Detroit Tigers: Three takeaways from series finale in Minneapolis
By Luke Sloan
Despite an eighth-inning rally and an opportunity with the bases loaded in the ninth, the Detroit Tigers dropped the series finale to the Minnesota Twins by a final score of 6-4.
The victory for Minnesota earned the Twins a sweep of the snow-shortened series in the Twin Cities, while the Detroit Tigers now fall to 8-7 on the young season.
Here are three takeaways from Sunday afternoon’s contest.
Zimmermann struggles again
After kicking off the season with two stellar starts, Jordan Zimmermann has struggled of late, giving up four earned runs to the Cleveland Indians last Tuesday and five on Sunday. These two disappointing outings came on the heels of a 12.2-inning stretch with only one run allowed to start off the season.
Zimmermann has also been unable to complete five innings in each of his last two starts, going 4.1 against Cleveland and three in Minnesota. Daniel Norris entered the game in relief of Zimmermann Sunday, going three innings while giving up one earned run.
Considering the injury to Matt Moore and continued struggles of the offense, the Tigers will need performances similar to the first two starts of the season from their right-hander if they want to continue their early-season success.
Candelario thrives in the leadoff spot
Regular leadoff man Josh Harrison did not participate in the series finale, opting instead to rest his sore left shoulder that he injured on a diving play in Saturday’s game. This meant Jeimer Candelario was moved up to the top spot in the batting order, his second appearance of 2019 in that position.
He excelled in the leadoff spot during his last chance, going 5-for-6 with two RBI in a 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. This success would continue against the Twins, as the switch-hitting third baseman went 2-for-4 with a run scored.
The Tigers will hope the productive afternoon is a sign of good things to come for Candelario, who’s in the midst of a 3-for-31 stretch during the month of April. The team and Ron Gardenhire may consider a permanent move to the top of the order for the 25-year-old, who seems to succeed in a table-setting role as opposed to one of run-producing.
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Candelario has only three hits in 35 at-bats hitting fourth and fifth, owning 8 hits in 18 at-bats in the top two spots in the order. While Harrison still profiles as your prototypical leadoff hitter, it is eye-opening to observe that Candelario also hit .189 while batting fourth and fifth in 2018.
Young relievers continue stellar start
Led by surging closer Shane Greene, the bullpen has put together a highly successful stretch to start off 2019. Two members of this red-hot unit, Reed Garrett (26 years old) and Victor Alcantara (26 years old), continued their mastery on the mound against the Twins.
Garrett tossed a scoreless seventh inning, allowing a walk and no more. Alcantara followed him up with yet another scoreless inning, allowing his team an opportunity to rally and cut into the deficit. The Tigers would score two runs in the eighth after trailing 6-2, but leave the bases loaded in the ninth to close the game.
Garrett’s outing lowered his season ERA to 1.69, while Alcantara’s now sits at 1.56. It’s been an outstanding start for the bullpen as a whole, as the Tigers relievers entered Sunday’s game with a combined ERA of 2.51.