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Guardians 8, Tigers 4: Detroit blows chance to take season series against Cleveland

Andrew Chafin struck out the first three batters in the eighth, but the Tigers still gave up four runs in the frame.

Detroit Tigers v Cleveland Guardians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers lost their 19th and final game of the season against the Cleveland Guardians Wednesday in a showcase of ugly baseball that mercifully ended at 8-4 following a six-run eighth from the hometown victors. The win gives Cleveland the edge in the season series, 10-9, and pulls the all-time series even (1,144-1,144).

Things looked good for most of the night, but Tigers fans know too well that something has to go wrong with this team whenever possible. It took a one-run Cleveland third inning to get Detroit’s bats going. Riley Greene and Victor Reyes each drew walks, and Javier Báez slapped a weak line drive into right field to load the bases.

Harold Castro couldn’t get the ball out of the infield and Greene didn’t beat the throw from third base to home, but Kerry Carpenter is good for a long fly ball whenever it’s called for. He probably wanted to get a little more on it for home run No. 3 in as many games (plus it would have been his first major league grand slam), but tying the game was a nice consolation prize at the time.

Eric Haase came through in the very next at-bat on a ground ball up the middle that should have scored two. Amed Rosario laid out and somehow kept the ball in the infield, which wound up saving a run after Guardians starter Cal Quantrill got out of the inning.

Until that point, Quantrill had looked strong against the Tigers. His sinker, while hittable later on, got him through three perfect innings while mixing in both his cutter and changeup. But once the seal was broken, the Tigers kept chipping away at him.

Detroit added another run to the lead in the fifth on a Reyes line drive to left field that scored Akil Baddoo from second. Baddoo singled to kick off the effort and raised his average up to .191 since returning. Crossing the Mendoza Line in the positive direction is always cause for celebration, and Baddoo is quietly hitting .300 in August.

The fifth inning could have been bigger, but Riley Greene was called out on a questionable third strike that looked well above the zone for the second out. He’s a rookie and isn’t going to get the calls seasoned veterans do, but he seems to be on the wrong side of a bad call every other game since being called up. Maybe that’s an overreaction, but the kid doesn’t have as bad an eye as his 30.4% strikeout rate might indicate. Then again, a 7.1% walk rate backs up the idea that he’s struggling to see things, so maybe I shouldn’t vouch for a player who just walked for the first time in over 50 plate appearances...

Daniel Norris, who got off to a rough start hitting three batters through the first three innings of the game, earned the right to a decision after closing out the fifth on his 89th pitch. Things got dicey more than once, but what matters is the end result and Norris left the game with a 3-1 lead that gave Detroit a chance to win.

Willi Castro entered the game for Harold Castro (details below) and immediately delivered. He made the defensive assist to get the final out of the fifth and added an insurance run to Norris’ lead in the top of the sixth. That run was much needed at the time after José Cisnero gave it back in the bottom half of the inning.

Andrés Jiménez, who doubled home Ramirez for the Guardians’ first run of the night in the third, led things off with another two-bagger. He moved to third on a Steven Kwan ground ball and scored on a passed ball that Haase didn’t squeeze.

The Tigers went down in order in the seventh on three-straight swinging strikeouts to James Karinchak. Fortunately, Will Vest got the Guardians to go down 1-2-3 for the first time in the evening, and Karinchak’s control slipped in the eighth. Reyes walked for a second time, which is the third time he’s taken two free bags in his 362-game MLB career. He got all the way to third and Kerry Carpenter walked as well to put men on the corners, but Bryan Shaw came in to get out No. 3 with just one pitch.

That’s the third missed opportunity for runs mentioned in this recap, and considering what came next, the Tigers need to learn to drive those in if 2023 is going to be any sort of improvement.

Andrew Chafin struck out the side in the eighth and should have been out of the inning, but a wild-pitch third strike that reached the backstop kept the inning going, and Myles Straw singled to put two men on. Pitching coach Chris Fetter came out to talk to Chafin, but that didn’t stop him from giving up a run. Kwan hit a fly ball that hung in the air for what seemed like an eternity and Reyes couldn’t reach it before it dropped in fair.

The Guardians’ foul-ball boy was in the way of where Reyes would have broken down had he not slowed early, but it’s hard to tell how much the kid impacted his route. The ball bounced into the stands, keeping the tying run from scoring temporarily, but Chafin’s night was over and in came Alex Lange.

Rosario singled on a tapper to the left side that wasn’t hit hard enough to make a play on. Tie game, 4-4. That’s when the floodgates opened up. Ramirez and Oscar Gonzalez double to give Cleveland a three-run lead, and Owen Miller added one more for good measure. Guardians up, 8-4.

Is anyone else’s stomach upset after watching that?

It wasn’t so much that the Tigers blew the lead. They do that most nights and have for about five years now. The disheartening part about this game was that Detroit seemed to be inventing new ways to lose a baseball game. Chafin got out of the inning. If the ball bounced in front of or behind the plate on the pitch that got by Haase and extended the inning, the Tigers take the season series.

Then to watch multiple soft-hit balls turn into RBI singles... it’s enough to make the most patient fan’s blood boil. Chafin certainly seemed bewildered as he watched the game get out of hand from the bench. Remember, he struck out the first three batters of a six-run inning!

Anyway, the rest of the game went as one who watches these Tigers games day in and day out might expect. Detroit rolled over and died and took another loss. There’s always tomorrow, though. And by that I mean the Tigers quite literally can not lose on their day off before hosting the Los Angeles Angels, the only team in baseball more memeable than Detroit these days (maybe, it’s close).

Injury Updates

Harold Castro, who left the game in the fifth inning, is dealing with soreness in his left thumb, according to the team. Castro has been one of the better hitters on the team all season, so losing him for any extended period would be yet another blow to a team already down on its luck.

There is a bit of good news. Eduardo Rodríguez should be back at some point soon, with hopes to add him to the roster over the weekend. He struck out 11 and cruised through six innings in Toledo Wednesday, including an immaculate inning (nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts).

Of course, as things often go in Tiger land these days, the good news comes with plenty of bad. Left-handed starter Tarik Skubal underwent an exploratory flexor tendon surgery on Wednesday in Los Angeles. That leaves his timeline for return murky at best just days after Skubal was added to the 60-day injured list. The surgery is being considered a success by Dr. Neal ElAttrache, which manager A. J. Hinch says is enough for him.

Austin Meadows is also still on the mend. The Tigers expect to evaluate him again on Friday, but he hasn’t felt capable of competing at the level required in the major. Hinch was supportive of Meadows and would rather get him back at 100% than bring him back for the final weeks of an already lost season.