For most of this game, it looked like we were watching a heck of an old fashioned pitchers’ duel. In reality, both teams were running out bullpen arms left and right, and neither offense could get anything going. Finally, the Tigers turned it on late to tie this and Zach McKinstry won it in the tenth with a three-run shot.
The Tigers went pretty quietly in the first inning, and Brendan White took the bump for the first inning. The Tigers were presumably looking to get something like six outs from him.
The right-hander struck out Jurickson Profar to open the bottom of the first, and Kris Bryant lifted one out to Kerry Carpenter in left. White got ahead of Ryan McMahon, but then missed away from the left-handed hitter and walked him. White got ahead of C.J. Cron as well, but he eventually dumped a little pop-up into shallow left and Carpenter got a terrible break on it and couldn’t get there. Fortunately they held McMahon at third, though it would’ve been a close play, and White got Randal Grichuk to ground out to Javy Báez at shortstop. It was a 21 pitch inning for White however, potentially limiting how far he’d be able to go in this one.
Carpenter and Báez grounded out to open the second. Matt Vierling knifed a hot ground ball down the right field line into the corner and cruised to a triple, but Miguel Cabrera was rung up on a breaking ball that arguably nipped the corner down and away.
The longish first inning meant that White only got one batter in the second. Zach Logue took over, striking out Harold Castro with a nice breaking ball away. Brenton Doyle flew out to right and we were on to the third.
Grichuk made a nice play on a deep Jonathan Schoop fly ball to right to open the inning. Eric Haase flew out, but Zach McKinstry, in the leadoff spot today, reached on an infield single. In a 2-2 count to Spencer Torkelson, McKinstry stole second as a fastball sailed high. It was a close play but there was no challenge. The Rockies didn’t look like they were interested in throwing a 3-2 strike to Torkelson, and he walked, but Andy Ibáñez grounded out to end the minor threat.
Logue quickly got the first two outs in the bottom half, the second of which on a hot ground ball into the hole between shortstop and third off the bat of Jurickson Profar. Javier Báez made an absolutely spectacular diving play to his backhand to spear it and fired a strike to Torkelson. However, a Kris Bryant ground ball to Schoop at third ate him up briefly and Torkelson couldn’t handle the late throw. Bryant took second base with both Schoop and Tork getting charged with errors. It fortunately didn’t matter as Ryan McMahon flew out to Vierling in center to end the third.
Look at this play. Good grief.
If only we could get league average production at the plate. I’d put up with anything else.
The Rockies turned to Ty Blach to start the fourth. Carpenter lined one right back at him, but Blach recovered to get the out. Báez lined out to center and Vierling grounded out to send it to the bottom half with Logue still on the mound.
Cron grounded out to Báez to start the half inning. Logue got Grichuk to weakly ground out back to him, before walking Ezequiel Tovar, which isn’t a terrible idea. Logue got Harold on a tapper in front of the plate to end the inning.
Cabrera grounded out to start the fifth, but Schoop drilled a single into center field. Haase struck out swinging, and that left it up to McKinstry to get something going with Torkelson on deck. Unfortunately he popped out, and this “epic pitching duel” continued in a scoreless game.
Logue got the first two outs of the bottom half, but allowed a line drive single from Profar and was lifted after 3 1⁄3 innings of one-hit ball. Jose Cisnero came on and punched out Bryant to end the inning.
Pretty good Tigers debut for Logue. Maybe this strategy of claiming any and all sixth starter lefty types will work out. Tigers will set the market on these guys in a few weeks. I’m kidding. Probably.
The Tigers finally put together a more significant threat in the sixth, but again failed to score. A one-out double from Ibáñez was followed by Carpenter getting drilled by a pitch. That brought Blach’s night to an end, as right-hander Matt Koch took over. He got Báez to bounce into a force of Carpenter at second, but a hard slide from Carpenter helped prevent a throw from Castro to first. It didn’t matter as Vierling grounded out.
Cisnero struck out Ryan McMahon to open the bottom half, but C.J. Cron drilled a double to right field. Grichuk grounded out, but that brought the dangerous Tovar to the dish with two outs. Chris Fetter came out to chat about it, but a first pitch cutter at the bottom of the zone got slapped the opposite way for a single to score Cron. Carpenter threw home late, but Haase turned it around, cutting down Tovar trying to take second and ending the inning. That was the first earned run Cisnero had allowed since May 30.
