Game 80: Putting Porcello’s performance into perspective

Let’s be quick with this, because there’s a day game Wednesday, and Justin Verlander is pitching in it:

The Oakland Athletics came to Detroit leading the league in runs scored (422), walks and on-base percentage (.335), while ranking third in home runs and fifth in slugging percentage. They were tied for fifth in extra-base hits, and they had the AL’s lowest ratio of ground balls to fly balls (0.69). Their run differential was and is the best through this point in the season since the 2001 Mariners team that ended up winning 116 games.

Rick Porcello became just the second pitcher this season to throw a shutout on them. Texas’ Martin Perez was the other, doing so on April 23 with a complete-game three-hitter.

Rick Porcello just missed the three-hitter, having given up a fourth hit in the eighth inning. Everything else Porcello did was hard to match.

His 17 ground-ball outs — again, from the team with the lowest ground-ball ratio in the league this season — tied knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and Wily Peralta for the most in a Major League game this season.

His only extra-base hit was a blooper that fell in between Nick Castellanos, Eugenio Suarez and Rajai Davis in shallow left field. His three other hits allowed included one infield single on a ground ball up the middle. Other than Austin Jackson running down a couple drives to center, his outfielders spent most of the evening (and I use that time frame loosely, since it was still light out when Porcello finished this game) as spectators.

His 95 pitches marked the second-lowest total from an American League pitcher in a shutout this season, only one more pitch than Jered Weaver needed to shut down the Astros on May 21. It’s the lowest pitch count for a Tigers starter in a complete-game shutout since Armando Galarraga’s would-be perfect game against the Indians in 2010, a game that required just 88 pitches.

Porcello not only became the first Major League pitcher to toss a shutout without a strikeout since Derek Lowe two years ago for the Indians, he’s the first to do so without a walk or a strikeout since Baltimore’s Jeff Ballard in 1989, and the first Tiger since Dizzy Trout in 1944.

He not only didn’t strike out a batter all night, he induced just two swings and misses all game, both on secondary pitches — one on a changeup, the other on a curveball. He threw 37 two-seam fastballs (or sinkers), induced 16 swings, none of which missed, got 13 foul balls, 14 others put in play, and only one base hit. That’s the same hit total he gave up on the only slider he threw all night, according to data from MLB.com’s Gameday application and brooksbaseball.net.

It was a classic sinkerballer’s performance from a pitcher who has wandered back and forth from the classic sinkerball style.

“You can move your sinker as much as you want. You have to have offspeed pitches behind it,” Max Scherzer said after the game. “You’ve got to be able to change speeds to be able to get the ground ball, generate the weak contact he’s getting. That’s what we’re seeing. He’s executing not only his sinker, but his other pitches as well at such a high level. His offspeed pitches are the best they’ve ever been.”

He’s had those pitches for a while now. He stopped choosing between the curveball and slider and started throwing both at times last year, and moreso this season. He’s throwing them better now. He’s throwing his sinker better, too, it turns out, thanks to side work with pitching coach Jeff Jones.

“We’ve been working hard on some mechanical issues, slowing things down, staying back over the rubber,” Porcello said. “A lot of times when I get up in the zone, my lower body rushes out ahead of my arm, and then my arm’s dragging behind my lower body and I can’t get through and get on top of the baseball and then everything comes up.

“Jonesy’s been huge for me all year in staying on me to make the adjustments. Right now I’ve got everything working in sync and the ball’s down for the most part pretty consistently and moving the way I want it to. I’ve got to maintain that.”

His last three starts, he’s doing that. He has 38 groundouts and 11 fly outs over his last three starts, covering 24 shutout innings in three different cities against three different teams. He has thrown 131 sinkers in those three starts and given up just five hits from them, compared with seven swings and misses.

Tuesday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

No Victor Martinez again tonight as the Tigers proceed cautiously with his sore hamstring. J.D. Martinez is the designated hitter once again. The two big changes from Monday are that Austin Jackson is leading off, with Rajai Davis moving down to the ninth spot, and Bryan Holaday will catch with the lefty on the mound for a second consecutive night.

