The Tigers had a chance to make it 5-0 in Manfred Ball games this year, but failed to push a run across in the tenth, losing in the bottom of the inning 3-2.
We’ve seen some interesting usage from manager A.J. Hinch, but their Memorial Day matchup in Milwaukee was the first time we’ve seen the opener strategy. With the players wearing the red poppy in remembrance of service members lost, the bullpen put up a good effort.
Tyler Alexander started the game, and he and Joe Jiménez worked through the heart of the Brewers order with no damage over the first two innings. Their opposition, Corbin Burnes, has been extremely good this season, and it was impressive that the Tigers were able to keep this one close until they managed to get Burnes out of the game. He went five scoreless innings, while the Tigers turned to recently recalled right-hander Rony Garcia to handle the third through the fifth frames.
The Tigers built their first threat in the second inning. A one-out single and then a double from Victor Reyes and a walk for Akil Baddoo loaded the bases. Unfortunately, Burnes dialed it up, punching out Jake Rogers and getting Nomar Mazara to roll over on a ground out to first.
Jiménez had a little trouble too, allowing two singles to start the bottom of the second, but a double play ball and a fly out turned the Brewers away.
The Tigers put together a threat in the top of the third as well. A two-out double from Jeimer Candelario set the table for Miguel Cabrera, but he just rolled over the first pitch to third to end the inning. How long are we keeping Cabrera in the three and four spots anyway?
Garcia and Burnes had little trouble through the fifth—though Garcia’s attempt to sacrifice bunt Jake Rogers to second in the the top of the fifth could qualify as “trouble” and Jake Rogers erased Christian Yelich trying to steal second on a throw from his knees to prevent a scoring threat—but Burnes got into another jam in the top of the sixth as the Tigers kept chipping away at him despite the fearsome stuff he’s throwing these days. Harold Castro and Candelario singled back to back to lead off the inning. Once again, Cabrera grounded out to third, this time producing a double play ball in the bargain. Jonathan Schoop saved the Tigers’ bacon with an RBI single to score Castro and the Tigers had the first lead of the game.
That's another way for a catcher to help his pitcher, throw out the guy who had walked, Christian Yelich, when he tries to steal second! Jake Rogers made it look easy. #DetroitRoots pic.twitter.com/HC91iSkytj— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) May 31, 2021
However, Daniel Norris gave it right back. He walked Daniel Robertson, he of the .464 OPS, and after getting Kolten Wong to ground out, allowed a Willy Adames’ two run oppo shot on a fastball to make it 2-1 Brewers. Norris rebounded to strikes out Christian Yelich and Avisail Garcia, but the damage was done.
The Tigers weren’t going away either, however. Akil Baddoo, who continues to put together good at-bats without a ton to show for them in recent weeks, finally turned on a Trevor Richards’ changeup and sent it over the wall in right field to tie things at 2-2. Jake Rogers followed with a single back through the box, but Niko Goodrum, Robbie Grossman, and Harold Castro all went down in order.
Kyle Funkhouser came on to pitch the bottom of the seventh, and continues to be a revelation after two consecutive seasons where his career looked to be on the brink. We’re crediting a certain tall handsome man in a long black coat with a red right hand, for his shocking emergence.
Funkhouser allowed a leadoff single, but then popped up catcher Omar Narvaez and punched out Keston Hiura and Luis Urias to escape. The power sinker was popping the glove at 96-98 mph with precision, the slider looks nasty, and Funkhouser even mixed in a good changeup at one point. He handled the Brewers in the eighth just as coolly, striking out two, for a total of four strikeouts in two innings pitched.
Josh Hader and Gregory Soto locked up in a duel of power southpaws in the ninth, and each kept the other team off the board, with Soto dialing up 101 and nearly decapitating Yelich with a fastball that rode in on his head.
Having reached the extra innings rules portion of the game, Hinch went small ball, having Willi Castro bunt Rogers, who started at second, over to third. Giving away an out is always a treacherous proposition, and here it didn’t work out as Grossman and Harold Castro struck out to end the threat.
Jose Cisnero came on in the bottom of the tenth, and Brewers manager Craig Counsell did the same thing, having Hiura bunt the runner to third. Cisnero had Urias down 1-2, and threw a fastball down and away, just outside the zone. Urias came through for his club with a nice piece of hitting, reaching out and driving the pitch to the wall in right center field to walk this one off.
The Tigers finish May with a strikingly good 14-13 record despite the loss. They are now 4-1 in Manfred Ball contests. A bullpen game vs. Corbin Burnes was always a dicey proposition, but they certainly had their chances.