Tigers Survive Royals, Grab Sole Possession of First Place


September 24, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Jose Valverde (46) and third baseman Miguel Cabrera (24) celebrate after the game against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Detroit won 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Tigers 5, Royals 4 (box score)

When I wrote that Jim Leyland should keep Rick Porcello on a short leash, I never anticipated that the hook would need to come as early as the third inning. After getting Eric Hosmer to fly out to start the inning, Porcello allowed back-to-back doubles to Irving Falu and David Lough – these are presumably baseball players – which plated the first Kansas City run. He bounced back to induce an Alcides Escobar groundout, but a third double, this one by Alex Gordon, and a Billy Butler single gave the Royals their second and third runs of the inning. Jim Leyland he sent Porcello back out to the mound for the fourth inning, but he couldn’t escape it without allowing a run – a solo homer to Jeff Francoeur.

It certainly wasn’t the outing the Tigers were hoping to get out of their starter – four extra base hits in four innings is kind of a lot – but the Tigers got great support from the bullpen and were able to squeak out enough offense to steal the win. It gets tiring to try to explain away poor outing after poor outing on unlucky BABIPs, but that really has been the number one problem for Porcello all season long. He didn’t walk a batter tonight, and he struck out three in four innings, but the Royals were able to jump all over his offerings.

I mentioned the bullpen was good, but it probably bears repeating their numbers. Luis Marte, Al Alburquerque, Joaquin Benoit, and Jose Valverde combined for five innings, three hits, zero runs, zero walks, and six strikeouts. Detroit has the type of bullpen that seems like it should be incredibly dominant, but it’s not always so in practice. Guys like Alburquerque, Benoit, Valverde, Brayan Villarreal, and even Phil Coke have the potential to rack up the strikeout totals and work their team out of jams, but, like so much else with this team this year, consistency has been an issue. They were great tonight, and they’ll need to continue the performance as we move into the season’s final week.

Offensively it was almost “one of those nights”. Doesn’t it seem like so many lackluster performances come against the Royals? They stranded a leadoff double in the first inning, and managed to plate only one run in the second after the first three batters reached. It appeared as though they were going to let Jeremy Guthrie off the hook easy. But an Alex Avila two-run blast followed shortly by an Austin Jackson solo shot in the fourth inning brought the Tigers back to even on the scoreboard.

The game would remain tied until the eighth inning when Jhonny Peralta ground out with runners on the corners. It looked like it would be an inning ending double play off the bat, but Andy Dirks, who was running from first, performed a text book hard slide into the second baseman who had to eat the ball to save his life. Pinch runner Don Kelly was able to score from third on the play as the eventual winning run.

But the Tigers winning wasn’t the only good thing to happen tonight. The White Sox continued their losing ways, falling to Cleveland 6-4. Since the Monday makeup game with the Tigers on September 17, the White Sox have gone on to win only two of nine games. So the Tigers claim a one game lead in the American League Central with seven games to play.