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Smyly struggles, knocked out early by Angels

Left-hander allows four runs over three innings in first start

DETROIT -- Drew Smyly waited nearly three weeks to get his first start of the season in the Tigers rotation. His start lasted just three innings, and felt like three hours.

"I was out there forever," he said, "and I was in the dugout for like 10 seconds."

That's what the Angels do to Tigers pitching, and Smyly wasn't the only Tigers pitcher they did it to on Friday night. By the time the Angels were done scoring in the 11-6 Detroit loss at Comerica Park, they had put up four runs on Smyly and seven on Luke Putkonen, the long reliever the Tigers had set to piggyback Smyly's start.

Though the Tigers rallied late to close the gap a bit after Jered Weaver was done with his six innings of one-run ball, a 10-run deficit was too much to erase, leaving the Angels to count down outs toward their 10th consecutive win over Detroit.

Three of the Angels' six wins over the Tigers last season came by six runs or more. This one wasn't quite that large by the end, but add in a series sweep from August 2012, and the Angels have outscored the Tigers by a 67-28 margin over those 10 games.

They've roughed up Rick Porcello and toppled the Tigers bullpen. With Smyly shaking off rust, even a lineup without injured Josh Hamilton and David Freese had a chance to capitalize if it could make Smyly throw extra pitches. Once they did that in the second inning, the Tigers had nothing keeping them close.

As Tigers outfielder and former Angel Torii Hunter put it, "We got our butt whupped."

The Tigers didn't have a set pitch count on Smyly, the fifth starter whose previously scheduled outings had been pushed back by rainouts. Manager Brad Ausmus said before the game he'd keep an eye on Smyly and make a move when the lefty showed signs of tiring. That came far earlier than expected.

It wasn't a lack of command. He got to two strikes on 12 of the 13 batters he faced, and he threw a nasty breaking ball on Albert Pujols on his way to strand a runner on third base in the opening inning. Even that out, however, took six pitches out of him.

He made another quality pitch to end the next inning, getting Mike Trout to chase a fastball off the plate and strand runners at the corners. The problem was, it was his 45th pitch of the inning, and two runners had already scored.

"For whatever reason, when I got later in the count, they just started fouling a lot of pitches off, making it tough on me -- foul, foul, ball, ball, foul, and then a basehit or something," Smyly said. "They were just making me work, man, and then my pitch count in the second."

Seven pitches went to ninth hitter Ian Stewart, a last-minute addition to the lineup when Freese was scratched. Stewart swung and missed at a cutter over the plate to fall into a 1-2 count, but shrugged at one off the plate. He fouled off a fastball, then a slider, staying alive for when Smyly made his mistake.

"I thought our guys did a good job of showing some patience," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said.

It was a cutter up and just over the plate, and Stewart crushed it to the depths of Comerica Park, toward the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center field for a triple to give the Angels the lead for good.

"Once Stewart got that triple, I was gassed after that," Smyly said. "That was a tough inning, just couldn't really recover."

If there was a time of possession in baseball, that inning tilted it in the Angels' favor. Weaver (1-2) used 14 pitches to dispatch the Tigers in the bottom half, sending Smyly out for the third with barely enough time to catch his breath.

"Honestly, I went out in the third inning trying to just let them hit it and hopefully get three quick outs," Smyly said. "[I'm] just trying to help the team save the bullpen, but I think they went double, home run, double, and that didn't really work out the way I planned."

The home run came from Howie Kendrick, the first of his two on the night.

That was the last of Smyly (1-1), who allowed four runs on six hits over three innings. If his 82 pitches in that stretch wasn't a sign of his fortunes, the fact that he threw all but 24 of those with runners on base was.

"It's tough to get upset with Drew," Ausmus said. "He hasn't started in three weeks. He's kind of bided his time, helped us out in the bullpen and finally got his first start. You really have to kind of cut Drew a little bit of slack in that sense."

Like Smyly, Putkonen had been dealing with a lack of work, having thrown just two-thirds of an inning all season despite being in the bullpen since Opening Day. The rust showed in his outing, from another Kendrick home run off the top of the fence in right-center field to a Trout double ripped into left-center field.

Putkonen exited after Pujols' 497th career home run, a three-run drive to left with nobody out in the sixth inning.

"Just like Drew, it's kind of tough to be upset with a guy who's pitched once since Opening Day," said Ausmus. "Unfortunately, we had to send him out there for three innings today because of the state of our bullpen. Again, I can't really blame Luke for not being sharp."

Detroit's offensive damage came in the seventh off Josh Wall, including a two-run single from Ian Kinsler and a pinch-hit RBI single from Nick Castellanos.

Kinsler led the Tigers offense with two hits. Kendrick had four RBIs, while Stewart fell a home run shy of the cycle.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.
Read More: Detroit Tigers, Torii Hunter, Ian Kinsler, Nick Castellanos, Justin Miller, Drew Smyly