Tigers' starting rotation continues to impress

BY foxsports • August 2, 2013

DETROIT – Perhaps the most significant point to be made about the
Detroit Tigers at the trade deadline was something they did not do.
They were virtually the only team in baseball with absolutely no
interest in obtaining a starting pitcher.

Think about that for a
second. That’s a truly impressive statement, and it speaks to the kind
of rotation Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski has assembled and
pitching coach Jeff Jones has refined.

Doug Fister was brutal on
the Chicago White Sox in Friday night’s 2-1 win. He required only 88
pitches to mow through their lineup for eight innings, and improved to
10-5 with a 3.52 ERA. Fister gave up one run on seven hits, and didn’t
walk anyone. His command was as good as it gets.

It marked the
13th time in the last 16 games that a Tigers starter posted a quality
start, and before next week is over Detroit could have five starters at
the 10-win plateau or beyond.

“These guys are untouchable,” said
Tigers catcher Brayan Pena. “When you have this rotation, it is
everybody’s envy. All of our starters are No. 1 or No. 2 starters.
That’s why Alex (Avila) and I are so excited. We get to be a part of
history, a part of what these guys are doing.”

But, make no mistake about it: Avila and Pena also are a big part of working with this staff to make them all they can be.

The
White Sox scratched out one run off Fister in the sixth inning, and
must now face Max Scherzer (15-1, 3.01 ERA) on Saturday night.

Then,
on Sunday, Detroit sends Rick Porcello (8-6, 4.49 ERA) to the mound.
That might sound like the break the White Sox are waiting for, but look
at Porcello’s July numbers: 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He
actually had more wins and a lower earned run average than All-Star Game
starter Scherzer had last month.

And this is the team’s No. 5
starter – a guy who had to beat out Drew Smyly in spring training just
to stay in the rotation. Smyly has been a godsend to the bullpen, and
actually gives Detroit a sixth dynamite starter in the wings.

Anibal
Sanchez (9-7, 2.59 ERA) struck out a franchise-record 17 against the
Atlanta Braves, who happen to be running away with the National League
East.

Justin Verlander (11-8, 3.88 ERA) is second on the staff in
wins despite having his most struggles in five years. But now he has
his knee-buckling curveball back, and the 2012 All-Star Game starter and
2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner could be ready to
roll.

Dombrowski acquired Fister from the Seattle Mariners (2011)
and Sanchez from the Florida Marlins (2012) at the last two trade
deadlines, and obtained Scherzer in the blockbuster, three-team deal
that had Curtis Granderson go to the New York Yankees from Detroit.

Verlander
and Porcello were first-round picks quickly developed in the farm
system and refined upon reaching the majors after making 20 and 24
starts in the minors, respectively.
Fister and Sanchez have become
significantly better since joining the Tigers, while Verlander, Scherzer
and Porcello also have improved under the tutelage of Jones.

“Jones
does a tremendous job with them,” Pena said. “He makes each one of them
better – so we can get to our goal of the World Series and winning it
all.”

Much is made of how these five starters “feed off each
other,” but what they really do is learn from one another. Watch them
and Jones in the dugout during games. They are constantly talking, and
it’s not about their plans for later tonight or something on the
scoreboard. Though, Verlander does have a lot of fun with Scherzer when
the video of fans trying to spell Scherzer’s last name comes up and that
female fan adds that he’s a “hot” guy.
They are having a blast in every way.

“It’s
such an honor to be part of this rotation,” Fister said. “It’s been a
humbling experience for me. And we learn from each other. In the first
couple innings, I was going over to Rick and asking him what he was
seeing.”

Porcello is a sinker-ball pitcher, and on Friday night
Fister went mostly fastball-sinker before mixing in his curveball. So,
he went to the pitcher on the staff who throws the most sinkers, and
also happens to be a good friend.

“He helped me with a bunch of little things,” Fister said.

The joy in the eyes of the pitchers is hard to miss.

“We’re all playing together on this team,” Fister said, “and that’s what we’re going for – playing together.”

And together, they are a five-armed mound beast -- an unrivaled rotation in today’s game.


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