Okay, so it’s not as though most Detroit Tigers fans actually forgot the worrying fact that Anibal Sanchez had to be scratched for his start on Sunday, but the way that emergency starter Jose Alvarez pitched in his absence might have convinced some folks that there’d simply been a uniform error of some sort.
Simply put, this was a pitcher that got a one-and-one chance to impress in the bigs — and pitched exactly like it.
Taking advantage of the suddenly hapless Cleveland Indians (21st-ranked offense with 24 runs over the last seven days), Alvarez dealt from the Comerica mound as though he’d been around forever, engaging in pitching duels against the aces of divisional rivals. It was Justin Masterson that he had to go toe-to-toe with on Sunday, and while Alvarez did not go quite as far as the Indians’ big righty, he was not the first to budge in the contest.
In fact, considering that he’d given up just a run of three hits and a walk over six innings, you could say that he barely budged at all.
Working with mostly a high-80s fastball (that topped 91 mph in the first couple of innings) and a slider, with the occasional changeup, the 24-year-old took full advantage of the unfamiliarity factor against the Indians’ hitters, setting down a whopping seven of them via the strikeout — with all but one came in the swinging strike variety, too.
Not content with just working his swing-and-miss stuff, though, Alvarez also out-dueled Masterson at his own ground ball game, generating a 9-2 GO-FO ratio to the Indians ace’s 8-3.
Outside of the solo homer that he allowed to Ryan Raburn, the Tigers hurler was never really in trouble, allowing just one other batter into scoring position in the sixth inning; then again, given that two of his three hits allowed came in his final frame, maybe that’s simply stating the obvious.
Alvarez’s fate back to Triple-A Toledo may have been decided before he even stepped on the mound in Detroit on Sunday, but with rock solid numbers down there already (2.42/1.01 ERA/WHIP oiver 74.1 IP, 9.20 K/9, 1.82), this unexpected start might just turn into an expected opportunity for the lefty down the road.