The Detroit Tigers finally snapped out of the lengthy cold streak that haunted their bats over the first three games of the season. They got another outstanding outing from their starter, Matt Moore, and capitalized on a poor showing from the Toronto Blue Jays’ bullpen en route to a 4-3 victory.
Once again, the story of the afternoon was the battle between the starters. Matt Moore was something of a revelation. He entered the game without much expectation. He exited the game after seven innings of two-hit ball, carrying a no-hitter through five. He struck out six over that stretch, averaging just over 93 miles per hour on his fastball and baiting hitters out onto the edges of the strike zone. He also appeared to use his cutter much more liberally than in recent seasons, and to strong effect. It was a promising debut, although it will remain to be seen whether he keeps it up over extended action.
Pitching for the Jays was righty Trent Thornton. Thornton was originally a product of the Houston farm system and made his MLB debut in today’s action. Coincidentally, it was also his first game in Toronto’s system. It couldn’t have gone better. His five-inning, eight-strikeout performance set a team record for pitchers making their MLB debut.
The Tigers were first to score in this one, though it took a while. They managed to build a three run lead in the seventh inning. It started unceremoniously, with the Tigers getting their first run in a whopping twenty-five innings via a bases-loaded walk to Jordy Mercer. Leadoff man Jeimer Candelario followed up with a huge two-run double to make it 3-0. Taking a page out of the Toronto playbook, they put up three runs all in one inning and cemented a decent lead.
Unfortunately, that resurgence wasn’t enough as the bullpen couldn’t hold the lead. Starting pitcher Matt Moore kept the Jays off the board, but Joe Jimenez’s relief effort was less than stellar. Although there was no apparent issue other than location, the opposition was able to get to him. A couple of singles set the stage for a well-timed pinch hitting appearance from Rowdy Tellez to replace the offensively challenged Luke Maile.
Now, we’re not pointing any fingers, but I’ll just leave this here.
Some dude named Rowdy is going to tie this thing, isn’t he?— Christopher Milz (@milz_chris) March 31, 2019
Tellez basically golfed a Jimenez changeup at the bottom of the zone, lofting it off the facing of the first deck in center field. The blast tied things up at three apiece.
Buck Farmer tossed another clean inning in the 9th, recording a pair of punchouts before Daniel Stumpf came on for the Tigers in the 10th. He got two quick outs, before surrendered a ground rule double to left off the bat of Richard Urena. Freddy Galvis followed with a scorched one-hopper to SS Jordy Mercer. Mercer knocked the ball down, scrambled a moment, and then threw home to Grayson Greiner as Urena’s attempt to score from second went down in flames. He was out by a good 10 feet.
The Tigers laid hold to the lead again in the top of the 11th inning. Grayson Greiner and Jeimer Candelario blooped a pair of singles that put runners at first and third, positioning things nicely for Nick Castellanos. He drilled a bad fastball up the middle, plating Greiner and setting the score at 4-3. That’s where the game would end, as Shane Greene came on for the final pitching appearance of the game. Although he didn’t look his sharpest, and allowed a couple baserunners, he was ultimately effective and the Tigers took home the win.
The real hero of the game was Jeimer Candelario. He wasn’t seeing the ball all too well earlier in the series, but came back today with a fiery vengeance. Taking six trips to the plate, he stroked four singles and a double, putting two across home plate. That line brings his series performance from an obscene .083/.083/.083 to a far more respectable .333/.333/.389. Here’s hoping that the story of his season is far closer to that second set of numbers than the first. Either way you don’t see many five-hit games, and it was the first of Candy’s young career.
In other strong performances, Niko Goodrum added three hits and a walk to the winning effort. Two of those hits were doubles. The Tigers switch-hitters provided much of the punch on Sunday.
Just last season, starter Matt Moore’s fastball averaged 92 mph, and he was using his cutter less than 10 percent of the time. On Sunday, the heater was consistently a tick or two faster, as Moore pounded the top of the zone. He also appeared to use the cutter more liberally, trying up right-handed hitters with heavy doses of the pitch in on their hands. It’ll be interesting to see how well that sustains for Moore in the early part of the season. The Blue Jays’ offense isn’t exactly one of the tougher tests, but overall the Tigers’ rotation acquitted themselves very well in the first series of the year.