Capping off an exciting day in which the Detroit Tigers formally introduced their new President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris, to the world, the actual baseball club itself won the second game of their three-game series, 3-2, against the Baltimore Orioles.
Joey Wentz, the six-foot-five (196 cm) Kansan, made his fifth big-league start. He made two starts back in May to help out a depleted Tigers rotation, and since returning at the start of September he’s made two starts: one sensational, the other... well, actually, not so bad either, it just could’ve been a little more efficient. But let’s return to that September 9 start against the Royals, just because it looks so pretty: 6 2⁄3 innings, two hits, no runs, a lone walk, and five strikeouts.
Opposing the Bengals tonight was Austin Voth, who was cut loose earlier this season after being, frankly, terrible out of the Nationals’ bullpen. But he looks like a new man after going the forty or so miles up the highway to Charm City: in 19 appearances including 14 starts coming into tonight, he’s had an ERA under 3, a WHIP just over 1.2, and has been excellent at limiting home runs. (The moved-out and hiked-up outfield fences at Camden Yards probably helped with that too).) Voth wasn’t so hot in 2021 and 2020 with Washington either, so whatever the O’s did to fix him, find who worked that magic and give them a raise!
Wentz was looking pretty solid early; he snapped off quite a curveball in the first on his way to a strikeout of Anthony Santander, and he got Jesús Aguilar swinging on a delightful changeup in the second. His mechanics were looking smooth as butter, too; he gave up some long fly balls early on, but those are just loud outs, right?
Akil Baddoo absolutely unloaded on a 2-0 fastball to right field, launching it 448 feet (137 m) well into the seats. Jeimer Candelario preceded Baddoo with a walk, making the homer one of the two-run variety.
In the third, Willi Castro made a couple of two-out blunders at shortstop, only one of them counting as an error (the other was scored a single) put Orioles on the corners with the dangerous Ryan Mountcastle at the plate. But, on a full count, Wentz absolutely froze Mountcastle with a cutter right down the middle of the plate that he took for strike three. “Out for excessive window-shopping,” Ernie Harwell might’ve said.
Candelario led off the fifth with an infield single to shortstop, and Baddoo crushed another one, a double to right field. Candelario rumbled around third and tried to score, but a perfect relay throw from Ramón Urías to Adley Rutschman at the plate cut down Candy. I don’t disagree with Ramón Santiago’s decision to send Candelario at all: that was an absolutely on-the-button throw.
Speaking of great throws, Wentz made one himself to end the bottom of the fifth with a runner on second: Gunnar Henderson hit a soft tapper back to the mound Wentz scooped it up, wheeled, set himself for a split-second, and made a perfect throw to first to nab the speedy Henderson by an eyeblink.
I thought that might’ve been the end of Wentz’s night after 75 pitches — and the only hit surrendered by him probably should’ve been counted as an error — but he came back out for the sixth to tackle the bulk of Baltimore’s batters a third time. The first batter he faced, Mountcastle, waved at a changeup in the left-hand batter’s box for strike three; he then induced a weak pop-out to second. After a dribbler to third by Rutschman, AJ Hinch signaled the end of Wentz’s day, with a fine final line: 5 ⅔ innings, two infield hits, two walks, four strikeouts.
Alex Lange, who has now returned to the mock-turtleneck look, wild-pitched Rutschman to second on the first pitch he threw to Aguilar, and ended up walking him to put two on base with two outs. But, on a 2-2 pitch, he threw a down-and-away changeup to get Urías swinging and end the threat.
Kerry Carpenter carried the left center field wall to lead off the seventh, making it a 3-0 score.
Fun fact: all five of those home runs so far have been on the road.
Joe Jiménez, who is trying to wrap up a strong 2022 campaign, took over for Lange in the bottom of the seventh. However, a two-run no-doubter home run by Henderson to right closed the gap to 3-2, and Jiménez’s night was done after surrendering a single to Mountcastle. Andrew Chafin, who has struggled lately, was brought in to finish the inning; he walked Santander to put two on with two out, but got Rutschman looking on a 2-2 fastball on the inside corner to finish the frame.
Chafin stuck around for the eighth and gave up a leadoff single, but on the very next pitch he got a ground ball; Ryan Kreidler at shortstop and Jonathan Schoop at second (neither of whom started the game) turned a textbook 6-4-3 double play. He then walked Austin Hays, but he got a grounder to second for the third out.
In the top of the ninth Eric Haase singled with two out, and Candelario followed with a double thumped off the right-field wall, his fourth hit and second double of the night. Baddoo lifted a flare that looked like it would drop in short left field, but shortstop Jorge Mateo — who’d made several fine defensive plays all night — raced back, reached up, and caught the ball. Gotta tip your cap on that one.
Gregory Soto came on for the save in the ninth, and I must admit, I was feeling a little queasy about that, especially after he went 3-1 on Mateo, leading off. But he got Mateo looking, got a ground ball, and got a fly ball with Willi Castro (now moved to right field) up against the fence for the third out, and that was the ball game.
Meet The New Boss, Different From The Old Boss?
Shoot, I hope so. (Apologies to Misters Townshend and Daltrey.)
How we feeling, Tigers fans? pic.twitter.com/WcGN8WQogs— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) September 20, 2022
(Apologies to Mr. Aladdin.)
Numbers and Notes
- In 14 games and 58 plate appearances since his return to the big-league club and through Monday night’s game, Spencer Torkelson’s slash line is .280/.379/.460, for an OPS of .839. His BABIP is a little above league average at .317, but not outrageously so, and he’s hitting the ball quite hard and in the air more, which means he’s not just getting lucky at the plate.
- Congratulations to Great Britain’s baseball team, which qualified for next spring’s World Baseball Classic.
- Also, congrats to the Erie SeaWolves as they handily won the first game of their playoff series, thumping the Richmond Flying Squirrels 9-3. Reese Olson went five innings, gave up one run, and struck out nine.
- Javier Báez is offering free meals to Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Fiona at his restaurant in Guarabo. That’s a tough situation there these days.
- Happy 66th birthday to American actor Gary Cole. You might know him as stats-obsessed advisor Kent Davison on Veep, or if you could just go ahead and recognize him as Peter Gibbons’ boss Bill Lumbergh, that’d be grrrrreat. Thanks a bunch!