'Stuff is still good,' so Tigers aren't worried about Soria

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Joakim Soria walk to the dugout after blowing a save opportunity against the White Sox on June 5.

Cleveland – Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones sat in front of a small screen in the coaches' office replaying and studying the last few outings from his closer, Joakim Soria.

What he saw was encouraging.

"His stuff still looks good," Jones said. "He's a strike-thrower and he's aggressive and he throws his fastball a lot. His big key is being able to throw his fastball."

Over his last six outings, Soria has given up five home runs, one in each of his last four, and all but one came off fastballs. It's eerily reminiscent of a stretch former closer Joaquin Benoit went through in 2012 when he yielded six home runs over and eight-outing stretch.

"I'm not concerned about it," Jones said. "It's something guys go through at times. Benny went through it and bounced back. We're not worried. Soria's stuff is still good."

Soria's home run spate has been partly situational, as well.

The Tigers were up 8-4 with two outs in the ninth on Monday when Roberto Perez ambushed a first-pitch fastball. The Tigers were up 12-3 in New York on Sunday when Stephen Drew took him deep.

"He threw a pitch to Drew, trying to go away and it came back in," Jones said. "We don't pitch Drew in for that reason. We threw two pitches in to him that game and he hit both of them out of the ballpark. That's why we don't pitch him in."

Last Wednesday in Cincinnati, he was summoned in the 13th inning after he had been warming up on and off since the eighth inning. He allowed a single to load the bases and then struck out Ivan De Jesus for the second out. But he hung a two-strike curveball to Todd Frazier, who turned it into a walk-off grand slam.

It was the first time he'd given up a home run on a curveball since 2008.

Last Sunday, getting work in a blowout win over the Indians, he gave up an opposite-field homer to Brandon Moss on a go-ahead-and-hit-it 3-1 fastball.

And, of course, back on June 5, he gave up a two-out, game-tying homer in the ninth to Adam LaRoche, for his second blown save.

"We still have a ton of confidence in Joakim Soria," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I am not worried about him."

Still, he's had one clean outing in his last six. He's given up seven home runs this season, which matches his career high for a season.

"His stuff is still good," Jones said. "The last couple he's just missed his location."