After a Kansas City rainout on Sunday and a snowy Michigan off-day on Monday, the Tigers returned to the field on Tuesday evening to take on the New York Yankees. Since it was a game involving the Yankees, it took forever. How does this not drive Yankee fans crazy? Anyway, in the end, the Tigers were doomed by some shoddy defense and the Yankees won 4-2.
Taking the hill for the Tigers was Tyler Alexander, whose place in the rotation seems a little more sure these days after injuries have sidelined a pair of starters. Alexander spent last year bouncing back and forth between the rotation and the bullpen, and performed admirably in both roles, although a little better as a starter overall (3.38 ERA and .730 OPS-against as a starter, 4.54/.742 as a reliever). He was better in the second half last year (1.158 WHIP vs. 1.400 in the first half), as most of his starts came in the July-September stretch.
Facing Alexander was the always-dangerous Gerrit Cole, who has been Mr. Dependable by making 30+ starts in every non-shortened season since 2017. Not only has he avoided major injury, over that stretch he’s had a 3.20 ERA and a 1.049 OPS-against, struck out 11.7 batters and only gave up a shade above one home run per nine innings, and struck out roughly 5 batters for every walk he surrendered. In case you’re not into stats: that’s good. Really good. Cole has a high-90s fastball with a stupendous slider that sees the low 90s, features a changeup in the high-80s, and can strike you out with all three of ‘em.
Aaron Hicks hit a leadoff single in the first, and Anthony Rizzo drew a one-out walk. Giancarlo Stanton swung mightily on a nasty changeup for the second out, but D.J. LeMahieu walked to load the bases with two outs and bring the dangerous Josh Donaldson to the plate. Alexander nibbled at the inside corner to push the count to 3-0, then worked the count full, and Donaldson popped it up about ten feet in front of home plate. The wind took ahold of it, nobody seemed to want to take charge of the situation, and at the last second Alexander stuck out his glove to catch it; it clanked off his glove, he reached out to grab it, it bounced off his glove again, Tucker Barnhart reached out and it hit off his glove, and it fell to the grass. Two runs scored. Ugh.
Alexander’s day was done after a 42-pitch first inning; it’s early and it’s cold and the Yankees have a well-earned reputation for being patient at the plate, so that was it for him. Rony Garcia came on and walked Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the first hitter he faced (who stole second), and on a 2-1 pitch to Hicks, Garcia spiked a pitch into the ground not far from the mound and immediately looked down at his right hand. Trainer came out, Garcia’s night ended, Will Vest appeared. Kiner-Falefa, who’d taken third on Garcia’s wild pitch, came home on a Hicks sacrifice fly to make it 3-0. A flyout to center limited the damage, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Cole had time for a shower and a shave and something else during the lengthy half-inning.
AJ Hinch is just a diabolical strategist. Iced Gerrit Cole for two innings on a cold, windy day by having the Tigers play godawful baseball. Playing the long game.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 19, 2022
It was later announced that Garcia had a cracked fingernail, so I’m glad it’s not anything major. Can you super-glue that back together?
Miguel Cabrera led off the bottom of the second with a single (more on that below), and uncharacteristically, Cole issued his second and third walks of the night to load the bases with one out. Willi Castro, who got the start at shortstop tonight, fouled off a ton of pitches against Cole and had an incredible 11-pitch at-bat which eventually ended in a walk — Cole’s fourth of the night — to force in Cabrera and narrow the gap to 3-1. Grossman lifted a fly ball to left, scoring Akil Baddoo and making it a 3-2 game.
Austin Meadows followed with another lengthy at-bat which ended in a walk — Cole’s fifth (!!) of the night — which re-loaded the bases and ended Cole’s night: he threw 46 (!!!!) pitches in the second, leaving after 1 2⁄3 innings. Sadly, Jonathan Schoop struck out against Clarke Schmidt to end the inning, but Cole was out of the game, so that was lovely.
Now it was going to be a true Battle of the Bullpens. Who would be the victor? Well, if you read the headline, you already know, of course. So let’s move on.
Vest looked mighty fine in the third, mixing in some delightful sliders and a mid-90s heater. Shoot, we might have something here! Drew Hutchison, the main long-relief guy in the Tiger bullpen these days, threw three innings on Saturday so manager A.J. Hinch really had to piece things together tonight.
