After Major League Baseball adopted a new doubleheader rule on Thursday, the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds became the first teams to put the one-season rule change into use with two seven-inning games on Sunday. The Reds avenged their opening series and Friday night losses to Detroit by taking both games, allowing zero earned runs and collecting 18 hits between the two contests.
History was made, as this was the first MLB doubleheader in which both games were played under nine innings in 108 years.
Game 1: Reds 4, Tigers 3
If you had Tyler Alexander giving one of the best relief pitching performances in league history, come collect your prize. The 26-year-old lefthander entered in the third inning of Game 1 after starting pitcher Rony Garcia surrendered the latter of two Nicholas Castellanos home runs, and proved to be quite unhittable. Alexander saw the entirety on the Reds lineup and sat each of them down on strikes, tying the American League record for consecutive strikeouts in a single outing with nine — sharing the mark with former Tiger Doug Fister.
Tyler Alexander strikes out 9 consecutive batters, tying Doug Fister for the AL record. pic.twitter.com/qMQLfDuIpv— MLB (@MLB) August 2, 2020
After missing slightly low on a two-strike pitch to Mike Moustakas, Alexander plunked the second baseman to end the streak.
He finished with 10 punch-outs, tied for second-most for a reliever in Tigers single-game history behind Denny McClain’s 14 in 1965.
The performance was certainly unexpected. Alexander’s career K/9 in the Tigers farm system is 7.8, though there was an uptick in 2019 with 9.88 strikeouts per nine innings in Triple-A and 7.88 per nine last season in Detroit.
Garcia gave a passable performance in his two innings following a two hour-plus rain delay to start the afternoon — but only if you factor out his two match-ups against Castellanos. The former Tiger seemingly cast his gripes with Comerica Park’s dimensions aside with a pair of home runs, accounting for all three of Cincinnati’s runs in the opener.
Outside of those two at-bats, the Reds mustered only one hit and two walks off Garcia.
Unfortunately for Detroit, their own bats were not any more effective. Jeimer Candelario broke his 0-for-season skid with a triple and single, but Anthony DeSclafani kept the other eight Tigers under wraps in his five-inning 2020 debut.
The Tigers finally threatened in the sixth inning thanks to a two-out rally starting with a single from Miguel Cabrera, a C.J. Cron walk, and a Christin Stewart hit-by-pitch, but Victor Reyes hit a fly ball into right-center field to end the inning...
...or at least it should have, but Castellanos missed the catch, allowing all three base runners to score, tying the game.
The deadlock did not last long, though. Joe Jimenez entered in the top of the seventh — the final inning as part of the new doubleheader rule for this season — and surrendered three straight hits, culminating in a Shogo Akiyama go-ahead RBI single. Raisel Iglesias slammed the door in the bottom half of the inning to secure a win for the Reds in Game 1.
Game 2: Reds 4, Tigers 0
Daniel Norris took the mound for the back end of the twin billing for his first in-game appearance since Sept. 25, 2019 after testing positive for COVID-19 in early July.
Much like his final nine starts of last season, Norris did not last past the third inning. Unlike those contests, though, he was unable to record even six outs, allowing six base runners and two earned runs in 1 2⁄3 innings on 54 pitches.
The short start gave manager Ron Gardenhire a second bullpen-heavy game in a row, going to John Schreiber, Jose Cisnero and Gregory Soto. While none of them kept the bases clear, they managed to hold the Reds off the scoreboard. Soto’s scoreless season was in jeopardy following a single and walk to start his outing, but Travis Demeritte helped him keep a clean sheet with a sprawling grab to rob Castellanos of a sure RBI double.
Bryan Garcia entered for the final inning and surrendered two runs, pushing Cincinnati’s lead even higher.
Opposing Norris and the Detroit bullpen was Trevor Bauer, who was originally slated to start Saturday’s game before being postponed. The former Cleveland starter dominated the Tigers on July 26 and was understandably upset after warming up only to be told yesterday’s game would not happen, as he detailed in a string of angry tweets.
The peeved Bauer once again dismantled a patchwork Tiger lineup that featured only three everyday players, throwing a complete game with two hits, two walks and seven strikeouts.
Only Harold Castro and Jordy Mercer mustered base hits and, on the two occasions base runners found their way into scoring position, Jonathan Schoop ended the inning both times.
Fortunately, the seven inning rules and Monday’s off-day (with perhaps more on the horizon) allowed Gardenhire to use his arms more liberally than he typically would have to. It appears the Tigers will be off until at least Friday with multiple St. Louis Cardinals having tested positive for COVID-19. The two teams were scheduled to start a three day, four-game series beginning Tuesday in Detroit.