Rick Porcello may be on his way to an All-Star bid, but his excellent season hit a major bump his last time out.
A matchup with the Oakland Athletics on Thursday might not be the best opportunity for him to get back on track, given his struggles against them, and another shaky performance by the Tigers bullpen won’t help either.
Detroit (29-20) has dropped eight of 10 after a stunning 3-1 loss to the A’s on Wednesday, as Josh Donaldson hit a three-run homer off Joe Nathan in the bottom of the ninth.
Anibal Sanchez had held Oakland to two hits through the first eight innings until a one-out double by Coco Crisp prompted the Tigers to bring on Nathan. The blown save was his second in three opportunities.
"It was a tough spot to bring Joe into, with the tying run on second base," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He has no margin for error. It was a tough spot."
Detroit’s 4.33 bullpen ERA is among the worst in baseball, and the relievers have been even worse during the club’s 2-8 stretch, posting a 5.40 mark. Nathan’s 4.58 ERA is the third highest of his 14-year career.
After recording victories in a career-best six straight starts, Porcello (7-2, 3.88 ERA) was tied for the major league lead in wins while his 1.01 WHIP was tied for 10th.
That was before he yielded eight runs and a career high-tying 12 hits, along with two walks, over 5 1-3 innings of a 12-2 loss to Texas on Saturday. He had given up a total of 11 runs during his winning streak.
”You’re not on top of your game every time out,” Porcello said after the rough outing.
That’s been the case in his last seven matchups against Oakland, going 1-5 with a 5.18 ERA. He hasn’t faced them since 2012.
The A’s (32-21) would love to see Donaldson’s hot streak continue. He has three homers in his last four games and has batted .400 with 11 RBIs in his past 11 matchups with Detroit.
"We all know he can do that," A’s catcher John Jaso, who singled prior to Donaldson’s homer, told the team’s official website. "Big situations, he doesn’t clam up or anything. He wants those."
Jesse Chavez (4-2, 2.61) will get the nod for Oakland after allowing four runs – two earned – over 5 1-3 innings of a 5-2 defeat in Toronto on Saturday. The A’s continued to struggle defensively behind him, as five batters have reached on errors while he’s been pitching – tied for second most in the AL.
Home runs have proved troublesome for Chavez recently. He’s given up five homers in his last three outings after allowing three through his first seven starts.
Chavez has never started against the Tigers but has struggled in relief against them, giving up 14 earned runs in nine innings.
Miguel Cabrera is 3 for 5 with a homer off Chavez, while Crisp is 5 for 13 against Porcello.
Tigers outfielder Rajai Davis was 2 for 3 on Wednesday to extend his hitting streak to six games, but left in the seventh inning with a bruised left shoulder and is day to day.