Casey Mize got his first Major League Baseball start at home on Monday, but unfortunately for him, he was backed up by less than Major League Baseball quality defense behind him. Add in some struggles with his command leading to a high pitch count and a quiet offense for the Tigers, he earned his first major league loss as the Tigers dropped the first game of their homestand to the Cubs 9-3.
Alec Mills was solid for the Cubs against the hapless Tigers offense. He allowed seven hits and a walk on the night but he scattered them over seven innings while striking out seven. He used his fastball well with a big bending curveball and sharp slider to keep the Tigers off balance all night.
Mize started the game looking very sharp, getting two strikeouts in the first three batters, both on his dominating splitter. Sadly, those would be his last strikeouts in the game. In his second inning, he started to lose his command and the Cubs put the ball in play. This would prove to be the winning strategy for the night for Chicago, as the Tigers infield defense struggled to turn batted balls into outs. There was only one hard hit ball in the inning, but between an infield single, an unturned double play, and a deflected line drive off Niko Goodrum’s glove, the Cubs claimed an early two run lead and had Mize’s pitch count at 41.
Things didn’t improve for Mize in the third inning, as he continued to struggle to command his arsenal. After a leadoff single, a bad play by Jeimer Candelario cutting off a double play ball that resulted in no outs had the Cubs threatening to score again. Fortunately for the Tigers, the Cubs would hand them a gift double play as Javier Baez was caught rounding third too hard after an out at second. The Tigers would try to use the momentum to mount a rally in the bottom of the inning. They loaded the bases with one out, but could only scratch out a single run on a fielder’s choice.
David Bote would greet Mize with a home run to start the fourth, and after an error by Willi Castro, Mize was done after 76 pitches. Tyler Alexander came on in relief and was promptly met with an RBI single from Rizzo, and a two run homer by Baez, pushing the Cubs to a 6-1 lead and ending the line for Mize: 3 1⁄3 innings pitched, 5 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 2 strikeouts. A rough outing after not walking a batter in his first start and striking out six.
That’s the way things would stay for a while. Stewart helped draw the Tigers closer as he blasted a two run shot to left in the bottom of the seventh to get them back within three. Alexander would get through three more innings without allowing any more runs, only allowing one hit and one walk in that span while striking out three. Kyle Funkhouser pitched a clean eighth inning with two strikeouts. John Schreiber came on for the ninth and struggled, allowing a leadoff home run to Baez, his second of the game. He would only record a single out before being lifted with the bases loaded. Rony Garcia got the call to clean up the mess and started things off with a two run single to David Bote. He would get a ground ball double play to end things but the damage was done and the Tigers had no fight in them to come back and they went quietly in the bottom of the inning to end it. Bletch.