The Detroit Tigers have won just four of their past 11 games, dropping into a tie atop the AL Central with the Cleveland Indians, leading skipper Jim Leyland to go on the Morning Show and discuss what’s gone right and wrong of late.
On that front, two things are clear: Leyland stands by his pitchers because he doesn’t feel like he’s getting enough from his batters.
Case in point: Joaquin Benoit. The 35-year-old righty replaced Jose Valverde as the Tigers closer midway through the season, with whisperings that the closer spot could become a revolving door. Leyland wants to put that thought to rest now.
“The closer role is really not an issue right now. Benoit will do a good job,” Leyland tells Tiki Barber, Brandon Tierney, and Dana Jacobson. He’s done a good job and he will do a good job, and I think that’s been kind of blown out of proportion.”
There’s a reason for that overreaction, according to the manager, that has nothing to do with the man on the mound, but rather the guys at the plate supporting him.
In Leyland’s eyes, if Detroit offense sustained its level of excellence for all nine innings, the bullpen would not be facing such scrutiny.
“We haven’t done real well scoring from the seventh inning on and in extra-inning games,” he proposes. “That’s been kind of puzzling because we do have a very good offense, just for whatever reason we haven’t been able to get on the board late in the game.”
Normally when Detroit needs its pitching to carry the team, it’s Justin Verlander who gets the job done. But this season, another ace has taken on that role.
Max Scherzer is on an absolute tear this season. Through 16 starts, he has compiled a ridiculous 12-0 record—just four wins shy of his career high for a single season.
“He’s been absolutely brilliant,” Leyland says. “He’s added a little curveball to his repertoire, and y’know, 95, 96, 97 mile an hour fastball with a slider and a changeup, so he’s just been on a roll. It’s one of those things that’s been fun to watch.”
With that type of consistent brilliance, Leyland doesn’t need too much from his batters. However, there is only one Max Scherzer, so something does have to give.
“It’s really the offense that I’m concerned about because we’re just not putting runs on the board,” Leyland admits.
That said, he goes on record saying that he would not ask GM Dave Dombrowski for any sort of addition at the trade deadline, but would rather stick by his guys and reclaim the division outright with the guys currently in the clubhouse.
“I don’t think you get corny or tricky,” he adds. “Our lineup is what it is. I’m certainly not going to take the best hitter in baseball out of the three spot, a terrific power hitter like Prince out of the four spot, a guy with a track record like Victor in the fifth spot. You ride it out, that’s what you do.”