Game 17: Breaking down the drought
The last time the Tigers scored so few runs in a three-game stretch — or four games, for that matter — Alan Trammell was a lame duck manager, and the Tigers were already eyeing Leyland to replace him.
It was September 2005, when the Tigers went 8-24 to close out the season. They suffered back-to-back 2-0 shutouts, one to Jon Garland and the White Sox in Chicago, the next to Scott Elarton and the Indians in Detroit, then saw Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia hold them to a run in each of the next couple games. By the time they broke out of it, they scored two runs or less in eight consecutive games of a nine-game losing streak.
No one would have figured this year’s Tigers offense would be mentioned in the same conversation as that one. For a three- and four-game stretch, however, that’s the statistical comparison.
If not for Miguel Cabrera’s RBI single with two outs in the ninth inning Friday night, the Tigers would be heading into Sunday with three consecutive shutouts, a streak they haven’t had since 1995. Really, their offensive struggles have gone on all week, but since outlasting Felix Hernandez for a 14-inning win Wednesday night in Seattle, the Tigers have been shut down by Hisashi Iwakuma, Tommy Hanson and Garrett Richards.
Richards, in particular, was notable, inducing 12 ground-ball outs over seven innings.
They’re now 4-for-44 with runners in scoring position since Tuesday, and all four of those hits are from Miguel Cabrera. No one else has had a hit with runners in scoring position since Jhonny Peralta last Sunday in Oakland.
The feeling from the Tigers is that Hernandez pitched them well and they haven’t found their timing since.
“In Seattle, we faced a lot of good pitching,” Peralta said. “They made the offense a little bit down. And here, we come here, and it’s the same thing. They’ve made good pitches to us. We need to make adjustments and try to find out how we can make a run.”
That said, their ground-ball tendencies have been surprising. On Friday, the ground balls led to double plays and quieted several scoring opportunities. On Thursday and Saturday, they had few scoring chances at all. The hits they’ve gotten have generally been for single bases.
Play of the game: If the Tigers defense makes an early play behind Porcello, the opening inning never gets to the point where Mike Trout steps to the plate with the bases loaded. That said, Porcello had a two-strike count, tried to get him out with a curveball and hung it. It was his 47th and final pitch of the inning.
“To be honest with you, at that point in the inning I was pretty gassed,” Porcello said afterwards. “That at-bat I was fighting for my life to get out of there and just get that last out and regroup. I hung a breaking ball a little too up in the zone and he hit it well.”
Line of the day: Porcello gave up nine runs on nine hits over two-thirds of an inning. According to baseball-reference.com, he’s the second Tigers pitcher since 1916 to give up nine earned runs without getting out of the first inning. Hank Borowy allowed nine earned runs without retiring a batter against the St. Louis Browns on August 18, 1951. Nate Cornejo had a nine-run first in 2003, but he made it through the inning, and just three of the runs were earned thanks to a Dmitri Young error.
Stat of the day: 1 — Swing and miss against Porcello, a changeup to Josh Hamilton that put him in a 1-2 count. He fouled off a sinker and another changeup and took three pitches to draw a walk.
Print it: “I struggled a little bit with my command, but it wasn’t all that bad. I was keeping it down in the zone. I don’t really know what to tell you except it wasn’t in the cards for me today. I did the best I could to dig deep, especially when I started to feel some pressure. It just didn’t happen for me. I wish I had a breakdown for you. I was throwing good sinkers. It just didn’t turn for me.” — Porcello