MINNEAPOLIS -- Brayan Villarreal entered Friday with a .220 batting average allowed and a 3.04 ERA since the All-Star break, but also 12 walks over 23 2/3 innings. For the most part, those walks hadn't come back to haunt him. On Friday, three walks -- two of them intentional -- did.
In the long run, the Tigers expect Villarreal will learn from outings like Friday's loss, where a five-pitch walk to Justin Morneau after an intentional walk to Joe Mauer left him no room to fall behind Ryan Doumit.
If Villarreal had thrown a first-pitch breaking ball, it might have gotten Villarreal a swing and miss, but it also could have put him behind in the count.
"I thought about calling a breaking ball, but my thought is, 'I have to get ahead right here,'" catcher Gerald Laird said. "If I call a breaking ball and he falls behind, sometimes it takes a couple pitches to get his fastball command back."
Villarreal's maximum-effort delivery is the reason. Still, pitching coach Jeff Jones said, Villarreal was in a position where a good first-pitch fastball could've gotten them the out they needed in a tie game.
The fastball hit 98 mph on the Target Field radar gun, but Villarreal didn't hit his location. Doumit hit it deep into the right-center-field gap for a go-ahead two-run double.
The hit again raised the debate: Is it wiser for a hitter to be hacking on the first pitch after a pitcher issues multiple walks, or should he take the pitch and make the pitcher show he can throw a strike?
"That [debate] will be going on when I'm long gone," manager Jim Leyland said.