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Tigers 7, Rangers 5: Another series, another sweep

The bullpen hung on to secure the Tigers’ seventh straight victory, but was a little shaky at times.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Tigers were looking for a perfect 7-0 homestand on Thursday afternoon, in the finale of a four-game series against the Rangers. They got it, and the four-game sweep of Texas, with a 7-5 getaway-day victory, remaining the only undefeated post-All-Star Break team in baseball.

Tyler Alexander got the start for Detroit, being moved semi-permanently into the rotation. This was his fourth start of the year, and his first as not just a spot-starter, or bullpen-day opener, or what-have-you. He went 3 13 innings in his previous start in the second game of the July 17 doubleheader sweep win against the Twins.

Mike Foltynewicz, whose name I always mispronounced in my head (according to Baseball Reference it’s “ful-ta-NEV-ich”), got the start for Texas. Coming into today, Foltynewicz was leading the majors with 28 home runs surrendered in 19 starts, and that pretty much tells you how his season has been going so far.

And, whadda ya know, with two on and one out in the first, Eric Haase made it #29 off Foltynewicz this year.

Here’s an interesting set of numbers to put Haase’s efforts into perspective:

Willi Castro made his presence felt with a leadoff triple in the second; he scored on a Victor Reyes sacrifice fly to make it 4-0.

Alexander, meanwhile, was cruising: through three innings he’d thrown 46 pitches (29 strikes), walked one, and gave up an infield single. He got quite a few soft pop-ups and easy ground balls, using his fastball a bit more and his cutter a bit less than usual.

In the fourth, Joey Gallo got nicked by a pitch, advanced to third on a Jonah Heim double, and scored on a bloop single by Andy Ibanez. There was some questionable Ranger baserunning and base-coaching going on, too: Gallo probably could’ve scored on Heim’s double but got the stop sign, and Heim got the windmill on Ibanez’s single but stopped 30 feet past third base, mysteriously.

After a strikeout of David Dahl in the fourth for the second out, Alexander’s day was done; his final line was 3 23 innings, three hits, one earned run, one walk, four strikeouts. He left runners on the corners for Erasmo Ramirez, who struck out Charlie Culberson to end the inning.

Zack Short and Reyes joined the homer-hitting party, going back-to-back in the fourth, making it a 6-1 game.

Taylor Hearn came on in relief of Foltynewicz in the sixth, much to Mr. F’s personal relief, I imagine. Foltynewicz’s day wasn’t terribly great, giving up three taters and six runs in five innings. Hearn, on the other hand, mowed down the first six Tigers he faced.

A walk and a couple of singles scored the second Texas run off Ramirez in the sixth. Buck Farmer took over with one out and runners on first and second and walked Nick Solak to load the bases; an Isiah Kiner-Falefa single scored two, narrowing the gap to 6-4. Farmer’s command was lacking on both his fastball and changeup, but he managed to wiggle out of further damage with a strikeout of Eli White to end the inning. (Some of the blame for those singles should go Akil Baddoo’s way, too, as he froze on a pop-up to center that he probably should’ve caught.) Still, I think Ramirez’s final line (three runs in 1 23 innings) looks worse than it should — but all of this isn’t the sort of thing we’ve come to expect from the Tiger bullpen lately.

...wait, have I come to actually expect solid, scoreless, flawless outings from Tiger relievers? What is this, 2006?!

Whatever year it is, manager AJ Hinch quit messin’-around in the seventh and went to Kyle Funkhouser, who got three very quick outs.

Let’s take a second to do a quick review of Funkhouser’s past couple of years.

  • 2019, Toledo: 8.53 ERA in 18 starts
  • 2020, Detroit: 7.27 ERA in 13 relief appearances
  • (some sort of magic spell was cast by Chris Fetter)
  • 2021, Detroit: 2.27 ERA in 35 23 innings coming into today

I’ll take it!

The Tigers added an important run in the bottom of the seventh: Reyes walked to lead off the inning, stole second, took third on a groundout, and scored on a Robbie Grossman single, making it 7-4.

Hinch stuck with Funkhouser to start the eighth; an Ibanez leadoff triple and a sacrifice fly made it 7-5, breaking the streak mentioned above. After a lineout, Nathaniel Lowe walked, bringing the tying run in Kiner-Falefa to the plate; a soft groundout got Funkhouser, and the Tigers, out of the inning.

Gregory Soto was summoned for the save, pitching on his third consecutive day. He walked the .184-hitting White to lead off the ninth, then got Adolis Garcia to strike out. The Rangers’ lone legitimate power threat, Gallo, was up next; he struck out swinging on three pitches. Heim grounded out softly to shortstop to end the game, the series, and the perfect homestand.

The Tigers move on to a three-game weekend series in Kansas City, starting on Friday night at 8:10 pm EDT.

Welcome Back, Willi

For Your Consideration

Stats and Things

  • In his 5-game stint in Toledo before being recalled, Willi Castro was 9-for-23 with two doubles and one home run.
  • Since being recalled from Toledo, Victor Reyes was 4-for-5 with three runs scored on Monday, then was 1-for-1 with a home run, walk and sacrifice fly in three plate appearances today.
  • The Tigers’ victory today was their 47th of the season. That matches their total victory total of the entire 2019 season. Roll that around in your brain for a minute. Today is July 22.
  • Texas catcher Jonah Heim’s name makes me think of the band Haim. Y’know, they’re decent. Plus, singing and drumming at the same time is pretty tricky.
  • “On this day in 1940, this Sudbury, Ontario native and long-time host of Jeopardy! was born.”