Initially, manager Brad Ausmus left open the possibility that Victor Martinez could work his way into the lineup if he felt good during batting practice. Martinez took swings without any apparent problem, but didn’t do a whole lot of running. After a discussion between Ausmus and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand, however, Victor Martinez was ruled out.

TIGERS

  1. Austin Jackson, CF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (1-for-3 off Brad Mills)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH
  5. Torii Hunter, RF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Bryan Holaday, C
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Rajai Davis, LF

P: Rick Porcello

ATHLETICS (career numbers off Porcello)

  1. Coco Crisp, CF (6-for-16, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. John Jaso, DH (2-for-3)
  3. Josh Donaldson, 3B (0-for-4, 2 K’s)
  4. Brandon Moss, RF (0-for-5, walk, K)
  5. Jed Lowrie, SS (1-for-2)
  6. Stephen Vogt, C (1-for-1)
  7. Alberto Callaspo, 1B (4-for-20, HR, 3 walks, K)
  8. Nick Punto, 2B (3-for-15, HR, 4 walks, 2 K’s)
  9. Craig Gentry, LF (0-for-1)

P: Brad Mills

Game 79: When Austin Jackson goes for a walk

As the stats show, Rajai Davis’ walkoff grand slam down three runs is a historic feat. As recent trends argue, Austin Jackson’s nine-pitch walk that set up the grand slam wasn’t far off.

There are plenty of statistics showing the odds that were against Jackson getting out of that matchup with Sean Doolittle with a spot on base, let alone a walk, of which Doolittle had allowed one all season so far:

  • Doolittle had allowed one total baserunner — ONE — when getting a batter into a 2-2 count.
  • Jackson had more strikeouts (33) than walks (eight) and hits (12) after a 2-2 count this season.

That’s the situation Jackson faced after fouling off a 2-1 fastball from Doolittle. His at-bat, however, was just getting started.

“I didn’t want to make it an at-bat where I was just going out there and not really having a plan,” Jackson said. “I tried to step out and gather myself, really think the situation out. I know he has a good fastball. I faced him in the past. I think the main thing was just getting myself in position to hit early enough. He gets on you pretty quick.”

Said Doolittle: “That was a heckuva battle. You could see him really shorten up his swing with two strikes. I thought I threw some good pitches with two strikes. I went away, I went in, I elevated, and it was just a really good at-bat by him.”

Said Brad Ausmus: “That might’ve been the biggest at-bat in the inning there because Doolittle doesn’t walk a lot of guys. Huge at-bat and could be considered a turning point for us.”

He meant a turning point in the inning. Whether it’s a turning point for Jackson, who spent Monday afternoon working early on the field with hitting coach Wally Joyner, time will tell.

The first 2-2 fastball that came in might have been the toughest, a 97 mph heater inside that Jackson fouled off. The next two were more over the plate, but no softer at 96 and 97 mph.

Doolittle got his eighth pitch further in, and off the plate, trying to get Jackson to swing. He didn’t. With the count full, Doolittle went further in, and Jackson held off, loading the bases for Rajai Davis.

“Those are the type of at-bats that can wear you down a bit,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “He’s throwing a lot of pitches, it’s hot out there. Those can take a little bit out of you. On top of it, it’s a walk and you’ve got another baserunner, and it’s a different game at that point.”

It still wasn’t necessarily a long inning for Doolittle, who was at 15 pitches for the inning. Two pitches later, his inning was over, and the Tigers comeback was sudden and complete.

“My stuff was there, it was just a little inconsistent,” Doolittle said. “The velo was there, and I thought I threw some good pitches, but I also threw some bad pitches. It was just an inconsistent outing, and unfortunately one of the ones I really slipped up on cost us the game.”

