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Angels 7, Tigers 5: Manning impresses in debut; late rally falls short

The rookie was impressive, but the bullpen couldn’t keep it close.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Los Angeles Angels Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday’s matchup between the Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Angels was exciting for many reasons.

For starters — literally — the last of Detroit’s trio of stud pitching prospects, Matt Manning, made his major league debut; but he had to do it against one of the league’s most electric players in Shohei Ohtani, who started opposite him while slotting into the No. 2 hole in the lineup.

On top of that, the game was broadcast (?) nationally via YouTube, giving Tigers fans a break from Bally Sports. It was also the first meeting between Detroit and the Halos since July 2019.

The anticipation was palpable, and it showed when Manning was a bit erratic in the first inning. He walked Ohtani—perhaps this was good course management, because he did it again later—but eventually made it out without a hitch.

The same can’t be said for the second frame, though.

Los Angeles’ Kean Wong hit a would-be single up the middle, but took advantage of CF Daz Cameron’s lax pursuit of the ball and managed to slide safely into second base — the first ever MLB hit off Manning. Luis Rengifo followed it up with a single to left field, and Akil Baddoo had a chance to throw him out, but his throw was high and wide, bouncing off Eric Haase’s glove. Rengifo moved to third and eventually scored on a David Fletcher single.

While those runs were marked as earned, they didn’t really seem to be Manning’s fault.

But the rookie wasn’t phased. He hurled another three innings, keeping the Angels off the board the rest of the way. He surrendered four hits and two walks while striking out three — the last of which came against his final batter of the night on a nasty 95 MPH fastball to freeze Taylor Ward.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 18-ranked prospect relied heavily on his 60-grade fastball, throwing it a whopping 54 times compared to nine curveballs, seven changeups and seven sliders.

Like our game preview stated, debuts can be difficult for pitchers drafted out of high school. That Manning was able to pitch five strong innings on the road, in primetime, against an MVP candidate, on short notice and after struggling in Triple-A is extremely encouraging for the Tigers and their fans.

Manning’s only run support came immediately after he recorded his final out when Jonathan Schoop continued his monstrous stretch by sending a hanging Ohtani slider into the California night.

According to The Athletic’s Cody Stavenhagen, Schoop entered Thursday’s game with the second best batting average, fourth best slugging percentage and (tied for) fifth most home runs in baseball since May 22.

Ohtani was lifted after the sixth inning, and pinch-hitter Niko Goodrum took over for Harold Castro by nearly taking Tony Watson yard, but settled for a leadoff double. He eventually swiped third, but the guys behind him couldn’t get a ball out of the infield—including a pickle that Goodrum kept alive long enough for Akil Baddoo to advance to third—before recording three outs.

That was their last — and best — chance to tie the game.

Kyle Funkhouser took over after the seventh inning stretch and got three ground balls... but none resulted in outs; one eked through the infield, one popped out of Niko Goodrum’s glove at second base and another went for an infield single by former Tiger Justin Upton when Miguel Cabrera’s foot wasn’t on the first base on a bang-bang throw.

Another former Tiger followed directly after him when Jose Iglesias ripped a pinch-hit single through the left side to score a run.

But that was just the beginning. Taylor Ward swung at the first pitch Funkhouser offered and sent it into the rocks in left-center field for his first career grand slam, breaking the game open at 7-1.

Detroit didn’t go away, though. Cameron exacted revenge on Wong for his earlier single-turned-double by collecting one of his own before scoring on a Robbie Grossman single. Schoop followed with a hit and Jeimer Candelario walked, forcing Angels manager Joe Maddon to turn to his closer, Raisel Iglesias, with nobody out in the eighth to attempt a six-out save.

He punched Miguel Cabrera out, but a Niko Goodrum single and Eric Haase run-scoring groundout got the Tigers back within three.

The threat ended when Akil Baddoo, who had previously collected a pair of hits off Ohtani, grounded out to second base.

After a clean frame from beleaguered reliever Buck Farmer, Willi Castro doubled to start the ninth. Two outs later, Schoop reached base for the third time with a walk, bringing Candelario to the plate as the potential tying run. Castro scored on a wild pitch, but Jeimer hit a hard ground ball right into the lefty shift, giving Iglesias the six-out save and the Angels a series-opening win.