By Ashley Scoby
Every sport, by nature, is a roller coaster of ups and downs. But Alfredo Simon has really taken that theme to heart in his pitching starts this season. One game, he’s throwing a complete game one-hitter (against the Rangers, Aug. 20), the next he’s getting blasted for eight runs in four innings (against the Angels, Aug. 25).
And on Saturday against the Indians, fans at Comerica Park saw Simon’s good side — seven innings pitched, two hits and zero runs allowed, with five strikeouts thrown.
“Simon has been kind of a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde here in the last month, and I really like Dr. Jekyll a lot better than Mr. Hyde,” said manager Brad Ausmus. “But he did an outstanding job. Early on, he had a little trouble throwing strikes but he seemed to wiggle out of problems and then finished strong.”
“It’s nothing you can control,” Simon said. “Every time I go out there I try to do my job, try to do my best. Sometimes it happens like that.”
Simon actually pitched five and 2/3 innings before allowing his first hit, a Michael Brantley single that dropped down the right field line.
It was the same “Big Pasta” that fans had seen in that game against Texas a couple of weeks ago — brilliant, in control and unfazed when he got behind in the count. But the thing about reaching a peak is that you eventually have to tumble back down into the valley. And that, Simon did in his next two starts, combining for 14 earned runs off 15 hits in nine and 1/3 innings. In those two games he struck out only four total.
He doubled that count on Saturday, showing that the talent is there, it’s just the prospect of translating that stuff on an everyday basis that’s been the problem.
“It’s definitely in there,” said catcher James McCann of Simon’s ability. “It’s exciting to see it come together the way it did tonight. Obviously we want to see that more often than not.”
With plenty of run support – which Tigers pitchers certainly don’t always get – Simon had a little bit of pressure lifted off of his shoulders. Detroit rattled off six runs in the first four innings Saturday night, and that margin held as the final score.
McCann batted in Nick Castellanos to gain the early 1-0 lead in the second, then JD Martinez blasted a two-run homer to pile on. Tyler Collins took his turn at a home run in the fourth inning, and Rajai Davis followed it up with a ball hit all the way to the warning track. Davis stretched it to a triple, batting in Andrew Romine. Perched on third base, Davis scored on the next play after an Ian Kinsler bunt.
Putting that kind of offensive performance behind a pitcher is even more important when it’s a pitcher as streaky as Simon has been recently.
“Anytime you can come out and put up runs for your pitcher – one, that’s going to relax him on the mound. Two, it’s going to relax your defense, and three, it’s going to relax everyone at the plate,” McCann said. “Putting up that early run support is kind of a sigh of relief.”