In my season preview, I highlighted some of the things that might go wrong with the starting rotation. I also said that it was highly unlikely that all the problem spots would crop up all at once. However, baseball sometimes has a tendency to be an all-or-nothing kind of phenomenon, and so we're left with Justin Verlander as the only starting pitcher to come up with a good outing through one turn of the rotation. Rick Porcello had one of those outings that, while not great, he might have been able to get away with had it been a different day or a different ballpark. Oddly, he only had one groundout the entire game, though he did generate more swings and misses than he usually does. Strikeouts aside, you did get the feeling that he was flirting with disaster with the fly balls he was giving up in that ballpark, and Brian Roberts finally got him. The odd thing was (and Porcello talked at length about it) was that that particular pitch was down and pretty much where they wanted it. Porcello was completely stumped by it (which may explain why he seemed more rattled than normal after it happened). On the plus side, Brayan Villarreal contributed two nice innings. I'm still trying to evaluate him, but it looks like he's got a nice slider and his fastball isn't half-bad either.
The offense was just about as blah as the pitching. I had to listen to the first few innings on the radio and one of the things that Dan Dickerson and Jim Price mentioned was that Jake Arrieta had problems with falling behind hitters. Arrieta proceeded to be very efficient at throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of hitters (to be fair, he had good stuff and he throws hard). And while they didn't outright say it, Dan and Jim kept mentioning that Arrieta "wasn't afraid," and their tone suggested that they expected pitchers to cower at the mere thought of the Tigers' lineup. The last time I sensed that sort of attitude was 2008, and that didn't end well. The only Tiger who had a real good day at the plate was Will Rhymes, who had two hits, drove in the only run of the game for the Tigers, and got his first career stolen base. Magglio Ordoñez got his first hit of the season (and as I said, it normally takes him a couple weeks to really get going, so no cause for alarm yet), and a couple other Tigers had doubles, but that's about it. Miguel Cabrera didn't look real good at the plate and stranded four runners, and it was revealed after the game that he's sick with what is assumed to be food poisoning. According to Brandon Inge, he was throwing up between innings. Jose Valverde is also sick and he was the one who declared it was food poisoning (he blamed it on something he ate on the plane), although he didn't pitch so that had no effect on this game. He claims that there are more Tigers who are sick, although Kevin Rand swears that Valverde and Cabrera are the only two. If it is food poisoning, it usually only lasts a couple days (although when I had food poisoning last year, I was sick for five days), but the second part of it is not going to be fun. Drink fluids. Meanwhile, I was feeling queasy myself, but not for the same reason. Mine had more to do with the fact that Jim Joyce was the first base umpire and the game was in Baltimore. Painful reminders both.
Now we have one of those annoying pre-planned off days, although this time it might not be a bad thing as it'll allow the sick Tigers to recover. Justin Verlander also had food poisoning, by the way. What are these guys eating? His was last Friday and is unrelated to the current epidemic, and he should be close to full strength for his start tomorrow. Maybe he can get this starting rotation settled down and into a rhythm. His numbers against the Orioles are good. He's 5-0 with a 2.52 ERA. Jeremy Guthrie was supposed to start for the Orioles, but he ended up in the hospital with a high fever and pneumonia yesterday, so odds are that they will start Brad Bergesen in his place. Whoever the starter is, the Orioles have yet to give up more than one run in a game. How long can this hot pitching streak last?