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Tigers 4, Mariners 3: Bryan Garcia’s quality start leads Detroit over playoff-bound Seattle

Bryan Garcia had the best outing of his career Monday night and lead the Tigers to an 11th win in 13 games.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Seattle Mariners Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Tigers continued their winning ways late Monday night (technically, the game ended after midnight making it Tuesday morning over here on the East Coast, but who’s keeping track?). The Tigers beat the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, and got a surprise quality start from Bryan Garcia.

The 27-year-old only had three major-league starts under his belt coming into this one, and his last time out was six weeks ago in August. He was also the University of Miami’s closer in his junior year of college, drafted back in 2016, and made just the first start of his professional career back on July 10 for Triple-A Toledo. To Garcia’s credit, he lasted six innings in that one and only gave up three earned runs, so maybe this is the new norm for him.

Detroit’s offense got things started early against George Kirby. Akil Baddoo drew a leadoff walk and stole second base after Riley Greene struck out. Baddoo didn’t look like he was going to get in before the tag, but Dozier bobbled the short-hop from Seattle’s catcher, Cal Raleigh, and he incidentally booted the ball away from the bag. Javy Báez lined a ball to left that was caught, but Miguel Cabrera snuck a ball up the middle to score Baddoo and give Garcia a nice lead to open the game.

Unfortunately, Garcia didn’t exactly know what to do with the lead and blew it in the bottom half of the opening frame. Julio Rodríguez sent the second pitch he saw back up the middle at 110 mph, and Garcia plunked Ty France to put two men on without any outs. Garcia got Mitch Haniger to fly out, but Rodríguez advanced to third after the catch was made, setting up an easy sacrifice fly opportunity for Eugenio Suarez.

Greene might have had a shot to get Rodríguez at home, but he lost a routine fly ball in the lights and let Baddoo corral it in. Because Baddoo came over from left field to make the out, he didn’t have an angle to get a strong throw off and Rodríguez scored easily. Frankly, Baddoo wasn’t going to get him anyway, and probably neither was Greene.

Kirby and Garcia settled down during the second inning. Both put together 1-2-3 innings, with Kirby striking out a pair.

Baddoo reached again in the third, this time on a chopper to the left side that Suarez had no chance of making a play on. He tried to swipe second again, but Raleigh connected with Dylan Moore to catch him. Baddoo should have stayed put considering Greene walked on the very next pitch and Báez went deep to right-center, giving Detroit a 3-1 lead, but hindsight is 20/20 and calling for a steal made sense at the time. Baddoo ultimately went 2-for-3 in stolen base attempts, so he was putting plenty of heat on the Mariners overall.

A 4-1 lead does feel a lot more secure than a 3-1 lead does, though, especially when the defense looks like a high-school group in the very next inning. Seriously. Greene, Victor Reyes and Jonathan Schoop all watched a ball fall between them in right-center as they avoided colliding with one another. That might be the luckiest single of Rodríguez’s young career and there’s really no excuse for those kinds of defensive gaffes this late in the season. Thankfully, Garcia didn’t miss a beat and closed out the inning without letting Rodríguez advance into scoring position.

Detroit hopped back on the sticks in the fourth and added on to what was already turning out to be a rough night for Kirby. Schoop singled to get things started, Kody Clemens reached on a fielder’s choice to second and Tucker Barnhart moved him into scoring position with a bunt single. Reyes worked the count full, bringing Kirby to around the 80-pitch mark, and drove a ball to right field. Haniger had a bead on the ball, but he fumbled it as it came down. Reyes was awarded the RBI single, giving Detroit that extra insurance run it missed out on in the third.

Garcia went back to work back in the bottom of the fourth. He retired the Mariners in order with a little help from Baddoo in left to get out No. 3. After a shaky first inning, Garcia settled in quite nicely. He retired nine of the next 10 batters after giving up the run in the first while Kirby struggled to get through four innings. Kirby’s problem seemed to be his fastball. It came in about 1.6 mph slower on average than it usually does and he was missing high with it (and the sinker).

Matt Brash came in to pitch the fifth for Seattle and made it through the inning without giving up a run despite allowing a pair of baserunners. Harold Castro doubled with two outs and Schoop walked, but Clemens grounded out to end the threat.

Garcia finally stumbled in the bottom of the fifth. Moore singled to start things off and Garcia walked Haggerty after slipping during his delivery. Detroit’s pitching coach, Chris Fetter, went out to talk to him, but the advice didn’t help and Frazier singled in a run. Garcia didn’t get the hook, though, and he locked in to get out of the jam. He struck out Rodríguez with a high sinker that caught the inside corner and got France to ground into the double play he was looking for.

Our old friend Matthew Boyd came out in relief of Brash for Seattle, and boy does he know his former club well. He struck out the side in the sixth and retired the heart of Detroit’s lineup in order in the seventh. It’s good to see Boyd doing well and headed to the playoffs after so many years in Detroit, but it always stings a bit to see a former Tiger thrive once he’s out of the Motor City.

Surprisingly, Garcia came out to start the seventh for the Tigers. With a doubleheader on the schedule tomorrow, A. J. Hinch was hoping to save a bullpen arm, but Garcia couldn’t make it through the inning. He got the first two outs easily enough, but he walked Haggerty and gave up a single to Frazier. With Rodríguez up to bat once again, Hinch pulled Garcia in favor of Jose Cisnero. J-Rod drove his 25th double of the year into left field, scoring a third run for the Mariners, but Frazier was held up at third base. Cisnero struck out France and preserved a one-run lead for Detroit heading into the eighth.

Boyd returned to the mound for Seattle in the eighth and made quick work of the Tigers. He walked Ryan Kreidler, who pinch hit for Clemens, but nothing came of it with two outs already on the board. Cisnero answered Boyd’s strong work with a 1-2-3 inning of his own in the bottom of the eighth, and the Tigers needed to hold on for just one more inning to claim an 11th win in 13 games.

Diego Castillo replaced Boyd in the ninth, but the Tigers couldn’t break through against him either. Baddoo singled and stole another bag, but Castillo stranded him on second.

Andrew Chafin came in to get the save for Detroit and quickly retired Jarred Kelenic and Moore to bring Seattle down to its last out. Haggerty singled up the middle to keep the game alive and stole second to put the tying run in scoring position. Unfortunately, he came up wincing and needed help to get off the field. Seattle just secured a spot in the playoffs and it hurts to lose anyone at this point in the year. Hopefully, it isn’t too serious.

J. P. Crawford replaced Haggerty on second and Chafin went back to work on his third save of the year. He brought Carlos Santana to a 3-2 count and struck him out swinging with a wicked slider to secure the win.

Detroit’s been hot recently, and enough can’t be said about what this stretch will do for the young players on the team moving forward. Garcia was particularly impressive tonight, getting it done in tough spots against good players who are priming themselves for a postseason run. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if Hinch left him in to face Rodríguez once more, but skip made the right call and got the win in the end.

If you’re keeping score at home, the Tigers are 10-2 since Scott Harris was announced as the new President of Baseball Ops. They’ll play two against Seattle on Tuesday night, before wrapping the 2022 calendar on Wednesday afternoon.