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Rangers 3, Tigers 1: Gregory Soto blows up a Brieske gem

The rookie right-hander spun a strong seven innings, and the offense? Well they scored a run, but it wasn’t enough to prevent a blown save and a fifth straight loss.

MLB: Texas Rangers at Detroit Tigers Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

After a beautifully pitched game from starter Beau Brieske, the Tigers watched it all slip away in a disastrous ninth inning performance from closer Gregory Soto, losing their fifth straight 3-1 to the Texas Rangers in the first of four from Comerica Park.

Beau Brieske has been getting away with low strikeout rates and a fairly scary home run rate in his rookie season, but it’s come together for him over the past couple outings as his slider has improved. He was very good in this one, but as usual, getting any run support at all was tough.

Through three innings, Brieske allowed a single and no more. Meanwhile, the strikeout touch arrived in the third as he closed the inning with strikeouts of Leody Taveras and Marcus Semien.

Meanwhile, the Tigers got a two-out single from Miguel Cabrera in the first that went nowhere as Javier Báez grounded out, and were otherwise quiet until the bottom of the third when Eric Haase led off with a single. The Tigers catcher moved to second on a Victor Reyes ground out, then watched Willi Castro take a sinker in the zone for strike three. However, that did bring Miggy to the dish and he delivered with a screaming liner into right for a single. Unfortunately, Adolis Garcia made a perfect throw from fairly shallow right field, and an aggressive send from Ramon Santiago did not work out as he was easy cut down at the plate.

Brieske punched out Garcia in the fourth as part of another snappy 1-2-3 inning, but Báez and Grossman were both called out on strikes on the edges, and Jonathan Schoop grounded out to end the inning.

In the fifth, the Rangers finally got a rally going against Brieske. Jonah Heim led off with a perfect bunt toward third base with the shift on and was safe. Nathaniel Lowe then lined a fastball in center field for a single. Ezequiel Duran grounded right to third base and Harold Castro snared it as he stepped on the bag, threw to second, with the turn to first just too late to turn the triple play, and then it turned out they’d called it a foul ball. What happened next? Duran lined to Báez who fired to Schoop at second, catching Heim off the base for a double play. Brieske punched out Brad Miller with a nasty changeup down and away that Miller swung wildly over to end the inning.

Brieske quickly got Leody Taveras to fly out in the top of the sixth, but walked Marcus Semien. The Rangers’ second baseman then got picked off by Brieske and was out trying to go to second. Brieske issued his second walk of the night, this time to Corey Seager, but Garcia popped out in foul territory to Spencer Torkelson to end the frame.

In the bottom of the inning, Willi Castro led off with a single to center field. Miggy lined out to Taveras in center, but Báez smoked an automatic double to center that bounced off the warning track over the fence, moving Castro to third. Grossman brought him in with a sacrifice fly to right for the first run of the game. Báez advanced to third on the play, and that left it up to Schoop to cash him in, but the Tigers’ second baseman flew out to right to end the inning.

Kind of a classic scoring inning for the Tigers this year. A single and a double with only one out, and yet they only got one run out of it.

However, on the plus side, they had a run and Beau Brieske was eating the Rangers alive. The lefty stacked lineup really struggled to deal with the right-handers fastball-changeup combination all game long. Brieske entered the seventh inning for the first time in his major league career, and had a nice pitch count of 78 as he started the inning.

Finishing in style Brieske started lefty Kole Calhoun out with two sliders, and then carved him up with a nasty changeup down and away for a swinging strike three. Heim whiffed on a 94 mph fastball away, and after a little battle, Nathaniel Lowe grounded out to Harold Castro to complete one heck of a good start.

Brieske’s final line was: 7 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 2 BB, 6 SO. He threw 63 of 94 pitches for strikes. Changeup continues to be the key weapon for him, but the slider is definitely improving, and Brieske held his velocity well, still pumping 94-95 mph with good tailing life in the seventh.

Spencer Torkelson led off with a single in the bottom of the inning, and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt from Harold Castro. Eric Haase flew out, and Reyes grounded out, as the Tigers threatened but did not score.

Michael Fulmer handled the eighth without much trouble, pitching around a one-out walk to Brad Miller by striking out Sam Huff and getting Marcus Semien to lift a routine fly ball to Victor Reyes in right.

In the end, this came down to Gregory Soto versus the heart of the Rangers order. It was quite an inning, practically a three act play.

After a seven pitch battle with Corey Seager where Soto had zero ability to locate anything, Seager drew a walk. At this point, there was a pretty good hole in front of the pitching rubber, and as Chris Fetter came to the mound for a meeting, the Tigers asked for the grounds crew. There was a good ten minutes of applying water and clay, tamping the area around the rubber down, then repeating the process for the landing spot. Jack Morris went into a lengthy farming tangent about soil compaction and leaving space for water in the soil and for roots to take hold, and that was fun. Finally, they finished, Soto threw a couple of warm-up pitches, and action resumed.

The second hitter of the inning, Adolis Garcia, then smoked a 1-2 pitch right back off of Soto’s leg. He was able to find it and flip a long underhand toss to first to get Garcia, and then, clearly in pain from the sharp one-hop comebacker, had to walk around a bit to shake off the blow.

The next hitter, Kole Calhoun, took a 96 mph fastball off the ribs and was lifted for pinch runner Charlie Culberson. At this point we were probably 20 minutes into the inning. Soto got a huge break against Heim, as a fastball a few inches below the zone was called strike three in a 3-2 count, and Mr. Heim was understandably furious. The sense of dread continued as Soto couldn’t find the zone, walking Nathaniel Lowe. And finally, Ezequiel Duran drilled a line shot into the right field corner just fair, and cleared the bases. 3-1 Rangers. Just an absolute debacle of an inning.

Soto struck out Brad Miller, and that left the Tigers with one more shot. Judging by the fan reaction after Duran’s triple, there weren’t many true believers left in their seats as Jonathan Schoop grounded out, Spencer Torkelson walked on four pitches, and Harold Castro flew out to left field. That left it up to Eric Haase, and the fourth pitch he saw, a 96 mph fastball from Joe Barlow, was called strike three, completely this absolutely cursed ninth inning.