Ask any Detroit Tigers fan about their bullpen and they’ll tell you the same thing. The Detroit Tigers can hit and they have the best starting rotation that the game of baseball has seen in a long time, but fans get nervous every time manager Brad Ausmus calls anyone out of the bullpen. The bullpen has cost the Tigers so many games this season that most fans have stopped counting, but could that be starting to turn the corner as the Tigers head into the stretch of a pennant chase with the Kansas City Royals and a wildcard chase with the Seattle Mariners and Oakland A’s?
Heading into the second game of tonight’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox, the Detroit bullpen has not given up an earned run in the last five games. To find the last time the Tigers bullpen gave up a run, you have to go all the way back to the 24th, six games ago, when Phil Coke gave up a meaningless run in the bottom of the seventh against the Minnesota. Kurt Suzuki hit into a fielder’s choice and Kenny Vargas scored, doing little to dampen the Tigers’ 13 to 4 thrashing of the Twins
The Tigers are 4 – 2 since the mini-streak started. The Detroit Tigers bullpen hasn’t been untested in this latest stretch, either. The Tigers bullpen has pitched 18 1/3 innings in the past six games, including seven innings in the August 26 game, when the Yankees chased highly touted starter David Price off the mound in two innings on their way to an 8 to 4 romp over Detroit. The Tigers bullpen shut the Yanks down for seven innings, giving Detroit as good of a chance as can be expected to get back into the game.
The Tigers relievers who have participated in this shutout streak include Jim Johnson (three appearances), Patrick McCoy (four appearances), Joe Nathan (one appearance), Blaine Hardy (two appearances), Phil Coke (two appearances since giving up the last run by a Tigers’ relief pitcher), Al Albuquerque (two appearances), Joba Chamberlain (one appearance) and Evan Reed (one appearance). Notably, the guys who have been getting it done the most have not been the core relief corps which the Detroit Tigers planned on using in the late innings from the beginning of the season, or even Soria, whom they hoped could help reform the struggling bullpen.
Earlier this season, this writer predicted that the Detroit Tigers would not go to the World Series this year because of their shaky bullpen. It’s still way too early to take those comments back, but the Detroit Tigers bullpen is beginning to make a case for itself. If the pen can continue to pitch the kind of lights out ball they’ve been playing — or even just continues to do a solid job in relief — the Cats just might have a shot at blowing past KC or Seattle to make it into the playoffs. If they make it and can depend on their relief pitching, who knows?
What do you think? Can the Detroit Tigers bullpen keep up their recent high level of play. If they do, are the Tigs a legitimate World Series contender?
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