May 25, 2014; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joe Nathan (36) reacts during the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Comerica Park. Texas won 12-4. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
In the opening game of a 3 game series with the Toronto Blue Jays, the Detroit Tigers dropped a starting pitching duel that turned into a run scoring fiesta in the 9th by a score of 5-3. Anibal Sanchez was brilliant once again against the AL’s 2nd best offense. Sanchez’s final line was 7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, and 5 K on 107 pitches. In his last 3 starts, Sanchez’s line is 22.1 IP, 10 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 19 K and his ERA is now 2.15 which is good for 4th in the AL for the reigning AL champion.
Blue Jays’ pitcher Drew Hutchinson matched Sanchez pitch for pitch shutting out the Tigers in 7 innings while surrendering 3 hits, walking no one, and striking out 7. Hutchinson, who is only 23, threw a fastball that topped out at 94, a slider, and a changeup. His stuff was not overpowering, but his location was very good as 74 of his 105 pitches were strikes.
The same could not be said for the 9th. Joe Nathan continued his struggles. Nathan walked the leadoff batter Anthony Gose who stole second on a breaking ball in the dirt. Gose moved up to third on a single by Jose Reyes. Melky Cabrera then popped out on the first pitch he saw leading to the biggest at bat of the game. Jose Bautista hit a ground ball up the middle that Andrew Romine peeled off of which scored the runner from third and advanced Reyes to third. Romine would not have had Reyes at 2nd because there was no one there to cover, and there is no guarantee that he would have got Bautista at first, but the play still needed to be made. In hindsight, the only way the play affected the inning was affecting the mindset of Nathan. Nathan thought he picked Reyes off of third, but he was called safe which replay confirmed. Bautista moved up to 2nd on the play while Nathan and Don Kelly were arguing the call with the third base umpire. Nathan then proceeded to walk Edwin Encarnacion who was the last batter he saw.
Ian Krol was the next man out of the bullpen and he retired the only man he saw, pinch hitter Kevin Pillar, on a sacrifice fly which scored the second run for the Jays. Al Alburquerque was the next man out of the bullpen and he surrendered a home run to Brett Lawrie which made it 5-0 before he retired Juan Francisco on a groundout.
The Tigers’ bats also woke up in the 9th inning against Steve Delabar. Walks to Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera set up a 3 run home run for J.D. Martinez which ended a 19.2 inning scoreless streak for the Tigers. Don Kelly followed the home run up with a 3 pitch strikeout to end the game against Blue Jays closer Casey Janssen.
This is the second straight start that Nathan has blown for Sanchez and the fan base is starting to turn on Joe with many people calling for a DL stint which may be coming up soon. Nathan had some bad luck tonight with some close calls not going his way and a defensive mishap, but all the calls were correct and the defensive mishap did not change the result of the inning. As a closer, you need the mental fortitude to overcome adversity and Nathan did not do that tonight, much like he did not in Oakland. The Tigers offense was not good in this game either so Nathan is not the only reason the Tigers lost the game. The Tigers are not playing good baseball right now and they have not been for two weeks.
These two teams match up two more times before the Tigers finish this 6 game home stand with the Boston Red Sox.