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June 26, 2013
What You Need to Know
Meet the Detroit Tigerrors
The Tuesday Takeaway
The first two innings of the wild, 14-8 Angels victory passed uneventfully, offering no indication of the madness to come. Mike Trout drove in J.B. Shuck with an RBI single in the top of the third, but there was nothing odd about Mike Trout driving in a run. Even less odd: Miguel Cabrera quickly countering that knock from his chief rival in the 2012 Most Valuable Player race with a two-run blast, his 21st of the season, to put the Tigers ahead after three. Hank Conger made amends for a throwing error—which was rendered irrelevant by Cabrera’s homer—with a run-scoring hit in the top of the fourth, and the game went to the fifth knotted at 2-2.
That’s when all hell broke loose for Rick Porcello and the Tigers.
Trout flied out to Torii Hunter to begin the inning, but after that, the Angels sent 10 hitters to the plate without making an unproductive out. Albert Pujols doubled. Mark Trumbo singled. Howie Kendrick singled. Josh Hamilton singled—and took second on a throwing error by Hunter (a two-hopper that catcher Bryan Holaday should have handled at the plate). Porcello intentionally walked Alberto Callaspo, and that was it for the right-hander, whose ERA has climbed from 4.37 to 5.27 as a result of consecutive clunkers.
Darin Downs relieved Porcello and fared no better. Conger drew a bases-loaded walk. Erick Aybar chipped in a sacrifice fly that marked the second out of the inning but brought home another run. Shuck singled. Trout singled. Pujols singled. And that was it for Downs.
Evan Reed entered, and his mop-up work went about as well as Downs’ cleaning efforts. Before Trumbo could end the disastrous inning with a ground out, Reed threw away a pickoff attempt, allowing Trout to cross the plate with the Angels’ eighth run in the frame. Reed later failed to touch the bag after catching a throw from Prince Fielder while covering first in the top of the sixth—but that blunder, unlike the others, did not come back to haunt the home team.
In the top of the seventh, though, Holaday got in on the throwing-the-ball-all-over-the-place party. Aybar, the leadoff man, walked and stole second, and then kept on running to third after Holaday misfired on his throw down. That enabled Shuck to bring Aybar home with a sacrifice fly, partially countering the Tigers’ three-spot in the bottom of the fifth.
And the Tigers weren’t done helping the Angels light up the scoreboard yet.
Trumbo led off the top of the eighth with a grounder to Cabrera and went 180 feet on a two-base throwing error by the portly third baseman. Hamilton walked. Callaspo singled. And that was it for Reed.
But Luke Putkonen picked up where he left off. Aybar singled. Shuck singled. And Cabrera committed another throwing error—which, thankfully, proved harmless when Pujols grounded out to second to halt the rally.
The Tigers headed into the home half of the ninth with fewer runs scored than errors committed: five of the former and six of the latter. And while they escaped that bit of embarrassment with their second three-spot of the day, it was far too little, far too late.
Detroit’s six errors represented its worst defensive showing, from a catching and throwing standpoint, since September 11, 1982, when the Tigers lost, 13-3, to the Red Sox at Fenway Park. And they did not help the club’s defensive efficiency—the third-worst in the league heading into Tuesday’s nightmare—which came under question when the addition of Prince Fielder moved Cabrera to third base before the start of the 2012 season.
Porcello’s recent struggles, and those of Downs and the other relievers, are of greater concern going forward than the airmailed and bounced tosses. Manager Jim Leyland, always a straight shooter, ragged on the “miserable weather” at Comerica Park before encouraging everyone to “just turn the page.”
A double vodka or scotch should suffice. And Leyland needed one anyway, to keep pace with Machado, who on Tuesday notched his league-leading 35th.
Matchup of the Day
One mistake from Lincecum could continue the Giants’ recent tailspin, spurred by an erratic rotation and a leaky bullpen, both of which contributed to San Francisco’s 1-3 weekend showing against the Marlins. Fortunately for the Giants, Lincecum has been able, in the past, to quiet the potent bat of Adrian Gonzalez, who leads the Dodgers with 10 home runs and has authored a .333/.390/.514 triple-slash line in 39 home games this year.
The 31-year-old Gonzalez is just 8-for-44 (.182 average) lifetime against Lincecum with four walks, 16 strikeouts, not a single extra-base hit, and only one RBI in 48 plate appearances. That’s good for a 432 OPS, the lowest mark assembled off of the University of Washington product among all hitters that have locked horns with him at least 40 times.
In Gonzalez’s defense, most of those plate appearances came when Lincecum was dialing his fastball up to the mid-90s and contending for Cy Young Awards, rather than dabbling in the 90-92 mph range and sporting a 4.52 ERA. But Gonzalez went 0-for-5 in their meetings last summer and earlier this season, hitting five ground balls, four of which became outs and one of which was booted. Two of his four career walks also came in those meetings.
Gonzalez has taken home 41 hat tricks, and Lincecum has been responsible for four of them, most recently on August 15, 2010, when the first baseman was a member of the Padres, who were then jockeying with the Giants for the National League West title. All three of the punchouts that day came on the splitter, Lincecum’s preferred put-away offering—one of them in the strike zone and two (one, two) well placed just outside of it.
Lincecum’s approach to Gonzalez has not differed markedly from his approach to left-handed hitters as a whole, but Gonzalez has been felled, in part, by his inability to handle down-and-away splitters. The right-hander has also often tried to go up and in with his fastball, another soft spot in the swing of a hitter who thrives when he is able to extend his hands.
If Lincecum can continue to hit those targets this evening, it could be another long night for Gonzalez, who is likely to bat third in Don Mattingly’s order, directly behind rookie phenom Yasiel Puig. But Lincecum has made a plethora of location miscues this season, often with runners already on base—as evidenced by his 535 OPS allowed with the bases empty and 732 clip otherwise—and Gonzalez is too talented a hitter to not eventually capitalize on one (10:10 p.m. ET).
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