By: Holly Horning & Kurt Snyder
Thanks to the trip to Chicago, “the streak” is over. Even though we should be talking about a sweep in the Windy City, we won’t complain about a series win ending that nasty 8 game nightmare.
But there are always questions to answer, especially on Tuesday.
1. How would you grade Brad on managing the team in Chicago?
Definitely an improvement over the previous week’s meltdown that had players calling the strategy during games. But I can’t honestly say that Brad was responsible for the two wins or whether it was more of a factor of two strong pitching performances by Price and Simon.
Defensively, I have no problems with Brad’s strategy. But his inability to ride the hot hand with batters is head-scratching. After Wilson has a great day at the plate, he sits the next. And Collins, going 3-for-3 is lifted for a pinch-hitter.
But it’s with relief pitching where Brad has difficulties. Price pitched a complete game and Simon threw 8 innings for those two wins. The loss had Brad using 5 pitchers – 3 of them alone in just one inning. Over-analyzing or too much adherence to what the book says should be done?
Since I usually know where Holly stands on All Things Brad Ausmus, I have to admit that during the Chicago series, I thought Brad made some solid decisions with this team.
The lineup change against Oakland was a dud from the get go and you have to give him credit for acknowledging it. The last thing you want to do is mess with the good things Iggy was doing in the 9 spot and risk jeopardizing that. Kinsler has to figure it out and he had better games as the Sox series went on. He belongs at #2. He is a fit in front of Cabrera.
As for the bullpen, I was encouraged by how Ausmus handled, ironically, the game we lost. I thought going to Hardy to face the left-hander instead of just continuing with Joba through the 8th was, well, un-Brad like. And I agreed with the 4 out save attempt.
So, if there is credit to hand out, I have no problem giving it. Hopefully, this is a series we look back on later in the season as something pivotal in the managerial department.
2. Did we improve or were the two wins in Chicago just temporary relief?
No one wants to believe this is an improvement more than I do but unfortunately, two games do not a pattern make. I need to see at least a week of consistent performance before I can say with any certainty.
Solid performances by Price and Simon were certainly major factors in the wins. However, the Tigers are still showing the same patterns of too many runners left on base, too many runners stranded on third and too many GIDP.
Combine that with at-bat performances. The vast majority of the lineup continues to be impatient at the plate and taking too few pitches. Plate performance overall has not changed and that doesn’t bode well for regular winning streaks.
The big consistency with this team is their inconsistency. Too much similarity to last year’s early great start followed by declining win/loss records and wild roller-coaster streaks. The team faces high-energy Joe Maddon next so those games will serve as an important gauge.
This was a nutty series and as much as it was good to turn that long losing streak into a winning streak, we should have actually swept the Sox.
Kyle Ryan pitched a great game in Game 1 and deserved a victory. But the Tiger hitters did next to nothing to expand the lead, as 6 straight hitters struck out in the late innings.
In the games the team won, they were still littered with mental errors. I think the whole neighborhood heard me yell at JD Martinez, “Where are you going?!” as he ran to second on a one out lazy fly ball to right, easily doubling him off while he stood befuddled. So as nice as the wins were, this team still has a lot of cleaning up to do.
But there were positives for sure. The bats finally came alive and thanks to his Iggy-ness, all the miscues were overshadowed by a host of great plays. He is truly worthy of the All Star game. Unfortunately this year, if you’re not a Royal, you can’t start the All Star game.
Stuffing of the ballot box forcing Miggy into a reserve role proves the whole process is a joke; but that’s a topic for another day. Sorry, couldn’t help it.