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Doubleheader Saturday: Tigers 8, Twins 2; Tigers 4, Twins 2

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A doubleheader sweep of the Twins was built on the back of strong starting pitching. Wait, what?!

MLB: Game One-Minnesota Twins at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Two for the price of one today, folks! With the Tigers on the edge of the final playoff spot with about a month to go, it was time to make up some ground on a key AL Central rival.

Game 1: Tigers 8, Twins 2

Sixteen hits, including 13 singles, stood behind Matthew Boyd’s fantastic six innings to give the Tigers the victory in the first game.

Boyd’s last start was definitely a solid sign, and he looked to build on those good vibes against Minnesota. The Twins practically owned him last year, to the tune of a .944 OPS in three starts, including eight home runs. Of course, the Twins were unusually talented in hitting home runs last year, so Boyd wasn’t alone in this affliction.

Randy Dobnak, currently the only alumnus of Alderson Broaddus University in the big leagues and still very proud of his 4.99/5 rating as an Uber and Lyft driver, has had an excellent season so far. Coming into today’s game, his WHIP was a very respectable 1.022, and while he’s only striking out 4.7 per nine innings, ground balls are very much his game.

Jeimer Candelario led off the bottom of the second with a single, and eventually scored on a double by Christin Stewart to make it 1-0 for the Tigers. The Twins evened the score in the third with a Jorge Polanco sacrifice fly scoring Max “Don’t Call Me Johannes” Kepler, who reached on an error and advanced on a wild pitch.

Willi Castro reached first on an infield single to short to lead off the bottom of the third, and advanced to third on a single that Victor Reyes squeaked through the infield. A soft pop fly by Jonathan Schoop just over the head of Miguel Sano — your classic “Twinshit,” ironically — scored Castro to put Detroit back in the lead, 2-1.

Boyd, meanwhile, gave up a couple of hard hits in the first inning but then settled-in nicely through the fourth. Working quickly, moving his pitches around, no walks, four whiffs, touching 94 on his fastball. Liberally spotting his changeup. Has he turned the corner? It was certainly looking that way.

JaCoby Jones followed a Niko Goodrum’s fourth-inning leadoff walk with a drive to centre, which went off Kepler’s glove and put runners on second and third. Stewart’s sacrifice fly scored Jones and pushed Goodrum up to third, and Austin Romine made it 4-1 with a single through the middle to plate Goodrum.

Boyd’s fifth started with a couple of hard-hit balls, a flyout by Eddie Rosario and a double by Ehire Adrianza. He got out of it by striking out Kepler and inducing a soft groundout from old friend Alex Avila. Boyd sat at 69 pitches through five. Could he... go... all... the... way?

A walk to Candelario and singles by Goodrum and Jones loaded the bases with one out in the fifth and ended Dobnak’s day. Jorge Bonifacio batted for Stewart against the lefty Lewis Thorpe, and his single scored Candelario. Goodrum appeared to be thrown out at home on a close play, but umpires ruled Twins third baseman Adrianza had interfered with Goodrum and ruled him safe at home, making it 6-1. Hey, I ain’t gonna complain.

Nelson Cruz hit a towering drive to center for a solo home run in the sixth to make it 6-2, but the Tigers answered back with a couple of singles and an error to put Castro and Reyes at third and second with none out. Miguel Cabrera smashed a double to deep centre to score the pair to put the Tigers’ lead at 8-2.

Alas, Boyd would not be allowed to complete the game, as Bryan Garcia came on to pitch an uneventful seventh (save for some interesting wind-assisted fly balls). I really, really like this final line, though:

Game 2: Tigers 4, Twins 2

Episode #3 of the Tarik Skubal Experience aired today, and Boyd previewed it thusly between games:

The Ferrari’s high leg kick propelled his four-seam fastball to 99 mph early on, with plenty of life. A 10-pitch at-bat against Cruz stretched Skubal’s first inning to 20 pitches, but it ended in a lineout to first so we’re cool. Besides, we knew Skubal wasn’t going to go the distance today anyway, so why not have a little fun out there and just let ‘er rip?

