder doubled in the fourth, Brennan Boesch walked and stole a base, and Jhonny Peralta was hit by a pitch. Ryan Raburn joined the party in the fifth with a single, Berry added another single to his day, and Fielder drew an intentional walk. Alex Avila walked in the sixth and Peralta singled. Dirks and Fielder both singled in the seventh, Avila singled in the eighth, Berry singled and stole a base in the ninth, and Miguel Cabrera became a hero once again with a game-winning two-run home run.
a. Hitting Final Thoughts
It was great to see the Tigers put together some stellar hitting this weekend. It seems that some of them finally got pissed enough to do something about the recent terribleness. I’d say that twelve hits is some fine offense. It’s a shame, though, that most of those hits were singles that never amounted to anything. It was also nice to see Quentin Berry playing another great game. Berry was called up to replace the injured Austin Jackson. No one can truly replace what Jackson is capable of with this offense, but Berry is certainly trying to do his best at it. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of roster moves need to be made when AJax is reactivated from the DL, because Berry’s making it hard for Don Kelly or Danny Worth to keep their jobs. I’d hate to see Danny Worth be sent down to Toledo again this season for two reasons: 1) he’s barely had any playing time yet, and deserves a chance at some, and 2) this team desperately needs a second utility infielder off the bench. The only logical thing to do would be to DFA Don Kelly. But that probably won’t happen, since he’s Leyland’s favorite. But one can dream.
4. Hitting Recap – Twins
The Twins had a hit parade of their own in this game, giving Tigers pitching a run for its money. Denard Span started the game with a single, and Josh Willingham walked behind him three batters later. Alexi Casilla walked in the second inning, while Ben Revere singled in the third. Ryan Doumit doubled in the fourth ahead of an RBI single by Casilla. Revere singled again in the fifth, then stole a base to set up an RBI double from Joe Mauer. Willingham singled home Mauer before stealing a base of his own. Doumit was intentionally walked before the inning came to an end. Casilla laid down a perfect bunt single in the sixth, followed by a single from Jamie Carroll. Mauer singled in the seventh, Casilla tripled in the eighth, and Denard span singled in the ninth. Ultimately the Twins’ offense would put up three runs, but fall short of victory, and be swept at home.
a. Hitting Final Thoughts
I don’t know why, but it seems like no matter how much the Twins are struggling, as soon as they play the Tigers they’re an offensive nightmare. Minnesota had twelve hits of its own, but three runs weren’t enough to win the game. The biggest threats on this team right now seem to be Denard Span and Ben Revere. They have amazing potential as table setters at the top of the lineup. Span, especially, just hits and hits. Singles, doubles, triples, and home runs – he can hit them all, and just continues to get on base for his club. If Joe Mauer was half of the power hitter he was when the Twins were at the Metrodome, then this team would still be the one to beat at the top of the division.
Speaking of Mauer, I’m not sure what happened to him (if his power numbers really were gaudy because of the indoor stadium at the Metrodome, or what), but he is not the player he used to be. This is a guy who used to win batting titles, who was a legitimate power threat every time he came to the plate, and who was the best catcher in the game. Now he spends as much time at DH as he does behind the plate, and his power has just dropped off. He does appear to be hitting for average again, though, or at least close to it. Which is certainly something the Twins will need if they’re going to compete in any way.
5. Fielding Recap
The only error of the game went to Miguel Cabrera, who was attempting to do a barehand grab on a slow bunt, and didn’t quite get the flick of the wrist directly to Prince at first base. But it was far from a clean game. Oddities abounded, as Miguel Cabrera was tagged out in the first inning after hitting an RBI single. As he waited nonchalantly near first base (but not on first) for P.J. Walters to gather himself and start pitching to Fielder, Alexi Casilla came up behind him, took a throw from Morneau, and tagged Cabrera out while he wasn’t looking. Rick Porcello was the recipient of three different injury visits in the game, including one for his diving play at first base in the fourth. Unable to beat the runner to the bag, Porcello took the feed from Fielder, and dove head first into first base to record the out.
There were also a lot of stolen bases and double plays in this game. Boesch stole a base in the fourth, Revere and Willingham each stole a base in the fifth, Casilla was thrown out stealing in the sixth, and Quentin Berry stole bases in the third and ninth. Boesch grounded into a double play in the first, Don Kelly followed suit in the fourth (as did Jamie Carroll), and Raburn did the same in the sixth. Not the kind of thing you want, if you’re a manager. There was also one pickoff, in the seventh, as Joe Mauer ran on first movement against Duane Below, and was promptly picked off.
The highlight play of the day, though, came from Quentin Berry in centerfield. With two outs and a man on third in the eighth inning, Berry got turned around on a fly ball over his head. He ran back to it, got his body in the right position, but it was still over his head. So as it came down, he dove away from the field (in the direction of the stands) to grab the ball, save a run, and allow the Tigers the chance to go ahead in the ninth inning.
6. Tigers vs. Twins – Final Thoughts
It was a good day fro Detroit fans, as the Tigers finally got things together for a weekend, and took care of a division rival with relative ease. You have to be happy to ride that momentum into Boston for a four-game series. For Twins fans, though, it was more losing, and probably a little too good of an indicator as to what they can expect for the rest of the season. I know I was happy to see the first series sweep since Opening Weekend, and I hope Boston’s ready to feel that same force again.
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