The Tigers didn’t do much offensively, and a pair of defensive miscues unraveled an otherwise quality start from Matt Manning as they fell 5-2 to the Orioles on Saturday.
Manning took the mound looking to build on a run of three solid outings. Overall he was once again reasonably good but also showed the need for growth in terms of commanding his full mix of pitches. Still, this would’ve have been a very strong start had his defense not let him down at crucial points in the game.
For three innings, there was barely a hard hit ball against Manning. He allowed seeing eye singles in each of the first three innings, but easily erased the first two. He got whiffs on the changeup and curveball, dropping the curve in for a few first pitch strikes, and showed off some good sliders, as well as a few that hung in the zone or got away from him up. It was that third seeing eye single that led to the first defensive breakdown, and the first run scored in the game.
Cedric Mullins pulled a grounder through the left side of the infield with one out. Manning got Trey Mancini on a flyout to right, but in a 2-2 count, he missed badly with a fastball up trying to bait Ryan Mountcastle into a whiff. Mountcastle then got caught badly off balance on a 3-2 slider and hit a popup to shallow center field. Derek Hill initially broke back and had to reverse course, his layout attempt coming up just short as Mullins scored.
Manning cleaned up the inning, and struck out a pair in the fourth. However, Maikel Franco led off the fifth by turning on a fastball up and in at the top of the zone and lofted a fly ball over the left field wall for a solo shot. Manning punched out Pat Valaika on three pitches, and got a pair of outs on three pitches to clean up the frame.
It was the sixth where things came undone, and again, a key defensive blunder cost the Tigers. Mountcastle led off with a single, but Manning got Anthony Santander to fly out on the first pitch, and the situation appeared well in hand. However, with his pitch count climbing beyond his season high, Manning struggled to spot his pitches, walking Ramon Urias and DJ Stewart to load the bases.
Since he’d dug his own hole, AJ Hinch left Manning in to deal with it in a bit of a test, and he responded pretty well. He got Pedro Severino to pop out first pitch on a fastball and took on Franco again for all the marbles. Manning got him down 1-2, and then frankly threw a cookie 95 mph fastball right down the middle. Franco hit a routine grounder to Short, and his flip to second would’ve ended the inning...but Willi Castro flat out dropped it and Mountcastle scored.
Manning was now at 91 pitches, but Hinch stuck with him anyway, again, probably testing him in a tough spot once again. It didn’t go great, as Pat Valiaka lined a single to right to plate two more runs before Joe Jiménez came on to shut things down.
Overall, the Orioles aren’t a good offense, and the line doesn’t look great. 5.2 IP, 5 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 SO. Still only two earned runs allowed, but the low strikeout total is a testimony to needed improvement with his command more than anything. He had several guys set up and just didn’t execute the pitch, settling for weak contact instead.
Haase keeps it rolling
Lefty John Means was too much for the weak half of the Tigers’ order. Hinch put Hill in the leadoff spot and sat Baddoo, which we don’t love. Hill was dominated by Means’ changeup all night, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts against him. Willi Castro, Zack Short, and Victor Reyes likewise looked horrendous against Means, particularly Short who struck out all three times. Everyone else had a hit.
The Tigers had Cabrera and Jeimer Candelario on with one out in the second, but Willi popped up first pitch and Short struck out to end the threat. They didn’t get another runner to second until the eighth, when Robbie Grossman doubled with one out. Cabrera hit a bullet right at Valaika, while Haase went oppo as well, and with a little more height, lining out to Anthony Santander in right instead.
Unsurprisingly, it was Eric Haase who did damage, pulling a Means first pitch fastball over the fence in left for his 18th home run in the fourth inning. Do we have the best hitting catcher in baseball? No, but he is sixth in wRC+ among catchers with 100 plate appearances. It will be very interesting to see how Haase holds up in August and September.
Eric Haase’s 18th homer with Dan Dickerson on the call pic.twitter.com/PT9G2HPAxC— Rogelio Castillo (@rogcastbaseball) July 31, 2021
The Tigers rolled out Ian Krol for the seventh, and he was fine. Mountcastle led off with a single, but Santander lined out to center to give the lefty a bit of breathing room. He struck out Ramon Urias and got Austin Hays—pinch hitting for DJ Stewart—on a ground ball. In the eighth, Krol allowed a two-out single to Valaika, but Buck Farmer came on to get Trey Mancini on a ground out.Likewise, Farmer stayed in for the ninth and didn’t look very sharp, but a pair of line drive outs helped his cause as a Urias single was all they managed in the frame.
That brought the Orioles’ lefty Tanner Scott to the mound looking to close it out. Candelario led off with a walk to lend a bit of intrigue, and then Willi Castro was hit with a 1-1 offering, putting runners at first and second for the bottom of the Tigers’ order. Scott then walked Zack Short, getting himself yanked in favor of righthander Cole Sulser. Hinch countered with Baddoo pinch hitting for Reyes.
Baddoo chopped a ground out to first to score Candelario, bringing Hill to the plate as the tying run. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as Hill took a fastball on the outer edge for strike three, and Jonathan Schoop swung over a slider down and away to strike out as well.
Losing a series to the lowly Orioles at home would not be a great feeling. The Tigers will look to split the series tomorrow with Tyler Alexander on the mound, rest up on Monday, and then welcome in the AL East leading Boston Red Sox for three starting Tuesday night.
Akil Baddoo is the hottest ticket in town
Today is the 10th anniversary of one of the greatest, if meaningless, home runs in Tigers history. We still don’t like you, Jered Weaver, whereas Guillen can probably get a drink paid for anywhere in the Metro Detroit area for this one.