To that end, Wily Peralta made his season debut to start the fourth. Kiner-Falefa hit a one-out single to Schoop in short-right, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout, but was stranded at third on a flyout. Peralta left with two outs in the fifth, and left runners on first and second for Jacob Barnes, who had been solid in three outings so far before tonight. He continued that nice run by striking out the dangerous Joey Gallo swinging on a cutter.
Meanwhile, Schmidt kept on rolling, giving the Yankees a bunch of quality relief innings on the evening. Early on, it didn’t look like anyone could get a good grip on the ball, but Schmidt and Peralta/Barnes helped this game actually get rolling. Good for them.
Wandy Peralta took over for Schmidt in the sixth, which means we had both Wily and Wandy Peralta in the game. They’re both from the Dominican Republic and are about two years apart in age, but as far as I can tell they’re not related. (No word yet if either team was planning to sign Jake Peralta and have him pitch in the game.)
Alex Lange came on for the seventh and got through the heart of the Yankee order mostly unscathed. He made a perfect pitch for strike three against Stanton — whoops, sorry, nope, that was a ball (more on that below). Regardless of the lousy call, he got out of the inning with no damage. I’m really liking Lange’s and Barnes’ work out of the ‘pen this year so far. I know it’s early, but a guy can dream, can’t he? Besides, dreams don’t cost a thing and they can make you feel real nice-like.
The Tigers looked to get things cooking in the seventh against Clay Holmes, as Schoop drew a leadoff walk. Jeimer Candelario followed with a solid single to right, bring Cabrera to the plate. A wild pitch pushed the runners up to second and third, but Cabrera hit a high chopper to third; Schoop broke for home on contact and was thrown out at home. Spencer Torkelson then struck out swinging and that was the inning.
Michael Fulmer was summoned for the eighth: strikeout swinging, strikeout looking, single, popout.
The bottom of the eighth brought Miguel Castro out of the Yankee bullpen, and he got a flyout and a couple of pop-outs against the bottom of the Tigers lineup.
Joe Jiménez pitched the ninth. Coming into tonight, Jiménez had four outings so far this season, each one inning, all scoreless. Hicks led off with a walk, and after a Judge strikeout, Rizzo walked to put two runners on for Stanton, who hit a lazy fly ball to left. LeMahieu lofted a lazy looper into short right field off the end of the bat, scoring Hicks and pushing Rizzo up to third. A groundout ended the inning but the score was now 4-2 with Aroldis Chapman trotting in from the bullpen.
The top of the Tigers lineup faced Chapman: Grossman struck out, Meadows flew out to center, and Schoop grounded out to second.
The Tigers lost, but hey, at least the bullpen looked pretty good, right?
The Hunt for 3000 Hits
Miguel Cabrera’s second-inning single turned the big numbers beyond the outfield wall, clicking over to 2996 hits.
My prediction for big #3000: an inside-the-parker, headfirst slide into home. You heard it here first, folks.
Seventh inning. Pitch #5 against Giancarlo Stanton was... a ball? Sheesh.
Down on the Farm
Wilmer Flores, who made a great start in West Michigan a few days ago, neatly duplicated the feat tonight.
Wilmer Flores is slaying some Dragons this evening pic.twitter.com/kfjoV5BYBR— Rogelio Castillo (@rogcastbaseball) April 20, 2022
Stats and Minutiae
- Last year, Tyler Alexander gave up a miniscule .373 OPS to 8th-place hitters. What’d he give up to 9th-place hitters? A lousy 1.162 OPS. Very strange.
- Michael “Big Mike” Pineda looks like he’ll make his season debut on Thursday against one of his former teams. That should be fun.
- Both the Yankees and the Tigers used a four-man outfield at times tonight. I play slo-pitch softball and that’s a look we’ve occasionally used for years. I’m not saying that big-league clubs are copying my team, but I’m not saying they aren’t.
- On this day in 1897, Jiroemon Kimura was born. He became the oldest verified man to ever have lived, dying in 2013. Think about that: he was a six-year-old boy when the Wright Brothers flew their first plane, and was still around when the Higgs Boson was finally discovered. Now that’s a life.