Another day, another loss to Cleveland. Matthew Boyd was left out on the mound one inning too long, Shane Bieber allowed just a single hit, and the Tigers drop the fourth game in this interdivision series, 5-2.
The first five innings of today’s ballgame were very much reminiscent of yesterday’s game with a relative lack of offense and strong pitching and fielding on display. After Matthew Boyd retired the first two hitters of the day, the Jose and Harold Ramirez 1-2 punch delivered a single and double to give Cleveland an early 1-0 lead. From there, Boyd worked through relatively calm second, third, and fourth innings, allowing just one hit in the second inning in that span and striking out the side in the fourth.
In the fifth inning, Boyd got off to a shaky start. After his dominant fourth inning, Boyd opened the fifth by issuing back-to-back free passes to Austin Hedges and Bradley Zimmer. After working himself into a jam by walking the 8-9 hitters — even worse, Hedges has a sub-.150 batting average and Zimmer was just recalled from Triple-A — Boyd had his work cut out for him, and he stepped up to the occasion. In the following two at-bats, Cesar Hernandez flew out to Akil Baddoo, advancing Hedges to third, and Owen Miller hit into a 5-4-3 double play to strand Hedges and Zimmer at the corners.
Of course, in the sixth inning, the wheels fell off for Boyd, whose day very well could have been over after the fifth inning given his command issues and inefficient pitch count. Jose Ramirez opened the inning with a hard-hit double, Harold Ramirez followed that up with a hard-hit single off the mound to make it a 2-0 ballgame, and Eddie Rosario ended Boyd’s day by hitting a no-doubt home run to make it 4-0. Boyd finished the day throwing five innings, striking out five, and allowing four earned runs on six hits and two walks. Today’s outing brings Boyd’s ERA up to 3.43.
Shane Bieber, meanwhile, was dominant today as expected. Bieber had a no-hitter through six innings until he allowed a home run to Jonathan Schoop to lead off the seventh inning. Prior to that, Bieber issued just three free passes (his fastball command was a bit shaky at moments today) and carved up the Tigers lineup with an extremely effective knuckle curve. Bieber would issue his fourth and final walk of the day to Akil Baddoo shortly following Schoop’s home run before stranding Baddoo to end his outing. Bieber’s final line: seven innings, one hit, one earned run, four walks, and twelve strikeouts on the day. His reign of terror against Tigers hitters continues.
Despite Bieber’s dominance, the Tigers received a chance to tie the ballgame in the eighth inning. With Bryan Shaw on the mound for Cleveland, Harold Castro drew a nine-pitch walk with two outs and Jeimer Candelario followed Castro with a double off Eddie Rosario’s glove that very well could have been ruled an error. With runners on second and third, the tying run stepped up to the plate in the form of Jonathan Schoop, who — wait for it — popped out. So it goes.
On a lighter note, the Tigers bullpen was effective up until the ninth inning today. Bryan Garcia, Joe Jimenez, and Daniel Norris combined to allow just one hit in the sixth, seventh, and eighth innings. While we haven’t seen these pitchers perform particularly well in meaningful innings this season, it was at least encouraging to see them keep the Tigers within a few runs in this one. Derek Holland was not able to keep up with his peers in the bullpen and allowed Cleveland to tack on a fifth run in the ninth by allowing a walk to Harold Ramirez and a double to Eddie Rosario. There could have been a sixth run, too, but Robbie Grossman made an impressive catch to help retire Jose Ramirez for the second out of the inning.
Eric Haase drew a one out walk in the ninth, and after Akil Baddoo struck out, Victor Reyes lashed a triple to right field to add a note of intrigue, but with two outs, James Karinchak was going to be tough to beat. Willi Castro popped out on the first pitch he saw to end the game.
Detroit will be back in action tomorrow at Comerica Park as they begin a weekend series versus the New York Yankees.