The Detroit Tigers are... good? The Tigers got back to their winning ways against the Cleveland Guardians Monday night with a 6-2 victory that saw Detroit play all phases of the game well.
Left-hander Joey Wentz put together what might have been his best start of the season, striking out five over 5 2⁄3 innings of two-run ball. The bullpen was solid, as expected, and the bottom two bats in the order went a combined 5 for 7 with five runs scored.
Things started off a little slow. Wentz spiked the first pitch of the game in the dirt and gave up a 105.2 mph liner off the bat of Steven Kwan with the second. Amed Rosario barreled a hanging curveball (107.6 mph) for a single to put men on the corners, and the Tigers traded a double play for a run to fall behind early.
Detroit came back rather quickly, though, scoring three runs in the third. Andy Ibáñez and Eric Haase each found the gap in right-center to put runners on the corners, and Zach McKinstry beat out a soft-hit grounder to short, tying the game up. Riley Greene broke up the streak of singles with a flyout, but Javier Báez rocketed a grounder between third and short to score Haase.
Nick Maton added another run for Detroit on a double to right field, but Akil Baddoo and Miguel Cabrera stranded the bases loaded following a four-pitch walk for Spencer Torkelson. Cabrera almost did it with two outs on a hard-hit (104.7 mph) ground ball that forced Amed Rosario to make a play at first, but Baddoo popped out softly for an infield fly before.
Greene gave Detroit an important insurance run in the top of the fourth with a double to center field that scored Ibáñez. Haase also tried to score from second but was tagged out at home. Cleveland’s starter Tanner Bibee’s night came to an end after that, and Nick Sandlin replaced him.
José Ramírez went deep in the bottom of the fourth, snapping a streak of seven-straight batters retired in a row by Wentz. He regrouped nicely after the home run and got out of the inning without allowing another baserunner.
Wentz has made it through six innings just once all year, and he fell one out short of doubling that total on Monday. After a 1-2-3 fifth, Wentz led off the sixth with a pair of walks, prompting a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter.
The visit turned out to be a stall for Will Vest to get ready in the bullpen, but Wentz got two quick outs before turning the ball over. After dealing with Ramírez and Josh Bell, Hinch could have given Wentz a chance to finish the quality start, but Vest did the job against pinch hitter Josh Naylor.
Backtracking a half inning, Ibáñez hit his first home of the year in the top of the sixth. He’s now batting 9 for 17 with four extra-base hits over the Tigers’ last six games and is a guy A.J. Hinch has to keep in the lineup moving forward (at least until he cools off).
With a 5-2 lead to fall back on, the Detroit bullpen got to work and kept Cleveland off the board for the rest of the night. Jason Foley bailed Vest out of a first-and-third situation in the seventh, and left-hander Chasen Shreve got the call in the eighth against the heart of the Guardians' lineup.
Ramírez and Bell are both switch hitters who hit better against righties, and Naylor is a lefty, so Shreve had the better matchup against all three bats. Detroit added one more run in the eighth on an RBI single from Greene, so Shreve returned for the ninth.
He gave up a lead-off single to Andrés Giménez and got the next two batters without much trouble, but Hinch went to Alex Lange for the final out of the game. Lange threw five-straight balls before he found the strike zone. The umpire might have given him the first strikeout, but Lange got Kwan to pop up to left to end it.
The Tigers have now won six of the last seven games and are doing things fans haven’t seen since the early 2010s. Okay, maybe that’s overstating things a bit, but it does feel like this team is capable of fighting back against most non-AL East clubs.
Wentz is figuring things out how to make his stuff in the big leagues, and he had a little more zip on the fastball and cutter tonight. The next box to check off is the quality start.
The Tigers are back at it in Cleveland tomorrow at 6:10 p.m. EDT. Taking game two would be a big win for the club and put Detroit one game away from a .500 record. At 16-18, the Tigers are just 2.5 games back of Minnesota for control of first place in the American League Central.