It came hours after Ausmus had decided to bat Jackson ninth in his batting order against A’s lefty Scott Kazmir. He said he had planned on giving Jackson another start at leadoff, where he had struck out four times and hit into a double play Sunday, before Rajai Davis’ numbers against Kazmir led him to essentially flip-flop them in the batting order.

Hours after that, the order meant Doolittle faced Jackson before he faced Davis. That worked out well.

Walkoff grand slams by the numbers

1 – Walkoff home run in Rajai Davis’ career

1 – Home runs Sean Doolittle has given up worth more than two runs

1 – Baserunner previously allowed by Doolittle this season after putting a hitter in a 2-2 count

2 – Walks given up by Doolittle this season

2 – Walkoff home runs given up by Doolittle in his career (Russell Martin hit the other one, a 10th-inning solo shot for the Yankees on Sept. 21, 2012)

2 – Walkoff home runs surrendered by the A’s to the Tigers, the other being a Lance Parrish homer off former A’s pitcher and current Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones on July 10, 1983

3 – Grand slams in Davis’ career

3 – Two-strike pitches fouled off by Austin Jackson to continue his at-bat against Doolittle

8 – Tigers grand slams since 1938, according to the team’s media relations department

9 – Pitches Jackson saw from Doolittle before drawing the walk that loaded the bases for Davis

10 – Years since the Tigers’ last walkoff grand slam, hit by Carlos Pena to beat the Diamondbacks on June 27, 2004, the day the Tigers celebrated the 20th anniversary of the 1984 World Series champions.

26 – Years since the Tigers’ only other walkoff “Super Grand Slam,” coming with the team three runs down. Alan Trammell hit that one on June 21, 1988.

236 – Professional appearances by Blaine Hardy (229 of them in the minor leagues) before notching his first Major League win. He was the pitcher of record when Davis hit his grand slam.

 

 

Monday’s lineups: Tigers vs. Athletics

Two things going on today with the lineup: First, Austin Jackson is batting ninth for just the second time in his career, the other time happening way back on May 1, 2011. Brad Ausmus said it was a one-day thing based on the fact that Rajai Davis, who normally would’ve hit ninth, is 9-for-18 off A’s starter Scott Kazmir.

The other spot in play is the cleanup spot, where Victor Martinez has been scratched with back and side soreness. It doesn’t appear to be major; Martinez was moving around decently well in the clubhouse before batting practice. However, Ausmus didn’t want to take any chances.

“He didn’t want to come out,” Ausmus said, “but we can’t lose Vic for an extended period.”

With Victor Martinez out, J.D. Martinez moves into the DH spot and cleanup slot. He was scheduled to get a day out of the lineup for the first time in two weeks.

TIGERS (career numbers off Kazmir)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF (9-for-18, 3 doubles, triple, HR, 6 K’s)
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-33, 2 doubles, HR, 4 walks, 3 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-23, double, triple, HR, 4 walks, 5 K’s)
  4. J.D. Martinez, DH (0-for-6, 2 K’s)
  5. Torii Hunter, RF (7-for-24, 2 doubles, HR, 3 K’s)
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3, 2 K’s)
  7. Alex Avila, C (0-for-3, K)
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Austin Jackson CF (3-for-15, walk, 9 K’s)

P: Anibal Sanchez

ATHLETICS (career numbers vs. Sanchez)

  1. Coco Crisp, CF (6-for-15, 3 doubles, HR, K)
  2. John Jaso, C (1-for-10, 4 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Yoenis Cespedes, LF (3-for-15, 5 K’s)
  4. Brandon Moss, 1B (3-for-19, double, HR, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
  5. Josh Donaldson, DH (6-for-16, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  6. Stephen Vogt, RF (1-for-4, triple, 2 K’s)
  7. Jed Lowrie, SS (1-for-16, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
  8. Alberto Callaspo, 3B (1-for-5, HR, walk, K)
  9. Eric Sogard, 2B (2-for-7, double, K)

P: Scott Kazmir

All-Star voting update: Cabrera widens lead, Kinsler and V-Mart fall further behind

While the gap increased for Miguel Cabrera on his way to his second consecutive All-Star voting victory, the gap also opened on Ian Kinsler behind Robinson Cano at second base, as well as Victor Martinez behind Nelson Cruz and David Ortiz at designated hitter.

