The Tigers’ starting pitchers have been so strong over the last dozen games it has masked the club’s bullpen faults.
But the late-inning woes surfaced Monday when Toronto ended Detroit’s seven-game winning streak with its sixth straight victory, capitalizing on Joaquin Benoit’s ineffectiveness for three runs in the eighth in a 4-2 win.
Jose Valverde has been solid at the back end for the Tigers — 10 saves in 10 chances — but Benoit’s recent miseries have left a hole in the eighth, putting pressure on the guys who work the earlier innings.
Benoit entered a 1-1 game and gave up three consecutive hits followed by two sacrifice flies good for three runs. He has now allowed 12 earned runs in his last six appearances covering five innings after allowing just nine earned runs all of last year.
Following a previous hiccup, Benoit was given a week off to work on his delivery, emerging with two scoreless but very imperfect innings.
“Obviously he’s struggling,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I don’t know. We’ll keep looking, see if we can see something. It looks to me like his location is the most important thing. It’s not velocity. His velocity is still pretty good.”
Might Leyland try someone else as his setup man for the time being?
“I’ll talk about that later,” Leyland said. “Let’s not get all excited.”
There has to be some concern, though. A manager can’t be wondering what he’s getting when he goes to his bullpen.
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