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Rays 8, Tigers 1: Brieske battles, hitters helpless

Detroit couldn’t muster much offense against a talented young left-hander.

Detroit Tigers v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

The middle game of a three-game series in Tampa saw the Tigers put their four-game winning streak on the line against a good young pitcher.

...wait, hold on. That still looks weird to me. “The Tigers’ four-game winning streak.” How about that?

Anyway, the streak had to end sometime and the Rays beat the Tigers 8-1 at Tropicana Field.

The Talented Mr. Brieske — Beau, to you and me — took the hill for the Tigers, in his fifth major league start. Coming into tonight, he’d pitched 21 innings, giving up 15 hits... but alas, five of those 15, fully one-third of the hits he’s surrendered, were home runs. That’s pretty unusual. What also jumped out to me from the stats page is that, despite having a 3.86 ERA (that’s good), his Fielding Independent Pitching, or FIP, was 6.58 (that’s bad).

Shane McClanahan, who had a stellar rookie year last year, and who’s done pretty well for himself so far coming into tonight, started for the Rays. In 39 13 innings over his first seven starts of this year, he led all of Major League Baseball with 58 strikeouts starting play today, good for a 13.3 K/9IP rate. In contrast to Brieske, McClanahan had also given up five dingers, but in roughly twice the innings pitched. McClanahan’s nasty stuff, paired with the Tigers’ anemic hitting of late, well, that doesn’t make for a very promising evening.

The Rays drew first blood on a tough-hop ground ball to first base: with a runner on third, Spencer Torkelson threw to second base to get a forceout, allowing Yandy Díaz to score from third, putting Tampa Bay up 1-0.

The home run dragon roared up in the second to bite Brieske again, with Kevin Kiermaier hitting a solo shot in the second to stretch the lead to 2-0. On the other hand, through the second inning, Brieske was getting a lot on his fastball, inducing quite a few swings and misses.

In the third, Arozarena reached on a fielder’s choice, was balked to second on a strange balk call (his front knee buckled a bit, I guess?), and a single to center by Kiermaier plated him.

Jeimer Candelario got that back with a monster home run on the first pitch of the top of the fifth.

He really put a charge into that one.

Alas, Brett Phillips returned the favor on the second pitch in the bottom of the fifth with a solo shot of his own, making it 4-1. A fielder’s choice, a pair of singles and a sacrifice fly made it 6-1.

I assumed that’d be the end of Brieske’s day, but he came back out for the sixth to face the bottom of the order. Things were going well enough, but then a bunch of fielders lost a popup in the roof, then Brieske bobbled a comebacker, and A.J. Hinch had seen enough. Hinch was trying to stretch Brieske out a bit, knowing he’d probably need the bullpen rested on this road trip, but he had to settle for 5 13 innings from the rookie. Jason Foley took over and got an around-the-horn, 5-4-3 double play on a sharp grounder to Candelario.

Foley’s had an interesting year. He made the team out of Lakeland, gave up a run in his first two outings, then had three consecutive scoreless appearances... before getting optioned to Toledo. He was recalled on May 12, threw a scoreless pair of innings against Baltimore on Saturday, and acquitted himself very nicely tonight. I can envision a bullpen in which Foley, who’s a ground-ball factory when he’s on his game, is an important piece who can put out a fire by getting outs on balls beaten into the ground.

McClanahan’s day was done after seven innings, giving up a scant four hits, walking none and whiffing another seven. He gave way to sometime-sidearmer Ralph Garza Jr., who was picked up on waivers by the Rays in April. Garza gave up three singles to start the top of the eighth, loading the bases for the white-hot Willi Castro with none out. Within three pitches, though, a dribbler in front of the plate and a double-play grounder to shortstop made quick work of the threat. Cue the sad trombone.

Will Vest, who’s been very solid so far, gave up a solo home run to Arozarena to straightaway center in the bottom of the eighth. Vest’s control was pretty spotty tonight, and a walk, a single and a sacrifice fly scored the Rays’ eighth run. Joe Jiménez took over for Vest with two outs, and got old friend Isaac Paredes to ground out to third.

Needless to say, the Tigers did not mount a giant comeback in the top of the ninth, and that was the game. As “The Stranger” in The Big Lebowski once wryly observed, “Sometimes, you eat the bear. And sometimes, well... he eats you.”

(Partial) Injury Update

I Shouldn’t Find This As Amusing As I Do

It’s just Tigers, but photo-edited to make them appear wee. Why do I enjoy this so much?

Notes and Observations

  • Alex Avila and his dulcet tones continued their three-game run in the Tigers’ radio booth, accompanying Dan Dickerson. I like Avila in that role.
  • Beau Brieske’s given first name is Beau. I was always curious about this until I looked it up, because I knew actor Beau Bridges’ first name was not Beau. (He’s actually Lloyd Vernet Bridges III.)
  • Michael Pineda, who broke a bone in his right finger, will not need surgery to heal that bone. Hopefully that means he’ll return a little sooner. Hurry back, Big Mike!
  • Having a baseball park’s domed roof the same colour as a baseball is a dumb, dumb idea.
  • On this date in 1756, Great Britain formally declared war on France, starting the Seven Years’ War. This conflict would greatly alter the map in Europe and the Americas, with France losing a good deal of territory in North America. Curiously, a small pair of islands off the coast of Newfoundland, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon, was kept by the French and remains the last tiny little stub of New France on the North American continent.