Tigers Inside Pitch: 8/8

Why can't the Tigers seem to pull out victories when they need to, and what if anything is being done about it? Plus, which starter is manager Alan Trammell excited about having in the rotation in the coming months (and years)?

When they pitch they don't hit and when they hit they don't pitch. It's beginning to look like Detroit won't be getting it together until at least next season.

"We're not getting big hits," manager Alan Trammell said, "and really we haven't all year. It's not our strong suit."

Most recently Detroit's starting pitching has stumbled. RHP Jeremy Bonderman, who wants to be the Tigers' go-to guy on the mound, has lost two straight starts for the first time this season.

"They're playing good," Bonderman said in frustration Saturday after losing to Cleveland. "But we can beat them. That's the thing that frustrates me. You look at our lineup. We have a better lineup, top to bottom, than any team in our division."

Detroit starts another road trip on Monday in Toronto, sans C Ivan Rodriguez for the first four games as he serves a suspension for touching an umpire with his mask and throwing equipment from the dugout after being ejected.

LHP Mike Maroth leads off the series with RHP Sean Douglass, LHP Nate Robertson and RHP Jeremy Bonderman to follow. RHP Jason Johnson will open the weekend series.

Offensively the consistent bright spots have been few.

RF Magglio Ordonez has lived up to expectations -- too bad hernia surgery didn't let him get into the regular lineup until late June -- and 1B Chris Shelton has put a stranglehold onto a spot in the lineup. 2B Placido Polanco has continued to hit, too.

But nearly everybody else has been spotty. It's a combination that has Detroit struggling, and failing, to reach .500.

--C Ivan Rodriguez was tagged with a four-game suspension Friday for a confrontation with an umpire last weekend in which the catcher touched the umpire with his mask.

Rodriguez, who said he apologized to umpire Ted Barrett in a letter the day after the incident, also threw equipment onto the field from the dugout after being ejected.

Rodriguez appealed the suspension to remain in the lineup.

--C Vance Wilson figures to get four straight starts when C Ivan Rodriguez serves his suspension.

The Tigers are not likely to call up an extra catcher as a backup for the four games. 1B Chris Shelton and 3B Brandon Inge both have experience behind the plate, although neither has worked a game or practiced behind the plate this season.

"Obviously, this wasn't what I expected," Wilson said. "But when you come over and get behind a guy like Pudge, it's nobody's fault. I don't deserve to play over Pudge. He's a (future) Hall of Famer. If I deserved to play over Pudge, I would be upset."

He may not have great stuff, but so far it's been good enough.

--RHP Sean Douglass made his sixth strong start Thursday in seven outings, limiting Seattle to three hits over eight innings of a 3-1 Tigers victory.

"That was -- pick an adjective -- brilliant, outstanding. He was on the plate and he stayed ahead of the hitters," manager Alan Trammell said. "He's had seven outings for us, and six of them have been good ones, but this one might have been his best."

Douglass walked two but doubled that in strikeouts. The only run he allowed was on a solo home run.

The journeyman has succeeded with Detroit by staying within his limitations, working the ball inside with sinkers and sliders and also working his slider to the other side of the plate, especially with two strikes.

"Gosh, the way he's pitched, I'm looking forward to having him in our rotation next year," Trammell said.

--RHP Fernando Rodney on Thursday got his second save in as many days as the Tigers' fourth closer of the season. Rodney, who separates his fastball and changeup by more than 10 mph with the same arm speed, got three outs to seal Detroit's 3-1 victory over Seattle. He got the last five outs Wednesday night to record his first save of the season.

--3B Brandon Inge returned to the Detroit lineup Thursday and got a hit to break an 0-for-12 slide. Inge has been hitting under .200 for the better part of a month but felt he had his problem solved even before manager Alan Trammell gave him a day off Wednesday to clear his head. His single came in the eighth inning. "I felt so much better," Inge said. "I can't really explain it, but I feel 10 times better and I feel like I'm right back on track. It's not going to happen the first game, but I pulled out a hit that I don't think I would've hit last month the way I was hitting. Right now I feel really, really comfortable and I'm getting excited to hit again."

--DH/LF Dmitri Young had another big game Thursday. Young, benched a couple of weeks ago when his average slid below .250, collected two more hits and also had an RBI as he raised his average to .264. Lack of control of the strike zone was bothering him during his slide, but that no longer is a problem.

--SS Carlos Guillen returned to the lineup as expected Wednesday night (Aug. 3).

Guillen had been given permission to go home to Venezuela on Aug. 1-2 to attend to personal business.

--2B Placido Polanco was given his first start of the season at third base for Detroit on Wednesday night (Aug. 3).

Polanco, who just signed a four-year contract extension, was asked in the afternoon by manager Alan Trammell if he could play third for one game.

Polanco, who has been a utility player for much of his career, had told Trammell he could play third if necessary. Trammell still considers Polanco his regular second baseman.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- Sacrifice flies for OF Craig Monroe, two shy of the Tigers' season record shared by Lance Parrish and Travis Fryman. The American League record is 17, held by Roy White of the New York Yankees and Bobby Bonilla of Baltimore while the major league mark of 19 was set by Gil Hodges of Brooklyn in 1954.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I think the guy's going to be a fine pitcher. One outing doesn't faze me. It was just a tough outing. I'll tell you, I asked our scout where this guy would stand with (Joel) Zumaya and (Justin) Verlander and he said he'd be right there with them." -- Detroit GM Dave Dombrowski on new RHP Roman Colon, acquired from Atlanta for RHP Kyle Farnsworth at the trade deadline. Colon pitched a scoreless inning in his first Detroit appearance but was rocked for three earned runs in his second, facing six batters and only getting one of them out.

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