It took a pair of walk-off wins to do it, but the Tigers finally have their first two-game winning streak of the year. Today, Brandon Inge blasted a homer in the bottom of the ninth versus Rangers reliever Darren Oliver to give the Tigers a 3-2 victory. It was the seventh walk-off home run of Inge's career, which is a Comerica Park record.
The Tigers got strong pitching from starter Max Scherzer, who allowed just two runs and had seven strikeouts in 6 innings pitched. Rookie Brayan Villareal followed with two impressive shutout innings. Villa appears to be emerging as the seventh inning pitcher setting up Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde. Yesterday, he came in to get the final out of the seventh inning.
Closers and Tie Games
Closer usage played an important role for the second straight game. Jim Leyland brought Valverde into a tie game in the ninth inning both yesterday and today. In each case, he held the Rangers scoreless and the Tigers won it in the bottom of the inning. That seems like a better way to use your top reliever than waiting for a game where you have a three run lead in the ninth.
On the other hand, Rangers manager Ron Washington failed to use closer Neftali Feliz in a tie game. He was waiting for the Rangers to take the lead before bringing in his stopper. Of course, there is no way of knowing what would have happened if Feliz had been brought into the game in the ninth. Still, it seems to me that there are fewer higher leverage situations than a tie game. Bill James has always said that a tie game in the late innings is the ideal spot to insert your best reliever and it makes a lot of sense.
The Tigers have promoted reliever Al Alburquerque from Toledo to help with middle relief. The Tigers signed Alberto to a major league contract during the off-season, but he struggled with his control in spring training and did not make the initial 25-man roster. He was off to a good start for the MudHens pitching four shutout innings with eight strikeouts and only one walk. If nothing else, he has a great name! They optioned Robbie Weinhardt to Toledo to make room for Alburquerque on the roster.