Well, that’s baseball for you. The matchup everyone thought suited the Tigers best, with Eduardo Rodriguez on the mound, turned into a rout with an assist from some uncharacteristically bad defense as the Pirates split the series on Wednesday afternoon.
Rodriguez got off to a solid start in this one, picking up where he left off on this recent six start run of excellence. He struck out Ke’Bryan Hayes to start the game, then stranded an Andrew McCutcheon single by popping up Carlos Santana to end the inning.
A.J. Hinch stacked the lineup with right-handers against veteran southpaw Rich Hill in this one. Riley Greene got a rare day on the bench, though there was no doubt he’d get in the game at some point. Matt Vierling led off with a single, but Hill struck out Andy Ibáñez, Javier Báez, and Spencer Torkelson all swinging to end the first inning.
The second inning was decidedly shakier from Rodriguez. Connor Joe led off with a single, and shortstop Rodolfo Castro fought through a nine-pitch battle to draw a walk. Ji Hwan Bae dropped down a sacrifice bunt, but Jake Rogers pounced on it, firing to Zack Short on third to get the lead runner and keep a double play in order. Chris Owings worked a long at-bat, as Rodriguez’s recent precision wasn’t in evidence, but he eventually froze him with a fastball for the second out of the inning.
Rodriguez was already at 40 pitches at this point. His next offering was a belt high cutter away, and catcher Austin Hedges drilled it to center field and off the glove of Vierling, who couldn’t haul it in running onto the warning track as Joe and Castro raced around to score. 2-0 Pirates. It was a tough enough play to not draw an error, but he had his glove on the ball. Hayes lined out to center to end the inning, but this was not the start we were looking for.
The Tigers went quietly in the second, with a bad strike three call on Eric Haase included in the mix. Jonathan Schoop struck out, while Miguel Cabrera grounded out to first, ending the inning in a footrace between himself and Hill, two of the oldest players in the league.
Dick Mountain vs. Miggy, Sprint. pic.twitter.com/msySsgnIja— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 17, 2023
Rodriguez struck out Brian Reynolds to open the third, and picked up two quick outs beyond him to help get his pitch count back in better shape. The Tigers got a two-out walk from Vierling as the lineup turned over, but Ibáñez lined out to end the inning.
In the fourth, Rodriguez struck out Joe to start the inning, but Castro got a cutter over the middle and nailed it for a solo shot to left center field. 3-0 Pirates. Bae grounded out and Rodriguez struck out Owings to end the inning.
The Tigers got a one out walk from Torkelson in the bottom of the fourth, but after Eric Haase was called out on strikes on a pitch on the outer edge, A.J. Hinch saw Haase start to blow up at home plate umpire Nic Lentz and intervened with a tirade of his own, getting ejected from the game. Frankly this strike call wasn’t bad, but the previous one in the second inning was pretty egregious. Bench coach George Lombard took over the game from Hinch, and Schoop grounded into a force of Torkelson at second to end the inning.
Here was the offending call in the second inning against Haase.
Might have more to do with this pic.twitter.com/ncGLXNR33W— Gannon Kauffman (@mlbfan2002) May 17, 2023
We rarely see Hinch lose his cool, so this was most of the entertainment for the afternoon.
"You made it about you."— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) May 17, 2023
The mics picked up pretty much everything during Tigers manager A.J. Hinch's ejection today. pic.twitter.com/yoMPSdVpS2
A Reynolds double and a McCutcheon single made it 5-0 Pirates in the fifth, while the Tigers continued to flail against Hill. Tyler Alexander kept the Pirates off the board in the sixth, and again the Tigers went 1-2-3.
Rodriguez’s final line: 5.0 IP, 4 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 5 SO. There was certainly more hard contact against him than we’ve seen since the beginning of April, but one could argue that if Vierling holds onto the ball in the second the whole outing looks a lot different. Just not the Tigers day.
Finally in the seventh, a pair of Jonathan Schoop defensive mistakes helped the Pirates blow this one open. Reynolds led off with a single, and McCutcheon pulled a ground ball to Báez at shortstop. They probably wouldn’t have turned two, but either way Schoop dropped the toss from Báez and everyone was safe. Carlos Santana doubled home Reynolds, moving McCutcheon to third. Joe singled home McCutcheon, and then Schoop just whiffed on a Castro ground ball that just rolled into right field to keep the line moving and score Santana. Uncharacteristically bad defense from Schoop, and maybe a sign that his limited playing time is starting to weigh on him. He’s just not going to get the bat going with 5-10 plate appearances a week. On the other hand, the Tigers did nothing right in this game, particularly at the plate, so there was plenty of blame to go around.
Bae struck out, but that was all for Alexander as Jose Cisnero took over. He popped up Chris Owings for the second out, but Hedges lined a single to center field to score Joe, and when the dust cleared it was 8-0 Pirates.
The Tigers got nothing but a Schoop walk in the bottom of the seventh despite Hill coming out of the game. Tyler Holton came on to pitch the eighth and the Tigers signaled capitulation by pulling Báez, moving Short to shortstop, Ibáñez to third, and Akil Baddoo entered the game taking over in right field. Holton allowed a Reynolds single but no more.
Jose Hernandez took over for the Pirates in the bottom of the eighth. He punched out Short and then Jake Rogers, while Vierling flew out to right to send this to the ninth. Holton retired the side in the top of the ninth. RHP Dauri Moreta took over for the Pirates to finish it off and he easily did so, striking out Ibáñez, Baddoo, and Torkelson to end it.
Yeah, just forget about that one. The Tigers will be off on Thursday as they travel to Washington, D.C. to take on the Nationals this weekend.
A Tigers offense gets 1 hit or fewer while striking out 14+ times:— Chris Brown (@ChrisBrown0914) May 17, 2023
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