Many questions swirled around the Cubs-Tigers matchup tonight. Would Spencer Turnbull turn around his last two-inning start to go deep against a talented Cubs lineup? Would the Tiger bats finally find their footing following their feckless flailing last night? Would this game move at a pace that would make a tortoise look like a greyhound? And, would I finally find my wedding band that I misplaced somewhere around the house a couple of days ago?
- I guess, yeah.
- Oh my goodness.
- My wife actually found it, but we’ll count that as a yes.
Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood’s past few years have been pretty unusual, to say the least. Here’s a guy who actually didn’t fare too badly in Colorado in 2016 and 2017, but in his first year with the Cubs in 2018 he walked a whopping 95 in 103 2/3 innings. He was more productive out of the bullpen in 2019, but moved back into a starting role for 2020.
Chatwood hadn’t pitched since a dismal 2 1/3 inning, 8-run performance against the Royals on August 6; a back strain landed him on the Injured List. But, if recent Tiger history was to be believed, shoot, he’d blank Detroit on two hits in eight innings, whiffing a baker’s dozen in the process. So, it looked like the Magic 8-Ball would be as good as any to predict the outcome of this one.
Victor Reyes led off the bottom of the first with a double to left, and Miguel Cabrera singled him in an out later, marking a neat milestone.
Jeimer Candelario doubled, moving Cabrera to third, and Niko Goodrum walked to load the bases for JaCoby Jones. Despite a dubious strike two (see below), Jones hit a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right to plate Cabrera, and Cameron Maybin walked to re-load the bases. Javier Baez made a sensational play to throw out Austin Romine to end the inning, but darn it, it felt mighty good to make an opposing pitcher have a long inning for once.
Turnbull, meanwhile, looked from the start to be a changed man. In the first two innings he threw 25 pitches, gave up a single, walked none and struck out two. Lots of sinkers, lots of four-seamers, touched 98 with the fastball. Not too shabby.
Chatwood’s day fell apart for good in the second: walk, strikeout, walk, walk, showers. On came Duane Underwood Jr., who struck out Candelario and Goodrum on some nasty breaking stuff. Two innings, three bases-loaded situations with less than two out, and... two runs to show for it. Boys, you’ve gotta do better than that.
Turnbull got into a bit of trouble in the fourth. A pair of walks surrounding a strikeout put runners on first and second with one out, bringing Anthony Rizzo to the plate. Turnbull bore down and struck out Rizzo, and Javier Baez smoked a line drive right to Candelario’s glove for the third out. Eighty-two pitches through five is right around average, and he’d get to start the next inning.
Big Red opened the sixth by walking Kyle Schwarber, who stole second while Wilson Contreras struck out. He went to a full count on Jason Heyward before inducing a foul popout to third, and Turnbull’s day was over. Bryan Garcia then came on and struck out Victor Caratini on three pitches.
Jones led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, and Maybin smacked a double as Jones galloped around the bases. The throw to try and nail Jones at the plate got away from Contreras, which allowed Maybin to advance to third. Austin Romine walked, chasing Jose Quintana, who took over for Underwood to start the third. Isaac Paredes greeted Casey Sadler with a 9-pitch battle which ended in a walk and loaded bases yet again (with none out, no less).
Would the Tigers squander this golden opportunity, too? A Victor Reyes popout didn’t make things look promising, but then...
Jose Cisnero pitched a delightfully uneventful seventh. Can we talk about Cisnero for a minute? This guy has been lights-out the past couple of weeks, with a fastball sitting in the mid to upper 90s, with hitters not really being able to get a bat on anything. Where did he pitch since a cup of coffee with Houston in 2013? He spent 2016 split between the Sultanes de Monterrey in the Mexican League and the New Jersey Jackals in the Canadian-American Association. He bookended those teams with two winters pitching for the Cardenales de Lara in the Venezuelan Winter League. And yet here he is, with a 1.65 ERA after 15 games this season.
Jones left the game in the eighth with “right calf tightness,” and you’ve gotta hope that’s just a precaution more than anything. This set up an unusual situation: Christin Stewart came into the game in the late innings. Gregory Soto took over on the mound, and ended a 1-2-3 inning with Schwarber looking at strike three, like the house by the side of the road.
Contreras broke up the shutout with a line-drive home run off Buck Farmer in the ninth.
The Butterfly Effect
While C.J. Cron wasn’t with the Tigers for too long before getting hurt, Candelario’s bobble of a grounder in the third was noted by Chris McCosky:
The loss of CJ Cron has weakened the Tigers in three ways:— Chris McCosky (@cmccosky) August 26, 2020
-- Obviously offensively
-- Worse defensively at first base
-- Worse defensively at third base
Brandon Dixon is still available, Al!
Bring on the robot umps
In the first inning, JaCoby Jones did not swing at the second pitch he saw, and it was called a strike. It’s the pitch labelled “2” below.
In what world is this a strike? Contreras yanked it after catching it, and I guess that was enough to fool Nic Lentz. Jack Morris on the TV broadcast, a former pitcher, didn’t seem to mind Contreras’ shenanigans too much, but Jim Price on the radio was none too pleased. As a former catcher myself, I’m with Price on this one. (Tip o’ the hat to Peter Kwasniak for that observation.)
Here’s another beauty, also against Jones, in the fifth. Called strike!
In the previous half-inning, Turnbull painted the corner on a full count pitch to David Bote which was right on the edge of the box above, and the ump called it a ball. And the Cubs dugout let Lentz hear it a couple of at-bats later when something didn’t go their way. The nerve of ‘em!
Look, the umps do a tough job, and they usually do it well. In my youth I umpired a few games in our small town and it was as unpleasant as you might imagine, with the parents and everything. Still, I mean, c’mon.
News, numbers and notes:
- The Tigers had only scored first in 8 of their 27 games coming into tonight, winning seven of those games.
- Tyler Chatwood threw 37 pitches in the first tonight. In Spencer Turnbull’s previous start against the White Sox, he also threw 37 pitches.
- After his single in the fifth, Jeimer Candelario sat at 26 for his last 79 (.329 batting average).
- Appropriately, with the trade deadline approaching, this would have been Monty Hall’s 99th birthday had he not passed away in 2017. Hall was the longtime host of Let’s Make a Deal.
- Direct your good thoughts here:
Tigers pitching coach Rick Anderson will be away from the team for "about a week," tending to a family health matter, manager Ron Gardenhire said.— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) August 25, 2020
Bullpen coach Jeff Pico will handle duties in the dugout. Triple A pitching coach Juan Nieves will serve as the bullpen coach.