The 2019 Detroit Tigers will not be in the record books. John Hicks hit a grand slam in the bottom of the 12th to cap off a five-run inning and deliver a 8-4 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park on Saturday evening. The victory, Detroit’s 44th of the season, guarantees that the current squad will not tie the 2003 team’s American League record of futility (43-119).
The game itself was a bit of a ride. Daniel Norris and Drew VerHagen combined to throw seven scoreless innings, further lending credence to the idea that this opener thing really works; if nothing else, I would hope that the NorHagen tandem has earned a further look in 2020. Meanwhile, the Tigers offense plated a couple of runs — one a Harold Castro solo home run, the other a Victor Reyes RBI single — to take a 2-0 lead.
Unfortunately, that all fell apart in the eighth. Bryan Garcia struck out the first two batters he faced, but then gave up a pair of singles before allowing an Earl Weaver Special to Trey Mancini, which gave the O’s a 3-2 lead. Garcia then struck out Anthony Santander on three pitches to end the frame.
Now down one, the Tigers needed some late-game heroics. Dawel Lugo doubled with one out in the bottom of the eighth, but was stranded. Fortunately, Reyes came through with a solo shot in the bottom of the ninth off Orioles closer Mychal Givens to tie the score at 3-3. Onto the free baseball!
The next two innings didn’t offer up much excitement. Both clubs grounded into double plays in the 10th, and John Hicks drew a walk, but was stranded as the only baserunner in the 11th.
David McKay recorded the first two outs in the 12th before giving up a single to left fielder Mason Williams. Daniel Stumpf relieved McKay, and promptly gave up a stolen base, walk, and RBI single to give the Orioles a 4-3 lead. Fortunately, that lead would be short-lived. Harold Castro walked to lead off the bottom of the 12th, and the Jeimer Candelario strikeout immediately following that was the last out the Orioles would record. Travis Demeritte followed with a double to move Castro to third. After Lugo was intentionally walked, Brandon Dixon drew a four-pitch walk from new pitcher Ryan Eades to tie the game. Hicks followed by lifting a 2-2 slider over the fence for the walk-off winner.
More importantly, even after the win, the Tigers are still 3 1⁄2 games ahead of the Orioles for the No. 1 pick in the 2020 MLB draft. Maybe this is the progress Chris Ilitch is so excited about.