Tigers 2, Mariners 1
SEATTLE (AP)—Strong bullpen management is yet another of Jim Leyland’s strengths that have helped the Detroit Tigers to the best record in baseball.
Leyland exploited matchups and managed outs for five relievers over the final four innings Saturday night as rookie Zach Miner earned his sixth straight victory, 2-1 over the sinking Seattle Mariners.
In addition to all the credit Tigers starters have earned for going 18-1 with a 2.80 ERA since June 8, Detroit’s relievers are thankful to have Leyland in the dugout.
“He’s pretty unique. He runs the bullpen the best I’ve ever been around,” said 13th-year veteran closer Todd Jones, the final in the parade of relievers who earned his 23rd save.
“He does a good job protecting guys, making sure they don’t pitch three or four days in a row, playing matchups well. And he builds guys’ confidence well. Then once their confidence is up, they go succeed.”
Detroit is now a major league-leading 59-28, tied with the 1911 and ’84 Tigers for the franchise’s best record after 87 games. The ’84 team won a team-record 104 games and then the World Series. The Tigers have a three-game lead over the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central, assuring Detroit will be in first place at the All-Star break for the first time since 1988.
Jamie Walker, Jason Grilli, Wilfredo Ledezma, Francisco Rodney and Jones all protected the one-run lead for Miner (6-1) and sending Seattle to its sixth straight loss—matching its longest home losing streak since 2000. The relievers allowed three singles combined, walked none and struck out three.
Rodney relieved Ledezma with two on in the seventh. His wild pitch moved both runners up. However, Adrian Beltre chased the next, low pitch for an inning-ending strikeout.
“Why not? I’ve got confidence in all of them,” Leyland said. “If I didn’t, they shouldn’t be here. I told them from the get-go: Everyone I had was going to be used in big situations.”
Seattle’s Jarrod Washburn (4-9) allowed seven hits and one earned run in six innings, walking two and striking out three. Shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt’s error led to Carlos Guillen’s RBI and the decisive, unearned run in the third inning.
Miner allowed three hits in five innings for his sixth consecutive win, tying Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano and the Los Angeles Angels’ Jered Weaver for the longest winning streak by an AL rookie this season.
Miner’s only damaging mistake was when Raul Ibanez hit his second pitch of the second inning just over the right-field wall for his 20th home run. Ibanez had 20 in 162 games last season.
When asked if he could have imagined such a debut after his May 31 call-up from Triple-A Toledo, Miner said, “Not really. It doesn’t seem like I’ve been up here that long. It seems like I got called up the other day, I’m so focused on my next start.”
Miner struggled with his control—only 47 of his first 82 pitches were strikes—but he walked only three. He struck out a career-high six.
He blamed his wildness on mechanical flaws, but was glad he had Leyland’s lead-savers behind him.
“Those guys were awesome,” he said.
Seattle manager Mike Hargrove exemplified his team’s frustration at falling from a season-high two games over .500 last week. He went nose-to-nose and traded profanities with home plate umpire Ted Barrett after Ibanez argued he did not swing as Barrett had ruled for a sixth-inning strikeout.
Barrett ejected Hargrove, who was then restrained by crew chief Rick Reed before he spun his cap on the field from the dugout steps.
It was the third time Hargrove was on the field challenging calls in the game.
Ichiro Suzuki also had a run-in with Barrett, in the fifth. The All-Star claimed he had fouled a pitch that skipped in front of home plate. Barrett ruled Suzuki swung over the pitch for strike three, and television replays appeared to support the ruling.
“If I had missed the ball, I would have run to first base,” Suzuki said. “For him to say what he did, he’s saying I’m lying … I consider myself a player who plays honestly.”
Seattle has scored two runs in its last 28 innings. … The Tigers are 33-14 on the road. They were 32-49 on the road last season. … Suzuki’s first start this season at DH put Carl Everett in RF for the first time since last Aug. 28, when he was with the White Sox. Everett ran far to the foul line to catch Craig Monroe’s pop fly with two Tigers on to end the top of the fifth. … After the game, the Mariners designated seldom-used pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine for assignment and promoted C Luis Oliveros from Double-A San Antonio. They needed another catcher Sunday because Kenji Johjima was allowed to leave for Japan a day early to visit his wife and infant son, born June 30, during the All-Star break.