Saturday, May 05, 2012

Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Potato

Tigers starter Max Scherzer is notorious for his Jeckyl and Hyde ways.  In nine of his 33 starts last year, Mr. Hyde was pounded for five or more runs.  Fortunately, Dr. Jeckyl allowed two or fewer runs in 20 of his starts.  This year, we have mostly seen the bad Scherzer including a seven-walk performance versus the Yankees last Sunday. 

During the week, pitching coach Jeff Jones noticed a flaw in Scherzer's delivery and the two have been working on it in preparation for today's start:
"We're trying to get him to keep his hands more in the middle of his body as opposed to taking them behind him," Jones said. "He's gotten into a little bit of a habit of carrying them behind his body too far. That affects his lead arm getting on the target and staying there long enough."
Today, Scherzer was pitching with a windup placing his hands behind his head during his delivery much like Rick Porcello did in his last start.  The idea was to slow him down and hopefully improve control of his pitches.  The new windup apparently worked as Mr. Scherzer had his best start of the season so far allowing just one run on four hits in seven innings.  He also punched outeight White Sox and, most importantly, walked nobody.

The Tigers needed a strong pitching performance today, because they continued to struggle offensively.  They scored both of their runs in the second inning on four singles by Alex Avila, Jhonny Peralta, Andy Dirks and Austin Jackson. None of the singles were hit hard at all, but it was a two-run rally nevertheless.

Ultimately, a good afternoon came to an awful end when closer Jose Valverde blew a 2-1 lead in the top of the ninth.  The Big Potato allowed a two-run blast to Adam Dunn in the top of the ninth for his second blown save of the season.  His season has been worse than two blown saves though.  He hasn't pitched well walking seven batters in 11 2/3 inning and allowing 1.80 WHIP.  He's developing into a problem for a team which suddenly has more holes than we realized when the season started.

The 3-2 loss leaves the Tigers in second place two games behind the Indians.  The rubber game of the series will be tomorrow with Rick Porcello facing rookie right hander Dylan Axelrod. 

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