The Tigers defeated the Twins 11-6 tonight to even up the three game series at one game apiece. The game followed a familiar pattern. The Tigers fell behind early -- six to one in the fourth inning -- and then clawed their way back for another come from behind victory. They scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth to make it six to five and then exploded for six runs in the bottom of the sixth. The hitting heroes were Magglio Ordonez (three hits and three RBI), Brandon Inge (homer, double, three RBI) and Brennan Boesch (two doubles and two RBI).
As has bee the case all season, the bullpen had as much or more to do with their comeback as the bats. The usually reliable Max Scherzer could not make it through the fourth inning allowing 6 runs on 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings. The bullpen bailed him out though as Brad Thomas, Phil Coke and Jose Valverde combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings. They struck out five and allowed just four baserunners and gave the offense a chance to get back into the game.
The Table below compares the performance of the Tigers starters and relievers so far this year. Their starters rank last in the American League with a 5.54 ERA in 127 innings. The relievers, on the other hand, have a league leading 2.31 ERA in a league high 78 innings. So, the pen has been worked hard and has responded superbly.
If we look at the peripherals, we can see that starters have allowed significantly more hits per nine innings (9.9 versus 7.4) and home runs per nine innings (1.0 versus 0.5) than the relievers. The starters also have a much lower ground ball rate (42.4% versus 50.2%). All of that explains the difference in ERAs.
There are some indicators that the gap will soon close. The starters have a better walk rate per nine innings than the relievers (3.1 versus 4.5). The .335 batting average on balls in play for the starters compared to .270 for the relievers suggests that the the bullpen may have received more luck and defensive support. The starters should get better in the future and the bullpen may regress a bit. Up to this point, though, the starters have been bad and the relievers have saved the Tigers.
Table: Tigers Starters Versus Relievers