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Detroit 2, Cleveland 1: Houdini would be proud

Somehow, Tiger relievers stranded ten runners in the last four innings. That’s a lot of antacid tablets!

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Indians Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

After a “too little, too late” comeback attempt on Friday night, the Tigers and the Future-Guardians started the second game of their three-game series about an hour late due to some rain passing through the area. When that stopped, the Tiger bullpen pulled off a magic act that would’ve made David Copperfield proud, stranding a whole bunch of runners and securing the 2-1 victory. If you have any fingernails left after this one, you did better than I.

Tyler Alexander’s rotation tenure contined tonight, and he was looking to build on his longest outing (by pitches; 67) on August 1 against Baltimore. If you’ll recall, that was the game in which he gave up three doubles and a long fly ball in his first four batters... then, Chris Fetter waved a wand in the dugout, chanted “Pitcherio, strikezonius!”, and then he settled right down.

Facing “Tyler, the Pitcher” tonight was Cleveland rookie Eli Morgan. (To me, “Eli Morgan” sounds like an 1850s gold-rush prospector... but I assure you, he is not.) Morgan made his ninth start tonight, and the 25-year-old’s previous start against Toronto on August 2 was the best of the year: six innings, a pair of runs, and nine strikeouts. He hasn’t walked many, but coming into tonight he gave up 12 home runs in 37 13 innings.

The Tigers put runners on the corners with none out in the second via a Jeimer Candelario double and an Eric Haase infield single. Zack Short hit the always-exciting sacrifice fly to drive in Candelario and open the scoring.

Alexander was looking good early on, nine-up-nine-down in his first three innings — a nice contrast to his previous pair of starts, with no real hard contact. He was moving his cutter around nicely, throwing it on both the inside and the outside parts of the plate. He also generally mixed his pitches up really well, changing speeds against a righty-loaded lineup.

After four innings, Alexander had retired all 12 batters he’d faced, and thrown... let me double-check this... 40 pitches?! Impressive.

Morgan was no slouch himself, separating his fastball and changeup by about 20 miles per hour; his fastball was sitting low-90s but his changeup at times was down in the 74 mph range.

Victor Reyes blooped a double to left to lead off the fifth, which Myles Straw somehow didn’t reach, as he was seemingly everywhere. Akil Baddoo hit a single to centre, with Reyes racing around third to score and push the score to 2-0; Baddoo took second on the off-line throw by Straw.

The Cleves finally got on the basepaths with a leadoff single by Franmil Reyes in the fifth. Next three batters: strikeout, flyout, strikeout. That’s some nice work.

In the sixth, Alexander got Owen Miller to line out, then gave up a pair of singles, ending his evening. Michael Fulmer came in and gave up a swinging-bunt dribbler to Amed Rosario, loading the bases for the dangerous Jose Ramirez. Fulmer induced a soft pop-up to shallow left out of Ramirez for the second out; it was too short to score anyone, so the bases stayed loaded for Reyes. Fulmer completed his magician’s act by getting a sharp, but playable, ground ball to second for the third out. “Angry Mike,” indeed.

Let’s take a second to admire Alexander’s final line:

I’m not sure I’d necessarily anoint him as a permanent member of the starting rotation going forward, as he’s so darn useful as a multi-inning reliever. But when the Tigers have needed from him so far this season — be it starting or relieving — he’s answered the call. A very handy guy to have around.

As the seventh inning started the clock struck Funk O’Clock, and on came Kyle Funkhouser. Oscar Mercado hit a single to right, and Wilson Ramos hit a dribbler nearly identical to Rosario’s to put two runners on with one out. After a strikeout, a wild pitch pushed Mercado and Ramos up to third and second. Ernie Clement walked to load the bases, and Funkhouser gave way to “Everyday José” Cisnero to face Straw. For the Tiger bullpen’s next trick, Cisnero got Straw on a sharp grounder to the newly-extended Jonathan Schoop at first, and the Spiders stayed off the scoreboard.

Cisnero gave up an infield single to Rosario to start the eighth, then Ramirez hit a comebacker for a near-certain double play... and Cisnero airmailed the throw right past Short. Fortunately the runners stayed at first and second, though, and Reyes fouled-out to Schoop for the first out. Harold Ramirez followed suit for the second out (although Schoop stayed in fair territory), and Mercado struck out swinging. The bullpen’s magic act continued: three innings, eight runners stranded. LOB-ster dinners tonight after the game, boys!

Conversely, from the fifth through the ninth, Cleveland’s pitchers faced the minimum 15 batters, assisted by a double play in the eighth. But hey, last time I checked, the thing under “R” on the scoreboard for each team is the thing that counts. So there.

Gregory Soto was given the chance to earn the save, and Ramos greeted him with his first home run as a Buckeye, narrowing the gap to 2-1. Miller golfed a pop-fly into right to put the tying run on, but Clement struck out on three pitches for the first out. Straw hit a ground ball and Miller was forced out at second for the second out; Straw runs fast and you’re not going to double him up unless it’s a rocket right at someone. Soto then faced Rosario and got a swinging strikeout to end the nail-biter.

The final game of the series goes at 1:10 pm EDT.

Robot Ump Watch

Pitch #1 to Owen Miller, from Kyle Funkhouser: a “ball.”

S’cool, though, Miller eventually struck out.

Okay, maybe the ump isn’t so bad after all... pitch #3 was a called strike on Ernie Clement in the ninth:

“The Nature Boy” Approves

Stats and Such

  • The OPSes allowed by Tyler Alexander in the first four months of the season go as follows: .851, .598, .930, .726. But, if you Porcello-out his final outing of July, that month’s OPS-against drops to a neat .579.
  • Coming into tonight’s game, Alexander’s WHIP as a starter (in 18 23 innings): 1.393. As a reliever (36 innings): 1.361. You know what you’re going to get there, at least.
  • I am really enjoying Craig Monroe’s work on the radio broadcasts when he joins Dan Dickerson. Monroe and Dan Petry are going to be joining Dickerson in the booth on road games between now and the end of the season.
  • Today, August 7, is the midpoint of summer in the Northern Hemisphere. That means it’s equal times between the summer solstice (June 21) and now, vs. now and the autumnal equinox (September 21). The equivalent of this for winter is Groundhog Day.