The script is simple, but consistent. The Detroit Tigers do not hit on the west coast, and they proved it again on Saturday, getting dominated by a fifth starter type while Casey Mize was victimized by the long ball en route to a 7-0 loss, their third straight.
Things went poorly from the start in this one. Robbie Grossman led off the game with a single, but the next three Tigers hitters went quietly in the top of the first. Casey Mize quickly racked up two outs in the bottom half of the frame, then surrendered a solo shot to Matt Olson on a fastball at the top of the zone. It was more of the same in the second inning, as Mize collected two outs, then allowed a single to Vernael Machin, followed by back-to-back home runs from Aramis Garcia and Mark Canha on pitches grooved in the heart of the strike zone. Just like that, it was 4-0 A’s, and if you’ve been watching this series, you didn’t have a lot of faith that the Tigers were going to come back in this one.
Mize settled in until the fifth, when he nicked Mark Canha with a pitch to lead off the inning. A Matt Olson single, and a ground out from Matt Chapman pushed Canha across the dish. Mize got Mitch Moreland on a line drive at left fielder JaCoby Jones to wrap up his outing. The young Tigers hurler is learning that you can’t make the big mistake to major league hitters, and his command just wasn’t as sharp as in his outing last Monday in Houston. He allowed five earned runs on seven hits, with four strikeouts and no walks in his five innings of work.
Meanwhile, home plate umpire Stu Scheurwater was working against the Tigers as well, and the A’s didn’t really need the help. In the fourth, Niko Goodrum was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning. Wilson Ramos got down 0-2 to A’s left Cole Irvin, and was then rung up on this pitch, for reasons. A close pitch on the outer edge would be reasonable, as he called that with some consistency, but this pitch was four or five inches inside and unhittable. Who knows if it would’ve ultimately mattered, but it wasn’t the last time the Tigers got victimized with runners on base in this one.
The Tigers did get something started in the fifth, but suffered a similar fate. Back-to-back two out singles from JaCoby Jones and Robbie Grossman gave the Tigers one of their best scoring opportunities on the day, but once again the home plate umpire intervened with an egregious called third strike on a sinker well below Niko Goodrum’s knees. It’s harder to be disciplined at the plate when you’re getting jobbed like this with some regularity.
Such is baseball, of course, and a better offensive performance could’ve overcome it. Cole Irvin had decent command today, but the stuff is quite mediocre. Yet somehow, the Tigers swung through fastballs in the heart of the strikezone again and again. If you can’t hit mistake pitches from lesser pitchers you’re not going to score runs. Pretty simple. To their credit, they kept grinding, but the rare hard hit balls inevitably found A’s defenders perfectly positioned to gobble them up.
Daniel Norris spun a scoreless sixth, helped out by an unassisted double play by Jonathan Schoop. Seth Brown led off the inning by lining one to Schoop’s left that went off the webbing of his glove. Elvis Andrus hit a liner in exactly the same spot and this time Schoop hung on, landing on first base at the end of his lunge to complete the double play. Norris punched out Machin to end the frame.
The Tigers went quietly in the top of the sixth, and then Joe Jiménez came on and again did his best to illustrate why he is not currently a major league caliber reliever. You hate to see it, but there it is. Jiménez issued four walks, including walking in a run, and collected two outs before he was mercifully lifted for Alex Lange. Another run scored on a Lange wild pitch before he was able to escape the rather heinous jam he was called on to deal with. Lange returned to spin a clean eighth with a pair of strikeouts.
The Tigers again went quietly in the ninth, and that was all she wrote. They’ll turn to Matthew Boyd on Sunday looking to avoid the sweep. Salvaging one game in this series would no doubt put them in a better frame of mind as they finally return home. Hopefully they can get it done.