The Tigers fought through their own mistakes throughout this one, and almost pulled the game out in the bottom of the ninth in spite of themselves. In the end, they fell 6-5 to Cleveland in the opener of this three-game set in Comerica Park.
All around this was just a sloppy game from the Tigers, although Cleveland didn’t cover themselves in glory either. Between errors—charged or otherwise—starter Spencer Turnbull fighting his command and paying no attention to runners, some miserable relief work, and the incessant bleating of a broadcast team that resembles two incredibly irritating Dads watching their kids play a Little League game, I found myself in a deeply grouchy mode taking it all in this evening.
The first inning began with Turnbull hitting Cesar Hernandez to leadoff the game. A double play ball to third from Amed Rosario was smartly turned—which was nice to see—by Jeimer Candelario and Willi Castro, erasing Hernandez. Jose Ramirez popped out to third, and it was the Tigers turn. They promptly drew a pair of walks from promising young lefty Sam Hentges, with Robbie Grossman and Schoop the recipients, but Candelario lined out and Miguel Cabrera and Eric Haase struck out to waste the opportunity.
Any hope for a second straight no-no were erased in the second inning when Eddie Rosario led off with a single, but he was wiped by another double play ball, this one off the bat of Harold Ramirez. Josh Naylor grounded out to first, and Turnbull had himself a four pitch inning.
The Tigers took advantage of the quick turnaround, as Goodrum singled to lead off the inning and then moved to second on a wild pitch. Nomar Mazara struck out, but Victor Reyes drew a one out walk and Willi Castro followed with a much needed double to score Goodrum and move Reyes to third. Robbie Grossman sacrificed him home with a fly ball to center and the Tigers had a 2-0 lead.
Cleveland came right back courtesy of the Tigers defense. Owen Miller led off with a grounder that Goodrum couldn’t quite get out of his glove, with the speedy Miller beating the throw. Jake Bauers then hit a soft liner just past a diving Willi Castro, while a sinking line drive from Rene Rivera landed just in front of the glove of a diving Victor Reyes in center field, scoring Miller and moving Bauers to third. Cesar Hernandez followed with a grounder to Castro, and he and Goodrum couldn’t quite turn it around quickly enough to get Hernandez at first to complete a would-be inning-ending double play as Bauers scored.
After a couple of shaky innings prolonged by—generally and dismissively indicates the Tigers’ defense—and some poor command from Turnbull, he settled down and got a snappy 1-2-3 inning to get his pitch count back in order in the fourth. The Tigers went 1-2-3 as well.
In the fifth, Turnbull got another quick inning as he settled back into a groove. Jake Bauers singled in a 1-2 count to leadoff the frame, but Rene Rivera grounded into a successfully turned double play, Goodrum to Castro to Schoop. Turnbull then dispatched Cesar Hernandez on strikes. Hentges however, turned around and got three more quick outs of his own as things evolved into more of a pitching duel.
Turnbull was clearly fighting it all night, as he struggled to spot the fastballs, and had little feel at all for his slider. He was hot at himself multiple times throughout the game and it may have led to some inattention. Amed Rosario led off the sixth with a ground ball into center field, and then easily stole second without much of a look at all from Turnbull. He rebounded to strike out Ramirez and got Eddie Rosario to ground out, moving Amed to third. A liner from Harold Ramirez then glanced off Turnbull’s glove, scoring Rosario. Again, Turnbull didn’t throw to first and didn’t appear to even look that way, allowing Ramirez to easily take second before Josh Naylor popped out to end the frame with things knotted at 3-3. The Tigers went quickly in the bottom half of the frame.
Turnbull just didn’t have a handle on his stuff in this one, particularly the slider, but he battled through to a quality start. Progress can’t be measured only by a player’s good days. Spencer finished with 6 IP, 3 ER, 7 H, BB, 3 SO, and one of those earned runs was quite arguable.