All three races headed into the final days of All-Star balloting online at MLB.com. Balloting ends Thursday evening at 11:59 p.m. ET.

Cabrera, looking to become just the fifth Tiger ever to be voted into the All-Star lineup multiple times, now has about 1.5 million votes more than his closest competitor at first base, White Sox rookie slugger Jose Abreu. Ivan Rodriguez was the most recent Tiger elected multiple times, voted as the starting catcher three times in a four-year span from 2004 to 2007. Lance Parrish and Lou Whitaker were both voted in three years in a row from 1984-86, while Bill Freehan was voted the starting catcher in 1970 and 1972.

Kinsler’s gap widened from nearly 670,000 last week to more than 871,000 votes now, despite a solid road trip in Texas that included a go-ahead home run with two outs in the ninth inning Saturday against the Astros.

Martinez sits just 120,000 votes behind Ortiz in balloting at DH, but both are about a million votes behind Cruz. At this point, the more realistic race could be which of the two earns a spot on the AL All-Star reserves. Martinez entered this week batting .323, 80 points above Ortiz, with an OPS advantage of 137 points.

Report: Leaked Astros docs suggest Houston wanted Nick Castellanos, Jake Thompson last summer

Deadspin reports that about 10 months’ worth of Astros internal communications surfaced online, including discussions over potential trades. The timeline covers last summer, including the trade that sent Jose Veras to Detroit for prospects. The documents suggest that Houston was looking for a bigger deal before the Tigers talked them down.

According to the documents, the Astros were initially interested in Nick Castellanos when Jeff Luhnow and Dave Dombrowski talked on July 22. The Astros, according to the documents, were willing to trade starting pitcher Bud Norris and Veras for Castellanos, and would consider Norris for Tigers pitching prospect Jake Thompson. Dave Dombrowski, listed as DD on the documents, wasn’t interested in starting pitching at that point.

The next day, according to the documents, the Tigers declined Thompson for Veras. Six days later, the trade talks rekindled. According to the documents, the Astros were willing to consider Danry Vasquez for Veras but would have to include a secondary prospect, such as injured pitcher David Paulino. That deal took on momentum, and was eventually completed.

Since Paulino was coming off Tommy John surgery, the deal was built to include him as a player to be named later. The other option, according to the documents, was Tigers rookie league pitcher Emanuel Chavez.

The Tigers are the only team that comes up in the documents in discussions about Veras. Norris eventually went to the Orioles on July 31.

Sunday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros

A day after Ian Kinsler powered the Tigers to a win with his ninth-inning home run, he will have just his second day off this season. Andrew Romine gets the start at second base. Meanwhile, Rajai Davis returns to the bench for the third time in four days, as Austin Jackson returns to the lineup. Neither Davis (4-for-16, double, three strikeouts) nor Jackson (2-for-11, triple, walk, four strikeouts) have hit Scott Feldman particularly well, but Jackson sat yesterday.

Interestingly in the shakeup, Austin Jackson returns to the leadoff spot he owned for years.

With lefty Drew Smyly on the mound, the Astros bring out backup catcher Carlos Corporan, whose three home runs in 18 career at-bats against Detroit mark his highest total against any opposing team. And that doesn’t count his two-homer game at Lakeland in Spring Training in 2013.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (career numbers vs. Scott Feldman)

  1. Austin Jackson, CF (2-for-11, triple, walk, 4 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (9-for-21, 4 walks, 2 K’s)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (9-for-15, 2 doubles, 2 HR, walk, 2 K’s)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-5, HR, walk)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B
  7. Alex Avila, C (3-for-5, HR, walk)
  8. Eugenio Suarez, SS
  9. Andrew Romine, 2B

P: Drew Smyly

ASTROS (numbers off Smyly)

