I know there’s no such thing as a “safe” lead in baseball, but in the sixth inning of this game the Tigers sure seemed to have things stacked in their favor. Matt Boyd was throwing a no-hitter, the Tigers were up by eight runs, and for a moment it felt like losing was impossible.
Friends, nothing is impossible in baseball.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s see how the Tigers got to that sixth inning where things very quickly started to go wrong.
Things got going early as Zach McKinstry hit a leadoff home run in the first inning. Javier Baez got to first safely thanks to a fielding error from the Nationals pitcher, and then Riley Greene walked. He and Baez were then able to advance ninety feet on a passed ball. Andy Ibanez then grounded out to score Baez. Nick Maton drew a walk, then an Akil Baddoo single scored Greene. Baddoo successfully stole second, but there were no further runs in the inning. The Nationals went 1-2-3 in the bottom of the first.
Both clubs went 1-2-3 in the second.
The Tigers weren’t content with a 3-0 lead, which is smart. In the third they started off with a Greene single, but he was erased from the basepaths by Ibanez, though Ibanez was able to successfully advance to second on a throwing error. Marton walked for the second time in the night, and then Baddoo hit a three-run blast, to put the Tigers up 6-0. Eric Haase walked, then reached second on a wild pitch. Matt Vierling reached on a single, and that was it for the Nationals starter, Jake Irvin. The Tigers didn’t score any additional runs that inning, but they certainly made a splash.
Boyd hit Keibert Ruiz with a pitch, putting a runner on the basepaths, but maintaining his no-no. He got through the remainder of the inning without any damage.
Onto the fourth, and there were singles from Torkelson and Maton (have a night, Nick), but no runs scored. The no-hit bid continued for Boyd in the bottom of the inning. In the fifth the Tigers got a solo home run from Vierling putting them up 7-0. Boyd once again kept things quiet in the bottom of the inning. So often games like this have a bit of a reversal, but to this point the Tigers were adding on and cruising right along.
Now here we are, where our story began. Look, the sixth started fine enough. Greene homered to start the inning and the Tigers had an eight-run lead. Then the bottom of the inning got underway and the wheels just seemed to fall off with alarming speed. Ruiz doubled on what should have absolutely been a catch for Vierling in right. Then a one-out double for CJ Abrams scored Ruiz. Lane Thomas followed with a two-run shot to left, and suddenly it was 8-3 with no one out yet.
A Joey Meneses ground rule double was it for Boyd, who went from no-hitter to no-thank you. His final line for the day was 5.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 1 HR on 91 pitches. It started well but ended very very poorly. Englert got the final out of the inning.
A Baddoo walk and a Vierling fielder’s choice were the only men on in the second, and no runs scored. The bleeding wasn’t done yet, though. Mason Englert was back for the seventh, and gave up a walk to Dominic Smith, a single to Stone Garrett (great baseball name), and then threw a wild pitch that scored Smith. A Ruiz home run then scored two more, and very quickly it was a two-run game. An Alex Call double brought the tying run to the plate, and AJ Hinch to the mound to make a pitching change. Shreve was next up out of the bullpen and got a flyout that allowed Call to take third, and Hinch pulled the infield in as usual. Javy Báez, as he did several times in this one, came up clutch with a slick pick of a Lane Thomas one-hopper, holding Call at third. Shreve punched out Luis Garcia, and danger was averted.
The Tigers bats were quiet in the eighth, and into the bottom of the inning Foley was up next for the Tigers. After two outs he walked Smith and as soon as Corey Dickerson stepped up to pinch hit, Hinch turned to Alex Lange to close things out with four outs. He easily got the final out of the eighth, dusting Corey Dickerson with a nasty 97 mph twoseam fastball.
The ninth was a 1-2-3 affair for both sides, and the game wrapped up with a Tigers win and a Lange save, though no doubt Hinch would’ve preferred to save Foley and Lange, considering the way this started. Still, it’s a win, and wins are good.
Final: Tigers 8, Nationals 6