DETROIT -- The most impressive inning of pitching at Comerica Park last season might have been turned in by Tampa Bay rookie left-hander Alex Torres. Appearing on the scene with the bases loaded and none out, he got Torii Hunter to ground into a forceout at home, then struck out Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and left Victor Martinez on deck.
Tigers fans might be shocked that the Rays could trade Torres, but in January they did, and in the last two days, the Comerica Park throng has seen why.
On Friday night, Brad Boxberger--a reliever obtained in the Torres trade--unplugged a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the sixth to do the key preservation work in Tampa Bay's win.
On Saturday, infielder Logan Forsythe showed why Tampa Bay got him in the Torres trade. He homered off Anibal Sanchez for the Rays' first hit of the day, sparking a three-run fifth. In the sixth, he put down a bunt single to drive in the second run in a four-run inning that Sanchez didn't survive.
Right-hander Chris Archer blanked the Tigers on three hits until the seventh and beat them, 7-2.
Cleanup man Victor Martinez, the Tigers' most consistent hitter this season, on Saturday began his second absence of the week with a sore side.
The Tigers did sweep Oakland this week without Martinez. But did Saturday's game--beyond Archer's excellent pitching--show that a team can overcome the absence of a star hitter temporarily, but not indefinitely?
From the way manager Brad Ausmus has talked lately, he might have given Cabrera his first day off of the season Saturday if Martinez had been available. Cabrera has gone hitless in the last two games and in six of the last nine.
"Starting players need a mental break sometimes," Ausmus said after Saturday's game. "The baseball season is truly a grind, mentally more than anything. I firmly believe that Miggy needs a day where he can sit in the dugout and watch his teammates play and cheer them on. Generally guys like Miggy who play on a regular basis would rather have a day off."
The Tigers' next day game is Wednesday. It seems improbable that Ausmus would take Cabrera out tonight with Tampa Bay ace left-hander David Price on the mound.
Cabrera was asked if he regards Price as a special challenge.
"We want to win every game," he said.
Sanchez's demise -- from hitless to immediately batted around -- might seem rare, but lately it isn't. Sanchez became the third big-league pitcher in the last three days to throw shutout ball and not allow more than one hit for at least the first four innings, then suddenly give up three runs in a middle inning. It happened on Thursday to the Twins' Phil Hughes and the Pirates' Vance Worley.
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