Bonderman has four quality starts this year, and back-to-back outings with just one run allowed. He has a nine-inning performance in which he spent less than 100 pitches, and now a game in which he took a one-hitter into the seventh. He had a 15-inning scoreless streak between last Friday and this Wednesday.
He still does not have a win. What had been a three-run Detroit lead was gone once Kansas City scored twice off closer Todd Jones in the top of the ninth. John Buck's leadoff homer in the 10th off Fernando Rodney finished the comeback, sending the Tigers to their off-day with a tough-to-palate 4-3 loss Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Bonderman is without a win, but in his mind, he's without an excuse.
"I'm not satisfied with just going out there and throwing," Bonderman said. "I want to win. Even if I don't win, if the team wins; that's the whole goal. In my starts, we're 1-3. That ain't getting it done. You can throw seven innings and give up one run, but we didn't win. That's the bottom line. You've got to win. This game's all about winning, and in my starts, we haven't won. So I've got to find a way to get us to win in my starts."
Unless he was set to pitch a complete game, there wasn't much more he could've done Wednesday.
"That's unbelievable," said catcher Mike Rabelo of Bonderman's record. "I can guarantee you this: If he keeps it up, he's going to win a heckuva lot more than he's going to lose."
Actually, he hasn't lost yet, either.
Bonderman and Royals staff ace Gil Meche dueled through five scoreless innings with three hits combined before the Tigers scored three unearned runs in the bottom of the sixth. An Alex Gordon throwing error on a potential inning-ending double play brought in one run, then Craig Monroe singled in the next two by hitting a breaking ball.
With that, Bonderman went to the mound with a lead for the first time all season, ending a stretch of 27 innings with either a tie game or a deficit. He had retired 18 of 19 batters when he went out for the top of the seventh and gave up what he considered two mistake pitches. His first-pitch fastball wandered over the plate, and Esteban German promptly hit the ball off the left-field fence for a leadoff double.
Bonderman struck out Mark Teahen, but Mike Sweeney took advance of an inside sinker, which Bonderman said was slightly elevated, for an RBI single. After a fielder's choice, Bonderman battled Gordon to a full count before he fanned on a high changeup, Bonderman's 86th and final pitch of the afternoon.
Manager Jim Leyland said he looked "a little bit different" in the seventh inning compared to his first six, and that factored into his decision to pull the young right-hander. Even if he had stayed with Bonderman, Leyland said it would've been for just one more inning before Jones handled the ninth.
"Seven straight times [when] he's had the lead, he saved the game," Leyland said. "Today was kind of a freak time."
Those seven saves have Jones atop the Major League leaderboard. He hadn't given up a run all season, he had allowed more than one baserunner in an inning just once and he had retired the first batters in each of his eight outings.
All three of those trends were erased Wednesday, but it was the last of them that he thinks set up his fate.
"Can't do it," Jones said. "Any young, aspiring closers out there, don't walk the leadoff guy."
Jones had pesky David DeJesus in an 0-2 count, but missed on his next three pitches to work the count full before following a foul ball with ball four. Teahen's double two batters later brought him in and put the tying run on second.
Sweeney's single off an 0-2 pitch put runners at the corners, but Jones nearly escaped with a double-play ball. Carlos Guillen snared Ross Gload's grounder behind second base and scampered to the bag, but Gload barely hit the bag ahead of the throw to Sean Casey.
Bonderman was in the clubhouse by then, but he still feels like he was a part of the undoing. He doesn't shake responsibility so much as he adds it.
"Just because you throw the ball doesn't mean you're getting your job done," Bonderman said. "The first start, I gave up three runs in the first. We ended up losing the game in extra innings. Guys had to come bail me out of that game [before losing in extra innings]. Kansas City, we won that game off of a three-run homer [in the ninth]. I didn't get the job done that day when I was on the mound.
"The matchup with [Roy] Halladay [last Friday], I feel like I did my job in that game, because I pitched nine innings. Today I threw the ball well, but we scored three runs and I gave up a run. It's not acceptable."
To his teammates, it's certainly admirable.
"He's just got to know that as long as he's going to be pitching this year, if he pitches like this, he's going to win 20 games and everything's going to be fine," Jones said. "Right now, in the microcosm of the first four starts, it's not going too good."
Bonderman can see past this stretch, too. He has matched up with aces three times -- two with Halladay and this one with Meche -- but he wants those matchups, and he wants the team to win them.
"As a pitcher, you can feel good about your performance," Bonderman said, "But [if] you're not winning, that's tough to accept. I want to win. I don't want to be just a good pitcher. I don't want to go out and pitch good and not win. I want to have 18, 19, 20 wins a year. I've got to find a way to win some games."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less