Detroit Tigers News

Royals Bullpen Implodes, Hands Tigers a Win

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Kansas City 5, Detroit 6 (box)

Stop me if you’ve heard this one; The Detroit Tigers came from five runs down to win a ball game this afternoon against the Kansas City Royals. The win was the sixth of the year for Detroit and in five of those games, the Tigers have trailed by at least two runs. I’m starting to see a trend here.

Of course, it’s never a good idea to fall behind so often. As has been the case in a few games this year, the starting pitcher kind of put them in a hole. On a day when the Tigers bullpen needed to rest, Dontrelle Willis threw 34 pitches in the first inning and better than 100 through five. In between his first and his last pitches, Royals hitters waited for Willis, who feel behind nearly every hitter he faced, to come into the zone, and when he did they pounded him for nine hits and four earned runs. In truth, Willis looked very good a few times in the game, but very inconsistent with his delivery and his tempo throughout. There is no doubt that this start was a step backwards, but it wasn’t a disaster and he can hopefully right the ship in his next outing.

His counterpart, Brian Bannister, was every bit the opposite of Willis. Getting ahead early and making Detroit batters go after his pitches, Bannister kept the Tigers off balance and off the scoreboard through six innings. A one -out walk to Brandon Inge in the seventh was followed by an RBI double for Gerald Laird, just his second hit of the season. To that point, Bannister had toyed with the Tigers and had thrown just 93 pitches, but that’s when Royals manager Trey Hillman made the call to the bullpen and changed the course of this game.

Roman Colon was first to enter the game and he brought his gas can to try to stop the smoldering rally. The first batter he faced was Scott Sizemore, who drove Laird in from second with a double of his own. After Ramon Santiago popped up for the second out, Colon yielded another double, this one to Austin Jackson, bring the Tigers to within 5-3.

Colon out, Dusty Hughes in to face Johnny Damon with a runner at second and two down. Hughes threw nothing but junk to Damon, all of it down and away. He got ahead early, but Damon stayed in the at bat, eventually grounding a roller wide of first and won a footrace to the bag against Billy Butler. Hughes stayed in the game to face Magglio Ordonez but lost him to a walk, loading the bases for Miguel Cabrera and paving the way for another pitching change, this time to Juan Cruz.

Upon Cruz entering the game, I texted my wife that Cruz can be good, but sometimes gets wild. I called that one, huh? Cruz was no where near the zone and walked Cabrera on four pitches, forcing in a run and bringing the Tigers to within one. Carlos Guillen then found a gap and knocked home Damon and Magglio with the tying and go-ahead runs.

There were still two innings left for KC, but this one felt over at that moment. Ryan Perry and Jose Valverde made sure it was, each working a scoreless inning to preserve the win for Joel Zumaya, who worked two innings of relief.

Cheers and Jeers after the jump.

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Cheers for

  • Ryan Perry– Perry has taken the primary set-up role that most thought would go to Zumaya and doesn’t look like he’ll be giving it back anytime soon.
  • Gerald Laird– Laird had not one, but two base hits in this game, tripling his season total. I see you, G-money.
  • Brian Bannister– I don’t know what it is about Bannister, but he continues to own the Tigers. Another great effort from him today. My biggest fear is facing a team with Banister and Carl Pavano in the same rotation, Tiger-killers both.
  • Joel Zumaya– He wasn’t perfect, but he gave the Tigers two innings of solid work out of the ‘pen on a day they were short handed. He threw lots of curveballs today and looks more and more comfortable with that pitch.

Jeers for

  • Dontrelle Willis– Willis didn’t give the Tigers a great outing today. He had control issues and he seemed tenative when he did come into the zone. There were a few instances when he reared back and pitched aggressively and it paid off. Need to see more aggressiveness from him in his next start.
  • Trey Hillman– Not only did he go get Bannister too soon but his team blew a five run lead in the seventh inning and his only good reliever, Joakim Soria, never threw a pitch. I know closers are supposed to be used in the ninth, but this game needed saved in the seventh.
  • Royals Bullpen– Seriously, as a Tigers fan I absolutely love these guys.

What’s on tap?

The Tigers will look to take their third straight series with a win tomorrow afternoon. Rick Porcello makes the start for Detroit opposing Kyle Davies. After that, the Tigers are off to the west coast, starting with a trip to Seattle this weekend.

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