Detroit Tigers: Ugly Series vs Kansas City Royals

Jun 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers utility player Andrew Romine (17) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Romine is normally an infielder. Kansas City won 16-5. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers utility player Andrew Romine (17) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Romine is normally an infielder. Kansas City won 16-5. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Detroit Tigers played ugly baseball against the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers lost 3 of the 4 against the 2015 World Series champions. 

Jun 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Matt Boyd (48) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Matt Boyd (48) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /

The Tigers provided run support in their games against the Royals, but the starting pitching from Matt Boyd and the relief work from the bullpen were disappointing.

Fortunately for the Tigers, there were a few bright spots. Justin Upton, Victor Martinez, Ian Kinsler, and Steven Moya added runs and defense. But, the positives were greatly overshadowed by the fact that there was so much bad pitching.

One result of the disappointing series (and the series against the White Sox) was the demotion of Matt Boyd. After five starts and only one resulting in a win, Boyd was sent back to Triple-A Toledo. Joining him for the ride back to Toledo was Blaine Hardy, who has been anything but reliable in his few innings with the Tigers.

In their places, Kyle Ryan and Bruce Rondon returned to the Tigers. Ryan is in his third season pitching in relief, but after some struggles at the end of May, he was sent back to refine his work. Rondon was oddly a welcome (and slightly thinner) sight in relief against the Royals in Sunday afternoon’s game. His season in 2015 ended early after the Tigers sent him home early for his lack of effort. He pitched in the 11th and 12th innings where he struck out three batters and did not allow any hits or runs.

Jun 19, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) delivers a pitch in the eleventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 19, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Bruce Rondon (43) delivers a pitch in the eleventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. The Royals won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports /

Ryan’s time on mound wasn’t as successful as Rondon’s. The lefty was unable to keep the Royals off of the bases and after a throwing error to Miguel Cabrera, there was little that he could do to avoid the walk-off single. (Unless, of course, he was able to get two strikeouts). Tigers fans have seen too many Tigers fail to convert positively in clutch situations. Big strikeouts and clutch hits have been rare this season. It seems as though the opposite has been much more common. 

Jun 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Mark Lowe (21) wipes his face against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won 16-5. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports
Jun 18, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Mark Lowe (21) wipes his face against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning at Kauffman Stadium. Kansas City won 16-5. Mandatory Credit: John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports /

This series forced the question of what to do with relief pitcher Mark Lowe. Despite the fact that he has 11 years in the MLB, he is pitching like he wants to get sent to the minors or let go. Lowe is currently sitting with an ERA of 10.71 in 21 innings pitched. In Saturday night’s 5-16 loss, Lowe earned six runs in .1 innings. He has allowed at least one run in all but of the innings he pitched in June. No lead is safe when he is on the mound. Surprisingly, by the first game in May, he had a 2.79 ERA. If the Tigers can afford it, it might be in their best interest to simply let him go with his $11 million, two-year contract and find someone else.

Alex Wilson said about Lowe: “ A guy who is such a good guy and tries so hard and has been so positive through this thing, your heart hurts a little bit for him.” Despite the hard work, putting Lowe on the mound is a dangerous call for Brad Ausmus and yet, the Skipper continues to do it game after game after game with the same results. 

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When it comes to the bullpen, only three pitchers have been reliable. Shane Greene, Francisco Rodriguez, and Justin Wilson. Katie Strang with ESPN reported this shocking set of statistics about the Tigers bullpen: As a whole, the pen has an ERA of 10.32 and a WHIP of 2.32. The opponents are hitting an average of .388 against them. Without Green, K-Rod, and Wilson figured in the stats, the pen has a combined 11.25 ERA, 2.50 WHIP, and .419 BA against. It won’t come as much of a surprise to know this puts the pen last in the MLB. 

If the Detroit Tigers bullpen is not cursed, then there is something else amiss in there.

On a positive note, there was some quality baseball played by the Tigers against the persistent Royals. Victor Martinez hit three home runs in the win on Friday.

Ian Kinsler made some highlight-reel worthy catches on Sunday. Steven Moya proved his worth hitting a home run off of Tigers killer Chris Young.

And, Justin Upton slowed down his strikeouts and instead, hit two home runs – one on Friday and one on Saturday. His batting average against the Royals in the first three games was .333. His season-long batting average is the highest it has been all season: .235

Next: Victor Martinez: Best Switch Hitter Ever?

Saturday night also brought the 2016 pitching debut of Andrew Romine. On Saturday, he was the only Tigers pitcher that did not allow a run in his time on the mound. He pitched well, earning outs on easy ground balls. Most argue that position players should never be used on the mound, there was little else Ausmus could do eat up outs in the routing on Saturday night.