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Oakland 3, Detroit 0: Urena’s strong start spoiled by silent bats

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Jose Urena delivered one of the best performances of his career, but games aren’t won off pitching alone.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Oakland Athletics D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 Detroit Tigers continue to be a tale of two teams.

After having one of their most impressive series of the past half-decade with a sweep of the Houston Astros in Texas, they have followed it up with a pair of dud losses in Oakland, the most recent of which was a 3-0 snoozer against Frankie Montas and the Athletics. Granted they’re at the end of a long road trip, but the bats are looking pretty jet-lagged at this point.

Let’s start with the positive. One night after using five pitchers — three of which were bullpen arms who threw at least 20 pitches — A.J. Hinch needed a strong start from Jose Urena, who had gotten off to a noticeably putrid start to the season, entering the night with an 8.22 ERA and 2.09 WHIP.

He delivered the strongest start of his young Tiger career. He pitched seven innings, allowing seven hits and two runs while striking out a season-high eight batters. It was the first time since May 2019 that Urena completed seven innings, and his eight punch-outs sets a new career high.

A heavy candidate to lose his role in the starting rotation once Spencer Turnbull returns from the injured list — which is expected to be sooner than later — Urena’s outing Friday night could force the team’s hand at experimenting with a six-man rotation.

Derek Holland relieved Urena in the eighth inning and allowed a solo home run to Matt Chapman, making it the southpaw’s fourth-straight appearance where he allowed at least one run out of the bullpen.

The offense was no good either. Detroit was unable to muster any offense, coming up with only three hits through eight innings via Robbie Grossman, Wilson Ramos and Victor Reyes. They struck out 11 times — with three by rookie Akil Baddoo — and drew just one walk. Like Ureña, A’s starter Frankie Montas benefitted from a truly unique Angel Hernandez strike zone, but he also had little trouble overpowering the Tigers’ hitters with power fastballs in the zone all night long.

Willi Castro began the ninth with a leadoff single, but Renato Nunez promptly grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to eliminate any scent of a potential comeback. Jeimer Candelario’s meek infield popup sealed the Tigers’ fate.

Detroit can still salvage the four-game series with Casey Mize and Matthew Boyd set to start the final two games of the series on Saturday and Sunday.