Galarraga has command issues vs. Rays
Right-hander walks four crucial batters, suffers fifth loss
DETROIT -- Two months ago, the Tigers and most everyone else in baseball believed Armando Galarraga pitched a perfect game. Now, the Tigers believe he's struggling to make the perfect pitch.
That's a quest he isn't going to win often enough, and the umpire has nothing to do with it.
"When you have good stuff, you are supposed to trust it," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after Monday's 6-3 loss to the Rays. "You have a lot of guys out there to catch it. You have to throw the ball over the plate. You have make them put the ball in play. That's the only way you can make plays for guys like that.
"He's obviously not a strikeout pitcher. He's a sinker/slider pitcher basically with a changeup. He's got to keep the infielders moving and the outfielders as well and make them put it in play and get outs. It's that simple. But tonight his control was just terrible."
Galarraga went into the night in a battle of confidence. He ended up in a battle of attrition with David Price. In the end, it was the Tigers, even with another of their injured regulars back in the lineup, who sounded weary after another close loss to the Rays. It was also the manager who sounded at least a little weary of the same issue with Galarraga.
He hasn't lost confidence in the guy who was the talk of baseball two months ago. But he wishes Galarraga had more confidence in himself, because the Tigers' game plan against the Rays on Monday relied on it.
"Tonight, it was disappointing," Leyland said. "This is an excellent ballclub we're playing against with very good legs, very athletic. But they haven't been swinging the bats real good lately. So we were thinking if you could attack the strike zone, maybe you'd have a chance tonight. We just didn't do that. We did a poor job of that."
Both Galarraga and Price were long gone well before game's end, having been worn down over five innings. Galarraga actually threw far fewer pitches, 90 over his five innings compared with Price's 115.
Price and Galarraga combined for a dozen full counts, producing payoff pitch after payoff pitch. Price has the power fastball and strikeout capability to get through those kinds of jams. Galarraga has to spot the corner to do so, and he either didn't or couldn't.
"Yeah, he was missing some spots today by a lot, especially 3-2 counts," catcher Gerald Laird said. "You can't make the perfect pitch. You have to come at these guys. Statistically, they're going to get themselves out seven out of 10 times, more than that."
Galarraga gave up four walks, all of them on 3-2 counts. Two of those runners came around to score, and the other two walks moved along Evan Longoria from first to third after his leadoff single in the fourth, setting up a Matt Joyce sacrifice.
"You know he's out there trying," Laird said. "Every guy comes in here and wants to win and gives their best. It's one of those things where he's just got to relax and trust his stuff, and I think sometimes he gets to where I don't think he trusts himself to come after guys, especially with men on base."
Take away the walks, and Joyce's solo homer in the third might have been the only run he allowed.
"We got to him early, let him off the hook," Rays left fielder Carl Crawford said. "But all in all he pitched an all right game."
Galarraga was not available for comment after the game. But there's definitely a perfectionist streak in him, so to speak. After his breakout season in 2008, when he led the Tigers with 13 wins, he talked about trying to win 20. He worked in Spring Training on changing arm angles to try to give hitters a different look.
Galarraga (3-5) never talked about trying to pitch another perfect game after a blown call denied him June 2, but he wanted that to be a building block for him towards a home in the Tigers' rotation after he began the year at Triple-A Toledo. Monday's loss dropped him to 1-4 with a 5.10 ERA in 11 starts since that historic outing against Cleveland.
The fact that he missed spots in key situations could suggest mechanical issues. The Tigers don't believe that's the issue. Leyland said he talked with Galarraga multiple times leading into tonight's start about attacking hitters, and knowing where his outs are in a lineup.
"It's not a mechanical thing," Leyland said. "It's strictly in the coconut."
Price (15-5) worked into 0-2 or 1-2 counts on 17 of Detroit's 24 hitters, but went full on seven of them. He lost Carlos Guillen and Jhonny Peralta on back-to-back 0-2 counts for walks that set up Gerald Laird's two-out RBI double in the second inning. He had similar issues in the fifth inning, when Ramon Santiago and Ryan Raburn both battled out of 0-2 counts for singles to produce Detroit's other run off him.
Raburn's single gave the Tigers the makings of a fifth-inning rally. Price immediately shut it down by striking out Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Jhonny Peralta, all swinging and missing at fastballs at 97 mph or better.
"He was kind of a Catch-22, really," Leyland said, "because he was wild enough to be effective where you could get him deep in pitch count, but he also has the ability to throw a ball by people when you get a couple guys on. He has that ability, so that's a tough situation."
Brennan Boesch's 14th homer of the season, an opposite-field shot in the eighth inning, drew the Tigers within a run before two more Rays runs off Ryan Perry put the game out of reach.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.