Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 5/19/12
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander can't pitch every game, so the Tigers are going to have to find a way to win on those other four days. Manager Jim Leyland cautioned after Friday night's 6-0, one-hit shutout by Verlander that they would need rookie Drew Smyly to pitch well for the Tigers to create some momentum. Kind of how most of the season has gone thus far for the Tigers, they didn't manage to do enough to win, falling to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-3, in front of a sellout crowd of 42,953 at Comerica Park. So they still have not managed to win back-to-back games since winning four in a row from April 15-18. Why remains a mystery. "Don't have an explanation for it," said Prince Fielder, who hit a two-run homer Saturday. "Haven't done it yet, I guess." Let's start with leaving runners on base. The Tigers had plenty of runners and even managed to score three, on a two-run home run by Fielder in the third inning and a passed ball by Pirates catcher Rod Barajas that allowed Miguel Cabrera to score in the seventh. The Tigers out-hit the Pirates, 10-9, but left 10 runners on base. That brings their total left on base to 267 in 40 games. Plenty of other American League teams have more than that, but those teams are scoring more runs, too. For example, Texas had left 299 on base coming into Saturday, but had scored 224 runs. The Tigers, after Saturday, had scored only 176 runs. "Its what I talk about all the time," Leyland said. "Ive said it for years. Im a RBI guy. Im a slugging guy. We left (10) guys out there again today. "Its always been my belief that theres probably enough guys out there in the course of a baseball game, and the key is, the guys that make the money are the guys that knock them in. And we just didnt get enough of them today." It's a bit of a struggle at the moment with leadoff man Austin Jackson out with a mild abdominal strain. He was hitting .331 and leading the team in runs before the injury bug hit him on Wednesday. Jackson hopes to return by next week at the latest. Brennan Boesch has a career-high 12-game hitting streak going, so he seems to be coming around. In the last two games, Delmon Young appears to have found his stroke. Friday he had a home run, double and three RBI. He followed that Saturday with another double in a 2-for-4 day. "I'm starting to get my rhythm, timing back, seeing pitches again," Young said. "So things are starting to fall back into place." The key to the offense is getting more production out of Alex Avila, who had an 0-for-4 day and saw his average fall to .218, and Jhonny Peralta, who had three hits Friday night but went hitless Saturday. There are some who suspect that Avila is playing with an injury. As for pitching, the Tigers came into the game ranked 11th in the AL with a 4.20 ERA. The Tigers have gotten everything they could have hoped for from Smyly, who is 1-1 with a 2.89 ERA. But in his last two starts combined, he's allowed four two-run home runs. On Saturday, Andrew McCutchen hit a pair of them. "The first one, I had him 1-2, I tried to go fastball away, kind of out of the zone," Smyly said. "It was right there and he killed it. "Then the second one, I don't remember the count, 1-0 or 0-1, something like that, fastball away. It was a really good pitch, might have been a little up. But it was outside corner and he just went with it." Leyland isn't disappointed at all with the 22-year-old. "I think he fits into that spot very well for us, to be honest with you," Leyland said. "I know theres been four two-run homers, and that normally means up. "But hes fine. I think hell figure some things out, and hell have to work to get the ball down." Although it's 40 games in, the 19-21 start doesn't qualify as a disaster, although it hasn't been as fun as everyone had hoped so far. Leave it to Young to put things into perspective. "Last year, if you pointed at who the World Series team was in May, the whole playoffs would be a lot different," Young said. "Cleveland would have been in the playoffs and a couple other teams, Atlanta, Boston. "There's almost four and half months left of baseball. Last I checked, you can't get a division championship in May. So when it's August 3rd and we're not in first place, then we can talk about it. "But I have a good feeling about this team, and when August third rolls around, I think we'll be in position to win a division championship."
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