Avila hits HR to end wild game with Red Sox
DETROIT, Mi. — As stunning as it was to watch the Detroit Tigers open the 2012 season by sweeping a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox, there are a few reasons for concern.
First is the fact that Max Scherzer was just brutally awful on Sunday. Maybe it's because he pitched against the Red Sox, but Scherzer has never had good luck against them. His terrible trend continued Sunday.
"He just had a horrible day," manager Jim Leyland said. "He was way out of sync, making bad pitches, control wasn't good. He just had one of those days. There's really no explanation for it, just sometimes it just isn't your day. Today certainly wasn't his day."
Despite being staked to a 4-0 lead, and then a 5-2 lead, Scherzer couldn't hold it. He lasted just 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits while walking two and striking out three. Oh, and he hit two batters and balked in a run.
"It just didn't work out for me today," Scherzer said with complete understatement. "I was missing locations and when it was up, they hit it, when I left the ball away they were hitting it, too. When you combine a couple of walks, a couple hit by pitches, I just didn't get the results I wanted."
In four career starts against the Red Sox, Scherzer is 0-2 with an 11.81 ERA.
Scherzer is a very analytical person, sometimes too much so. He has more than enough physical ability with a high-90s fastball at his disposal.
"Max just struggled a little bit with his command," catcher Alex Avila said. "Not really sure what it is. I'm sure myself and Jonesy (pitching coach Jeff Jones) and him will look at the tape, maybe something mechanically.
"With him, his mechanics have to be spot-on for him to be able to throw strikes. All spring training he was throwing strike one, limiting his walks. Today he just struggled really to throw strike one."
People probably won't even remember that because the Tigers managed to come back three times, from a 7-5 deficit, a 10-7 deficit in the ninth and a 12-10 deficit in the 11th.
Miguel Cabrera's three-run bomb tied the game at 10 in the bottom of the ninth. Avila's walk-off home run in the bottom of the 11th led to the 13-12 victory and a 3-0 record.
"One of the craziest games I ever played," Avila said. "I was running on fumes there. I felt like I caught 350 pitches, five hours, however long the game was (4:45).
"With the guys we have, we have the ability to score four, five, six runs really quickly. We never feel like we're out of the game."
No, with this lineup, the Tigers will never be out of a game.
But as Leyland said, you can't base your entire team on just that.
"If you count on that for a full season, you'll get your (butt) beat," Leyland said. "You can't be giving up those kind of runs and expect to win anything."
It wouldn't be as much of a big deal if the Tigers hadn't had to place Doug Fister on the disabled list with a left side strain after pitching 3 2/3 innings this season. There's no guarantee he'll be ready to start when he's eligible to come off the DL in 15 days.
Fister having to come out of his start early and Scherzer's performance Sunday put pressure on the bullpen.
"You always scratch and claw when that happens," Leyland said. "When you lose your starter like we did early and then your starter today doesn't do well at all, that's spells disaster and that's what that game was for us, from a pitching standpoint, we had to use too many guys. You can't do that."
That means that Scherzer and Rick Porcello are going to have to pick up the slack in Fister's absence so that they don't wear out the bullpen by May.
Justin Verlander is going to be Justin Verlander – his Opening Day start demonstrated that. But he can only pitch once every five days.
Rookie Drew Smyly is supposed to be the fifth starter. He's not likely to pitch complete games.
Maybe it's just the curse of the Red Sox, and Scherzer will eventually straighten things out. Maybe Porcello will be lights-out like he was last June when he went 6-0. Maybe Fister will heal quickly.
The Tigers offense can help out, but let's hope the rest of the rotation can do their part as well.