I got to watch my first Tigers game in six months today and they looked the same way they did when I saw them late last season. They lost 10-6 to the Yankees in an ugly performance on the Fox Network Game of the Week. The only good thing is that Fox carried the game in the Boston area instead of blacking it out as they usually do. Other than that, it was a lackluster performance by the Tigers all around.
Penny Gets Off to Slow Start
Brad Penny was awful in his first start as a Tiger allowing 8 runs in 4 1/3 innings. He put the Tigers in a hole by giving up three runs in each of the first two innings. There is really nothing positive to take away from this one. He simply had nothing. Jeremy Bonderman and Armando Galarraga could have done better than that. Just remember, it's only one start against a very powerful line-up
Penny was not helped by his teammates. My biggest concern about the Tigers this year is middle infield defense and today's performance did nothing to alleviate my worries. In the very first inning, Will Rhymes and Jhonny Peralta both had balls go off their gloves for singles. They were not easy plays but they were plays that infielders with better range might have made. I've been harping on this a lot already, but it is difficult for ground ball pitchers like Penny and Rick Porcello to overcome poor infield range.
The Tigers defensive problems weren't limited to range though. In the second inning, Peralta attempted to throw out the speedy Brett Gardner at third on a fielder's choice rather than get the sure out at first. It was a very close play and I won't call it a terrible decision, but it was a questionable one. You can't give the Yankees extra outs like that. In the same inning, Rhymes fired the ball over Miguel Cabrera's head attempting to nab Alex Rodriguez at first on a line drive double play. Later in the game, even the sure fielding Austin Jackson got into the act by misplaying an easy fly to center.
Jackson did a little bit of everything today. Along with the error, he struck out out twice (giving him five in two games) and hit into a rare double play. On the positive side he did hit his first homer of the year in the third inning and later drew a walk. Walks and homers are two things I'm hoping we'll see more of from him this year. He also needs to strike out less but that's not working out so far.
Another bright spot was Victor Martinez getting two hits including his first Tigers homer. I'm predicting a big year for the veteran catcher/DH. Brandon Inge also had his second two hit game of the season.
One curious move by Jim Leyland today was to insert Brennan Boesch as the left fielder against the right-handed AJ Burnett. Now, I knew that Raburn was not really going to be a full-time starter this year no matter how many times the Tigers said he would be. Still, it was disappointing to see him on the bench after just one game. I don't think it's going to be a full platoon. I expect Raburn to get the majority of left field starts, but he might not start as often as his loyal supporters hope. Boesch went one for four with two strikeouts.