In front of one of the bigger crowds seen at Comerica Park in many years, Miguel Cabrera’s pursuit of home run number 500 failed to bear fruit tonight. More frustrating, was the Clevelanders continuing their tradition of suddenly playing their best baseball whenever the Tigers are around. They beat the Tigers 7-4, seizing second place in the AL Central outright.
For two innings, Tyler Alexander looked like he might repeat the success he had in his outing against Cleveland last weekend. At Progressive Field, the lefty blanked them over 5 1⁄3 innings of work. Still it’s tough to repeat success against a team when they’ve just seen you less than a week ago, particularly for a soft tossing command and control artist. On Friday night, Alexander managed two perfect frames before things started to fall apart.
Alexander had two outs in the third inning when Ernie Clement got a 1-1 sinker over the middle and lifted a solo shot out to right center field. Myles Straw followed with a double to left, and Amed Rosario singled him home to give Cleveland a two-run lead. Jose Ramirez followed with another single, but Alexander punched out Franmil Reyes with a sinker right on the outside bottom corner to escape further trouble. Reyes took exception to the called strike and got himself thrown out of the game, but it didn’t help the Tigers.
Things went similarly in the fourth. Owen Miller singled with one out, and scored on a Yu Chang triple. Austin Hedges sacrificed Chang home with a fly ball, and it was 4-0 Cleveland.
Meanwhile the offense was struggling to break through against starter Zack Plesac. Robbie Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a double, but the Tigers went down in order from there. They didn’t get another hit until Jeimer Candelario singled with two outs in the fourth. Renato Nuñez struck out to snuff that minor threat.
The Tigers did get on the board in the bottom of the fifth. With one out, Eric Haase crushed a missile into the shrubs in straightaway center for a solo shot, his 19th on the season, re-taking the team lead from Grossman and Jonathan Schoop. Victor Reyes followed with a single, and advanced to single on a Jacob Robson ground out. Grossman came up with his second double of the day, this one into the right field corner, and Reyes scored to make it 4-2 Cleveland.
Eric Haase’s 19th home run with Dan Dickerson on the call pic.twitter.com/3ZDcp6kT6C— Rogelio Castillo (@rogcastbaseball) August 14, 2021
At this point the Tigers were still in the game, but a shaky outing from Joe Jiménez set them back again. With one out, Oscar Mercado hit a dribbled out in front of home plate. Jiménez pounced on it, but rushed to get the speedy baserunner and threw the ball away, allowing Mercado to advance to second. Mercado then stole third and scored on an Owen Miller fly out to deep center field. The next hitter, Chang, crunched a screamer into the visiting bullpen for a solo shot, and Cleveland had a four-run lead once again.
The Tigers went quickly in sixth and seventh, while the Lakesiders added another run as Clement lifted a solo shot out against Derek Holland in the seventh. With the lead stretching, the B-team out of the bullpen, and Cleveland preparing their best relievers to take over, things were looking grim. Plesac didn’t even need much help. He handled the seventh with ease, and then came back out for the eighth.
Jacob Robson struck out as Plesac’s ninth victim on the night, Grossman grounded out, and having reached 100 pitches, manager DeMarlo Hale turned to Bryan Shaw to handle Schoop. After a good battle, Schoop won out, drilling a line drive single to center field to bring Cabrera to the dish for the fourth time. Unfortunately, Cabrera lined out to center field to end the inning.
The rest was a foregone conclusion. Buck Farmer came on in the top of the ninth, walking three hitters to load the bases with two outs. Harold Castro picked a hot one-hopper from Mercado to end the threat. That left the Tigers 4-5-6 hitters up in the bottom of the ninth, down five runs. They would face a really tough task against James Karinchak.
Candelario drew a walk to lead off the inning to keep things a tiny bit interesting. It got more interesting when Renato Nuñez turned on an inside fastball, pulled his hands in, and drove it over the wall in left to make it 7-4. The shot was Nuñez’s second homer in as many days since being recalled from Toledo.
Harold Castro was the next man up, and he squared up a Karinchak fastball as well, but lined it to Mercado in left field for the first out of the inning. This got Cleveland’s closer, Emmanuel Clase, up and getting loose in the bullpen. Unfortunately, the end came quick. Eric Haase grounded out to shortstop, and Victor Reyes grounded out to end it.
Wily Peralta gets the start on Saturday night, with first pitch set for 6:10 p.m. EDT. Cleveland hasn’t officially announced a starter yet.
The throngs that came out in hopes of seeing some history were disappointed tonight. Cabrera struck out in the first inning, flew out to center in the fourth, and grounded out in the sixth. Comerica Park was going nuts as he stepped to the dish in the eighth, but unfortunately he lined out to center field to end his chances for the night. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the pressure if this goes on a while, as the whole park was on its feet living and dying with each pitch throughout every plate appearance.
Rookie Jacob Robson, called up on Thursday, didn’t have a good night in pursuit of his first major league hit. He struck out in the third, and grounded out weakly in the fifth. His final opportunity came in the eighth, but Plesac struck him out again. Robson did make a fine play sliding into the wall in foul territory to snare an Austin Hedges fly ball in the top of the eighth, however.