The Tigers beat the Royals 8-4 thanks to a terrible performance from KC's bullpen. Grienke outdueled Verlander through 6 innings but then the KC relievers gave up 6 runs and it was all over. The Tigers' pen was actually rock solid, from Zumaya to Coke to Perry. The only pitcher who was tested was the closer, but Valverde looked decent. Better than Rodney, that's for sure.
Offensively, the Tigers were stymied by Grienke, but that’s to be expected. Once the bullpen came out, the Detroit bats became violent. The onslaught started with Sizemore drawing a walk, and then Santiago got a single that brought Sizemore to third. Austin Jackson’s double (and first career hit) got the scoring started, and then Damon knocked in two more with a double. Then later with two outs, Brandon Inge added another two-run double when I thought for sure he would end the inning striking out. After a 6-run 6th inning, the game was essentially over, the Royals’ faithful were booing, and Zach Grienke was piiiised.
It was nice to see Magglio swinging the bat well. He doubled in his first at-bat. But as important as Maggs is going to be this season, this game made me realize that Carlos Guillen is the absolute key to the Tigers success in 2010. In the first inning, with Magglio on second and two outs, Grienke pitched around Cabrera and basically opted to pitch to Guillen instead. Part of being a great pitcher is having proper respect and being smart. It was the right move for the Royals, because Guillen popped up harmlessly to third. But the Royals idiot third-baseman fell on his face and the Tigers took a 1-0 lead.
But the point is, that same situation is going to arise dozens of times this season – pitchers will allow Cabrera a free ride to first base, and Guillen has to be able to make them pay. If he can’t, Leyland will have to adjust the batting order. Either swap Magglio and Miguel, or make Raburn the DH, or switch Guillen with Damon, or something like that. But for now, let’s just hope Guillen does his job and hits at least .290 with some decent power. If he does that, he’s going to hit 100 RBIs, no problem.
Overall, this was a gutty win for the Tigers considering the early deficit. The bullpen did a great job of keeping the Royals underrated lineup scoreless for the final 4 innings. I still have my concerns about the starting rotation, but as long as Porcello and Scherzer can pitch 5 quality innings, the bullpen looks capable of holding its own for 4 innings. I fear that Willis and Bonderman will be lucky to make it to the 5th inning. I can’t say enough about Zumaya – 10 of the 12 pitches he threw were strikes, and up to 103 MPH. Perry and Coke were both throwing some good stuff too. Dare I say, I actually like the Tigers bullpen. Of course it’s only been one game.
The fielding was pretty unspectacular. Inge missed a throw that could have been an out. Laird had two lousy attempts to pick off a runner. Santiago got charged an error for a play that was Cabrera’s fault. Nobody in the infield made any ‘wow” plays. The outfielders were good though – I like Damon’s speed in left and Austin Jackson made a great throw from center to home for a huge out when the Tigers really needed it. After one game, I am definitely a believer in AJ, and starting to forget all about Curtis Anderson, or whatever his name is.
Oh, PS, so much for the Bucks being my new favorite NBA team. My favorite Milwaukee player just broke his hand on one of the most gruesome injuries I've ever seen. I will instead be rooting for the OKC Thunder in the playoffs. Durantula!