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Blue Jays 2, Tigers 1: Duo of dingers doom Detroiters

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It was another tight, low-scoring affair, as has been the case the entire weekend.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The rubber match of the three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays, on a warm weekend in Detroit, resulted in a 2-1 victory for the visitors, whose only runs came on a pair of solo home runs.

Matthew Boyd made his return to Detroit for his first start since June 14. He threw nearly five innings in his last tuneup start in Toledo a few days ago, so obviously manager AJ Hinch wasn’t expecting Boyd to go deep in this one. In his 13 starts before getting hurt, he was having himself a fine string of outings, with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.203 WHIP (his best since 2018).

José Berríos started for the Blue Jays, who has struggled a bit since coming from Minnesota in a deadline-day deal. Berríos’ ERA before the trade was 3.48, rising to 4.81 afterward... but his FIP — what you can expect your ERA to be, minus fielding inconsistencies — only rose from 3.58 to 4.07. So, he’s been a little unlucky in his five starts with the Jays, apparently.

Boyd gave up a solo home run to Bo Bichette in the first, which is a shame because Boyd really cracked down on home runs this year (0.8 HR/9 innings, coming into today). He needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning... and Berríos needed six in the first, seven in the second. He’d throw 36 strikes in his first 43 pitches. Ouch.

Marcus Semien walked to lead off the third; Bichette followed with a single. After a Guerrero flyout put runners on the corners with one out, I wasn’t sure Boyd was going to make it out of the inning. However, Teoscar Hernandez struck out and Alejandro Kirk flew out to deep centre, and that ended the frame.

Kevin Smith hit his first career major-league home run, a solo affair, off Boyd in the fourth, giving the Blue Jays a 2-0 lead. This would ultimately turn out to be the winning run.

Joe Jiménez took over in the fifth. Boyd’s final line turned out to be four innings, four hits (including two home runs), two walks and five strikeouts. Jiménez had an ERA of 3.24 in August coming into today — which included a lousy no-out, three-run outing against the Angels — so, all in all, he hasn’t been bad lately.

As is the case on hot summer afternoons sometimes, a thunderstorm popped up and caused a short delay just before the bottom of the fifth. Would this spell the end to Berríos’ day?

...no. It would not. And Berríos picked up exactly where he left off, putting the Tigers to sleep for the rest of his outing, for the most part.

Jason Foley came on for the sixth. He’s got the raw stuff and can touch 98 mph with his fastball, but like his previous outing on Friday night, he had trouble with his control. He gave up a pair of walks which did no damage against a dangerous lineup, but if he’s going to fit into this bullpen, he has to stop throwing lit matches around near puddles of gasoline.

The Tigers jumped on Berríos to start the bottom of the sixth, with Jonathan Schoop bouncing one past Smith at third (who was given an error on the play), and Robbie Grossman scorching a shot off Guerrero’s glove at first; the Tigers had runners on second and third with none out. Miguel Cabrera hit a soft tapper back to the pitcher; Grossman must have thought the contact-play was on and got caught off second base. Jeimer Candelario struck out swinging (getting hosed on a lousy strike two call), leaving it up to Hittin’ Harold Castro, who singled to score Schoop, cutting the lead to 2-1.

The seventh was given to José Cisnero, and he promptly gave up a pair of singles to Semien and Bichette, then loaded the bases with none out with a walk to Guerrero. Hernandez hit a soft fly ball to right which was too shallow to score Semien. And then, Alejandro Kirk hit a Castro-to-Castro-to-Schoop double-play ground ball to let Cisnero miraculously wiggle out of the inning unscathed.

Derek Holland came on for the eighth, giving up singles to Lourdes Gurriel and Reese McGuire to put runners on the corners with two outs. But, continuing the Tiger bullpen’s propensity for getting into, and out of, sticky situations, he got a soft fly ball to end the inning similarly untouched.

Adam Cimber relieved Berríos after seven solid innings, and with two outs Cabrera poked a single through the infield off the extreme-sidearmer. Derek Hill pinch-ran for Miggy, and Tim Mayza replaced Cimber. Candelario grounded out to end the inning, though, and that was that.

Holland carried on to start the top of the ninth; Bichette walked, and took second on a Guerrero groundout. Hernandez hit a ground ball to third and Bichette got caught in a rundown between second and third, getting tagged out before Hernandez could advance to second. Kirk singled to put runners on first and second, but recent-arrival Jarrod Dyson struck out for the third out.

Mayza similarly carried on to start the ninth for the Blue Jays. Zack Short was the victim of another bad strike call on a very high 3-1 pitch; he then fouled out to first. Willi Castro flew out, but pinch-hitter Eric Haase singled to extend the game and bring up Victor Reyes, who’d had two hits so far on the day. Alas, there were no more inside-the-park game-winning heroics, as he grounded out to second to end the game and the series.

Tomorrow for the Tigers features a make-up game against the Twins, starting at 2:10 p.m. EDT.

Strike Zones: A Give-and-Take Sort of Thing

Second inning, Randal Grichuk at the plate. Pitch #1: taken for a ball. Pitch #6: called strike three. Plate umpire: Phil Cuzzi.

On the other hand... to Victor Reyes, pitch #2 was apparently a called strike.

Cuzzi’s strike zone was all over the place today. That must drive everyone nuts.

Notes and Numbers

  • The Comerica Park carousel is now open again, everyone. (BYB’s own Peter K. is pretty pumped about that.)
  • Miguel Cabrera, coming into today’s game, was 5-for-12 with a double and a home run since getting his 500th homer in Toronto last weekend.
  • A random wandering-around on Baseball Reference showed me that a chap named Louis Coleman pitched in 51 games for the 2018 Tigers. I have exactly zero memory of a pitcher by that name.
  • “McPizza” was trending on Twitter in Canada today. But, unfortunately, McDonalds’ is not, repeat not, bringing it back.
  • On this date in 1907, the under-construction bridge crossing the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City collapsed, killing 75 workers. This collapse led to the formation of the Professional Engineer regulatory body in Canada, and to this day, engineers wear an iron ring on the pinky finger of their working hand to remind of them of their responsibility to society. (Some opt for stainless steel, but my wife’s Iron Ring is old-school.)