We got another close, well pitched game on Saturday evening. Blue Jays’ starter Alek Manoah was dominant, but the Tigers tied it up late, only to lose in 10 innings, evening the series at a game apiece.
The Tigers pitching plan for this one was to start things off with a short outing from Jose Ureña, and then turn to Tyler Alexander to take it as far as possible. The first part of the plan went great.
Ureña spun three brisk innings without allowing a run. Considering he’s been sidelined the better part of two months, his command was sharp, and we saw some glimpses of the good slider he featured early in the season and lost as injuries took their toll.
Bo Bichette singled with one out in the first inning, and then stole second base to get into scoring position for Vladimir Guerrero Jr. However, Guerrero struck out, swinging over a nice changeup and Eric Haase threw out Bichette trying to steal third on the play to end the inning. Ureña allowed a single in each the second and third inning, but they didn’t advance the runner in either instance.
Unfortunately, the Tigers were having no luck at all against Blue Jays’ rookie, Alek Manoah. They went 1-2-3 in the first inning, and the big right-hander with the fearsome slider struck out the side in the second inning. In the third, Willi Castro was hit by a pitch with one out, and Derek Hill lined a single to left. Akil Baddoo couldn’t get Castro home for second though, instead grounding into a double play to end the threat. The Tigers wouldn’t get another runner on base in any of the next three innings.
The game was still a scoreless deadlock as reliever Alex Lange came in after Ureña in the fourth inning. A.J. Hinch wanted him to get Guerrero before the lefty Alexander came on, and it worked. Lange struck out Guerrero and got Alejandro Kirk to fly out. Corey Dickerson pulled a grounder into left for a single, and Lourdes Gurriel worked a walk, but after a visit from Chris Fetter, Lange punched out Breyvic Valera to end the threat.
Alexander entered the game with a quick fifth inning, but in the sixth, after Bichette and Guerrero had grounded out, Kirk launched a solo home run to left field to finally open the scoring. Alexander allowed a walk and a single from there, but eventually got Teoscar Hernandez, who pinch hit for Valera, to fly out and end the inning.
The Tigers went quickly again in the bottom of the sixth. In the seventh, Alexander allowed a leadoff single to Randal Grichuk. Kevin Smith flew out to Baddoo in left, and then Marcus Semien hit a sinking liner to left that Baddoo made a nice play on, going back to his right on the well hit drive. With two outs, things appeared in hand, but Hinch had apparently seen enough of Alexander, despite his superb performance against these same Jays in his last outing, and turned to Jason Foley, recently recalled from Toledo instead. That did not work out.
Foley quickly wild pitched Grichuk to second. He then fell behind Bichette 2-0 before Bichette slapped a single through the right side, scoring Grichuk. That brought up Guerrero, and Foley was still struggling with his control. He fell behind Guerrero 3-1, and the slugger drilled a liner in front of Robbie Grossman in right for a single. However, Foley was able to get Kirk on a ground out to escape further damage.
With six innings of one-hit ball, seven strikeouts, and just one measly single allowed, the Tigers were ready to see Manoah’s night end. However, Manoah and manager Charlie Montoyo had other plans as the rookie neared 90 pitches. This is when you need a veteran hitter to finally force the issue, and fortunately, Jonathan Schoop led off the seventh. Schoop worked a deep count, and then drilled a single the opposite way, putting a man on with no outs for the first time all night. Robbie Grossman followed, dumping a blooper into right center field for a single, and the Tigers suddenly had a threat going, with Manoah now closing in on 100 pitches, and Miguel Cabrera at the dish.
Manoah got strike one with a fastball, and then a generous call on a slider put Miggy down 0-2. Manoah missed with a slider, but then dusted him with a fastball up, bringing up Jeimer Candelario, and Candelario continues to produce. He spanked a single into center field, scoring Schoop and moving Grossman to third, and that finally, mercifully, ended Manoah’s night. The Jays have a real good one there, yeesh.
