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Detroit 1, Cleveland 0: Good pitching, sacrifice hits, and a winning streak started

I mean, hey, winning streaks have to start somewhere, right?

Cleveland Indians v Detroit Tigers Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

The third game of the Cleveland-Detroit series, of which the Cleves took the first two, featured solid pitching and defense all around. The Tigers snapped their four-game losing streak by beating Cleveland 1-0, with Michael Fulmer picking up the win in relief.

Toeing the slab for the Buckeyes was the young Triston McKenzie, who’s had an up-and-down year. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because on August 22 last year, against the Tigers in his major-league debut, he pitched six innings and struck out 10. McKenzie came into the game tonight leading the American League in walks, with 30 in 31 13 innings. That propensity for walks earned him a trip down to AAA recently, but he was called back up due to an injury to Zach Plesac.

So, naturally, in his first 11 batters, McKenzie struck out five (those were batters 7 through 11), hadn’t given up a hit, and walked only one. Particularly effective was his changeup, which had hitters thoroughly fooled. Tigers gotta Tiger, I suppose.

José Ureña, apparently healed from getting hit on the ankle on May 15, looked to bounce back from his last start, a six-inning, 10-hit, 5-run outing against the Royals. After a pair of hard-hit outs and a single in the first, Jake “The Stache” Rogers gunned out Jose Ramirez trying to steal, with lots of help from Niko Goodrum’s nifty tag.

The Goodrum-and-Rogers show continued in the second, with this nifty relay to nab Josh Naylor at home.

Gosh, that was pretty. How about this:

Be sure to hit your cutoff man, kids! (Or cutoff woman, as the case may be.)

Ureña got into a bit of a two-out pickle in the third, after a walk, a hit batter put two runners on. A José Ramirez fly ball, at the conclusion of a nine-pitch at-bat, got him out of trouble. He struggled to throw strikes: in his first 46 pitches, only 23 of them were strikes... but he definitely settled down in the middle innings.

In the fifth with one out, Jonathan Schoop finally got the Tigers’ first hit with a sharp single to centre. We’ve already been part of a no-hitter on the good end this year, we sure didn’t need to be on the bad end of another.

In the bottom of the sixth after a walk to Ramirez, Ureña threw a pitch to Eddie Rosario, then trainer Doug Teter paid a visit to the mound. Ureña pointed to either his wrist or his arm during the visit, and he came out of the game. José Cisnero had been warming in the bullpen already, so he came into the game in relief of Ureña and got out of the inning with a soft pop-up to third by Eddie Rosario.

In the bottom of the sixth, Cal Quantrill took over for McKenzie. (If that name looks familiar, Cal’s dad Paul pitched a lot of games in relief in the major leagues in the ‘90s and ‘00s, who once broke his leg in an offseason snowmobiling accident.) Naturally, Quantrill struck out the side.

By the seventh we had more information about Ureña:

It’s not often that a game reaches the eighth inning scoreless, but that’s what we had on our hands tonight.

Michael Fulmer took over in the eighth, and touched 99 mph on his fastball — so fast that it caused a Velcro strap attaching Jordan Luplow’s protective elbow pad to come loose as it whooshed by.

Originally it was ruled a hit-by-pitch, but upon review Luplow was ordered back in the box. You don’t see that every day.

Quantrill continued into the bottom of the eighth, and Goodrum led off the inning with a double to centre, the first hit Quantrill gave up after two clean innings of work. Jake Rogers sacrificed him over to third — hold your fire, statistical analysis below — and Robbie Grossman hit a deep fly to centre to drive in Goodrum, marking the only run of the game.

“I love it. Old-time baseball, fans!” — Jim Price

Gregory Soto was summoned to start the ninth, and he walked Eddie Rosario after initially getting ahead on a 1-2 count. After Harold Ramirez struck out, Naylor lined into a double play, and that was the ball game.

Was Bunting a Good Call?

Using data from 2010-15 (I don’t imagine things have changed much since then), let’s look at the Run Expectancies (RE) for the situation. Goodrum stood on second with none out when Rogers came to the plate.

  • Runner on second, none out: RE = 1.10 runs
  • Runner on third, one out: RE = 0.95 runs

Alright, fine, the Run Expectancy went down a touch. I’d want to see the standard deviation on that, though: to me, if you’ve got a runner on third, you can score a run on a wild pitch or passed ball, groundout, sac fly, balk, who knows? There just seem to be a lot more possibilities. And hey, you can’t argue with the results tonight, can you?

Notes and Such

  • Yes, Zach Plesac is the guy who had a bad start recently, and in the locker room while “aggressively ripping off his shirt,” smacked his thumb on a chair and fractured his thumb. (Zach’s uncle Dan was Paul Quantrill’s teammate in Toronto in the late ‘90s.)
  • Ureña’s final line tonight: 5 23 innings, three hits, three walks, two strikeouts, no runs.
  • Coming into tonight’s game, Akil Baddoo has been having quite the renaissance: coming into tonight, since May 11, he’s been 9-for-19 with a double and a triple, scored five runs, stolen three bases, and drawn eight walks. That’s a 1.239 OPS, and yes, before you get your righteous indignation fired up, that’s a small sample size, but as the old saying goes, “it’s better than a kick in the pants.”
  • Today would have been Miles Davis’ 95th birthday. His Kind of Blue album is a masterpiece, and was the album that started my journey — and countless others’, no doubt — into jazz. This door does a pretty good impression of his trumpet, too. Other musical birthdays of note today are Stevie Nicks and Levon Helm.