The Tigers bullpen couldn’t bail out their punchless offense in this one. Alex Faedo did fine in his major league debut, but the offense was once again a study in futility and the bullpen fell apart late to put this one out of reach as the Pirates went on to win 7-2, splitting the doubleheader.
Alex Faedo’s career began in the classic fashion. Ben Gamel got a bit of a hanging slider and drilled it into the right field corner for a leadoff double. Fortunately, the infield defense continued to be strong. After Faedo got a pop out from Brian Reynolds, Ke’Bryan Hayes drilled a grounder to Torkelson’s right. The first baseman dove and speared it, then made a nice flip to Faedo covering first. Another nice pick from Javy Báez on a scorched grounder off Daniel Vogelbach’s bat ended the frame and turned away the scoring threat.
Robbie Grossman led off the bottom of the first with a solid single to center against Jose Quintana. Báez hit a slow chopper that the Pirates turned into the force at second, Báez flying down the line to first to avoid the double play. Miguel Cabrera struck out, but Meadows drilled a groundball right through the wickets as Pirates’ second baseman Josh VanMeter let the ball go right under his glove. Báez took third, but Jonathan Schoop grounded out to end the threat.
Michael Chavis and VanMeter started the second inning off with two straight singles, putting the rookie under some stress. Faedo continued to pound the edges of the strike zone, and got a double play ball from Diego Castillo that he wisely didn’t play as it bounded past him. Schoop grabbed it and flipped to Báez, who turned it over to first quickly as Chavis advanced to third with two outs. Faedo then punched out Roberto Perez on a high slider for his first major league strikeout to turn the Pirates away again.
With two outs in the second, the Pirates’ defense betrayed them again, as Diego Castillo threw high on an Eric Haase grounder, allowing him to reach. However, Derek Hill got carved up by Quintana, and it was Faedo time again.
Once again, the Pirates collected a leadoff single against Faedo in the third, this time courtesy of a line drive up the middle from Jake Marisnick. Ben Gamel drilled a single with Marisnick on the move, and he was able to go first to third. Now Faedo was feeling some heat. However, he got Brian Reynolds to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, with Marisnick scoring from third. 1-0 Pirates. Faedo got up 1-2 to Ke’Bryan Hayes, but couldn’t get him to bite on three straight sliders away, and Hayes walked to bring Vogelbach to the dish. And then the Tigers’ defense finally bit them.
Vogelbach popped one into shallow center field with Hill playing deep against a powerful hitter. Báez ran out toward it, but the ball dropped between them. Probably it was going to take a really good play for Báez to haul it in, and Hill just couldn’t get there. Either way, the ball dropped, with Hayes reaching third while Vogelbach got to second base. Faedo responded though, looking calm out there, and got Michael Chavis to pop out in foul territory near the Tigers’ dugout.
The Tigers went on three routine grounders in the bottom of the inning, and Faedo was back out for the fourth at just 45 pitches, with 33 strikes thrown. With only two swinging strikes at this point, Faedo was giving up a lot of solid contact to the Pirates’ lefty-stacked lineup. However, he was throwing a lot of strikes early in counts and generally pitching ahead. He just wasn’t finishing hitters off. The changeup looked decent, and his fastball command was pretty solid at 91-92 mph, but he hadn’t really had the good handle on his slider yet.
Faedo got ahead of VanMeter and he eventually grounded out to Torkeson for the first out of the inning. Castillo flew out to right field. However, Faedo fell behind 2-1 to Perez, and the Pirates catcher turned on a fastball middle-in and crushed it for a solo shot to make it 2-0. Jake Marisnick popped out to end the inning.
In the fifth, Faedo got Ben Gamel on a groundout, but Reynolds doubled into the right-center field gap. Now at 70 pitches, Faedo’s outing was nearing his end point. He fell behind Hayes 2-0, spotted a slider down and away for a called strike, and then put a fastball at the bottom of the zone that was lined to Hill in center field for the second out. Faedo spotted a first pitch changeup, and then a fastball down to get ahead 0-2, and Vogelbach lifted a routine flyout to left field to escape the jam and conclude a decent first major league start.
