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Tigers 3, Twins 2: Homers, bullpen power Tigers to series sweep

After Sunday’s win, their fifth straight, the Tigers are lurking on the edge of playoff contention.

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

The Detroit Tigers went for the sweep on Sunday, and they got it, winning 3-2 over the Minnesota Twins. In their three games against the Twins, they gave up a total of six runs. Ya gotta like that.

It was apparent that, early in Casey Mize’s third major-league start, he couldn’t quite figure out his command. His fastball was mostly sitting in the low 90s, and he bounced some and walked some more. His splitter wasn’t splitting, his fastball wasn’t fooling anyone, and the pitch count climbed high early on with some lengthy at-bats. Fortunately, he was able to limit the damage and stave off a big inning from the Twins, but he left after the third with his team down 2-1.

Two starts ago, Kenta Maeda took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Brewers while striking out 12. Coming into this game, Maeda led the AL this season with an incredible WHIP of 0.709, with seven walks to pair with 40 strikeouts in six starts. To say he’s had a good season would be an understatement; Maeda has had a solid career since coming from Japan at age 28, but this has been, by far, his best start to a season in North America.

Victor Reyes continued his torrential hitting of late with a triple to right-centre, and Miguel Cabrera delivered again by poking a single through the infield, scoring Reyes.

In his last 13 games coming into today (August 16-29), Cabrera is hitting .319 with an OPS of .815 — so, maybe not as much power as we’d like to see, but definitely making contact and getting on base. Notably, in that stretch, he only grounded into one double play. Also, he provided this heartwarming curtain call that was called-for by... um... technically, nobody.

The Twins would tie it in the second after a walk to Marwin Gonzalez, a single by Alex Avila, and a wild pitch. In the third Jorge Polanco hit a leadoff home run, then Mize hit his second and third batters of the game. Mize would get plunked himself, with a comebacker by Luis Arraez hitting him on the inside of the left ankle and bouncing straight to Isaac Paredes at third, who alertly stepped on third for the second out of the inning. No damage was done, and Mize seemed to be fine as he struck out Gonzalez for the third out.

Mize’s day was done after the third, after 67 pitches and 39 of those for strikes (58%). He did seem to calm down a bit after Rick Anderson paid him a visit in the third; his fastball speed ticked up a couple of miles per hour after that, and he got through the inning without any further damage. Was his release point wandering all over? Maybe. Was he rushing as the game sped up on him a bit? Probably.

Tyler Alexander would take over for him in the fourth.

Meanwhile, Maeda settled-in after Cabrera’s single in the first and limited the contact for the next few innings to soft grounders and, for the second straight day, a soft pop-up just over Miguel Sano’s head by Jonathan Schoop. In the boxscore it still looks the same, so who cares if it’s a little Texas-Leaguer?

Jeimer Candelario evened the score at 2-2 in the fourth with a solo homer to right. Despite his defence being a little bit suspect at first for now, it’s been great to see him get on-track at the plate for the month of August. See the bullet-points at the bottom for more details.

When Alexander is on, he is on. He rolled easily through the 4th through 6th innings with one hit, three strikeouts, using 37 pitches.

Leading off the bottom of the sixth, Schoop scorched a liner down the left-field line and didn’t have enough time to go foul before going over the fence. It was clocked at 114 mph off the bat. So much for ol’ “Bloop-Single Schoop,” eh?

Alexander’s day was done after he gave up a seventh-inning, two-out single to Jorge Polanco: 3 23 innings of two-hit relief. You really can’t overstate the importance of a guy like Tyler Alexander in the Tiger bullpen this year, with all the short starts. It’s tempting to want to move him into the rotation, I know... but, shoot, isn’t he more valuable in the ‘pen doing things like this? We’ll get our crack research team on this to crunch the numbers.

Joe Jimenez came in to face the always dangerous Nelson Cruz with a runner on first and the Tigers up a run, sending Tigers Twitter into fits of terror, but he broke out his best sliders of the year for strikes two and three, the latter of which was a foot off the plate. If this boosts Jimenez’s confidence and can help right his ship a bit, that would help a lot.

Buck Farmer took over on the mound for the eighth and struck out the dangerous Sano, got Nick Jake Cave to ground out softly, and Luis Arraez bounced out.

For the second straight day, Gregory Soto was put into a save situation. Yesterday he faced the heart of the Twins’ lineup, but today he’d start off with the seventh-place hitter. He got two lazy fly balls to the outfield, gave up a single to Ryan Jeffers, but bore down and got Max Kepler to fly out as well to close it out. Game, set, series.

Playoffs Watch

After the win today, the Tigers evened their record at 16-16. They are on the outside fringes of the playoff hunt, have won seven of their last nine, and at press time, are 2 12 games out of the second wild card spot, and only 4 12 games out of first in the AL Central. It’s a bit of a stretch, but this being baseball and all, anything’s possible. Let’s do this!

Facts and Figures

  • As noted above, Miguel Cabrera’s single in the first was his 2000th hit as a Tiger, becoming the eighth member of the club. The list he joined was already impressive: Ty Cobb, Al Kaline, Charlie Gehringer, Harry Heilman, Sam Crawford, Lou Whitaker, and Alan Trammell.
  • Coming into today’s game, Jeimer Candelario was 31-for-87 in his previous 23 games, for a slash line of .356/.391/.598 and an OPS of .989. Not too shabby.
  • Both teams wore their #42 uniforms again today as well.
  • On this date in 1909, Charles Walcott discovered dinosaur fossils in the Burgess Shale in the Rocky Mountains in British Columbia. This has proven to be one of the most important finds of early “imprint” fossils ever, which preserve the outlines of the soft parts of animals that don’t fossilize well. Also, animals from 500 million years ago look pretty freaky.