The Detroit Tigers are running out of time to make their move in 2012. In an important and winnable game, both Anibal Sanchez and the bullpen came up small and the Tigers offense left eight men on base, contributing to a 12-4 whitewash at the hands of the Oakland Athletics.
After two consecutive offensive explosions, one would think the Tigers woul slow down early this afternoon. That wasn’t the case, as the team got things going in the second inning. Detroit got two runners on, and cashed both in via single by Gerald Laird and sacrifice fly by Austin Jackson to make it 2-0. Though Anibal Sanchez was pitching well, another error by Omar Infante cost the team, as a wild throw from second plated Oakland’s first run of the game. Seth Smith tied the game at two in the fifth with a solo home run, but Detroit responded with a double by Prince Fielder that scored Miguel Cabrera, making things 3-2. The good feelings were back, and things looked alright.
Yet, as has been the case so many times this year, trouble randomly found Sanchez immediately following Detroit’s rally. Everything started with a Yoenis Cespedes single. After that, the Athletics rode a double, a single and a triple to a 6-3 lead. Sanchez was quickly pulled in favor of Phil Coke and the Tigers were dazed. Though Andy Dirks got his team back in it with a solo homer the very next inning and Al Alburquerque steadied things with two dominant innings of relief, that was plenty of damage. Sean Doolittle tamed the Tigers in the eighth, Oakland blew things open with an ugly six run ninth, and closed out a 12-4 blowout win in strong fashion.
Big Cat: Nobody. Just like in 2009, with everything on the line, the Tigers choked in an important afternoon game. When so many players simply go through the motions in afternoon games, there’s few heros to single out. Give Avisail Garcia credit for continuing to provide a spark, but outside that, there wasn’t much to cheer about Thursday.
Stray Kitty: Anibal Sanchez. With the bullpen giving the game away late and Octavio Dotel and Drew Smyly pitching terribly, there were plenty of choices. Sanchez started the run party early with his pathetic sixth inning, and had yet another rough outing after giving fans hope following a great start in Cleveland. All Sanchez had to do today was keep his team in the game with a solid, consistent effort. It didn’t happen again. Days like today were supposedly why the Tigers made the move for Sanchez. With Infante throwing the ball around the infield and Sanchez giving up plenty of runs on the mound, it may be time to consider July’s trade a complete bust.
Best Play Of The Game: Al Alburquerque’s two solid innings of relief. Outside of one single, Alburquerque kept the Athletics off the scoreboard and looked fantastic in the process, racking up four strikeouts in two innings of work. That’s the pitcher the Tigers missed most of 2012. Today, he showed flashes of his previous brilliance and allowed his team to hang around.
Worst Plays Of The Game: Anibal Sanchez’s sixth inning and Omar Infante’s error. Nothing went right for Sanchez in the sixth, as he was chased from the game after making some terrile pitches and failing to limit Oakland’s damage. It seems every time Sanchez takes two steps forward this season, he takes two dramatic steps back. Infante, meanwhile, contributed yet another needless error to the cause today which allowed Oakland to score a free run.
Central Focus: The loss means Detroit must hope Kansas City can keep them close in the standings by beating the White Sox again. With a win, Chicago would pick up the game they lost last night, and pull back to three games ahead in the race for the Central Division.
On Deck: The Minnesota Twins come to town in another must win series. Rick Porcello faces off against Samuel Dedundo Friday night at 7:05 p.m.