Well if it’s not everything, it’s at least one thing. The Tigers fought back after a shaky first inning from their rookie starter, but fittingly, their best reliever entering the season blew a tie game in the eighth and went on to lose 5-3 as the A’s took the series four games to one.
In fairness, it was another shoddy performance from the offense, who cashed in a few runs but still went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Not good enough.
Things started off pretty poorly for Beau Brieske in this one. Throughout a long first inning, in which the A’s scored three, the young right-hander struggled to locate anything. The Oakland lineup continued to look for pitches up and away, spraying them to right field at every opportunity. Tony Kemp spanked the first pitch of the game for a single, stole second base, and the A’s were off to the races.
Brieske walked Sheldon Neuse, and then Spencer Torkelson couldn’t handle a hot shot from Jed Lowrie that one hopped Tork’s glove into right field, scoring Kemp from second. Seth Brown flew out to left, and then, after Brieske got ahead 0-2, Ramon Laureano fouled off a host of pitches before slapping a little comebacker right through Brieske’s legs. Instead of a double play opportunity, everyone was safe and the bases were loaded. Christian Bethancourt lined a two-run single to left, and just like that the Tigers mistakes had cost them three runs. Brieske struck out Luis Barrera, and then at Bethancourt tried to steal second, Tucker Barnhart faked a throw to second and caught Laureano off third base to end the inning. However, once again they were down early, and their starting pitcher had burned well over 30 pitches.
The Tigers responded by going 1-2-3 against James Kaprielian. Brieske bounced back with a quick 1-2-3 inning of his own, and once again the Tigers’ offense went down in order.
The A’s got a leadoff single from Neuse in the third. Lowrie battled his way to a walk as Brieske continued to battle his command. Seth Brown flew out, and fortunately, a line drive from Laureano right at Brieske’s head was instinctively deflected by his glove hand. The ball went straight to Harold Castro at shortstop and he turned the double play to end the threat.
The Tigers started the bottom of the third with a Willi Castro single and a Torkelson walk, but Tucker Barnhart grounded out, Grossman struck out, and Austin Meadows grounded out as well to complete the squander.
Brieske gave up a leadoff walk to start the fourth, but continued to show good composure after a shaky first inning. He retired the next three on order, though still not getting many whiffs, and finished the fourth at 73 pitches after throwing 34 in the first. The bullpen, and his manager, no doubt appreciated this fact.
The Tigers got a leadoff walk from Jeimer Candelario to start the bottom half of the inning. Then they got a Miguel Cabrera double play ball, and Harold Castro flew out on the first pitch he saw.
An 11 pitch top of the fifth for Brieske, ending with a Jed Lowrie fly out, saw the Tigers rookie end the inning at 84 pitches. He really did not command any of his three main offerings well in this one, as reflected in the fact that he recorded just one strikeout. Still, the Tigers needed those innings from him badly, and it was pretty impressive that he was able to deliver. Had he handed the first inning comebacker that got through his legs, this start would look much better. However, Brieske really needs to continue working on his slider and refining his command if he’s going to take the next step. He’s still a rapidly developing young starter though, and there is plenty to like thus far.
Willi Castro collected his, and the team’s, second hit of the day with a one-out single in the bottom of the fifth. Torkelson drew his second walk of the day, and the Tigers had a little something going again. Tucker Barnhart followed, and stroked an RBI double to the out-of-town scoreboard in right center field to score Castro and get Torkelson to third. Kaprielian got ahead of Grossman 1-2, but left a changeup over the plate. Grossman grounded that one to first, scoring Torkelson and advancing Barnhart to third with two outs. Unfortunately, Meadows popped out to shortstop, but the Tigers had trimmed the A’s lead to 3-2.
Brieske came back out for the sixth, though the bullpen was stirring again. He punched out Seth Brown on a nasty changeup down to start things off. Laureano flew out to left for the second out, and Bethancourt grounded out as Brieske finished off an unlikely quality start with 93 pitches thrown. Only two strikeouts on the day, but really not too many hard hit balls either. Considering a rough, and long, first inning, Brieske again showed a lot of the ol’ moxie to grind out six innings and blank the A’s the rest of the way.
Only five whiffs on the day, so things need to improve, but Brieske finished with a respectable line: 6.0 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 H, 3 BB, 2 SO. 57 of 93 pitches for strikes.
The A’s turned to reliever Domingo Acevedo in the bottom of the sixth. Candelario greeted him with a triple to center field, and Cabrera followed with a double to right field over Laureano’s head to tie things up 3-3 with no outs. That one tied Cabrera with Barry Bonds on the all-time doubles list with 601, now 17th all-time.
Harold Castro worked a full count but flew out the opposite way to left. Jonathan Schoop popped out to catcher Bethancourt right against the netting. There was initially controversy over whether it hit the net, and the Tigers challenged the call on the field. They were unsuccessful, and Willi Castro flew out to strand Cabrera at second.
A.J. Hinch turned to Will Vest to take over from Brieske in the seventh. Vest punched Barrera’s ticket to start things off. Kevin Smith flew out to right, and finally blew away Cristian Pache with a 96 mph heater at the top of the zone. Vest continues to be nails for the Tigers in the early going.
Former top southpaw prospect A.J. Puk took over in the bottom half. He blew away Torkelson on three pitches, but Barnhart singled for his second hit of the game. The Tigers batted ball luck continued when Grossman lined out to Kemp at second and then Meadows grounded out.
Hinch used Michael Fulmer and Gregory Soto in Wednesday night’s game just to get them some work. He hoped it would pay off as he turned to Fulmer to hold the tie in the top of the eighth. It did not pay off.
Fulmer retired the first two hitters he faced, but then walked Lowrie. Seth Brown then took Fulmer deep to right field for a two-run shot to make it 5-3. Complete team performances and the Tigers are not vibing this season.
Puk had no trouble with the Tigers in the bottom of the eighth. Hinch pinch-hit Javy Báez for Harold Castro with two outs, but to no avail.
Joe Jiménez spun a clean top of the ninth. but that left the Tigers with just three outs to score two or more runs against A’s reliever Dany Jimenez. We weren’t taking bets on that one. Schoop struck out, Willi Castro flew out, and Spencer Torkelson popped out in a 3-2 count to second base to wrap up another loss.
The back of the lineup actually had a good day as Barnhart and Willi Castro each had two hit games. Candelario walked and tripled. Will Vest was also excellent in relief once again.
The Tigers are now 9-23, just one more loss from equaling their 9-24 stretch to start the 2021 season. The resemblance is uncanny. Hopefully that carries through. Eduardo Rodriguez will try to stop that from happening on Friday night as the Baltimore Orioles come to two for a three-game weekend set.