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Tigers 4, Reds 1: Successful Sunday in Cincy

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Detroit’s pitchers played with fire a lot of the day, but they got the job done when they needed to.

Syndication: The Enquirer Albert Cesare / The Enquirer via Imagn Content Services, LLC

The rubber match of a three-game weekend series between the Tigers and Reds in the Queen City saw the Motowners take the finale, 4-1, to win said series two games to one on a humid Sunday afternoon. The pitching was solid overall, and some aggressive baserunning paid off.

Casey Mize’s 26th start of the season looked to build on a six-inning start against the Twins last Monday, in which he scattered five hits (and his first home run surrendered since August 10). With the innings limit we’re expecting, there aren’t likely to be any more starts this season like his stellar 7 23 inning outing against the Mariners back in May.

Facing Mize today was, arguably, Cincinnati’s ace, Luis Castillo. His numbers might not look too great this season, with a 7-14 record, 4.25 ERA and 1.376 WHIP — but, his FIP is only 3.90, so he’s been a bit unlucky. You can’t argue with his stuff, though: an excellent, high-80s changeup that he plays off a high-90s fastball. He occasionally throws a slider in there as more of a show-me pitch, but he’s basically a two-pitch pitcher. But hey, what a pair of pitches.

The first inning was uneventful for both teams, but the Tigers had a couple of LOBsters in the second, via a pair of walks, as Willi Castro grounded out on a hot shot to third to end the inning. Mize went nine-up, nine-down in the first three innings, only striking out two, but as Crash Davis once reminded us, “Strikeouts are fascist, ground balls are more democratic.”

Mize got The Handshake from manager AJ Hinch after the third, as the inning-limiting plan came into effect in full force. Would I have liked to have seen Mize go deeper into this one? Sure, but in a meaningless September 2021 game vs. a meaningful September 2022 game, in which would you prefer Mize go deep? (Hey, a guy can dream.) His final line today: 3 innings, 0 hits, 0 walks, 2 whiffs, 34 pitches and 27 strikes.

José Ureña took over for the fourth inning; he’s been working his way back after about a month on the shelf. His first outing was a Mize-like three-inning, no-run start against Toronto, then this past Wednesday he worked the fifth and sixth innings against the A’s. Ureña got into trouble with one out in the fourth, giving up singles to Tyler Naquin and Nick Castellanos, with the dangerous Joey Votto coming up. But, Votto hit a liner to Willi Castro at second, and he threw to Niko Goodrum covering second base to double off Naquin and end the inning. I’ll take it!

Ureña was giving up some solid contact in the fourth and into the fifth, with a pair of singles putting runners on first and second with one out. He induced a ground-ball forceout off Max Schrock’s bat to put runners on the corners with two out and Castillo at the plate, but Ureña didn’t mess around and he struck out Castillo on three pitches.

Akil Baddoo led off the sixth with a soft ground ball hit down the left field line; he hustled and made it into second just in front of the throw. With one out, Robbie Grossman hit a ground ball to first, and it took a funny hop past Votto but Jonathan India at second was able to scoop up the ball... but then India dropped it, allowing Grossman to reach first and Baddoo to scoot over to third. Grossman promptly stole second without a throw, and Baddoo was taking some huge secondary leads off third, anticipating a wild pitch. Jeimer Candelario hit a two-run triple to drive both runners in, drawing first blood for the Tigers and putting them up 2-0.

Eric Haase hit a medium-depth fly ball to right field, and Candelario made a nifty hook-slide to score after a good throw by Castellanos almost got him, pushing the lead to 3-0. (Mind you, Candelario nearly muffed the play by having to tag up after coming a bit down the line on contact, so at least he was able to get away with one there.)

Ureña looked to have a solid shutdown inning after being given the lead, and with two outs in the sixth, Ureña’s day was done. Michael Fulmer was brought on to face Votto, who grounded out to end the inning.

Luis Cessa took over for Castillo to pitch a 1-2-3 seventh. (Here’s a fun one: Cessa was traded to the Tigers from the Mets with Fulmer, in exchange for Yoenis Céspedes, at the 2015 trade deadline. He had seven ho-hum outings for Toledo before being traded to the Yankees in the Justin Wilson trade at the end of the season.)

Fulmer continued on to the bottom of the seventh, and he got three easy outs. Notably, he broke out his curveball twice against Kyle Farmer, and got two swinging strikes on pitches in the dirt.