The Twins went with a bullpen day — or is it an “opener?” I get a little lost with the terminology these days — and they led off with Matt Wisler, who has seen one heck of an uptick on his K/9IP in the past two seasons. From his debut in 2015 through the end of the 2018 season, he averaged 6.4 K/9IP. For 2019-20 so far, he’s cranked that up to 10.9. Quite a change.

Twins hitters might have figured a couple of things out in the second, though, as Rosario and Sano led off the second with singles. Marwin Gonzalez lined out to left to drive in Rosario, but a 6-5-3 double play got Skubal out of trouble. (Shifts happen.) The silver lining was that Skubal didn’t go deep into any counts, so he’d have pitches left in the tank for later.

Skubal’s third inning ended at a pitch count of 45, and included a called third strike on Polanco. In that at-bat he threw a curveball, two four-seam fastballs, a changeup, and a a pair of sliders. That’s the kitchen sink of at-bats right there.

After a Cabrera single in the bottom of the third, Candelario absolutely destroyed a fastball and sent it twenty rows back in right-centre to put the Tigers up 2-1.

The home run chased Tyler May, who took over for Wisler in the second, and brought on Tyler Clippard.

Since the end of a 2014 season with Washington in which he was an All Star, Clippard has been with Oakland, the Mets, Arizona, the Yankees, the White Sox, Houston, Toronto, Cleveland and now Minnesota. If you haven’t bought stock in whatever moving company this guy uses, you missed out.

In the fourth, Cruz mashed a cookie of a changeup for his 13th home run of the season to tie it at 2, because he’s Nelson Cruz and he destroys Tiger pitching. Reyes then saved Skubal’s bacon with a sensational catch off the bat of Sano:

Jake Cave returned the favour against Cameron Maybin to lead off the bottom of the fourth, but hey, y’know, I like the above clip better.

As the bottom of the fifth came around and the game was tied at 2, I was hoping that the Tigers would find a way to score some runs and possibly get Skubal the first win of his career. Well, from my brain to Cabrera’s bat, he hit a two-run home run to right to also score Schoop and put Detroit up 4-2.

Just look at that smile on Cabrera’s face as he rounds the bases. It’s been a long time since he even had an extra-base hit, despite being amongst the league leaders in exit velocity. When you feel like you’re snakebitten, something like this can really help. Here’s hoping this finally breaks the spell.

Jose Cisnero took over for Skubal in the sixth, and Victor Reyes helped out again for the third out:

“You want me to come in? I’ll come in. You want me to rob home runs? I’ll rob home runs. Got a roof that needs reshingling? I’ll reshingle that roof, too.” — V. Reyes (probably)

Gregory Soto came on to start the seventh and perhaps get his first major-league save... but a leadoff single by Cruz and a walk to Adrianza put the fanbase on eggshells. A 5-4-3 double play got two outs but Cruz advanced to third. On a full-count pitch to Marwin Gonzalez, though, Soto got a called strike three to secure the win and complete the sweep.

Your Detroit Tigers have now won four in row, stand one win shy of a .500 record at the halfway point, and are a game and a half back from the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL Wild Card chase. More fun than we expected, eh?

“Bring on the Robot Umps” Watch

Pitch #3 against Niko Goodrum? Called strike.

Ugh.

Notes, Numbers and Nonsense

  • Today’s first game was Victor Reyes’ second career 4-hit game. His first was September 3, 2019 against the Royals.
  • Today was designated as Jackie Robinson Day, a holdover from Friday’s postponed games. As you might expect, everyone on both teams wore #42 in honour of Robinson. Also, as you may have heard, Chadwick Boseman, who played Robinson in the movie 42, passed away on Friday after a four-year battle with cancer.
  • Today would have been jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker’s 100th birthday. Parker’s live album, Jazz at Massey Hall, also featured Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Mingus, and you really can’t argue with a lineup like that.
  • He may be scuffling a bit this season, but don’t take Miguel Cabrera for granted. He’s the one you’ll be telling your grandkids you saw play someday.