Saturday, April 30, 2011

Great Pitching Wasted in Another Walk-off Loss

The Indians walked off for the second straight night beating the Tigers 3-2 in 13 innings.  Tonight, Orlando Cabrera won it with a bases loaded hit to deep center field in the bottom of the 13th off Tigers reliever Brayan Villereal. What made the loss especially tough was that Ryan Raburn almost put the Tigers ahead in the top of the 13th when he just missed a home run on a mammoth fly ball to center.

I'm not going to rant and rave about how the offense failed again or how closer Jose Valverde was not seen for the second straight night or any other strategic moves. The Tigers are in a really bad stretch right now, so you're almost expecting a loss in a tight game like this. Instead I'll focus on the positive pitching performances.  The Tigers raked up 17 strikeouts in 12 1/3 innings tonight and they did it in style.  

It's hard to say which performance I liked better - Rick Porcello's seven strong innings or Al Alburquerque's dominant three.  I'll start with Porcello.  For the second straight start, Rick got them out on grounders and strikeouts.  He used his sinking fastball to retire 10 Indians on ground balls including a double play.  That is not unusual for him though. 

What was even better was Porcello's seven strikeouts which gave him a career high 13 over the last two games.  Unlike the previous game when he used a variety of pitches to get strike threes, six of his punchouts today came on his sinker. He now has 7 strikeouts per nine innings which is way up from his career rate of 4.7.  That is the single most encouraging thing going on with the Tigers staff right now. 

After Porcello left the game, Alburquerque followed with three absolutely electric innings.  He used his unhittable slider to set down nine Indians in a row, six on strikeouts.  Alburquerque now has 16 strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.  That comes out to a mind-boggling 19.6 K per nine innings.
Did the Tigers finally pick up one of those cheap journeyman relievers who suddenly catches fire?  So far so good.

Unfortunately the pitching was wasted and the Tigers have lost five in a row to finish April at 12-15 and 6 1/2 games behind the Indians.  The only good news is that the White Sox and Twins are playing even worse than the Tigers and both are 9 games out of first.  It's been a strange month indeed. 

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