Another error started a threat in the seventh with Bryan Garcia taking over for Turnbull. 3B Owen Miller pulled a hard ground ball to Candelario and he couldn’t glove the hop, instead taking it off the chest. Miller reached and moved to second on a Jake Bauers single to center field. Rene Rivera bunted them to second and third, and then Garcia loaded the bases by walking Cesar Hernandez. A pair of quick strikes looked like Garcia may have found the command so miserably lacking in his big league tenure, but he just appears to have as little faith in his ability to spot pitches under pressure as I do. Two changeups that missed away by a combined five feet evened the count, and then Garcia yanked a slider that kicked wide and allowed Miller to roar home from third. Another bad miss with a fastball sent Ramirez to first with a walk and loaded the bases.
A.J. Hinch mercifully got him out of there, turning things over to Daniel Norris to escape any further damage against Eddie Rosario. He did not escape further damage. In a 2-2 count, Norris left a fastball in the strike zone and Rosario roped a two run single to left to make it a 6-3 game. Haase gunned down Rosario moments later with a perfect throw, so we had that going for us, which was nice.
However, for all the messes made in this game, the Tigers weren’t giving up either. Victor Reyes singled to lead off the bottom of the seventh, and in a 3-2 count, Willi Castro went down and scooped a Nick Wittgren fastball out to right field where it cleared the wall—nice catch out there to the kid who snagged it—for Castro’s third home run of the year. Suddenly it was 6-5 Cleveland and the Tigers were pushing back.
This is Patrick W. He caught Willi Castro's home run ball.— Comerica Park (@ComericaPark) May 25, 2021
It pays off to bring a glove. pic.twitter.com/LrB1RwxO81
The BABIP gods, however, intervened. Robbie Grossman battled through a 10-pitch at-bat and then smoked a fastball right at Naylor in right field. Schoop and Candelario hit bullets right at Bauers at second, and Miller at third, respectively, and just like that the inning was over.
Joe Jiménez came on in the eighth trying to keep this one close. He got Harold Ramirez on a soft grounder, then went first pitch slider for a strike, a changeup for a strike, and then a changeup down for a whiff to punch out Naylor. He then punched out Miller on a nasty 90 mph changeup as well. What the heck was that? We’d like more, please and thank you Chris Fetter.
The problem with the Clevelanders, is that the late innings relief group is absolutely nasty. Facing Emmanuel Clase or James Karinchak in the ninth inning is death to hope. So they really needed to do something in the eighth against Bryan Shaw, who is also tough with a steady diet of cutters and a move to the plate that makes him hard to run on.
Miguel Cabrera led off with a single and was then replaced by Akil Baddoo, so there was some possibility of a comeback. Unfortunately, Haase struck out and Goodrum flew out in foul territory down the left field line. Baddoo did manage to steal second with Nomar Mazara at the plate, making it 5-for-5 on steal attempts this year. Mazara walked, but Victor Reyes struck out to end the threat.
Kyle Funkhouser walked the leadoff man in the top of the ninth, but did a nice job bouncing back, getting the final out on a slow chopper to third that Candelario made a really nice play on. Initially ruled safe, Amed Rosario was out on review, and the Tigers headed to the ninth needed to score against Clase to tie or walk it off.
Willi Castro struck out to lead off the frame, but Grossman—give us more Robbie Grossman’s and we’ll conquer the world—walked against Clase. Schoop singled to left, and things were very interesting suddenly with Candelario at the dish. Candy grounded out to first, moving the runners, and it was up to Baddoo. Clase couldn’t find the strikezone, however, and ultimately Terry Francona put Baddoo on first rather than throw a 3-0 pitch to him. So, it all fell on the shoulders of Eric Haase. Clase missed high twice, then landed a strike, and in a 2-1 count, Haase drilled a sinking line drive to right field...and Jordan Luplow made a fine play to snare it just before it hit the ground.
Cleveland 6, Detroit 5 (box)
-Jeimer Candelario’s third inning double made it 20 straight games in which he’s reached base.
-Spencer Turnbull’s quality start made it 19 on the year for the Tigers staff, third most in the American League.
-Victor Reyes now holds a career 42 wRC+ and .215 batting average in high leverage situations.
-Willi Castro’s home run and double in this one marked his first multiple extra base hit game since April 15th. Let’s hope it cues something, as he is clinging to his roster spot right now.