April 8 in Detroit — Tigers 13, Red Sox 12 (11 innings):
In one of the year’s wildest tilts, Detroit rallied twice from death’s door to complete an opening-series sweep. After 4 innings it was tied at 7, with both starters drubbed and departed. Boston forged ahead in the 6th when Adrian Gonzalez punished the first pitch from lefty Daniel Schlereth, and behind Vicente Padilla‘s four scoreless innings, they took a 3-run lead into the 9th. It seemed a routine first save try for the newly anointed closer, Alfredo Aceves.
But two men singled, and Miguel Cabrera smoked the first pitch out to left for a tie game.
Bobby V’s club went ahead again with 2 in the 11th, and on came Mark Melancon, one of their prize new acquisitions. Cabrera and Fielder singled with one out, and with two gone, Alex Avila stepped in. A 2-and-2 pitch from Melancon would be the last of 391 thrown in this game, as Avila launched one to right for his first career walk-off RBI.
And now for the box-score nuggets, illuminated by the Play Index:
— Avila’s HR was the year’s first game-ender, and would go down as one of the most forceful, rating 0.90 Win Probability Added (WPA). Only two others last year topped that figure, both scoring 0.91.
- Both of those were served in a 10-day span by Oakland’s Brian Fuentes, who was released a month later. The A’s topped the majors on both sides of the walk-off HR ledger (6 hit, 5 allowed).
- Although the total number of HRs increased 8% in 2012, the number of game-ending blows fell 22%, from 74 to 58.
- Four teams did not allow a walk-off HR, including Baltimore — until this, that is.
— Cabrera’s HR gave him 5 RBI in a game for the first time since August 24, 2009.
- In 2010-11 combined, there were 229 games of 5+ RBI by 182 different players, including 5 each by Jose Bautista and Carlos Quentin — but none by the man who led the majors in total RBI for those years.
- In the last 11 years, only two players have notched one or more RBI in more than half their team’s games over a season: Cabrera 2012 (83 games), and Fielder 2009 (85).
— Aceves had a WPA of -0.598 for the game, with Melancon at -0.906. There were just two other games last year where reliever teammates each scored -0.500 or worse on the WPA meter, including this doozy in Arlington.
- Melancon took his second loss in as many outings. Ten days later, he was demoted to AAA with a 49.50 ERA, having faced 18 batters, getting 6 outs against 5 home runs. He returned in June and pitched pretty well the rest of the way, but with three more blowups in lost causes.
- Melancon (6.20 season ERA) and Aceves (5.36) each had four games allowing 4+ runs; only two other MLB relievers had as many.
- Aceves (25 SV, 8 BS) finished with the highest ERA and ERA+ of any Red Sox ever with 20+ saves. He likely won’t have that job this year, with “proven closer” Joel Hanrahan having been acquired in a trade for Melancon.
— For the second straight time against Boston, Max Scherzer allowed 7 runs and failed to survive the 3rd inning; he has a 9.21 ERA in 6 career starts against the BoSox.
- After 13 starts last year, Scherzer had averaged 11.3 SO/9 and 3.0 SO/BB, but had a 5.76 ERA. In his last 22 starts (including postseason), Scherzer averaged the same 11.3 SO/9, but had a 2.42 ERA.
- Scherzer finished with a Tigers record 11.1 SO/9, but a late-September injury likely cost him the MLB strikeout crown, as he finished 8 behind Verlander. Among active SPs with 500+ IP, Scherzer’s 9.3 SO/9 trails only NL’ers Tim Lincecum (9.8) and Clayton Kershaw (9.3).
— Clay Buchholz made his first appearance since June 2011, and his first six starts last year were hardly reassuring, adding up to a 9.09 ERA. But the 2010 ERA+ champ righted the ship and produced a 3.62 ERA the rest of the way, and logged 189 IP despite a midyear DL stint.
— Reliever Duane Below faced one batter and got the win, his second in Detroit’s three games. He pitched in 25 more games without another win.
— Detroit started off 10-5, then dropped 5 straight, and hit the halfway point at 39-42. They won 14 of 17 to gain a share of first, but spun their wheels for the next two months (27-27). Only an 8-2 close, all against KC and Minny, plus Chicago’s 4-11 fold, put the Tigers in the playoffs.
— An inconsistent first half left the BoSox at .500 come Break time, but just 2.5 games back of the 2nd Wild-Card and 5 games behind the 1st WC.
- Boston’s positive run differential (432-389) suggested a better record to come; instead, they went 26-50 and finished 69-93.
- The last time they lost 90+, Yaz had not yet won a Triple Crown, and Curt Schilling had not been born.
— The game was one of four last year in which the loser scored 12 runs or more. Boston was the only team to drop two such games, including another Aceves debacle — the worst relief WPA of the last 10 years — during their 9-20 August swoon.
- Adrian Gonzalez made the last out of that game, with the tying run on base; his next AB produced a go-ahead 3-run HR … for the Dodgers. Boston went 9-27 after the big August 25 trade.
— Boston’s scoring distribution was inefficient all year. They ranked 5th in the AL at 4.53 R/G, but scored 3 or less 79 times and were 11-68 in those games. Only Seattle and Minnesota had more games of 3 or less, and they finished last and 10th in AL scoring, respectively.
- Detroit ranked below Boston in R/G, but they had 16 more games scoring 4 or more.
— 2011 MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury had his first hits in this game, but after 32 HRs in 2011, his first bomb of 2012 did not come until July 22 — after 15 games played and a 2-month DL term. He finished with 4 taters in 323 PAs, giving him this career breakdown:
- 2011, one HR per 23 trips
- All other years, one HR per 77 trips
— For the first time since 1927, Detroit won with 5 different pitchers allowing a run. In that 17-11 game (also against Boston, in Detroit), the teams combined for 9 pitchers who each allowed 2+ runs, matching the searchable record.
— Detroit threw 206 pitches and won. There was one other game last year that the Tigers won while throwing 200+ pitches; it featured a 5-run 10th that began with 2 down and none on, and it all started with a pair of walks. (Sorry, Ed!)