Key two-out hits and another dominant performance from all six relievers deployed out of the Tigers’ bullpen carried them over the Blue Jays 4-2 on Friday night in Toronto.
With right-hander Bryan Garcia, who has yet to stick in the bigs even in relief, getting called up for the start, this matchup with fiery right-hander Alek Manoah looked like a disaster in the making on paper. It did not turn out that way at all, because baseball.
The Tigers had some good swings against the Blue Jays’ All-Star in the first inning, but fortune was not on their side. Riley Greene and Victor Reyes both lined out to start the game. Javier Báez also hit the ball well, going down below the zone to find a Manoah slider and lining to left for a double. Unfortunately cleanup hitter Harold Castro struck out to strand Báez at second.
Meanwhile, Garcia got a fly out from Cavan Biggio and then struck out Vladimir Guerrero Jr. whiffing on a pretty good slider away. Alejandro Kirk laced a single to center, but Teoscar Hernandez grounded out to end the inning.
The Tigers went 1-2-3 in the second, with Jeimer Candelario called out for interference running to first on a tapper down the first base line. The Tigers seem to get that called against them more than anyone.
Garcia came right back out in the bottom of the second and punched out Lourdes Gurriel on another nasty slider. In the early going, Garcia’s velocity was consistently around 94-95 mph, and his slider had more depth going than last time we saw him. However, our fears began to manifest when Matt Chapman drove a sinker out to center field for a home run. Still, the damage was minimal, and Garcia cleaned it up from there getting Ramiel Tapia and Santiago Espinal on weak contact to end the inning.
Manoah quickly struck out Tucker Barnhart and Akil Baddoo to open the third, but Riley Greene smoked a double almost to the wall in center field for a two-out double. Victor Reyes lined one to right center field and Teoscar Hernandez went for a sliding catch and missed it. Greene scored to tie the game, and the whiffed play allowed Reyes to take second base on the play. That brought Báez back to the dish but he flew out to left to end the frame.
Riley Greene's double off CF wall off Alek Manoah had a 111.3 mph exit velocity -- his second-hardest hit ball of his young big-league career, according to Statcast. He scored on Victor Reyes' two-out double. 1-1 game.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 30, 2022
Garcia kept it going in the bottom of the third. Zack Collins grounded out and Garcia blew Cavan Biggio away with a fastball down the middle after getting ahead with a well located slider and changeup. Vladdy grounded out to third, and hey, Garcia was doing quite well.
Frankly, if you told me going into this one that Garcia would go three innings and allow two runs with three strikeouts, we would’ve been quite pleased.
Harold Castro flew out to open the fourth, but Jeimer Candelario slashed a double the opposite way down the left field line with one out. A ground out from Willi Castro moved Candy to third with two outs for Jonathan Schoop. The second baseman made a bid, lifting a deep fly ball to left, but Gurriel hauled it in at the wall to turn the Tigers away.
Garcia kept it going in the fourth, getting a pair of weak outs before walking Gurriel on a slider away in a full count. That brought Chapman to the dish as Garcia’s pitch count climbed above 60 pitches. He’s not stretched out yet, so this was going to be the end either way. Command was starting to falter a bit. Garcia fell behind Chapman with three straight sliders away, then dropped 96 at the very bottom of the zone for a strike. He came back with 95 up for a whiff, and he had another full count. Unfortunately, he just missed away with a fastball for a second straight walk, and Chris Fetter came out for a chat before he faced Tapia again. A.J. Hinch made the call to stick with Garcia here, and it didn’t pay off as Tapia flared a single to left to score Gurriel. That brought Hinch out a batter too late.
Overall that was 3.2 innings of good ball from Garcia despite going into this with a rough pitch limit of 60-65 pitches. Will Vest got a quick ground ball to conclude the fourth. 2-1 Jays.
Tucker Barnhart led off the fifth with the Tigers’ third deep fly ball caught against the wall, and Akil Baddoo flew out softly to center. Riley Greene put together a good AB, taking a nasty slider down for ball four, and once again the Tigers got a two-out baserunner. Reyes lined a single to left, and that brought Báez back to the dish with runners on as the Tigers continued to lay off the slider and forced Manoah to throw strikes.
He did not throw strikes, instead sailing a fastball in and hitting Báez on the upper left arm to load the bases. That was pretty close to the spot the Tigers’ shortstop got hit a few days ago, so that probably felt great. Hittin’ Harold stepped to the dish with the bases juiced and after Manoah missed again with a pair of fastballs up, Harold sat slider and rifled a single to right to score both Greene and Reyes. Harold was amped by the results. Candelario then made a bid for a single in the hole to keep things moving, but second baseman Biggio made a sliding stop and threw him out by a half-step to end the Tigers’ rally.
We think Hittin' Harold is a bit excited. pic.twitter.com/7Ik2H2ioKr— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) July 30, 2022
Vest allowed a Vladdy single in the bottom half of the fifth but no more.
Willi Castro led off the sixth with a line drive homer to right as Manoah continued to struggle with his command. That was Castro’s fourth homer and second in as many days. Things got even worse for the big right-hander when Jonathan Schoop drilled him on the arm with a line drive. It was a hard enough shot to deflect to Espinal at shortstop, who got the out at first, but Manoah had to leave the game at that point. Not a good night for the budding ace of the Blue Jays’ staff.
Lefty Tim Mayza came on and pitched around a two-out walk of Akil Baddoo, striking out Riley Greene to end the frame.
The Tigers turned to Jason Foley in the bottom half of the sixth. He punched out Hernandez with a nasty slider down and away to start things off. He then spotted several filthy 97 mph swing-back sinkers on the outer edge to freeze Gurriel, and got Chapman to ground out.
Coming into the game, the Tigers held a 26-3 record when they took a lead into the seventh inning, so clearly this one was all over.
Still, the Tigers wanted more runs, and started off against reliever David Phelps with singles from Reyes and Báez to open the seventh inning. Harold Castro lifted a fly ball out to the track in right and both runners took 90 feet. Unfortunately, a sharp Candelario ground ball to Biggio with the infield in led to Reyes getting thrown out at home running on contact. That left it up to Willi Castro with two outs but he was rung up on the second close check swing call of the AB, both of which went against him.
Joe Jiménez came on in the bottom of the seventh and just blew the Jays away. With a lot of eyes on him, and one of the bloodiest Statcast pages around, the right-hander struck out the side and now holds a 55/8 strikeout to walk ratio in 39 innings, with just three homers allowed. Jiménez comes with one more year of team control and should be a very valuable commodity in the coming days.
The Tigers were turned away in the top of the eighth, and the display of luxury goods continued. This time it was Michael Fulmer, who walked Vladdy Jr. but recorded two strikeouts against Kirk and Biggio to send this one to the ninth.
Harold Castro drew a two out walk, but otherwise the Tigers went quietly and it was Gregory Soto time.
The big lefty was sharp, getting a quick ground out on a nice play by Candelario off the bat of Gurriel. Soto blew Chapman away, touching 101 mph. That left it up to Bo Bichette, pinch hitting for Tapia. Bichette fouled off some ferocious heaters, and eventually lifted one deep to center where Riley Greene camped out and squeezed it for the final out.