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B (1-for-3, double)
  2. George Springer, RF (1-for-2, HR, K)
  3. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
  4. Jesus Guzman, DH (1-for-3)
  5. Matt Dominguez, 3B (0-for-3)
  6. L.J. Hoes, LF (2-for-2)
  7. Jonathan Villar, SS (0-for-3)
  8. Carlos Corporan, C (0-for-2, walk, K)
  9. Alex Presley, CF (1-for-2, K)

P: Scott Feldman

Saturday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros (updated with Jackson out)

UPDATE: Rajai Davis was originally set to sit once again, which would’ve been paritcularly interesting against a left-hander. However, Austin Jackson was scratched, earning Davis his first start since Wednesday at Texas. He’ll lead off and play in center field.

Miguel Cabrera gets his occasional start at designated hitter, with Victor Martinez starting at first base.

The Astros made a change in starting pitcher, scratching Dallas Keuchel and moving in Brett Oberholtzer, who was roughed up a bit May 6 in Detroit. Keuchel reportedly is dealing with inflammation in his wrist. But the Tigers are still facing a lefty, so the matchups shouldn’t drastically change. Bryan Holaday will start at catcher for Detroit, giving Alex Avila a day off.

Still no Dexter Fowler, who was scratched from Houston’s lineup last night with back issues.

Gameday | TV: FS Detroit, MLB.TV | Radio: 97.1 FM, AM 1270, Gameday Audio

TIGERS (numbers off Oberholtzer)

  1. Rajai Davis, LF
  2. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-7, double)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, DH (2-for-3, HR)
  4. Victor Martinez, 1B (1-for-2, walk)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF (0-for-3, K)
  6. Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-2, double)
  7. Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-3, K)
  8. Bryan Holaday, C
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Max Scherzer

ASTROS (numbers versus Scherzer)

  1. Jose Altuve, 2B (0-for-7, K)
  2. George Springer, RF (1-for-3, K)
  3. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
  4. Jason Castro, C (0-for-6, 5 K’s)
  5. Alex Presley, CF (1-for-9, double, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Matt Dominguez, 3B (1-for-9, 4 K’s)
  7. Chris Carter, DH (0-for-6, walk, 3 K’s)
  8. Marwin Gonzalez, SS (0-for-2)
  9. L.J. Hoes, LF

P: Brett Oberholtzer

Friday’s lineups: Tigers at Astros (updated with Fowler out)

Rajai Davis sits for a second consecutive game. His numbers aren’t good against Astros starter Brad Peacock (0-for-5, walk, K), but Torii Hunter is hitless off him as well. Austin Jackson has yet to face him.

On the Astros side, you’ll notice that Dexter Fowler has been scratched, reportedly with back tightness, replaced in the lineup by L.J. Hoes and in center field by Alex Presley.

TIGERS (career numbers off Brad Peacock)

  1. Ian Kinsler, 2B (2-for-9, walk, 2 K’s)
  2. Torii Hunter, RF (0-for-3)
  3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (1-for-3, HR, K)
  4. Victor Martinez, DH (1-for-3, HR)
  5. J.D. Martinez, LF
  6. Nick Castellanos, 3B (0-for-3, K)
  7. Austin Jackson, CF
  8. Alex Avila, C (0-for-3, K)
  9. Eugenio Suarez, SS

P: Justin Verlander

ASTROS (career numbers vs. Verlander)

  1. Dexter Fowler, CF Jose Altuve, 2B
  2. Jose Altuve, 2B George Springer, RF
  3. Jonathan Singleton, 1B
  4. George Springer, RF Matt Dominguez, 3B
  5. Matt Dominguez, 3B Jason Castro, C (0-for-2, walk, 2 K’s)
  6. Jason Castro, C Jesus Guzman, DH
  7. Jesus Guzman, DH Alex Presley, CF (2-for-6, double, walk, K)
  8. Alex Presley, LF L.J. Hoes, LF
  9. Jonathan Villar, SS

P: Brad Peacock

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 23,965 other followers