Trevor Richards came on to escape the jam, but he couldn’t do it. Eric Haase fought through a tough AB and slapped a grounder to shortstop. Schoop scored, and while Grossman was forced at second, Haase beat out the double play turn, bringing a roar from the Comerica Park faithful. Harold Castro flew out, but the Tigers had quickly gotten right back into the game.
Michael Fulmer got the call in the eighth. Corey Dickerson got him with a ground ball the opposite way for a single. Fulmer bounced back to punch out Gurriel with a nasty sinker on the edge. Hernandez gave Fulmer a battle, but Big Mike found his release point and started pounding power sliders in there until in a 2-2 count, Fulmer spotted a sinker and Hernandez couldn’t catch up. Randal Grichuk lined out to shortstop, and that sent us to the bottom of the eighth.
The Jays turned to Joakim Soria at this point, and Willi Castro drew a leadoff walk. That brought up Derek Hill, and the question was whether he’d swing away or just move the runner with a bunt. The Tigers went with the bunt, but Hill couldn’t get it down on either the first two pitches, and Soria spotted a changeup at the bottom of the zone for strike three. Soria also punched out Akil Baddoo, setting him up with changeups early and then dialing up 93 mph away to finish it. Schoop lifted a soft fly ball to center field for the final out of the frame.
A.J. Hinch turned to Gregory Soto in the top of the ninth, looking to lock them down and set up a walkoff. Kevin Smith led off with a single to left, but Soto bounced right back as Marcus Semien flew out to Grossman down the right field line and Bichette lined out to Grossman as well. That left a battle of heavyweights. Gregory Soto v. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Soto won out, popping Guerrero up on a slider to send it to the bottom of the ninth tied 2-2.
The Jays brought in Jordan Romano, their best reliever, at this point. Romano punched out Grossman, but Cabrera drilled a single the opposite way. Daz Cameron came in to pinch run for the big man. Candelario smoked a one-hopper to second base, but after fumbling it briefly, Marcus Semien was able to get the out at first. However, that moved Cameron into scoring position as the potential winning run, with Haase at the dish. Romano was dialing up triple digit heaters and quickly got ahead 0-2, and Haase could only pop one up for the final out of the inning. Extra innings engage...
Kyle Funkhouser came on for the 10th with the Manfred Man on second in the form of Guerrero. Funkhouser battled his control a bit, allowing a Dickerson single that scored Guerrero by a hair ahead of Akil Baddoo’s throw. Funkhouser did recover to get out of the inning with no further damage. Still, the Tigers needed at least a run to keep pace in the bottom half.
With Romano still on the mound, Harold Castro showed bunt, but pulled it back and instead grounded one to Bichette near second base to start the inning, and unfortunately Zack Short, the runner at second, hesitated a step before he broke for third. Bichette was able to cut him down at third, and things did not look good. Castro was at first with one out, and mistakes like Short’s don’t typically end well. Willi Castro then flew out to right field, leaving it all up to Derek Hill, and Romano blew him away with fastballs to lock this one up and tie the series at a game apiece.
Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. EDT rubber game will feature the return of Matthew Boyd to the rotation. He’ll start against former Minnesota Twins starter, Jose Berrios, who the Blue Jays acquired at the trade deadline.
Ready to run through walls for A.J. Hinch?
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch was asked about free agents and the possibilities for the offseason prior to Saturday’s matchup. His response sent social media—and us, frankly—into a flurry of Detroit vs. Everybody memes, fire emojis, and some light trolling. Read the story from Evan Woodbery here at MLive.
“If the Tigers’ organization does a good job, we’re going to reestablish ourselves as a winning franchise and develop a winning culture. If you want to be a part of it, then you’ll come. If you don’t, then we’ll beat you.”
The thing about the A.J. Hinch "If you want to be a part of it, then you'll come. If you don't, then we'll beat you," quote — he said it so nonchalantly and in such a matter-of-fact tone that it was hilarious— Cody Stavenhagen (@CodyStavenhagen) August 28, 2021