May 29th, 2013

Wednesday’s lineups: Tigers at Pirates

Pittsburgh 006

Is this the start of a new two-game series, or a continuation of a four-game series? Discuss while you peruse the lineup.

Because of the change of venue, the Tigers lose the DH, which means Victor Martinez is on the bench for this one. Alex Avila is just 1-for-8 off A.J. Burnett, while Brayan Pena is 1-for-9, but catching V-Mart for a start appears to be out of the question at this point in the season. Maybe that changes later.

One thing worth watching is the pitch count on Anibal Sanchez. Jim Leyland said after last start he might be conservative with Sanchez’s pitch count after his no-hit bid last time out, and he backed that up today.

“I’m going to watch him. We’ll watch him close,” Leyland said Wednesday afternoon. “We’re not going to do anything ridiculous.”

The only reliever who might be held back tonight is Joaquin Benoit. Drew Smyly is back and available, and Jose Ortega could be back out there.

As you can tell below, there aren’t many great numbers for Tigers hitters off A.J. Burnett, even among those who faced him for years. Omar Infante’s 3-for-6 off him includes 1-for-3 in a matchup last year. It takes a little projection, but I took a shot with him tonight for Beat the Streak. You can check out other writers’ picks here.

If you want to watch the Red Wings tonight but still track the Tigers, you can follow online with Gameday or take advantage of the At-Bat app. Better yet, you can get a second screen going with MLB.TV (if you live out of market) or watch Wings-Blackhawks on mute and listen to the Tigers on Gameday Audio. Locally, the game is televised on Fox Sports Detroit and broadcast on AM 1270.

TIGERS (with career numbers off A.J. Burnett)

  1. Andy Dirks, LF (1-for-3)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (9-for-33, 2 HR, 3 walks, 7 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 3B (4-for-22, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Prince Fielder, 1B (3-for-11, 2 HR, 2 walks, K)
  5. Jhonny Peralta, SS (4-for-19, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
  6. Alex Avila, C (1-for-8, walk, K)
  7. Omar Infante, 2B (3-for-6)
  8. Don Kelly, CF (1-for-8)
  9. Anibal Sanchez, P

PIRATES (with career numbers off Anibal Sanchez)

  1. Starling Marte, LF
  2. Neil Walker, 2B (1-for-11, walk, 3 K’s)
  3. Andrew McCutchen, CF (4-for-11, walk, 5 K’s)
  4. Garrett Jones, 1B (1-for-7, 2 K’s)
  5. Russell Martin, C (3-for-9, 2 K’s)
  6. Pedro Alvarez, 3B (3-for-9, HR, 3 K’s)
  7. Travis Snider, RF (0-for-3)
  8. Jordy Mercer, SS (1-for-3)
  9. A.J. Burnett, P

Leyland on using Ortega in 11th

Neil Walker is a switch-hitter, but his splits have always been stronger against right-handed pitching (.286 career average, .801 OPS) than lefties (.260, .662). Never have those splits been stronger than this year, albeit in limited at-bats after missing time to the disabled list. He’s 5-for-30 so far off southpaws, and 30-for-105 against right-handers, including all three of his home runs.

So why did Walker face right-hander Jose Ortega in the 11th inning Tuesday night? It was the situation — one out, nobody on base. Jim Leyland said afterwards that he had Phil Coke ready, and would have brought him in if leadoff man Starling Marte had reached base.

“If the first guy would’ve gotten on, I would’ve brought in Coke to turn Walker around [and] to hopefully hold [Marte] at first base,” Leyland said. “And then you’ve got [Andrew] McCutchen coming up next, so you might have had to make another move, which is all right. But once he got Marte out, I was going to leave him in.”

Drew Smyly was on rest last night. Darin Downs was another option. The main motivation, though, would have been to hold Marte at first.

“If he got on, I was going to bring Cokey in so he could hold him at first, because that guy can really run,” Leyland continued. “If Walker bunts, gets him to second, then you can walk McCutchen and then you’ve got [Garrett] Jones, the left-hander. And then you’ve still got a right-hander ready if they happen to pinch-hit. You’re still ready to do that.”

Putting Tuesday’s 1-0 loss in historical context

Not since Bruce Chen shut down the Tigers at Comerica Park last August 29 had Detroit suffered a 1-0 loss. It was the Tigers’ only 1-0 defeat last year.

Not since Bobby Seay entered a bases-loaded jam in the 12th inning and promptly walked in the winning run had the Tigers suffered a 1-0 loss in extra innings. That was five years ago, on May 26, 2008, at Angel Stadium, squandering seven scoreless innings from Kenny Rogers.

Even then, it was nothing compared to what Rick Porcello gave the Tigers on Tuesday.

A search on shows only one other game in modern Tigers history in which a pitcher tossed at least eight scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts or more and didn’t get a win. Earl Wilson tossed nine shutout innings on four hits with 11 strikeouts and ended up with a no-decision in a 10-inning Tigers loss to the Angels on July 6, 1966.