The Tigers have a really good shot to sweep this series againt the Athletics, one of the hottest teams in baseball entering the three games at Comerica Park this week. But they might just have to do it with a short-handed bullpen.
Not ideal, especially considering Detroit led Oakland 4-0, 5-0 and 6-0 in the late innings Wednesday night.
But Tigers manager Jim Leyland essentially decided that this time of year, with the Tigers desperately trying to crawl back into the American League Central race, no lead is safe.
“Stuff happens fast up here,” Leyland said after Wednesday’s 6-2 win. “And you gotta be careful of that.”
I asked Leyland if he had any second thoughts about using eighth-inning guy Joaquin Benoit with the Tigers leading 5-0, followed by closer Jose Valverde in the ninth with Detroit then up to 6-0.
He quickly shot back a “no.”
Still, he conceded Benoit — who also pitched an inning in Tuesday night’s 12-2 blowout — won’t be available in Thursday afternoon’s game, and it didn’t sound too promising that Valverde will pitch, either.
Valverde needed a whopping 27 pitches to get through the ninth, thanks to a pesky A’s team that seemingly fouled off enough baseballs to send home every other fan with a souvenir. He allowed the two runs on two hits and a walk, his second straight clunker outing.
“I was hoping to get through the ninth with a few less pitches than Papa Grande threw,” said Leyland, “but that’s OK.”
Leyland had Al Alburquerque warming up with Valverde, and said with a run or two more he would’ve gone with him. But he also said if Alburquerque had worked, he wouldn’t be available Thursday — and he didn’t want that.
“It’s a quick turnaround,” Leyland said. “That’s why we did it the way we did.”
Interestingly that in assuring Alburquerque would be available, he might’ve forced a day of rest for Valverde.
On a night ace Justin Verlander labored through six scoreless innings — oh, those foul balls — Octavio Dotel also got in an inning of work for the Tigers, a 1-2-3 frame in which he struck out two to keep the Tigers lead at 4-0.
The Tigers added on with Miguel Cabrera’s 41st homer and Omar Infante’s RBI groundout.
“Dotel was huge tonight,” Leyland said. “People probably won’t talk about him, they won’t remember that inning he pitched.
“But that was a tremendouse inning he pitched.”
The Tigers go for the series sweep at 1:05 p.m. Thursday, with Oakland left-hander Tommy Milone facing off against Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez.