The postponed second game of an extended four-game weekend series between the Orioles and the Tigers finally got underway on a grey but fortunately rainless Saturday afternoon, and the Tigers pounded out a whole lot of hits in a 7-4 win. Heck, the sun even peeked out late in the game for a bit.
Toeing the slab for your Tigers was Eduardo Rodriguez, who was originally supposed to start Friday night. His first two starts this year were pretty rough, but his next three have been greatly improved: six innings and one run against the Blue Jays, eight shutout innings against Cleveland, and seven sensational shutout innings against Baltimore last weekend in which he retired the first 20 in a row. The phrase “hard-luck” is pretty apt here, as the Tigers lost two of those three games.
Dean Kremer, who had a stellar sophomore season last year for the Marylanders, has had a bit of a rough season going into today’s tilt, with seven home runs given up in total, and four-plus runs surrendered in five innings being the norm. However, he reverted back to fine form two starts ago against the Nationals, where he pitched into the seventh, didn’t give up any runs or walks, and struck out six. So, which Dean Kremer would the Tigers face today?
Rodriguez, unlike his last time out, gave up a hit on the very first pitch, a double to left by Austin Hays, who was stranded at second. Oh well, get those perfect-game jitters out of the way early, I guess.
In the bottom half of the frame Zach McKinstry hit a sharp grounder to third that Ramon Urías couldn't handle, took second on a Riley Greene flyout to the left field wall, and scored on a Javier Báez single to short centerfield, making it a 1-0 game. Spencer Torkelson walked, and after a Nick Maton strikeout, Akil Baddoo hit a dribbler that Kremer couldn't field to load the bases. Matt Vierling hit a sharp single to centre to score Báez and Torkelson, and when the dust settled the Detroiters were up 3-0.
Old friend James McCann countered in the second with a solo home run in the second to narrow the gap to 3-1, but with a McKinstry double and a Greene single, the Tigers got the lead back up to three in the bottom half of the inning.
Vierling kept the hits coming, smacking a two-out double to the left-centerfield wall, scoring Maton all the way from first, pushing the lead to 5-1 in the third.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez was solid, getting through the first five innings with 80 pitches, striking out four even if his command was a little off. How far could he go today?
The Tigers put the first two on in the fifth via a single and a walk, and Vierling hit a grounder to short that produced an out at second but not a double play, as the speedy outfielder beat the throw to first. That left runners at the corners for Jake Rogers, but Vierling got McCannon'd at second on a stolen base attempt and Rogers struck out, ending the inning.
Rodriguez gave up a single and a double in the sixth, giving way to Mason Englert with two outs and runners on second and third. Jorge Mateo walked, loading the bases for McCann, who popped out to Rogers in foul territory and the threat was quelled.
In the bottom of the seventh Baddoo stuck his bat out on a 2-2 pitch and feathered a single over the shortstop's leaping attempt. Who else but Vierling brought him home, all the way from first, with a double to the left field corner. Baddoo beat the throw home to put the Tigers up 6-1.
Unfortunately Englert's magic ran out with two outs in the eighth, as Jorge Mateo poked a three run home run just over the leftfield fence to narrow the gap to 6-4. Notwithstanding the home run here, oh my goodness has this guy been a steal so far. He was a starter in the minors but he’s proven to be a valuable multi-inning guy out of the bullpen. Could he stay in that role here, or could he be moved to the rotation? Personally I’d like him to keep doing what he’s doing for now.
Zach Short, just up from Toledo, promptly got a run back in the bottom of the eighth with a leadoff home run, widening the lead back out to 7-4. Let's also tip a cap Short's way when noting two great defensive plays in the field, one on a hop off the mound and another a diving stop to his right.
Alex Lange came out to nail down the save in the ninth, and he gave up a pair of singles but ultimately did the job. That's a little more drama than I'd hoped for, bud.
Bring On the Robot Umps
Pitch #5 on Jonathan Schoop was, apparently, strike three.
Schoop's experience wasn't the only time a questionable strike call happened today, either. Sheesh.
Numbers and Notes
- I took a look at Javier Báez’s batting splits, and yep, he’s struggling against righties: coming into today he had a .560 OPS against them, vs. a .644 OPS against lefties. For his career, it’s the same story: .727 OPS against right-handed pitching, .870 against left-handers.
- That said, since the unfortunate “out-counting incident" in Toronto, Báez has been quite good: from April 14 through 26, his slash line was .361/.415/.444 for an OPS of .859. He extended his hitting streak to 11 games today, too. You're free to draw your own conclusions.
- Today was Miguel Cabrera Graphic T-Shirt day at the ol’ ball park. It was also apparently a day in which kids hockey teams were encouraged to come to the park wearing their jerseys. Very fun.
- Nick Maton's walk-up song is “Hungry Like the Wolf,” because of course it is.
- Riley Greene's mustache is, at the same time, both enviable and questionable. Someone on our staff who shall remain nameless has nicknamed him the “Stache Assassin.” (No comment.)
- On this date in 1899, Edward “Duke” Ellington was born in Washington, DC. He played piano, he led big bands, and most notably he wrote a ton of jazz standards that have been beloved for a century already and will endure for centuries to come. Fun baseball connection: as a kid he sold peanuts in the stands at Senators games.