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Tigers 7, Royals 5: More of a nail-biter than it should’ve been

Beau Brieske settled down nicely after some early runs and the Tigers held on for the much-needed win.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After a disappointingly dreadful doubleheader defeat on Monday, the Tigers tried to get back on track on Tuesday evening in Kansas City. A big seventh inning and some solid starting pitching saw Detroit do just that, winning with a 7-5 score, but not without some late-inning dramatics.

Beau Brieske, who’s been showing some really nice progress as the season has worn on, was handed the ball for game 3 of the series. His previous outing was a real hum-dinger, starting with five hitless innings and ultimately pitching into the seventh in a 2-1 win against the White Sox. Really, Brieske’s only had one shaky start since the end of May, a short, five-run effort against Arizona — but, in the seven starts in that time frame coming into tonight, he’d lowered his ERA from 5.25 to 4.16.

The 2022 season has not been kind to lefty Kris Bubic, with a WHIP north of 1.8, a whopping six-ish walks per nine innings, and nine home runs surrendered in less than 50 innings entering tonight’s contest. He actually looked pretty decent in 2021, with a 4.43 ERA and 1.385 WHIP in 130 innings; not stellar numbers by any means, but definitely not a preview of what would come this season. He was drafted in the first round in 2018 out of Stanford, so the Royals have to be more than a little disappointed with his regression.

Bubic got the first walk out of the way early with two out in the first, then he added another to load the bases to bring Willi Castro to the plate — but alas, Castro popped out to second and that was that. I figured that was a good time to pour my first adult beverage of the evening. Naturally, the Royals struck back in the bottom of the inning: MJ Melendez led off with a triple to left-center on the first pitch, and was cashed-in by an Andrew Benintendi single to right, putting Kansas City up 1-0.

Akil Baddoo made his triumphant return to the Major Leagues with a second-inning second to right — off a lefty, no less — in the second, scoring Jonathan Schoop and evening the score.

Riley Greene then grounded into a double play, putting the Tigers up 2-1 (remember, if you’re scoring at home, Greene doesn’t get an RBI there). The Royals got that run back in the bottom of the second with a hit-by-pitch and a double, and another double pushed Kansas City up 3-2.

Things were pretty quiet until the fifth, when Javier Báez led off with a double to the right-field corner. He smartly advanced to third on a lineout to right, and a Miguel Cabrera sacrifice fly tied the game at threes.

Bubic ultimately lasted until two outs in the sixth, when a pair of singles chased him in favour of Amir Garrett, but Greene struck out to end the inning.

Brieske really settled in nicely, and through six innings he’d thrown 78 pitches, only giving up a single and a walk from the second through the sixth. Could the Tigers score in the seventh to put the youngster in line for the win?

Well, Báez tried to do his part, with another leadoff double against Jose Cuas (sadly, Garrett didn’t stick around so we could get a potential Báez/Garrett fireworks display); again, Báez took third on a fly ball to right field. Cabrera hit a squibbler to shortstop, Báez broke for home, and Bobby Witt Jr. took his eyes off the ball for a split-second. The ball squeaked under his glove and Báez scored, putting Detroit up 4-3; honestly, Báez was racing home and the ball wasn’t hit particularly hard, so even if Witt had fielded the ball cleanly and made a good throw, I’m not sure he would’ve been out.

What happened next was pretty mind-blowing. Cabrera, who took second on a wild pitch, noticed Cuas wasn’t paying attention to him at second, so he took off for third base. The throw from a presumably equally surprised MJ Melendez was wild and went into left field, Cabrera scored, and nobody looked more surprised than the man himself.

Willi Castro walked, stole second, scored on a Schoop double, and Schoop scored on Spencer Torkelson’s third hit of the night to make it 7-3. During such an inning Ernie Harwell would’ve been likely to say, as hit after hit rained down, “The Tigers are kickin’ up their heels!” Ah, we were spoiled for so many years.

Brieske’s night was done after six innings: five hits, three runs, one walk, four whiffs. He really settled down after some early hard contact and, at one point, retired 15 out of 16 hitters. Andrew Chafin took over in the seventh and gave up a leadoff single to no consequence.

Joe Jiménez pitched the eighth and was a bit off: he walked Witt for his first walk since June 4th, then Benintendi hit a double to left-center, scoring Witt and narrowing the gap to 7-4. A blooper to left put runners on the corners and brought Chris Fetter out for a chat; Vinnie Pasquantino struck out on three pitches, but Michael Fulmer was deemed a better choice to get the next two outs. A sacrifice fly made it a 7-5 game, and Fulmer nicked Kyle Isbel to put two on with two out; he then went 3-0 on Emmanuel Rivera, so things weren’t looking too good. However, a pair of called strikes and a swinging strike three got Fulmer and the Detroiters out of the jam, and we could all finally exhale.

Gregory Soto, recently named to his second straight All-Star team, came on for the save in the ninth. He started off ninth-place hitter Nicky Lopez with a 3-0 count, then came back to get a swinging strikeout. Melendez then hit a double to the right-field corner on a poorly located slider up, and a groundout advanced him to third base. Báez then made a nifty sliding stop and throw on a sharp one hopper off the bat of Benintendi to end the game, and set the Tigers up for a possible series split tomorrow afternoon.

Injury Rehab Report

Many Observations, Numerical and Otherwise

  • Let’s talk about Spencer Torkelson. His OPS for each month, including July so far: .660, .646, .429 and .608. (That translates to OPS+ marks of 96, 84, 21 and 71, if you like that stat.) He’s been a little unlucky, in that his BABIPs have been .257, .268, .224 and .240; league average this year is around .290. It doesn’t look like he even benefitted from the Riley Greene Effect, either, so... I don’t know, man.
  • But hey, look at all the hits Tork had tonight. You gotta like that.
  • MJ Melendez is a catcher. How often do you see catchers bat leadoff? I can’t recall such an instance, off the top of my head. Per the Royals Twitter account, apparently it was only the third time a catcher had ever hit a leadoff triple. Ever.
  • Speaking of catchers, I’ve noticed quite a few going back to the older-style two-piece catching helmet, as opposed to the hockey goalie style one-piece unit.
  • The Baltimore Orioles are, like, so hot right now.
  • If you haven’t seen the pictures from the James Webb Space Telescope, holy moly, you really should. Proud to say I’ve already changed my laptop’s background picture to the Deep Field. Science is pretty rad.
  • In local history, on this date in 1812 American forces briefly invaded and overtook the site of present-day Windsor, Ontario during the War of 1812. These days, Americans tend to invade Windsor more for its lower drinking age and, shall we say, burlesque entertainment options.