Game 7: It had to end sometime
Maybe the Tigers really are ahead of everybody else this spring. Or at least they were.
Maybe the six days of live batting practice Tigers pitchers threw to Tigers hitters really did make a difference on both sides, giving the hitters a better sense of timing and the pitchers stronger command (Jacob Turner aside). Manager Jim Leyland isn’t going to have that much live BP next spring, but as long as they’re benefiting, he won’t apologize for it this time around.
The live BP was Jeff Jones’ idea in his first Spring Training as the pitching coach. He helped out Rick Knapp in years past, but this was his first spring really in charge of the program.
“I think that’s one of the reasons why we’ve swung the bats pretty good,” Leyland said Friday morning, before the loss. “They were throwing pretty hard to our hitters right off the bat.”
Maybe it did lead to an absolutely dominant week of Tigers baseball. And except for a regrettable pitch from Adam Wilk for a Carlos Ruiz three-run homer, and a bad inning for long relief candidate David Pauley, that Grapefruit League winning streak might be continuing, though it probably would’ve ended this weekend anyway with the split-squad matchups on Sunday.
The streak is over now after Friday’s 7-5 loss to the Phillies. Moreover, if the Tigers simply were ahead of other teams, that advantage is going to disappear quick. If they keep winning from here on out, especially down the stretch as rosters shrink and depth guys head to minor league camp, then they’re probably just plain better.
Keep in mind, Patterson today was probably the first case where a non-roster player was the primary source of the Tigers offense. The other exception might be Jerad Head in the low-scoring battle that opened the spring training schedule. Patterson was able to pounce on a couple of Halladay mistakes — one of them a cutter, the other a hanging changeup.
What we learned: Eric Patterson has some power, enough that pitchers have to stay honest.
What to remember from Game 7: The Tigers haven’t forgotten about David Pauley, but they haven’t handed him a spot either, which makes his struggle in the sixth inning a tough spot. Leyland said Pauley got hurt on two bad pitches they didn’t miss and two pretty good pitches that they managed to hit.
Hey, it’s only Spring Training: Patterson is not going to be a budding power hitter. He played in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League last year and still hit just five home runs between Triple-A Tucson and San Diego. He added a third hit later when he knocked a comebacker off the pitcher’s backside, and he singled for a fourth hit in the ninth inning.
The highlight play you missed: Don Kelly made a diving stop on Hunter Pence’s ground ball hit down the third base line. He couldn’t stop the base hit, though he tried to make the throw to first. The play, however, made a big impact on the Tigers infield defense.