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Tigers 6, Cardinals 2: Relentless offense leads to a quick sweep in Comerica

Matt Manning was effective again, and the backend of the bullpen shut the door on St. Louis.

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Manning’s second start looked similar to his debut, but this time he collected his first major league win. The Tigers’ offense was relentless on the basepaths and at the plate against Cardinals pitching, adding on single runs throughout the contest to win 6-2 and sweep the two game series.

Well, it’s still looks a little sketchy, to be honest, but so far Matt Manning is having a much easier time than Tarik Skubal or Casey Mize in their formative MLB outings. Manning has this weird pattern of sitting 90-92 mph sometimes, and then dialing it up to 94-96 mph at others, seemingly without much rhyme or reason. We saw some of that, and it’s difficult to say how much of that is planned or not. He still wasn’t getting many whiffs, nor flashing very good secondary stuff, yet he largely cruised through his Wednesday afternoon outing against the Cardinals.

The first batter of the game, light-hitting Tommy Erdman, put a little scare into Manning early, leading off the game with a fly ball that Nomar Mazara ultimately camped under on the warning track right where the out of town scoreboard angles into center field. He came back to dust his hometown buddy, Dylan Carlson, on strikes, and then jammed Paul Goldschmidt for a weak pop-up to second base.

In the second, Nolan Arenado ambushed a pretty good curveball below the zone and pulled it to left for a solo shot, but Manning stayed cool and quickly retired the next three hitters in order. Manning then allowed a one out triple to Lars Nootbaar in the third and Erdman singled him home, but again the rookie starter was able to limit the damage to just one run.

Meanwhile, Cardinals starter John Gant did his thing for two innings, rarely throwing anything in the zone and setting down six in order. It didn’t last though, as his nibbler stylings bit him back in the third. Gant walked Jake Rogers and Akil Baddoo back-to-back and the scorching hot Jonathan Schoop drilled a double to right center that scored them both. Indeed, Rogers could feel Baddoo bearing down on him down the third base line as the two crossed home plate within a second of each other. Schoop then performed what looked like a delayed steal of third, but was really a mistake that worked out as he skated in under the tag. Eric Haase struck out on the pitch, and Nomar Mazara grounded out to end the inning.

Manning pitched around a one out double in the fourth, as Yadi Molina lined out to center field, and Matt Carpenter popped out to end the inning. Daz Cameron caught a hanging changeup to lead off the bottom of the inning and drilled it into the seats beyond the bullpens for his third of the year to put the Tigers up a run. Manning walked Erdman with two outs in the fifth, but got Carlson to line out to center field to finish five innings with his pitch count in very good shape.

Did we mention that Jonathan Schoop is incredibly hot right now? The second baseman turned on a fastball in off the plate to lead off the bottom of the fifth and crushed that into the left field seats for his 15th homer of the season, and 10th in June alone.

Manning came back out in the sixth with his pitch count still under 70 and looked to turn in a quality start. Unfortunately, Paul Goldschmidt singled to left to lead off the inning. Arenado flew out to left, and Manning got Tyler O’Neill leaning out front, and he hit a shallow fly ball in foul territory down the right field line that Mazara was able to haul in. Then Manning fell behind Molina 2-0. His third pitch was a fastball painted on the bottom edge, but he didn’t get the call. Molina took ball four, another fastball down, and AJ Hinch decided Manning had done enough with lefty Carpenter coming to the dish. Instead he turned to Gregory Soto, who quickly dispatched Carpenter on strikes.

Manning still didn’t show much command of his secondary pitches, but there were more quality curveballs and changeups this time around. He did mix in a couple sliders again as well, but they were yanked for the most part. Instead, he just mixed his weird, shifty fastball to all quadrants of the zone, sometimes pitching in the low-90’s, sometimes dialing up 95-96 mph. It’s hard to tell how much of that is planned, but he certainly has had a lot of hitters off balance, jammed, or flailing wildly over his first two starts. There were also several hard hit balls that found gloves.

He’s still decidedly a work in progress, and you can expect a deep dive on him from us shortly, but Manning’s composure and ability to work MLB hitters over with a ton of fastballs has been quite fascinating to watch thus far. They have to know it’s going to be mostly heaters in the zone, but they still didn’t hit that many of them hard. We’ll be expecting the other shoe to drop until we see much better command of his secondary pitches, but 5.2 IP, 2 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, SO got the job done once again.

The Tigers added another run in the bottom half of the inning. Willi Castro singled to lead off the inning, and then Paredes was safe on a fielders choice ground ball to Arenado at third. Hinch had Rogers drop down a sacrifice bunt with no outs, moving the runners over. We didn’t love that call, but they did get a run out of it. Akil Baddoo lined a sharp single to right field which scored Castro, but upon review, Paredes was out at the plate after he slid wide to avoid the tag and then played a bit of patty cake with Molina as he tried to touch home plate. He was out upon review, and Baddoo was picked off at first to end the inning. Still, another run added, and now it was 5-2 Tigers.

Soto cruised through the seventh inning with no issues, and the Tigers went quickly in the bottom half of the frame. Jose Cisnero came on for the eighth, erased a leadoff single with a double play and popped up Arenado for a snappy frame. Then the offense got to work again, with the Tigers showing off the speed game that has made them a surprisingly potent group over the past two months.

Daz Cameron drew a one out walk and quickly stole second off of Alex Reyes. Willi Castro beat out an infield single to move Cameron to third, and Paredes brought him home with a sacrifice fly to make it 6-2 Tigers. Castro drew a pair of throws by Reyes, then immediately broke for second on the next pitch. He made it with little trouble as Reyes missed his spot and Molina had to lunge for the ball. It didn’t matter, as Reyes dropped in a breaking ball in a 3-2 count to strike out Rogers to end the inning.

Michael Fulmer came on with a four run lead, and while he allowed a single to Carpenter, he froze Paul DeJong with a 95 mph heater to wrap this one up, with the Tigers sweeping the two game set.

The sweep keeps the Tigers in fourth place ahead of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central. They’ll now welcome in the very tough Houston Astros for a four game set starting Thursday evening