Coming home, riding a season-best four-game streak of scoring at least six runs in a game, and going 3-1 in that streak, the Detroit Tigers fell flat to open their homestand as they got routed by the Seattle Mariners in a 9-3 beatdown. Matt Manning did not look sharp the second time through the order while George Kirby was dominant over a Tigers offense that once again went quiet after showing faint signs of life.
Matt Manning made it through the first inning with relative ease, but in the second inning, he hung a slider to Ty France, who deposited it over the wall in the right-centerfield corner. He got the remaining two outs in the second but then the wheels came off in the third. It started with a solo home run to Cal Raleigh to right field, and then followed with six of the next seven batters reaching base on four singles, a double, and a walk. All of the hits seemingly came off of Manning’s slider or curveball. The Mariners pretty clearly switched to hunting the breaking ball early in the game, and it took way too long for Manning and Tucker Barnhart to adjust.
It was a bit of a surprise as it was his slider that was so good in his last outing which pitched six shutout innings and where he racked up eight strikeouts. His velocity was right in line with his season averages and he was spinning his pitches with the same RPM as his season averages, so it didn’t appear to be a physical problem afflicting him. Maybe it was just one of those nights when he just didn’t have a good feel for his stuff? Maybe it was Tucker Barnhart calling repeatedly for breaking pitches in the middle of the zone for 10 straight batters before adjusting? Baseball is a game of so many nuances, so we’ll never know the real reason. Either way, both the game plan and execution were fatally flawed.
Regardless, Manning’s night came to an end after walking Carlos Santana in the third inning to load the bases after it was already a 5-0 game. Will Vest came on and gave up a single and a sac fly to up the score to 7-0 before finally retiring the side. Manning’s line was quite ugly in this one. Two and a third innings pitched, seven runs, one walk, and one strikeout on 67 pitches.
Meanwhile, George Kirby added to what might be considered a possible AL Rookie of the Year campaign, if not for a guy on his team named Julio Rodriguez. He gave up just two hits, both to Miguel Cabrera, over his five innings of work. The lone threat the Tigers could create against him was in the bottom of the fifth. Cabrera led off with a long leadoff double that initially looked like it might go out, followed by a one-out fielding error and a walk to load the bases. But Willi Castro popped out and Riley Greene flew out to center field to end the threat.
Daniel Norris came in to relieve Jose Cisnero in the fifth inning and gave up a single to France and then a home run to Carlos Santana to make the deficit 9-0 Mariners. He settled down to give the Tigers a solid three innings of work and prevent multiple position players from pitching in the late innings. As such they only needed to use Kody Clemens for the ninth inning after they gave Jason Foley an inning of work in the eighth.
The Tigers finally got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the eighth off Chris Flexen, a starter that moved to the bullpen to make room for one Luis Castillo. Flexen took over for Kirby in the sixth as the Mariners looked to save innings on their young rookie. Willi Castro led off with a single and Riley Greene followed with a triple to break up the shutout. Zack Short brought Greene home on a sac fly later in the inning so plate another run. The Tigers scored their final run in the ninth on a Kerry Carpenter drive to right that was misplayed into a triple. Carpenter came home on a Jeimer Candelario single to complete the scoring in this one.
When Cabrera reached in the second inning, he drew a throw from Kirby and had a good laugh at the idea of Kirby being worried about his blistering speed.