Over the past few months, we’ve seen baseball pundits bemoan the game’s increased reliance on the three true outcomes: strikeouts, walks, and home runs. With homers leaving the park at a record pace and pitchers striking out more batters than ever, some wonder if a game with fewer balls put into play would be less exciting for the fans.
Friday’s matchup between the Detroit Tigers and Baltimore Orioles showed us that baseball is doing just fine. Justin Upton hit a grand slam in the top of the eighth inning to give the Tigers a 5-2 win over Baltimore. The game featured four home runs, 19 strikeouts, and just nine non-homer hits. It was Detroit’s fourth consecutive win, and their second in a row to start their weekend series at Camden Yards.
Starters Justin Verlander and Kevin Gausman did their part to make this one fun. They traded scoreless innings for most of the game, with a trio of solo home runs — two for Baltimore, one for Detroit — giving the O’s a 2-1 lead after the third inning. Both pitchers went seven innings, allowing nine combined hits. Verlander struck out 10 without walking a batter, while Gausman struck out eight with one walk. Jim Adduci hit Detroit’s homer, a solo shot in the first inning that was his first in a Tigers uniform.
The fireworks started in the top of the eighth, though. Orioles reliever Mychal Givens gave up back-to-back singles to James McCann and Jose Iglesias to lead off the inning. Both runners advanced on a slow groundout from Ian Kinsler. Adduci drew a key walk to load the bases, and then Upton unloaded on the first pitch he saw to give Detroit a 5-2 lead. Bruce Rondon worked a scoreless ninth for his first save of the year.
The game was not without controversy, though. With runners on second and third and one out in the seventh, Verlander hit Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph in the hands with a fastball. However, first base umpire Jeff Nelson ruled that Joseph had swung — he brought his bat through the zone while trying to avoid the high fastball — resulting in a key strikeout. The play could have been ruled either a hit-by-pitch or foul ball (the ball struck Joseph’s bat immediately after glancing off his hands) but Detroit was fortunate that the call went their way. Craig Gentry then flied out weakly to end the inning.
Justin Upton: Duh.
Justin Verlander: Ten strikeouts, zero walks, and another strong outing from Verlander. He now has a 2.31 ERA with 44 strikeouts to 13 walks in his last six starts.
Jim Adduci: Not only did he hit his first home run in a Tigers uniform, but he drew a key walk to load the bases for Upton before the decisive grand slam.
Missing in action, just like Joe Jimenez.
STATS AND STUFF:
- Upton’s grand slam was his third of the season and seventh of his career.
- James McCann extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the top of the eighth.
- Verlander’s performance (10+ strikeouts, zero walks) was the 41st such game of the 2017 season. He has accomplished the feat six times in his career.