The Detroit Tigers brought this upon themselves months ago when they didn’t seriously shop for a new bullpen. There are about a million guys playing in the majors these days who carry the tag “middle relievers” and an entire platoon of them strut around with earned run averages in the 1.00s.
None of them play for Detroit, however. It is impossible to win a World Series championship these days without a lights-out closer. The Tigers don’t have one. Even worse, they don’t have reliable middle men to get the ball to a closer.
That’s why the Baltimore Orioles (who realistically may be a team of destiny, anyway) swiped two games from Detroit in the best-of-five American League Division Series Thursday and Friday. Although they would like to think it, the 48,000-or-so orange-clad fans at Oriole Park-at-Camden Yards didn’t win the game on their own.
Everyone on earth who follows baseball knows the Tigers have tremendous starting pitching to accompany their great hitting as a side dish, but those same people all know (though apparently not president and general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus) that the bullpen is useless.
A lot of the concern during the regular season was about whether closer Joe Nathan could handle the pressure in the post-season. But Nathan was not to blame in either loss since he didn’t get a sniff of the ball.
Someone please send Ausmus a telegram and inform him that Max Scherzer, 18-5, won the Cy Young Award last year and that Justin Verlander has also won it. Since everyone knows that nobody in the Detroit bullpen can live up to them, why yank them out so quickly. All of the damage in both losses, the 12-3 wipeout Thursday, and the 7-6 killer Friday, occurred after both hurlers had been exiled from the game.
Why so early?
Ausmus is a rookie manager and maybe not brave enough to break the current-day mold of quick hooks. Still, Scherzer was not imploding. He was at-risk, granted. Perhaps. Same thing with Verlander. He wasn’t getting batted around the ball park.
Alas, Jaba Chamberlain was involved in the carnage both nights and so far this post-season his ERA is 108.00. No exaggeration.
Months ago the Tigers did seek a new closer. They were on the telephone just before Jonathan Papelbon asked Philadelphia Phillies’ management to set him free. Did Detroit even ask about Papelbon?
Rather than go after the premium model, the Tigers brought home a discount brand in Joakim Soria, who only has an ERA of 45.00 after taking Friday’s loss.
Orioles in control
The Tigers are still feared hitters and they have excellent starting pitching, but if you get to them by the sixth, they are going to be dead.
Baltimore, playing like it belongs after capturing the AL East Division, is playing with a lot of confidence, and patience. Maybe the Tigers will pick off a game Sunday, but this series is playing out exactly how the Orioles wanted it to and they are in command.