After Monday night’s 10-inning win, the Tigers looked to take the second game of, and thus win, the three-game weekday series against the Kansas City Royals. But despite getting plenty of runners on base, they only scored once all night, dropping the game 4-1.
Eduardo Rodriguez made his tenth start of the season for the Detroiters. His last start was a bit of a let-down, as he gave up four runs in five innings in a clunker of a loss against the Pirates last Wednesday. But let’s not forget the incredible run of six starts from April 12 through May 10: about seven innings per start, a 0.43 ERA, six walks against 41 strikeouts, and nearly 70% of his pitches were strikes. Would we get this Dr. Jekyll version of Rodriguez tonight, or the Mr. Hyde version we saw last week? (Honestly, it was a little of both.)
The Royals started veteran reliever Mike Mayers, who spent a few years each with the Cardinals and the Angels before coming to the Royals in the offseason. His best stats came in the shortened 2020 season, where he had a WHIP of 0.900 in 29 appearances out of the bullpen. He has been stretching out as a starter in the minors for most of this season so far, and with the Royals leaning heavily on their bullpen on Monday night, they’d need length out of Mayers — and they got a surprising amount of it.
Rodriguez got into a bit of a first-inning jam after a one-out single and walk, but a pair of strikeouts bailed him out of it. Mayers struck out the first four batters he faced, before Nick Maton singled to left in the second inning, but a flyout and strikeout stranded him. It was Whiff-Fest ‘23 right off the hop, as in the first two innings the Tigers and Royals had each struck out five times, but the Sun shining directly on the batter’s eye might’ve had something to do with that.
In the fourth the Tigers loaded the bases with a pair of squibbly little infield hits and a walk, and with two outs Miguel Cabrera came to the plate. Unfortunately on the first pitch he hit a ground ball to third, and the toss over to second ended the inning.
The Royals countered in the bottom of the inning with some much improved swings against Rodriguez: a Javier Báez throwing error, a double and a pair of singles put the Royals up 2-0 with runners on the corners and one out. A walk loaded the bases for Salvador Pérez, who hit a sacrifice fly to cash-in another run.
A pair of two-out singles in the top of the fifth chased Mayers who, to his credit, gave the Royals a heck of a lot more than anyone expected. Báez jumped all over Jose Cuas’ first pitch and hit a line drive to center, scoring Zack McKinstry to narrow the gap to 3-1.
Bobby Witt Jr. manufactured a run all by himself in the bottom of the fifth: he bunted for a single, stole second base, and scored on an Edward Olivares single, reinstating the three-run lead.
The Tigers loaded the bases again in the sixth, with a walk, a single and an error by Witt. Jake Rogers then hit a screaming line drive to second base for the second out, leaving things up to McKinstry who struck out swinging, including a very questionable called strike two. Alas, this observation was made:
Tigers have had 10 base runners (2 BB, 8H) and 7/9 starters record a hit through just 6 innings.— Scott Bentley (@BentleyScotty) May 24, 2023
Tyler Holton took over in the bottom of the sixth for Rodriguez, who had an unimpressive final line a lot like his previous start’s: five innings, four runs (but only two of them earned), and a pair of walks. The big difference was his nine strikeouts, which were nice, but that final line was definitely more Hyde than Jekyll, for sure.
Holton’s sixth was good and boring, and his seventh saw Witt advance to second base but nothing came of it. He stuck around to start the eighth and gave up a pair of singles, and eventually the Royals loaded the bases with two outs. But Holton got pinch-hitter Nate Eaton, who’d started the season 3-for-51, made it 3-for-52 with a soft popup in to short left field which was easily caught by Báez for the third out.
Aroldis Chapman came on for the ninth and he fed ‘em the gas; pinch-hitter Jonathan Schoop walked, but that was all they’d manage to do — which sorta fit into the theme of the rest of the evening, frankly.
Now That’s Some Heads-Up Baserunning
Ronald Acuña Jr. really caught ‘em napping. Love this.
Acuña going 1st to 3rd on a walk. pic.twitter.com/YZyYAxKzL8— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 23, 2023
Observations Quantitative and Qualitative
- I’d heard that one Mr. Riley Greene had been good lately, so I took a look at his stats recently. In a 22-game stretch from April 26 through Monday night’s game (97 plate appearances), he’s slashing .348/.402/.483 for an OPS of .885. In that time he’s hit six doubles, two home runs, and “only” struck out 21 times. Mind you, his BABiP is a whopping .439, so he’s been extremely lucky as well.
- Is Spencer Torkelson the unluckiest man on this Tigers team? Last night he sent a screaming line drive to the gap, but Jackie Bradley Jr. made a sensational running catch. On the season his BABiP is .273, which is about 20 points below major-league average. But when you put with that his 80th-percentile average exit velocity and 83rd-percentile hard-hit percentage... I mean, buddy, keep doin’ what you’re doin’, but holy mackerel, that’s some bad luck.
- The Blue Jays really know how to bust out of a losing streak.
- Happy early birthday to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom who would have turned 204 on Wednesday. We here in Canada had ourselves a long weekend; the Monday which lands on either May 24, or the Monday just before that day, is a national holiday. Often, “May 24” is pronounced “May two-four,” as “a two-four” is slang for a case of beer, a nod to the theme of the weekend often spent drinking adult beverages at, say, a cottage.