8 reasons you shouldn’t worry about the Tigers losing Game One

Yukon Cornelius did not find gold on Thursday in Game One.

Yukon Cornelius did not find gold on Thursday in Baltimore.

If I asked one hundred Detroit Tigers’ fans who were paying attention what the two most disappointing parts of the team were this season, they would all say the same thing.

The bullpen and defense.

On Thursday night in Baltimore the Tigers played well enough to win through seven innings until they were failed by…the bullpen and defense. The Orioles put a Cal Ripken Jr.-like “8” on the board to put the game away in the 8th inning. Somewhere in heaven (or hell if umpires are deciding those things in the afterlife), the master of the big inning Earl Weaver was grinning impishly.

But that was just one game. The Orioles don’t get extra credit for winning by nine runs, 12-3. It only counts as one. Don’t put that Tiger sweatshirt and cap in the back of your closet yet. Here ‘s why you shouldn’t worry after Detroit’s loss in Game One of this divisional playoff series.

#1. This is a veteran team

Last season in the ALDS against the Oakland A’s the Tigers fell behind 2 games to 1 and still managed to climb their way back, winning at home and on the road in Game Five to eliminate the hairy Athletics. This team knows what it takes to win a short series and they know that one game is only one game unless it’s an elimination or do-or-die game. They showed their mettle by spanking the Royals in four of six games in September and beating the Twins on the final day of the season to win the division. All season long the Tigers have battled like cagey veterans, refusing to panic. A loss in Game One isn’t going to take away the confidence this team has.

#2. They played well enough to win until the bullpen imploded

Entering the 7th inning this was a one-run game and then Detroit made it a one-run game again after briefly falling behind 4-2. Max Scherzer pitched pretty well overall despite not having his best stuff. I thought he struggled early on with the high strike zone that the home plate umpire was calling. When he settled in he only made two bad pitches, unfortunately both were with two outs and runners on. But four earned runs through seven innings was a good effort. For the most part, the offense was putting in good at-bats, especially Ian Kinsler at the top of the order. Sure, the 8th inning was a fiasco, but those things do happen. We’ve seen the bullpen fail many times this year, so it wasn’t a shock that the O’s scored, it was just devastating that every reliever struggled to put batters away. However, the Tigers were in it and I expect they will be in every game, at least for as long as they can keep a starting pitcher rolling.

#3. The heart of the order looks great

It’s obvious that Miguel Cabrera is as close to 100% healthy as he’s been in 14 months. He clobbered an outside fastball for a home run and hit a few other balls pretty hard. Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez each homered, keeping their bats hot from September. if those three keep rolling, I like Detroit’s chances to win this series.

#4. Justin Verlander is a beast in the ALDS 

In his last 32 innings in the AL Divisional Series, Verlander has allowed zero runs. Granted, he had his worst season this year, but he’s been on target over his last four starts dating back to the regular season. We all know JV has a look in his eye this time of year, and he’s the perfect man to be pitching the day after a loss.

#5. The bullpen implosion may force Brad Ausmus to use his staff differently, and better

Plenty of Detroit fans have been clamoring for Joakim Soria to pith in more crucial spots. Well, they got him in Game one and Soria was battered a little, but he’s still a batter option than Joba Chamberlain (who has stunk in the second half and looks exhausted), or Joe Nathan. Anibal Sanchez is lurking out in the pen with his wicked fastball and slider. The Game One loss makes it more likely that Ausmus will trust a tight game to Sanchez, which is a very good thing.

#6. Rajai didn’t cost us a game

Want a silver lining? We clearly saw that Rajai Davis shouldn’t be playing center field and it didn’t cost us a game. Suppose we’re clinging to a one-run lead in the 7th or 8th and someone hits a deep fly ball into the gap and Rajai — on his one good leg — can’t get to it? And don’t tell me that Carrera would be out there as a replacement because Davis was still in the game when Detroit was within one-run in the 8th. A costly error in center could occur in the early innings and break open the game. We saw that Davis is hurt and now I suspect we won’t see him in center field, at least we learned that in a loss that wasn’t the fault of his immobility.

#7. The Orioles have to use starting pitchers

Baltimore has a better bullpen stocked with good relievers and on Thursday they rolled out a few of them against the Tigers. But the O’s have to start somebody and their rotation is not scary. Wei-Yin Chen is starting Game Two and he’s struggled against the Tigers in his career, especially against Cabrera and Victor Martinez. We’ll see Bud Norris starting in this series for the O’s and Bud Norris is the type of pitcher the Tigers clobber. Detroit will score runs this series.

#8. Joe Nathan didn’t blow a save

Doesn’t that make you feel a little better?