Faedo’s final line: 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 8 H, K, BB, isn’t very impressive, particularly against a pretty weak offense, but he showed a lot of cool calm and simply threw strikes. He’ll need to generate a lot more whiffs going forward, but considering this is only his third regular season start since September 2019, things went pretty well.
Jeimer Candelario started off the bottom of the fifth with a double off the wall, just out of the reach of Ben Gamel. It was good to see him rewarded after ripping a pair of line drive outs into the outfield earlier in the day. Eric Haase got jammed but fought it off, dumping a single into shallow right field, and Candelario read it well, racing around to score. 2-1 Pirates.
Derek Hill chopped a grounder back to Quintana, and he threw to second to get the lead runner. That left Hill at first with one out. Quintana sped up his delivery against Grossman, trying to prevent Hill from stealing second, but got a little wild, falling behind 3-1. That opened the door as he had to pump a strike in there, and Grossman ripped it to the wall in left to score Hill and tie the game 2-2. That took Faedo off the hook for the loss.
Drew Hutchison took over in the sixth, recording a quick out, but then walked VanMeter. He broke off a nasty slider to punch out Castillo for the second out, but then walked Roberto Perez as well. Hutchison looked to have struck out Jake Marisnick on a 1-2 slider, but he was ruled to have checked his swing. Marisnick battled well from there, fouling off a pair of fastballs at the top of the zone, and then laid off another good slider to work the count full. After two more fastballs fouled away, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Hutchison gave in and pumped a fastball down the middle. Fortunately, Marisnick lined it directly to Derek Hill to end the threat.
Despite looking very wild, Hutchison came back out in the seventh for some reason, and quickly surrendered a walk and a double. AJ Hinch belatedly made the switch to Will Vest to face Hayes, and Vest yanked a slider wide of home plate that Haase couldn’t corral, allowing Ben Gamel scored from third to make it 3-2 Pirates. The next pitch was a fastball that sailed up and in, hitting Hayes in the hand. It was initially ruled a foul ball, but upon review was correctly ruled a hit batter.
That brought up Vogelbach, with no outs and runners on first and third. He drove a deep fly ball to right-center field that was hauled in on a nice play by Austin Meadows. Bryan Reynolds scored from third, and it was 4-2 Pirates. Vest got Chavis to pop out, and with VanMeter at the plate, Haase cut down Hayes trying to steal second to end the inning.
Chris Stratton took over for the Pirates and struck out Grossman before getting Báez to fly out. Miguel Cabrera flicked a two-out single to right in the bottom of the seventh for his 3005th career hit. The Meadows drilled a hot grounder into the right field corner for a double, moving Cabrera to third. However, Stratton just pumped fastballs up and Schoop could not lay off, striking out to end the threat.
Vest struck out VanMeter to start the top of the eighth, then Castillo lined out to Hill in center field. That left it up to Roberto Perez, and he flew out to center field. In the bottom half, David Bednar took over from Stratton and carved up Torkelson and Candelario before Haase flew out to end the inning.
Joe Jiménez took over in the ninth and walked the leadoff hitter Marisnick on four pitches. Marisnick stole second and advanced to third on a poor throw from Haase. Notice how the Tigers’ bullpen was starting to get all this praise? Should’ve kept our mouths shut. Ben Gamel singled to left to score Marisnick, and it was 5-2 Pirates, still with no outs. Brian Reynolds flew out to right and Meadows almost doubled off Gamel at first, but Torkelson couldn’t handle the one-hop throw. Hayes then flew out to deep center field, but Vogelbach absolutely crushed a Jiménez fastball to right to open up a 7-2 lead.
Harold Castro led off the ninth with a double the opposite way, and advanced to third on a Grossman fly out. But that was as close as they’d come as Báez struck out, and Cabrera flew out to end the game.
The Tigers now head to Houston for four with the Astros. They’ll play 15 games in 14 days before their next day off on May 19.