Granted, one home run from Hunter like he hit Sunday in a 5-1 victory isn’t going to change the worries a lot of Tigers fans have about their team at the moment.
After some teeth-gnashing and grinding about the starting pitching, things appear to have stabilized. Drew Smyly turned in a strong performance Sunday. Max Scherzer was decent in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader. Rick Porcello and Anibal Sanchez have been strong, and although Justin Verlander isn’t the Verlander of last season, he isn’t causing mass hysteria among Tigers fans.
So what’s up with the Tigers?
All together now, yell out one word: Bullpen!
Scherzer likely felt sorry for Joe Nathan when the latter blew a save Saturday night in a 5-2 loss. Nathan’s performance has consternated fans who thought he would be the answer to the team’s relief woes. A team that saw Jose Valverde implode and Jose Veras not get the job done, likely breathed a sigh of relief when it signed Nathan, but his struggles have helped the Tigers look elsewhere.
Let’s go back to Hunter for a moment. After a solid start to his Detroit career, Hunter has slid in stature with a decline in numbers. Although he has double-digit home runs, it’s clear this isn’t the Hunter who was a strong addition to the Detroit team of a year ago.
Still, Hunter helped his team win today, and that’s more than some players on the Tigers as of late. This team should have taken three of four from Cleveland — not lost three of four.
It goes back to the bullpen.
At the trade deadline, general manager Dave Dombrowski will likely entertain offers for relief help. Joaquin Benoit has been mentioned as a possible target as the San Diego Padres will likely deal him. Joakim Soria has been mentioned, as the Texas Rangers‘ closer may benefit from a change of scenery.
Whatever the case, something has to give. How many games has the team lost because of inconsistent relief pitching? The Tigers should be running away with this division.
Instead, they are running in place, and as a result, the Indians and Kansas City Royals are catching up.