By: Bob Wojnowski
Blame Jim Leyland. Blame Ryan Raburn. Blame Delmon Young. Heck, blame Brandon Inge again, if you wish.
But in the wake of the Tigers’ most-crushing loss of the season, only one culprit makes total sense: Octavio Dotel.
Oh, I know this is radical to point the finger at, you know, the GUY WHO ACTUALLY THREW ALL THE BAD PITCHES. Dotel threw 15 pitches in the ninth inning Monday night and 11 were balls, allowing the Mariners to rally for a stunning 3-2 victory.
It was a horrible, horrible loss, wasting a superb return by Doug Fister. We can loudly debate whether Leyland should’ve left Fister in after 73 pitches through seven innings, or whether he should’ve left Phil Coke in after a quick eighth inning. I would’ve gone for either option.
I bet between drags on his Marlboros, Leyland is even debating it. But there’s no debating this: There was every reason to believe Dotel could get the job done, and he didn’t.
This isn’t some kid with choke tendencies. Dotel is 38 and pitched in the World Series for the Cardinals last fall. He has saved 108 major league games. Before his meltdown, he’d walked two and struck out 12 in 10-and-a-third innings this season.
When it was apparent Dotel couldn’t get the ball over the plate, Leyland should’ve pulled him quicker. That was a mistake. But with Jose Valverde ruled out because he’d worked three straight games — and Joaquin Benoit had pitched in two straight — were you really confident Duane Below was going to save the situation?
Dotel seemed trustworthy. And he probably will be again. And as long as his bullpen is so shaky, Leyland must leave his starters in a bit longer. That’s the lesson going forward. But looking back, Dotel inexplicably fell apart, and this crusher is on him more than anyone else.