Colorado turned to right-hander Jake Bird in the top of the seventh. Cabrera greeted him with a sharp single back through the box. Jake Marisnick took over as the pinch-runner with the Tigers badly needed to score. The move proved fruitful, as Schoop ripped a double to left and Profar was, let’s say unhurried, in his play on the ball. Marisnick raced around from first to score and the game was tied.
A McKinstry ground out moved Schoop to third for Torkelson with two outs, and this is where you need to see your future RBI machine, in theory, put the ball in play sharply somewhere. Instead, in a 2-2 count he bit on a curveball down and whiffed to end the inning.
Tyler Holton got the call and got Coco Montes, pinch hitting for Harold, to ground out to Schoop for the first out. He then punched out Doyle whiffing at a changeup down. Have we mentioned that Tyler Holton has been really, really good? Probably you’ve noticed. Austin Wynns singled to center with two outs, but Profar grounded out to third on the first pitch he saw. On to the eighth!
Daniel Bard took over for Colorado and quickly got Ibáñez, Carpenter, and Báez to ground out. Downright horrific approach from all three in hitters’ counts. Great work.
Jason Foley got the ball in the bottom of the eighth and quickly got Bryant to ground out. He blew away McMahon with a high sinker, and Cron grounded out quickly. With only nine pitches required, Foley would be able to handle the ninth and allow A.J. Hinch to save Alex Lange for a tight spot or for extra innings, which seemed increasingly likely continuing the weakness of both lineups.
The ninth was uneventful as it turned out. Tyler Nevin pinch-hit for Marisnick and drew a walk after Vierling ground out, but Schoop bounced into an inning ending double play.
As it turned out, Hinch went right to Alex Lange in the bottom half. He quickly went through the Rockies, and we were on to extra innings.
Pierce Johnson took over on the mound for the Rockies, with Jonathan Schoop the runner starting on second base. Eric Haase put together a good AB and lined a single to left to move Schoop up 90 feet. That brought Zach McKinstry to the dish with the infield in. Johnson sailed a curveball high for ball one. The next pitch was a 97 mph fastball on the inner edge, belt high, and McKinstry lifted a deep, towering ball to right center field that carried into the Rockies bullpen. 4-1 Tigers. Finally.
Zach McKinstry has exceeded Coors Field's rate limit. pic.twitter.com/MbnbnF9gVJ— Detroit Tigers (@tigers) July 2, 2023
Torkelson followed with a sharp single, but the Tigers went in order from there.
Hinch put Zack Short into the game, replacing Ibáñez at second for defense. Lange quickly got two ground ball outs, the second of which was a scorching one-hopper that Torkelson made a nice play on. Just as Tigers fans got comfortable, Lange started to unravel a bit. He walked Profar after getting ahead 0-2, and Bryant singled in Montes, the runner on second, to make it 4-2 and bring the winning run to the plate in the form of Ryan McMahon, arguably the Rockies best hitter and a lefty to boot. Lange was up to the task, throwing him one changeup and otherwise nothing but curveballs until he swung and missed for the final out.
That one didn’t come easy, and the Tigers really need to take this series tomorrow afternoon. Good to see them come through late in this one though.
First pitch is set for 3:10 p.m. ET with RHP Matt Manning making his second start since returning from the injured list. RHP Connor Seabold will start for the Rockies.
Return of the starting rotation
The Tigers did have some other good news for us today. Tarik Skubal will return on Tuesday, July 4 to start the Independence Day game at home against the Oakland Athletics, as we predicted after his last outing. Eduardo Rodriguez is also ready to return, and will start on Wednesday.
The rotation looks like Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Matt Manning, Michael Lorenzen, and Reese Olson going forward. We’d like to see that for a while, please. No injuries allowed. With Alex Faedo and Beau Brieske closing in on a return—Brieske is probably ready now—they’ll have some options to add to the bullpen as well. And Akil Baddoo started his rehab assignment with Toledo on Friday. Riley Greene won’t be far behind.