It’s hard to call this game a pitching duel. Both Alex Cobb and Justin Verlander were pretty good, giving up only two runs each, with Cobb lasting six and two third innings and Verlander lasting a full seven. But Cobb only struck out three batters (while walking two and giving up eight hits) and Verlander walked five batters (while striking out six and giving up six hits).
They were workmanlike performances from very good, veteran pitchers who deserve credit for their work, but neither was dominating.
The good news for Rays fans is that we’re seeing the gradual reappearance of Alex Cobb’s split-change. He threw it 17 times, which is third-most, by a lot. But it’s more than he threw it earlier in the year. And while it only produced two whiffs, with 3.98 inches of rise, he’s definitely regaining some of that depth that he lost on the pitch post-surgery.
Scraping Together Early Offense
Leading off the game, a fastball up and in just barely grazed the underside of Ian Kinsler’s arm, and while Cobb got the next two batters, Kinsler was able to steal second. That enabled him to come home and open the scoring when Victor Martinez grounded a single up the middle.
But in the top of the second, the Rays manufactured a run of their own. Logan Morrison lead off the inning with a line-drive single into left-center field. Steven Souza Jr. quickly found himself down 0-2, but then managed to work all the way back to take a walk. Colby Rasmus hit a chopper to first base, advancing both runners, and Daniel Robertson hit a grounder up the middle to a well-positioned Ian Kinsler. The groundout was enough to score Morrison and tie the game.
Mallex Smith led off the third inning with a single into right, and while he took a number of big leads, Justin Verlander did enough to keep the speedy Smith from stealing. With two outs though, Logan Morrison made sure it didn’t matter. He jumped on a hanging curve and drove it on a line over center fielder Alex Presley’s head and to the wall. Any Rays batter could have scored from first.
In the bottom of that inning, though, Miguel Cabrera grounded hard past third base for a one-out double and then advanced on a groundout. J.D. Martinez hit a sharp line drive to right field, that Souza nearly got to. He tracked back, leapt, and had the ball in the tip of his glove, but couldn’t hold it, and the game was tied.
There was danger of more. Cobb lost his command and walked Justin Upton, and then Nicholas Castellanos grounded to Daniel Robertson. It was a hard grounder, but Robertson is a good fielder, and he should have been able to handle it. He misplayed the bounce however, loading the bases on the error. The first pitch to Presley was another ground ball to Robertson, and this time he got it right, ending the threat.
Pushing The Luck
Alex Cobb pitched very well tonight, but there’s a definite argument that manager Kevin Cash left him in an inning to long. Kinsler lead off the inning with a groundball to the right side that got just under the glove of Michael Martinez. Then he walked Alex Avila to put two men on with no outs and Miguel Cabrera up. That’s a frightening situation.
It became more frightening when the first two pitches were balls, but Cobb fought back, consistently jamming Cabrera before trying to get him out on a fastball away (Cabrera fouled it off). At this point, Dewayne Staats said, “What Cobb really needs is a groundball to third.” On the next pitch, back inside, he got it. Longoria was too far from third to start a triple play, but the Rays did get the double play, and Alex Cobb left the game in favor of Jumbo Diaz.
Diaz got an inning ending ground ball to short, except that, after moving his feet to get behind the ball, Robertson slipped. The Tigers took the lead.
Picking Up Your Fielder
Robertson had moved his feet well on the play, and if he did anything wrong, it was in trying to be too perfect while playing on a wet infield. I’d feel bad for the rookie if he had to shoulder a loss all on his own this way.
But this is the Tigers, and their bullpen has something of an, um, reputation.
Francisco Rodriguez came on to start the eighth inning, and Logan Morrison immediately hit a fly ball the other way to the warning track. It was slightly towards the end of his bat—he just missed it. But when Rodriguez grooved a changeup to Souza, he did not miss it, and the game was tied once more. The Detroit crowd booed Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was able to work around a Colby Rasmus double to preserve the tie.
Making a Mistake
Tommy Hunter started the ninth inning and got the first out before going down 3-0 to Alex Avila. Hunter found his way back into the zone, but two pitches later, Avila was able to fight a pitch off his hands, blooping it over the shift. The Tigers swapped Avila for a pinch runner, raising their chances of winning their game on a double.
But when you throw a fastball over the heart of the plate to Miguel Cabrera in a hitter’s count, sometimes he does better than hit a double.
That’s a mistake pitch, and it became an opposite-field, walk-off home run.
Try again tomorrow.
Some other notes:
- In the second inning a Tigers fan wearing a shirt that says “Eat, sleep, catch foul balls, repeat” caught a fly ball. Nicely done, dude. Brian Anderson was impressed: “That’s the kind of guy you want to meet.”
- Also in the second inning, Mallex Smith made a diving catch on a sinking line drive. It wasn’t a perfect route—he wasn’t sure at first whether he could get to it or should play it off the bounce—but in this case he had the athleticism to adjust. In the sixth inning, though, on a line drive into the left-center alley, he took a route as if he would be able to make the play, which he was not. That left him too close to it and unable to play the bounce correctly. Right now he’s struggling reading those types of hits. It would be really great if it didn’t get into his head.
- Jesus Sucre did a pretty good job buying Alex Cobb high strikes.
- On a very sharp ground ball, Daniel Robertson made a ridiculous backhanded stab, from one knee, to start a double play and end the fifth inning. He had a tough, two-error game, but he’s usually a slick fielder.
- The Tigers organ played Hava Nagila, except in a major key. It was an odd choice.
- The Francisco Rodriguez blown save in the eighth put the Tigers into a tie—with the Rays—for the most blown saves in the league.
- In the ninth inning, Corey Dickerson hit a single off Justin Wilson. It wasn’t hit hard. Just a soft line drive flipped into left. But it came against a tough lefty, on a breaking ball at least six inches outside. Sometimes Corey Dickerson is ridiculous.