Then, Akil Baddoo manufactured a run all by himself (with some help from Ramon Santiago coaching at third). He led off the eighth with a walk off Brad Brach, and Jonathan Schoop hit a soft line drive to Naquin in short left-centre, who was playing deep. Baddoo was running on the pitch, and was flying around second towards third; Santiago waved Baddoo around third and he scored, from first, on a routine single, without a throw, STANDING UP.

I mean, sure, Schoop got thrown out at second, but who cares? That was fun as heck. The next batter, Candelario, tried to advance to second on a single to centre too, but got similarly thrown out. As the old saying goes, “You can’t make an omelette without running into a few outs on the basepaths sometimes.”

Ed. Note: Plus, like, eggs and stuff.

Everyday José Cisnero came on to pitch the bottom of the eighth, for his 64th appearance of the year. Cisnero walked Schrock to lead off the inning, and it was quite a battle:

Thirteen pitches, eight foul balls; you win some, you lose some. A groundout pushed Schrock to second, and India’s single to right put runners on the corners with one out; Gregory Soto was brought on to close out the game and get the final five outs.

Soto uncorked a wild pitch in the dirt to pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera, scoring Schrock to make it 4-1 with India moving up to second. Cabrera eventually walked, bringing Castellanos, as the tying run, to the plate. Castellanos eventually struck out on a nasty 2-2 slider, but Soto had to face Votto, who was hitting .213 against lefties (vs. .300 against righties) coming into today. Another slider got Soto out of the inning as Votto swung-and-missed on one of ‘em low-and-outside, stranding two runners on base. Everybody breathe now!

After going meekly in the top of the ninth, Soto carried on and managed to get pinch-hitter Eugenio Suarez to foul-out to right on one pitch; quite a feat, as there isn’t much foul territory down there. Farmer followed and flew out to right, too, for two outs. Aristides Aquino, who hit a three-run home run off Matthew Boyd on Saturday, pinch-hit and, since Victor Reyes loves catching fly balls, tied the major-league record for putouts in an inning for the final out. Soto got the five-out save, and the Tigers won the game.

However... there’s something worth pointing out here, which you may have noticed — or perhaps taken for granted, seeing as how often it seems to be happening under AJ Hinch. Soto, arguably the Tigers’ best relief pitcher, was brought into a very, very tight spot. In hindsight, it was probably the highest-leverage situation of the entire game. (I don’t have those stats on me presently, but that’d be my guess.) With a more traditional, rule-following manager, Soto would be left to only get three outs in the ninth for the stat-padding save... but here he was brought in to face the heart of the lineup, the toughest outs, in the tightest situation. Magnificent.

Note that tomorrow’s game is a Labo(u)r Day afternoon matchup in Pittsburgh against the Pirates, at 1:35 pm EDT.

Hasta Luego, Julio

Stats and Notes

  • Eric Haase hit his 20th home run of the year last night, after only about 300 plate appearances. His OPS was .781 coming into today, and that’s not too shabby for guy who still has rookie status. Baseball Reference lists his offensive WAR at 1.8 and his defensive WAR at 0.4. I’ll be happy (probably next year) when The Sarge can come back and do most of the work behind the plate, but Haase could be a solid backup and sometime outfielder, not unlike Mickey Tettleton.
  • All weekend, when Kyle Farmer has been at the plate and an announcer would say something like, “2-1 count on Farmer,” the first thing my brain would inevitably do is think, “What is Buck Farmer doing at the plate?” Wait, was I the only one who’d think this? Nevermind.
  • Brad Brach’s last name is pronounced as if it was spelled “Brock.” I learned something today.
  • That Sunday night game tonight, Dodgers at Giants, is going to be must-see baseball, especially with Walker Buehler starting for Los Angeles. Cancel all your plans, pop up some popcorn, pour yourself a beverage, and settle to watch two teams who hate each other duke it out.
  • Today would have been the 109th birthday of avant-garde composer John Cage. He would alter pianos by putting metal objects in the strings, he composed a lot of instrumental music to accompany modern dance pieces, and was generally an unusual composer in pretty much every respect. His most famous work, called 4’33”, consists of a piano player coming out on stage and sitting silently at the piano for that length of time; the idea is that the piece is composed of the sounds in the player’s environment. It remains, to this day, as the only composition that I can play flawlessly on a piano.