Daily Smoko: Tigers Survive Bullpen Scare

Hunter drove in five

Well, that was a lot harder than it really needed to be. Sometimes things just gotta play hard, I guess, and they really did on Saturday despite a 7-1 lead going into the ninth inning. Plus, which prospect belted a pair of home runs in part of Erie's doubleheader sweep.

Detroit Tigers
4-0, 1st in AL Central

Team R H E
Baltimore 6 10 0
Detroit 7 13 1

The Tigers still won to improve to 4-0 on the young season, but Phil Coke opened the floodgates with a downright awful appearance in the ninth inning. He allowed a single to Chris Davis and a triple to Adam Jones before getting Nick Markakis to ground out. Then he walked J.J. Hardy and Brad Ausmus decided he'd seen enough.

After a shallow fly by Matt Wieters somehow, someway dropped between Don Kelly, Alex Gonzalez, and Rajai Davis in left, we were looking at a save opportunity for Joe Nathan. He promptly allowed a single to almost-played-a-game-for-the-Tigers Steve Lombardozzi. Then pinch hitter Steve Clevenger scared the living doggy doo out of everyone with a ground rule double that put the tying run in scoring position with just one out. Then Alex Gonzalez had a complete brain meltdown on a David Lough ground ball. All the doggy doo. Gonzo fielded it cleanly and held pinch runner Ryan Flaherty at second instead of throwing the ball to first in a timely manner. He proceeded to throw wildly pulling Miguel Cabrera off of first base. Lombardozzi scored and now the go-ahead run was on first with still only one out. This inning was hairier than your dad's back.

Nathan bounced back with a huge strikeout of Nelson Cruz and got Davis to fly out to left to end the game. It was Joe's first save with Detroit. The Tigers let the Orioles get back in this game, then let them get that close to tying it, and after all they won it anyway. Good job, boys. It definitely could've been worse.

News and Notes

  • Good work by Rick Porcello, who allowed just five baserunners (three hits and two walks) in 6.2 innings in his first start this season. He also induced 11 ground ball outs, struck out three, and threw 60 of his 94 pitches for strikes. Porcello kept the ball down and his curveball and changeup were very good. It was the seventh time in his career that he's thrown at least six innings while allowing three-or-fewer hits and one-or-fewer runs with the last time coming on June 14th, 2013 at Minnesota. Keep it up, Ricky.

  • Bud Norris is just a little too hittable to actually be an above average starter. He throws a lot of 91-94 mph fastballs low in the zone, but it's pretty straight and the Tigers are top to bottom too good of a fastball hitting team not to mob him. Torii Hunter knocked in five runs with two swings—a bases-clearing double in the third and a two-run homer in the fifth—and both times he smacked straight fastballs. That's simply not going to get it done against teams like the Tigers.

  • Hunter had a pretty big, but ultimately moot, mistake in the field in the eighth inning. Lough hit a fly to right and Hunter got turned around as if he didn't pick up the ball and then he lost it again. It went for a triple, but the average right fielder makes this play an out fairly easily. Oh, well. Back-to-back games with home runs, though. That's cool.

  • Don Kelly is the same pesky player fans like to love and hate under Ausmus that he was under Jim Leyland, who I'm sure had a big grin on his face at some point on Saturday. Kelly had three hits, including an RBI triple against Brian Matusz in the sixth. It was the eighth time in Kelly's career that he had a three-hit game, per The Freep's Anthony Fenech.

  • Hunter had a pretty big, but ultimately moot, mistake in the field in the eighth inning. Lough hit a fly to right and Hunter got turned around as if he didn't pick up the ball and then he lost it again. It went for a triple, but the average right fielder makes this play an out fairly easily. Oh, well. Back-to-back games with home runs, though. That's cool.

  • Don Kelly is the same pesky player fans like to love and hate under Ausmus that he was under Jim Leyland, who I'm sure had a big grin on his face at some point on Saturday. Kelly had three hits, including an RBI triple against Brian Matusz in the sixth. It was the eighth time in Kelly's career that he had a three-hit game, per The Freep's Anthony Fenech.

  • Rajai Davis made a nice play to help out Porcello in the first inning. Chris Davis singled to left to drive in a run and Rajai threw him out at second as he tried to stretch it into a double. Instead of a man on and one out, there was nobody on and two outs. That sure helped as Porcello rolled from there to a quality start. Underrated play by Rajai there.

  • The Tigers have hit a home run in each of their first four games to begin the season. It's the eighth time in franchise history that the Tigers have hit a homer in their first four games. It's the 13th time in franchise history that the Tigers have started the season 4-0.

Around the Org Scores

AAA Toledo Mud Hens
0-2, 3rd in West Division

Team R H E
Louisville 3 11 1
Toledo 2 9 1

  • Daniel Fields went 2-for-5, including a solo home run. Drew VerHagen got the start, giving up one run on four hits with no walks and a strikeout.

AA Erie SeaWolves
2-0, 2rd in Western Division

Team R H E
Erie 2 5 0
Altoona 0 6 0

Team R H E
Erie 5 6 1
Altoona 2 5 3

  • Aaron Westlake had a triple and a home run in the first game, with Corey Knebel recording the final four outs to pick up his first save, striking out two while allowing two hits. In the nightcap, Eugenio Suarez belted a pair of home runs, driving in three.

A+ Lakeland Flying Tigers
2-1, t-1st in North Division

Team R H E
Tampa 0 4 0
Lakeland 3 7 0

  • Jake Thompson earned the win in the shutout victory, yielding just two hits and two walks while striking out seven over five innings. Cal Drummond was also impressive in relief, striking out five over two innings, and Angel Nesbitt closed things out, pitching the final two innings for the save.

A West Michigan Whitecaps
1-2, t-5th in North Division

Team R H E
West Michigan 1 7 1
Dayton 3 3 0

  • Ben Verlander went 2-for-4 and scored the team's only run, while Buck Farmer took the loss, striking out seven in 3 2/3 innings

About the Daily Smoko

Smoko is an Australian and New Zealand term for a short cigarette break during work. It can also describe a short coffee or tea break. TigsTown does not condone or support smoking, but it is a nice way to honor former manager Jim Leyland, and have you guys read recaps while you should probably be working.

Nick Shlain is TigsTown's staff writer and resident eccentric. He witnessed Coke's main contribution to the team this week, which was signing for a kid before Friday's game. You can follow him on twitter @electricsnuff

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