The two heavyweight teams traded killer blows for the first two games of the brutal, three-game early-August showdown. Who would, on Sunday, be crowned the series victor, the ultimate champion of the baseball world?
Aww, who am I kidding? This is the AL Central. We’re flyweights at best around here; maybe welterweights if we’ve just eaten a big meal.
At any rate, the finale of the three-game series saw Cleveland beat the Tigers 7-5, with the Cleves scoring five unanswered runs to come back for the victory.
Like on Saturday, the start of the game was delayed by rain a bit. (Domes for everyone!) When the tarp came off, the starters who summited the hill were Wily Peralta for Detroit, and Zach Plesac for Cleveland.
Peralta this year has been great, then terrible, then in his previous start against Boston, okay. Which version would the Tigers get today? Plesac’s season has been similarly up-and-down, with a stellar trio of starts in April and May (one of which was against a much different Tigers club), a stretch of “okay,” and in his previous start in Toronto, he ran into the Blue Jays buzz-saw.
Cleveland got on the board in the bottom of the first, with a two-out double by Jose Ramirez followed by a Franmil Reyes single. The Ramirez hit was slightly misplayed by Akil Baddoo in left, allowing him to take the extra base. That was the extent of the damage, though.
Plesac walked the first two batters in the second, and after Zach Short flew out and Grayson Greiner struck out, the Tigers were in danger of squandering a pretty solid scoring opportunity. Then, Derek Hill turned a 2-2 changeup around, and hit a true Earl Weaver Special, putting the Tigers up 3-1. (A review was done, and it’s a bona-fide homer.)
Derek Hill’s first major league home run with Dan Dickerson on the call. pic.twitter.com/QNaCLhxXEf— Rogelio Castillo (@rogcastbaseball) August 8, 2021
Owen Miller answered with a solo shot of his own to lead off the bottom of the second (which Hill nearly robbed), narrowing the gap to 3-2.
The third inning saw the Tigers pressure the Cleves’ defense into making some costly mistakes. Jonathan Schoop worked a leadoff walk, and with one out Eric Haase hit what should have been an inning-ending double-play groundout to third. Jose Ramirez’s throw clanked off second baseman Ernie Clement’s glove, and Schoop immediately popped up and ran to third. Plesac threw a wild pitch, and Schoop came home without a throw. Jeimer Candelario then doubled-in Haase to push the lead up to 5-2.
Peralta settled down quite a bit after the Miller home run, inducing three groundouts in the second and striking out the side in the third.
However, in the fourth, Cleveland tied the game up with three unearned runs: a walk and a throwing error on a groundout put runners on second and third with one out. Andres Gimenez hit a sacrifice fly, and a single and a double knotted the score at 5.
Plesac gave way to Trevor Stephan in the fifth, who was taken in the Rule 5 draft from the Yankees in the off-season. Stephan handled the Tigers pretty easily, mixing a slider in with a fastball which touched 98 mph at times.
Bradley Zimmer doubled to right to lead off the bottom of the fifth, very nearly missing hitting a home run — and you had to wonder if Peralta was going to get the hook before finishing the inning. But, he then induced two weak ground balls out of Ramirez and Reyes, the heart of the Cleves’ order, and got Mercado to fly out harmlessly to right.
Peralta’s final line: 5 innings, 6 hits, 5 runs (but only 2 earned), one walk, four strikeouts. He didn’t give up too much hard contact, and he was able to shut hitters down for some nice stretches. He got burned by a bit of sloppy defensive play, so... not entirely his fault, perhaps?
The shoddy defensive work wasn’t limited to the Tigers, though: Candelario walked to lead off the sixth, and Willi Castro hit a sure-fire double-play ground ball. Castro was busting his tail coming out of the box, and the turn-and-throw by Clement at second wasn’t terribly quick; Castro then beat the throw to first, changing the complexion of the inning. After Short struck out, Grayson Greiner singled to right, and Castro aggressively took third base after Zimmer had already committed to throw to second. Consider this:
Ultimately it didn’t pay off in a run, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you have to enjoy the style of baserunning that’s been sorely missing ‘round these parts for years.
“The Amazing Erasmo” Ramírez took over for Peralta in the sixth, and made short work of Cleveland: groundout, groundout, strikeout.
Ramirez’s luck ran out in the seventh, though, as Zimmer finally got one over the fence for a two-run shot to put Cleveland up 7-5. Ramirez hit a ground ball to Castro, who fielded it and... um... sorta just fell down. That was the end of Ramirez’s day, Joe Jímenez came on, and he threw four wild ones to Reyes. But he wiggled out of a two-on, one-out jam by inducing a pop-up and getting a strikeout.
James Karinchak took care of the Tigers pretty easily in the top of the eighth, and Ian Krol returned that favor to Cleveland in the bottom of the inning.
The ninth belonged to Emmanuel Clase, as it often does. Baddoo reached first on yet another error, bringing Schoop to the plate with two outs as the tying run, but he popped out to second to end the game.
The Tigers have an off-day on Monday, and then it’s off to Baltimore to face the Orioles on Tuesday night.
Ladies and Gentlemen (and Others), Start Your Speculating!
Niko Goodrum's rehab is done and he will rejoin the team for Tuesday's game in Baltimore.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) August 8, 2021
That means a decision is coming, which A.J. Hinch acknowledges is somewhat awkward to talk about with today's game still to play.
Personally, I think Willi Castro is probably on the bubble here. We’ll see.
Editor’s Note: Gonna go with Zack Short personally. If you can’t hit and your defense is mediocre at best, it’s hard to keep you around.
Stats and Such
- Cleveland’s batters this year are, on average, 27.0 years old; that’s second-youngest in the American League, behind Toronto’s 26.7. (Detroit is at 28.1 years, just below the league average of 28.2.)
- Interestingly, Cleveland and Detroit are numbers 1 and 2 in youngest average age amongst pitchers: Cleveland averages 26.1 years old, and Detroit is 27.4 (league average is 28.7, oldest is Minnesota at 30.4).
- Cleveland’s starting pitchers are averaging 5.0 innings per start this year, just a bit below the league average of 5.1 (and slightly ahead of Detroit’s 4.9). The league leader is Oakland with 5.8 innings per start; Baltimore brings up the rear with 4.6.
- As it turns out, two Nobel Prize-winning physicists were born on this day, a year apart: Ernest Lawrence in 1901 and Paul Dirac in 1902. Lawrence invented the cyclotron, which uses big honkin’ electromagnets to accelerate tiny particles so you can smash ‘em into other things; he also has an element named after him. Dirac was a real jack-of-all-trades in quantum physics, inventing all sorts of useful ways to look at tiny things — and by all contemporary accounts was a rather unusual guy. (I think you pretty much have to be, in that line of work.)