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Tigers 6, Braves 5: Torkelson’s late inning heroics help snap losing skid

Yeah we didn’t expect the bullpen game to be the one the Tigers would break the losing streak on either.

Atlanta Braves v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Just when you thought they were out, they pulled us right back in! In what started as another lifeless performance, the Tigers mounted a massive comeback in the late innings to pull off a huge 6-5 extra-inning victory against the Atlanta Braves. Spencer Torkelson played hero on multiple occasions as the Tigers snapped their nine-game losing streak.

There was much ado about nothing up until the ninth inning. Failing time and time again with runners in scoring position, they were like a different team once the game clock was near midnight. Down 5-2, the Tigers had to face one of the better closers in baseball in Raisel Iglesias.

Jonathan Schoop led off with a single to left field to give the remaining fans at Comerica Park a little juice. Then Spencer Torkelson got them on their feet by launching the longest home run of his career, a 440-foot bomb to the bricks in left-center field. All of a sudden, the Tigers were down by one with nobody out.

At that moment, the internal flame that fuels this team was re-lit. The Tigers were 1-13 with runners in scoring position before Zack Short roped a two-out single to left field to tie the game at five.

Alex Lange, in need of a shutdown performance, came on in the 10th. After a quick first out, Eddie Rosario hit a lazy fly ball to left field that Andy Ibáñez made a play on. Sam Hilliard tagged from third, and Ibáñez loaded up and launched a strike to Jake Rogers to tag Hilliard out at home. The Braves challenged what was an exceptionally close play, but the call was upheld. The top half of the inning was over, and the score was still tied.

In the tenth, facing old friend Joe Jiménez, Jake Rogers tried a sac bunt to move Ibáñez over to third. Although it wasn’t how they drew it up, it worked. Rogers reached for a fastball up and popped a little blooper toward third baseman Austin Riley, but he couldn’t make a play and everyone was safe. With one out, Torkelson had the chance to finish what he started, and finish it he did. Tork sent a fly ball to deep center field, and Michael Harris watched it sail over his head and said “good night.” It landed softly shy of the warning track, and the winning run trotted home without a play.

From the top

In what was a scheduled bullpen game, the Tigers tasked Rule-5 pick Mason Englert with the starting assignment. The Braves boast one of the best offenses in baseball, and Englert sports a paltry 2 home runs per nine innings, so the matchup was very much in Atlanta’s favor. And all things considered, Englert did an admirable job over his 2.2 innings, allowing a run on three hits and a walk.

Garrett Hill, who has spent most of the season in Triple-A Toledo after a rough start to his 2023 major league campaign, came on in relief to finish the third inning. He cruised through the fourth and then ran into trouble in the fifth. After allowing two singles to lead off the inning, Hill had to face the NL MVP front-runner in Ronald Acuña Jr. Acuña, already with an RBI, roped a double to left field to put the Braves up 3-0. The Braves had a chance to put up a crooked number by loading the bases with one out, but Hill dug in to strikeout Travis d’Arnaud and get a ground out from Eddie Rosario to end the threat.

Tyler Alexander relieved Hill in the fifth inning and allowed an inherited runner to score, pushing the score to 4-0. Alexander threw the ball reasonably well, but allowed a solo shot to Michael Harris in the eighth inning, right after the Tigers had gotten their first run of the game. Alexander threw 3.2 innings of one-run ball, playing an unheralded role in the comeback.

On the other side of the diamond, Charlie Morton made ground chuck of the Tigers lineup, dicing them up over 5.2 shutout innings with eight strikeouts. Morton, at the ripe age of 39, has become a bit of an ageless wonder with the renaissance he’s experienced in the second half of his career. Still throwing in the mid-90s, it was primarily his curveball that generated the many swings and misses from the Tigers hitters.

The Tigers weren’t able to get on the board until the seventh inning thanks to a home run from Andy Ibáñez, who also had a double, single, and a walk. Andy Ibáñez had a heck of a game. In the eighth, Javy Báez led off the inning with a double and was driven home by a two-out single from Zack Short. That set the stage for the heroics in the ninth and tenth innings.

Players Only broadcast got real loose

One of the more entertaining parts of the game was the “player’s only” broadcast on Bally Sports Detroit that featured Dan Petry, Craig Monroe, and Todd Jones. While the Tigers stunk it up on the field in the early innings, the trio, sitting out beyond the bullpen in left field, yucked it up like a bunch of old friends watching bad baseball: by talking about lots of topics outside of the game. My personal favorite discussion was on the group's favorite movies, where Todd Jones made references to Star Wars by saying that Charlie Morton was using the force to carve up the Tigers.