The chaotic state of the second-place Tigers
The question of scoreboard watching came up to Brad Ausmus at some point yesterday. At that point, he was looking at a rotation plan that includes Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer the next two nights, and may or may not include Justin Verlander for Sunday, or next week, or anytime soon.
In other words, for all those asking about how the Tigers are watching the Royals, they have their own worries — a lot of them.
“You lose [Anibal] Sanchez, you lose [Joakim] Soria, and one of the best pitchers in Tigers history is being evaluated,” Ausmus said. “I wouldn’t say this has been fun the last few days. Not to mention that we went 19 innings and our bullpen was overworked, overtaxed. But you just keep plugging away, and maybe two weeks from now, we’ll look back and laugh about the road trip to Toronto and Pittsburgh.”
There was no laughing in the Tigers clubhouse Monday night. There was barely any talk, really. It was a quiet — mainly an exhausted quiet, but a real quiet clubhouse.
“We need to get our feet back on the ground right now,” said Dave Dombrowski, who has become an air traffic controller with all the shuttling between Toledo, Erie, Pittsburgh and Detroit the last 24 hours or so. “We’ve had a couple times with starters getting hurt leaving games early, you’re bringing guys up, you’re moving them around, we lost a bullpen guy. We need to kind of get back. We’ll see what happens.”
They’ll get some semblance of order back on Thursday, when the stable part of the rotation comes back around. Max Scherzer faces the Pirates that night at Comerica Park, followed by Rick Porcello (remember him?), David Price, and then either Verlander or a fill-in. If Verlander has to miss time, Ray could start Sunday and then the Tigers could use Monday’s off-day to skip a spot.
Their bullpen should stabilize a bit tonight. As rough as Monday was, the fact that the Tigers got through the loss using only one reliever who pitched in Sunday’s marathon was a blessing for them. The late-inning bullpen group should all be available Tuesday, as is likely Phil Coke.
The positional roster remains to be seen. Last night gave them a chance to get a relatively normal night of sleep after they looked beaten in the turnaround from Sunday’s 19-inning marathon in Toronto to Monday’s game in Pittsburgh. They actually showed some decent signs of life as the game went on, mounting a pair of rallies.
The challenge in all of that is the schedule doesn’t get easier. They’ll have off-days on their next two Mondays, but they’ll have day-night doubleheaders on the ensuing two Saturdays to counter that. Even with an off-day, they’ll play 24 games in 23 days starting next week. They’re in the midst of a stretch of 55 games in 55 days, and you could make a case it’s essentially 56 games in 55 days given those 10 extra innings they played Sunday.
They’re going to be taxed and tested again. Count on it. And if you think their depth has been tested now, check back in a couple weeks.
The Royals won’t keep winning every game. The Tigers probably won’t keep losing at a rate of three-of-four like they have recently. The question, now that this is a race, is how many games they can start winning again in this stretch.