Ah, double header baseball, a tradition the teams in the AL Central know well, thanks to playing in climates where the rain (and sometimes snow) fall with great frequency in the early spring. As luck would have it, a rain out on the first game of the would-be four game series against the Cleveland Indians means the Tigers and Indians will play another double header on September first, but for today, let’s focus on this one.
The weather was perfect, an absolute dream for baseball, and the Tigers seemed ready to win. Justin Upton was a late scratch, putting J.D. Martinez in game one unexpectedly.
Saturday’s pitchers were an interesting combo for the Tigers. Anibal Sanchez faced off against Josh Tomlin, and once again demonstrated that he seems to be showing signs of his former self. Game two saw Jordan Zimmermann paired up with Carlos Carrasco. Zimmermann, who has also been good lately, did not disappoint (at least initially. More on that later)
Game One: Tigers 7, Indians 4 — Comeback Kids
The Tigers took the Indians to town, not letting an early lead by the Tribe keep them from claiming victory. Everyone was doing good work, from the offense to the outfield, with some great plays by Mikie Mahtook and Nick Castellanos keeping Cleveland from staging an impressive comeback.
While the Indians did tie the game up in the seventh, the often-sleepy Tigers offense was not caught napping, and we able to pull into the lead once more and stay there, thanks to solid relief pitching from Shane Greene, Bruce Rondon, and Justin Wilson. Anibal Sanchez, who gets a roar below, deserves extra accolades for his work in the game, because the win record won’t show what he did, and it was a really, really quality outing for him.
Nick Castellanos, who was a home run shy of the cycle, and actually showed defensive prowess by robbing Jason Kipnis of a base hit.
Anibal Sanchez pitched 6.1 capable innings, giving up three runs on four hits, with one walk and five strike outs. His work was efficient and never veered towards the nerve-jangling. It’s safe to say he’s showing signs of where he was in late spring training, and that’s damn good news for the Tigers.
J.D. “I wasn’t even supposed to be here this game” Martinez, getting the scoring started early with a solo home run. Miguel Cabrera followed up with a solo blast of his own, and the Tigers were off to the races.
Daniel Stumpf didn’t look great working in the seventh, letting the Indians tie the game and leaving the whole mess for Shane Greene to get out of.
Game Two: Indians 4, Tigers 1 — A Tale of Two Uniforms
Changing from their Stars and Stripes Independence Day weekend uniforms into their Negro League Detroit Stars uniforms, the Tigers took the field for game two. The game was going swimmingly for Zimmermann right up until the sixth inning, when it all went horribly wrong.
After allowing only one hit through five innings, Zimmermann gave up four runs before being relieved, giving the Indians a late game lead that would prove difficult for the Tigers to overcome. Ultimately it was a tough game for Tigers starting pitchers.
Ian Kinsler made an utterly insane one-handed catch in the dugout when a foul ball flew right at him. I want very badly to give you a gif of this, but none were available. Just trust me that it was incredible, and that man is a baseball cowboy.
Indians Bradley Zimmer was a surprising thorn, robbing several excellent hits to center through both games, including one that would have put Mahtook on for his third time in the second game. Andrew Miller, the world’s tallest life ruiner, came on to close out the game in true Miller fashion, sending the Tigers home with a split.
Those uniforms. Love the Detroit Stars Negro League throwbacks.
Mikie Mahtook with two hits and the first RBI of the game, showing some real hustle in the latter half of the month.
Minnie Forbes, the former Detroit Stars owner, who was in the audience and talked to Jon Morosi about how she once played third base for the Kansas City Monarchs. Awesome.
Hits by pitch. Three times over two games, Tigers pitchers got hit by pitches (none seemed intentional). James McCann was hit twice in the first game but both Josh Tomlin and Zach McAllister. Then in game two, Jose Iglesias was hit by a pitch from Carlos Carrasco. Guess Jordan Zimmermann felt differently about the hit by pitch on Iglesias, because he threw behind on Carlos Santana and the results were slow.
Jordan Zimmermann hits Carlos Santana, touching off the slowest-moving, bench-clearing non-brawl in history. Order has been restored.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) July 2, 2017
Carlos Carrasco’s slider. Terrible. Struck out seven Tigers, allowed only one run. Nasty stuff.