Don't Hate on the D-Train

John ParentCorrespondent IMay 20, 2009

DUNEDIN, FL - FEBRUARY 27 :  Pitcher Dontrelle Willis of the Detroit Tigers pitches in relief against the Toronto Blue Jays February 27, 2009 at Dunedin Stadium in Dunedin, Florida.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

This is what we have been waiting for. The triumphant return of the D-Train. 6.1 Innings, 2 walks, 0 runs, 5 strikeouts, one hit. Willis retired 17 consecutive batters before walking Andruw Jones on his final pitch of his remarkable effort, the longest such stretch of any Tigers pitcher this year. He left to a standing ovation. Dontrelle Willis pitched with purpose all night, he featured a biting slider and spotted his fastball on both sides of the plate. His motion was free and easy, and he reminded all who were watching of a young lefty that used to pitch for the Marlins.

Oh, there were some hard hit balls, this is, after all a major league team he was facing. The defense made some very good plays behind him, as is the case in any well pitched game, by any pitcher. Let us not hold Dontrelle Willis to a higher standard than Justin Verlander. It seems the critics are not yet ready to embrace Dontrelle, and I can sort of see that line of thinking, having been burned a few too many times last season, but if Verlander shuts down an opposing offense people give him the credit for pitching well, and mention that the defense played well, also. Last night's performance by Willis should garner the same reaction, but sadly, it hasn't. The critics will tell you that the defense made a few great plays on some very hard hit balls that bailed Willis out of an otherwise okay effort. They will say that a couple of long outs would have been homeruns in another park. But what happened, what actually happened was that Willis pitched very well, and the defense made plays behind him. Just the same as it would have been reported had last night's game been pitched by Edwin Jackson. Dontrelle's recent history should not allow him to be held to a lower standard than any other major league pitcher, but it also should not result in him being held to a higher one. Willis wasn't any more "lucky" last night than any other big league starter, but he was better than most, even if just for a night.

If you haven't read it yet, check out J. Ellet Lambie's take on Dontrelle, it's definately worth a read.

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