A string of four straight interleague series victories came to a screeching halt on Saturday afternoon. The Detroit Tigers’ offense hibernated for the second straight day, producing a second straight 4-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Max Scherzer, fresh off his last dominating start and previous 15 strikeout heroics against Pittsburgh, picked up right where he left off through the first three innings with excellent control despite his heavy heart. Unfortunately, the Tigers’ offense picked up right where they left off the previous night as well, banging into groundouts and flying out against Brad Lincoln lazily. In the fourth, things unraveled just enough. Andrew Prestley doubled, Scherzer was wild, hitting Jose Tabata, setting up Andrew McCutcheon. He clobbered a three run homer to deep left and it was 3-0 Pirates. The Tigers finally managed a hit in the fifth off the bat of Ramon Santiago, but he was stranded at second base as Lincoln pitched out of his only tiny jam. Scherzer kept Pittsburgh off the board, and the Tigers entered the late innings trailing again.
Finally, the Tigers would get on the board in the seventh, as Miguel Cabrera caught up to a Lincoln offering and hammered it over the right center field wall. At long last, Detroit had a run, and another hit. After that, Lincoln was shockingly lifted a bit early. Prince Fielder doubled, and Jhonny Peralta crushed a ball just short of leaving the yard, and the Tigers barely missed tying the game. Pittsburgh got the run right back in the seventh, when Phil Coke allowed a double and an RBI single from Neil Walker to make it 4-1. Though Octavio Dotel managed to work out of Coke’s jam, one single big run of damage had been done. To Detroit’s cold offense, that blow was huge. Jason Grilli had no problems with the Tigers in the top of the eighth. Though the Tigers got two on in the ninth, Alex Avila struck out, ending the game in frustrating fashion.
Big Cat: Max Scherzer. Today’s loss was definitely not Scherzer’s fault. Though he had the one misstep, had the Tigers just gotten their starting pitcher some early confidence runs and acted like they wanted to battle back much of the afternoon, the game might not have ever seemed so out of reach. Give him credit for even pitching (let alone pitching well) despite the recent heartbreaking loss of his brother.
Stray Kitty: Phil Coke. Though the offense had plenty of problems, just as they started to show signs of late life, Coke couldn’t get his team into the eighth inning down only by two. He got hit around, and allowed a run to score which proved critical for momentum’s sake late. After his good performance a few days ago, this was a bit unfortunate.
Best Play Of The Game: Cabrera’s home run. For no other reason than perhaps getting the slugger into a groove, the home run could prove important. Cabrera didn’t set the world on fire again today, but he was responsible for Detroit’s only run of the afternoon. In this mess, that counts for something.
Worst Play Of The Game: Scherzer’s messy fourth inning. Scherzer pitched well, save for his troubles in the fourth, allowing a double and hitting a batter and giving up a three run home run. With the wildly inconsistent Tigers’ offense back, any small slip up on the mound was going to prove costly. Unfortunately, Detroit’s inability to do anything against Brad Lincoln most of the day and Pittsburgh’s bullpen hurt.
Central Focus: Despite the loss, the Tigers won’t lose any ground in the standings to Cleveland. The Indians got thumped by the Houston Astros, meaning the Tigers will stay 3.5 games back of first place.
On Deck: Tomorrow, the Tigers try to get out of town with a win when they send Justin Verlander to the hill. Pittsburgh opposes him with Kevin Correia.