Tuesday night’s 6-5 win by the Detroit Tigers over the Oakland A’s is big because not only have they not won a lot, but because now the team’s starters can focus on pitching — not trying to win.
Perhaps the biggest conundrum during the Tigers’ current losing streak is the fact the team’s starting pitching, it’s strength, has been bombed repeatedly. Giving up six, seven or even eight runs seemed to be common place and a clean inning, with the exception for Anibal Sanchez, was the talk of legend. Max Scherzer took the mound last night and while he was better, only giving up five runs this time, it was not great. Regardless of the outing though, he got the team a win which will be more important in the long run.
When everything is going wrong – and literally everything was going wrong for the Tigers – players can try to do too much. Hitters can try to score runs on every swing, pitchers are always trying to strike guys out instead of just pitching the way they want to and runners try to get into scoring position every time they are on base. Scherzer, Justin Verlander, Drew Smyly and Rick Porcello may have fallen into the “throw a perfect game so they can win” trap, thus the streak of bad outings.
If a pitcher tries to do too much when he takes the mound it often leads to disastrous outings where games are not close early. Thus, blowouts do not help the offense to get back on track and you get the picture really. Tuesday’s win though got back to 2014 Tiger baseball, stealing bases to create scoring opportunities and mashing when needed. The fact the team was able to grind out a win should help the next few starters relax to pitch their game, not pitch to win.
By watching the team it was clear everyone was pressing, starters like Verlander were throwing instead of pitching, hitters were swinging for the fences instead of shortening up and the bullpen, well that was just bad. Now though there is a chance they can get back onto a little roll. Wednesday night’s rubber-match is huge to helping Detroit rediscover what worked for them just eight-days ago. They do not necessarily have to win, but the team does need to play to its strengths and understand that if everyone tries to do everything at once, no one will get anything done.
There is a lot of panic in Detroit over the current slide – I admittedly was probably causing lots of panic with my thoughts – but last night’s win showed me why Detroit should have confidence in this team. The way it plays, if they play their game, allows them to be in any games at any time. The starters need to remember that they don’t have to do it all or be perfect to succeed as a team, they just need to do enough to put the team in position to win. To me, that was the big issue during this slide, not a lack of talent, but a lack of focus on what they do best.
Sanchez is as cool as cucumber and with him pitching game three of this series, he should continue the trend of not overreaching. Focusing back on what is their brand of winning baseball is what this Tigers team needs to do and last night’s victory is a big step towards helping them do it.