Galarraga leads Tigers past Dodgers
Rookie right-hander tosses seven shutout innings
DETROIT -- The Tigers have been all too familiar this year with how much being shut out can deflate a team. Their look Friday night showed how much tossing a shutout -- finally -- can inflate them.
The Tigers were the team trying to do too much and ending up doing nothing. The way their starting pitching is going lately, they no longer have to feel that way. With Armando Galarraga's seven scoreless innings setting up the Tigers' first shutout of the season, Marcus Thames' solo homer and Magglio Ordonez's two-run shot were plenty for Friday's 5-0 blanking of the Dodgers at Comerica Park.
It was the Tigers' sixth win in their last seven games, but the zero on the opposing end provided something more. Instead of a walk-off home run or a late-inning rally, this one was a matter of building a lead and keeping it.
"What's nice to see is we just beat four real good pitchers. And the truth of the matter is something I've always talked about: In order to beat those four real good pitchers, your pitchers had to pitch good. And they all did."
Detroit became the last team in the Majors to toss a shutout this season. And the bulk of the workload came from a Tigers starter who wasn't even in the Majors when the season started.
Galarraga continues to defy the notion that hitters should be catching up to him by now. The most obscure of the Tigers' trade acquisitions last winter, brought in for a player the Texas Rangers have since released, throws with the primary goal of attacking the strike zone. It's something hitters have struggled to adjust to early on in his career.
Like the Tigers, the Dodgers have had trouble scoring runs. With Rafael Furcal and Andruw Jones on the disabled list, and Matt Kemp still serving out a suspension, they were also short-handed. Galarraga went after them and didn't let up.
"Sliders and sinkers worked well tonight," said Galarraga, who struck out five. "I think [I threw] some more sinkers, because sliders [worked] for strikeouts. I started with sinkers, and when I got them with sinkers really good, I got them swinging fast."
It wasn't any special formula for this opponent. It's how he works, but it worked especially on this club. With his quick tempo, Dodgers hitters couldn't catch up.
"No matter if it's the worst team or the best team, you still have to be aggressive," Galarraga said. "Tonight, I felt pretty good -- real good. I got more confident as the game kept going. I didn't want to leave, because I felt so confident. I felt really good."
Two of the three hits Galarraga allowed were comebackers that ricocheted off him, including a Juan Pierre line drive off of the top of Galarraga's right foot that nearly knocked the right-hander out of the game. Just two Dodgers reached scoring position against Galarraga, who retired 16 of the final 18 batters he faced before giving way to Freddy Dolsi in the eighth.
Sixty-six of Galarraga's 100 pitches went for strikes against the Dodgers, who have scored one run or less in 22 games this season.
"He's got an assortment of pitches, and he throws them for strikes," Leyland said. "He throws something besides the fastball when he's behind in the count. His control's pretty good. He can move the ball to both sides of the plate. He does a good job on the running game. He's done a good job for us.
"I've always said I think there's a lot of guys in the Minor Leagues who, if they can throw something besides the fastball over the plate when they're behind in the count, there's a lot of guys who I think can pitch in the big leagues. And this guy's proven that [you can win] if you throw strikes with more than one pitch. His fastball's 92 [mph]. It's not like it's some donkey. It's pretty good."
Los Angeles starter and Dearborn, Mich., native Derek Lowe did his best to try to match his Detroit counterpart, scattering three singles over his first four innings. He retired 10 of 11 batters heading into the fifth, when Marcus Thames reached for a knee-high fastball and sent it deep to left for his eighth home run of the season.
"It was a sinker that he left out over the plate. I hit it hard," said Thames, who victimized a low-ball pitcher for the second time in three days after hitting Javier Vazquez for a three-run shot on Wednesday. "At first I didn't think it was going to go out, but it kept going and going and going. It was a big hit for us and a big win for us."
Two batters later, Ryan Raburn hit a one-out single and advanced to third on a Curtis Granderson double, setting up Michael Hollimon for his first Major League RBI with a sacrifice fly. Miguel Cabrera scored in the sixth when Thames' two-out ground ball went through Dodgers first baseman James Loney for an error.
It was still a 3-0 lead when benches cleared following a hit-by-pitch from Dodgers reliever Cory Wade to Carlos Guillen, who exchanged words on Guillen's way up the first-base line and had to be kept apart. Ordonez followed that by hitting a 2-0 pitch out to left and admiring it, giving Detroit its final margin.
By then, though, the game already seemed out of reach. The way the Tigers were pitching, they continued to let Detroit's offense relax.
"I really think everybody was pressing a little bit early [in the season]," Leyland said. "I think guys were on edge a little bit. I think the expectation thing got in their head a little bit, and I think now we're starting to realize we're a good team. What we need to do is just go play baseball."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.