Tigers' Alex Wilson grinding through bizarre start

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Maybe in a couple of weeks, when the sting subsides, everybody will be able to look back on Alex Wilson’s early struggles and laugh.

It’ll be like, “Remember after that Friday the 13th game against the Yankees? When Shane Greene sent that text that said, ‘I don’t know how you pissed the Baseball Gods off, but say you’re sorry and let’s go.’”

By then Wilson will have shaken off whatever bad ju-ju is ruining these early outings and gotten back to being his reliable self in the Tigers’ bullpen. For now, though, especially after giving up two runs in the eighth inning Friday, this isn’t funny.

“It’s embarrassing to myself,” Wilson said Saturday morning, as rain steadily fell and ultimately postponed the game Saturday. “I feel like I’ve been pretty much the backbone of this bullpen for three years, and for me not to be that guy right now is painful for me.

“I take pride in consistency and this has been super frustrating so far.”

Wilson is healthy. His trademark cutter is as effective as it’s ever been. And yet, he keeps getting nicked — five runs, two home runs, in 82/3 innings.

“I don’t know how to explain it, to be honest with you,” he said. “I just have to keep grinding. There is no other explanation for it. I’ve had good success with the cutter, it’s when I don’t throw it that things happen.

“This year, I honestly feel like I’ve made two bad pitches — a 2-0 heater and a 3-0 heater — and both left the ballpark. Just foul a ball off one time.”

The outing Friday night was Wilson’s tough-luck start in a nutshell. He came into the game in the eighth inning after the Tigers had cut the Yankees lead to 6-3. The first pitch to the first hitter he faced — Miguel Andujar — was laced to the wall in left-center field for a triple.

“The first pitch of the outing is a curveball to Andujar who is literally hitting under .100 in his career off curveballs,” Wilson said. “And he tally-whacks one on the first pitch of an inning on a pitch I throw like four percent of the time.

“I’m like, ‘What are you doing?’ Did that really just happen?”

On Opening Day, he pitched three strong innings, keeping the game tied into the 13th. Then with two outs in the 13th, he gave up two scratch singles and fell behind 3-0 on Gregory Polanco.

“I just tried to slide a heater in there to get back into the count,” Wilson said. “And he got me (three-run homer).”

Wilson was summoned in the eighth inning of a 1-1 game in Cleveland last Tuesday. First batter he faced, right-handed hitting Roberto Perez, hit an opposite-field home run.

“I got behind 2-0, and by rule you stay away and make him beat you away,” Wilson said. “And he beat me away. It’s like an unwritten rule as a late-inning guy. These things run through your mind.

“The guy literally has zero power numbers to right field and he hits a homer off me to right field. He was hitting like .217 on heaters away.

By the numbers, it just doesn’t make sense, and yet it’s happening over and over.”

It would almost be easier if he was consistently making bad pitches. Then the problem would be something tangible, like health or a mechanical issue, something that can be dealt with and corrected.

But this?

“I feel like I’m doing everything I’ve always done,” Wilson said. “I’m just in a bad patch and the ball is not going my way. It’s not a rut I want to stay in, obviously.”

Maybe he should make a sacrifice to the Baseball Gods. Maybe he should give himself a baseball lobotomy and flush the last two and a half weeks from his mind. Or maybe he should ride it out — because he is healthy and he has, for the most part, made good pitches.

“I’m not sleeping a whole lot,” Wilson said. “Lots of things running through my brain. All I can tell myself is keep working, stay positive. Everybody goes through rough patches. Just catch one break and hopefully things turn around.

“I’ve been worrying about everything. Nobody wants to start a season with what I’ve done. Just a lack of sleep, just trying to jog my brain for anything I can do. But the biggest thing is to try to stay positive and stay confident in my ability, whether the results are there or not.”

Wilson shook his head and then smiled.

“The good thing is, there’s only one way it can go from here,” he said. “It can only get better.”