What’s the problem? It all revolves around the starts that Tigers pitchers are having on the mound.
During the eight-game stretch, the Tigers have gotten just one quality start, a seven inning, two run performance by Anibal Sanchez that resulted in the lone win. Aces Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer have both struggled. Verlander has allowed 11 hits in each of his two starts during the stretch, allowing five runs over six innings and nine runs over 5.1 innings respectively in both starts. Scherzer was no better in his lone start, allowing seven runs over seven innings.
They weren’t the only ones with bad starts as Rick Porcello allowed eight runs over 5.1 innings in his start, Robbie Ray allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings of work and Drew Smyly allowed three and six runs respectively in two five inning starts.
This is bad news for the Tigers. The starting rotation was supposed to be one of the strengths of the team this season, as it includes two of the last three AL Cy Young Award winners. With a bullpen that is already struggling, the Tigers can’t afford to have their rotation struggling as well.
The eight-game stretch was a great opportunity for the Tigers to rack up some wins, as Oakland was the lone team over .500 on the season. The Tigers still have a five-game lead in the AL Central and have one of the best records in baseball, but that remain the case for long if the Tigers can’t get better performances on the mound.
On another note, the Tigers did have a good sign in today’s loss, as rookie Corey Knebel threw two scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Knebel was called up last Friday after flying through the minor leagues, but he struggled in his first appearance. If he can continue to pitch like he did against Oakland, he could turn into a reliable option out of a shaky bullpen.