Pitching still matters in baseball


By Tom Zulewski

 

While the Region 9 baseball season has been in full swing for two weeks, the Major League Baseball season just got rolling this weekend. When my fandom comes around, I don’t bother with bandwagons.

 

I am, and always will be, a fan of all teams Detroit. Call me cursed, call me weird, call me nuts, but don’t call me late to the first pitch when the Tigers begin their season.

 

Based on what happened in the team’s opening series at Comerica Park, this will probably be the only time I rant about the Detroit Tigers in this space.

 

After multiple years of being a contender in the American League Central, the wheels have clearly fallen off for the Tigers. They have absolutely no pitching to speak of these days, and it was most evident when they traded their legendary pitcher, 2006 American League Rookie of the Year Justin Verlander to the Houston Astros last August.

 

While JV finally got his World Series ring last fall after two failed attempts in Detroit (2006, 2012), his former team has officially gone into rebuilding mode.

 

When the starting pitchers leave, the bullpen can’t hold a lead. It’s been that way for at least the last four years, and nowhere was it more evident than Opening Day on March 30.

 

After rallying with four runs in the seventh inning to take a 6-4 lead over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the bullpen couldn’t stand the prosperity. Pittsburgh rallied with a four-run ninth to take a 10-6 lead.

 

But the Tigers’ offense had life, getting those runs back in the bottom half and forcing extra innings. Again, the bullpen – with help from a controversial call – couldn’t hold the fort. Gregory Polanco belted a three-run homer in the top of the 13th, and the Tigers had no answer.

 

It was a tale of two contrasts Sunday as the Pirates earned the sweep. Trevor Williams kept Detroit hitless for six innings as a first-inning run stood up for a 1-0 win in the opener, and a five-run fifth broke a tie and gave Pittsburgh an 8-6 win in the nightcap of the twin bill.

 

No April Fool’s joke needed here. It’s going to be a long year for the Tigers again – maybe not one along the lines of the 119-loss disaster of 2003, but pretty close. Let this be a cautionary tale for any high-school pitcher who may be struggling. Things can always be worse.

 

-On the upside of things, Cedar High grad Rykker Tom was a part of a special three-game series for Utah as the Utes beat No. 1 Oregon State for the second time by an 11-8 count Saturday at Smith’s Ballpark.

Tom went 4-for-12 in the series against the Beavers, hit safely in all three games, and has seen his batting average rise to .287 with a home run and 11 RBI. The Utes may be 6-20 overall on the season, but they have handed the Beavers two of their four losses (21-4),

 

-And in another happy ending where the media truly does not know everything, the Beaver Beavers of head coach Joe Hillock found a way to beat four opponents and win the 2A boys basketball state title. They opened with easy wins over American Prep of West Valley and Altamont, then got the one they needed to have by beating defending champion and heavy favorite Layton Christian 57-51 in the semifinals at Richfield on Feb. 23.

 

The Beavers had no letdown whatsoever in the final as they beat Duchesne – who had eliminated Parowan – 44-30 to claim its first crown since 2002.

 

Senior guard Davis Heslington was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player and Porter Hollingshead was named to the all-tournament team. Hollingshead and Dalton Hoyt were named Academic All-State team members and Hillock was named Coach of the Year.

 

After getting knocked out in the play-in round a year ago, it only makes this year’s achievement that much sweeter.

 

Follow Tom Zulewski on Twitter @TommyZee81 or email tominator19@yahoo.com.

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