A sweep for a sweep, apparently. After sweeping the first leg of their trip through the American League West, the Tigers were on the opposite end of a sweep against the Oakland Athletics. In the final game of their series in Oakland, Matthew Boyd and Chris Bassitt delivered an excellent pitcher’s duel that put runs at a premium. In the end though, the Athletics walked it off in the ninth inning to get the 3-2 victory.
The ninth inning was an absolute trip for the Tigers. From having the winning run on third base in their half of the inning, to a few defensive miscues that opened the door for the A’s in the bottom half of the ninth, this one really feels like the Tigers snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. Gregory Soto ultimately takes the loss in the scorebook, but really didn’t do anything wrong.
It all started with a routine pop-up to center field off the bat of Matt Olsen. What should have been the second out turned into a stand up double after Victor Reyes didn’t even see it due to the sun. That was the third ball of the afternoon that Reyes had trouble with due to the sun, to which I ask the question, has he ever heard of polarized lenses? A strikeout and a walk later, pinch hitter Mitch Moreland drove Olsen in from second on an error by Jeimer Candelario at third base.
Matthew Boyd was simply a revelation for much of the game. His command was impeccable, and the Oakland hitters were having trouble squaring up anything for most of the afternoon. A triple to center field that could have, and probably should have been caught off the bat of Ramon Laureano in the fourth was the only trouble Boyd had allowed through seven innings.
With his pitch count at a mere 80, Boyd came out for the eighth inning, and that’s where the game started to slip away from him. Sean Murphy led off the inning with a long home run to dead center field to tie the game at two, snapping a 101 batter streak to start the season of not allowing a home run. Boyd hit the next batter, and then a one-out single from Tony Kemp ended his day. In a move that raised some eyebrows, A.J. Hinch went to Jose Cisnero with two runners on and one out. Cisnero, who has had a rough start to the season, came back from a 3-0 count to Mark Canha to strike him out, and then blew a 98 MPH fastball by Laureano to end the inning.
Boyd finished the day with two earned runs on two hits, five strikeouts, one walk, and a hit batsmen in 7 1⁄3 innings of work, which actually raised his ERA to 2.03. It took until his fourth start of the season for him to allow a home run this year, and his command of the strike zone looks better than it has at any point in his career. He’s generating a ton of weak contact, and his pitch count hasn’t ballooned early in any of his starts. While it’s still too early to draw any real conclusions, the philosophy of “race to two strikes” that Hinch and pitching coach Chris Fetter have brought to Detroit seems to be paying dividends for Boyd. However, sending him out for the eighth proved a bridge too far as the contact got louder quickly at that point.
Once again, the bats of the Tigers were sleep walking on the West Coast. Thankfully though, Hittin’ Harold Castro awoke from the slumber to collect three hits including a massive two-out, two-RBI single in the sixth inning off of Bassitt to put the Tigers ahead for the first time in the entire series, even if it was only for a few innings.
Castro’s leadoff single in the ninth gave the Tigers their opportunity to break the 2-2 deadlock. Unfortunately, Niko Goodrum and Akil Baddoo bounced out softly against A’s reliever Lou Trevino, and Victor Reyes struck out to end what proved to be their last chance to avoid the brooms.
The Tigers will no doubt be relieved to get home after a long 10-day road trip. They’ll get an opportunity to bounce back as they welcome in the similarly bottom feeding Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday at Comerica Park.