It's not a secret -- the Tigers have serious issues with their bullpen. This week saw meltdowns from just about every key reliever other than Jose Valverde, and left Tigers fans hoping that Bruce Rondon -- a name they had probably never heard until this summer -- can save the day.
Valverde is never going to be Mariano Rivera and he's most likely never going to have another perfect season like he did in 2011, but he's been doing his job fairly well since the All-Star break.
In the meantime, the rest of the bullpen has fallen apart. Joaquin Benoit has given up seven homers in 10 13 innings since the break, good for a 7.84 ERA, while Phil Coke has allowed 16 hits and five walks in nine innings.
Even Brayan Villarreal, who had been lights-out for a month, has suddenly lost his command in the last few days and gotten pounded when he has to throw a 93-mph fastball just to get something over the plate. He's now being checked for a possible elbow injury.
Rondon, like a new Joel Zumaya, has quickly advanced through the Detroit farm system this year with his 101-mph fastball. He's now in Toledo, where he was quickly ejected from his home debut for throwing a pitch behind, of all people, Will Rhymes.
Rondon has been overpowering at Lakeland and Erie, but he won't turn 22 until December. He might get a shot once the rosters are expanded in September, but the Tigers badly need Benoit and Coke to regain their form. They also hope to get Al Alburquerque back soon, which would help ease the pain of a Villarreal injury.
Monday: TIGERS 7, Yankees 2. Justin Verlander's line: 8 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 14 K. Any questions?
Tuesday: TIGERS 6, Yankees 5. Miguel Cabrera homers and drives in three runs, and Valverde finishes the game after allowing two runs in the 9th.
Wednesday: Yankees 12, TIGERS 8. CC Sabathia isn't great for the Yankees, but he doesn't need to be. Anibal Sanchez gets chased early, allowing seven runs in three-plus innings, and New York cruises home.
Thursday: Yankees 4, TIGERS 3. Benoit blows a lead by allowing back-to-back homers in the 8th. The Tigers then put the tying run on third with no one out in the 9th and can't get him home.
Friday: Tigers 6, RANGERS 2. Prince Fielder hits a 3-run homer and Max Scherzer pitches a nice game to give the Tigers a feel-good win in Texas.
Saturday: RANGERS 2, Tigers 1. Verlander and Derek Holland duel into the late innings, but Villarreal walks the first two batters of the 9th and Coke allows a walk-off hit to rookie Mike Olt.
Sunday: RANGERS 8, Tigers 3. Rick Porcello struggles and Villarreal makes things worse with a walk and two wild pitches in the seventh.
Alex Avila: After a year seemingly wrecked by knee problems, Avila has gotten hot in August once again. He's hitting .452 for the month, including .563 last week, and has been rewarded with an elevation to fifth in the batting order.
Justin Verlander: With Miguel Cabrera being talked about as an MVP candidate, the reigning champ took a chance to remind people that he's still around. In two starts last week, Verlander allowed one earned run in 15 innings, striking out 22.
Brennan Boesch: Boesch started the week well, but lost his plate discipline in Texas. He swung at the first pitch in nearly every at-bat and has been dropped to seventh in the batting order.
Quintin Berry: With Andy Dirks back and Berry slumping, the rookie only started one game this week. He went 0-5 in Thursday's loss to the Yankees and 0-8 for the week.
Monday: Tigers (Anibal Sanchez) at Twins (Sam Deduno), 8:10 p.m.
Tuesday: Tigers (Doug Fister) at Twins (Brian Duensing), 8:10 p.m.
Wednesday: Tigers (Max Scherzer) at Twins (Cole De Vries), 1:10 p.m.
Thursday: No game
Friday: Orioles (Tommy Hunter) at Tigers (Justin Verlander), 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: Orioles (TBA) at Tigers (Rick Porcello), 7:05 p.m.
Sunday: Orioles (Wei-Yin Chen) at Tigers (Sanchez), 1:05 p.m