By Ashley Dunkak
CBS DETROIT – It is happening again.
The Detroit Tigers bullpen hamstrung the team in the 2013 postseason, and history has repeated itself in the first two games of the American League Division Series.
Going into the eighth inning Thursday, the Tigers trailed, 4-2. They ultimately lost, 12-3.
Going into the eighth inning Friday, the Tigers led, 6-3. They ultimately lost, 7-6.
Phil Coke now has a 2014 postseason ERA of 27.00. Joakim Soria has a postseason ERA of 45.00. Joba Chamberlain has a postseason ERA of 108.00.
General manager Dave Dombrowski made offseason moves in an effort to ensure this would not happen, and yet it has.
Joe Nathan, who recorded an ERA of 1.39 last year before coming to Detroit this offseason, was uncomfortably inconsistent for the first two months of the season and far short of stellar even after he improved significantly.
Joakim Soria, who had a 2.70 ERA in 30 games for the Texas Rangers before he joined the Tigers via trade, got hurt only six games after his arrival in Detroit. Soria had recorded an ERA of 1.35 in seven games since his return, but in the postseason he has looked no better than anyone else.
Joba Chamberlain, never an All-Star, did not garner particularly high expectations upon his arrival in Detroit but turned into one of the steadiest arm in the bullpen. He looked less reliable the last two months of the season, however, recording an ERA of 4.66 in August and September.
During the regular season, managers and players tend to dismiss problems with the well-worn platitude, “It’s baseball.” Anything can – and most likely will – happen over the course of 162 games. Teams get hot, and teams get cold. Problems come, and problems go.
Here is the issue: the postseason is a completely different animal. A team with enough hitting and starting pitching might overcome a weak bullpen over the course of the regular season, but it is becoming more clear all the time that surmounting those kind of struggles in the much shorter postseason may be nearly impossible.