The opener of a three-game mid-week series in Detroit against the Los Angeles Anaheim California Orange County Angels, less than a week before the trade deadline, featured a shaky start from a prized possession, a dramatic ninth-inning comeback, and an extra-inning loss by the Tigers, 7-6 in 10 innings.
In case you haven’t heard, Eduardo Rodriguez (a.) pitches for the Tigers, (b.) well, pitches for the Tigers for now, and (c.) is, like Barry Zuckerkorn, “he’s very good.” After missing all of June with a finger injury, his first start back was a little rough but his previous start, against the Royals, was a seven-inning outing in which he gave up a pair of runs, walked nobody, and whiffed seven. But, since this is Trade Season, who knows where he’ll be in a week?
Griffin Canning got the start for the Angels. The righty, originally from southern California, has battled a lot of injuries throughout his career, making his debut in 2019 but never making more than 17 starts, and missing all of 2022. He’s been healthy for all of 2023 so far, though, and a typical start sees him going five or six innings and giving up a pair of runs. He’s consistently struck out about a batter per inning over his career... but also walked about three our four batters per nine innings. That number’s down a tick to 2.8 BB/9 for the season so far, coming into today’s game.
Rodriguez promptly got into trouble in the first with an infield single (which probably should’ve been an error) and a walk to Shohei Ohtani. With one out, Mike Moustakas crushed a double to right cashed-in both of those runners to put the Angels up 2-0. Notably, his command was off... not a good way to showcase your trade value!
Things stayed pretty quiet for both teams — with the Tigers striking out a bunch of times — until the top of the fourth, when a pair of singles and a long flyout put runners on the corners with two out. But Rodriguez got Chad Wallach to pop out to shortstop and that was that for the threat. (Yes, Chad is Tim’s son.)
Matt Vierling hit a one-out double in the bottom of the fourth, and Javier Báez hit a single to right to score Vierling, narrowing the lead to 2-1.
The hard contact off Rodriguez continued in the fifth, with a couple of fly balls hit plenty deep the second time through the order. Another walk to Ohtani put runners on the corners, but with only one out this time, a fly ball to left-center was snagged by Akil Baddoo on a diving catch; the runner from third came in to score to restore the two-run lead for the visitors. Ohtani stole third and came home on a Mike Moustakas single, making it 4-1, and a ground ball clanked off Spencer Torkelson’s glove to load the bases and end Rodriguez’s day. Beau Brieske was brought in to face Hunter Renfroe with the bases loaded and two outs and, thankfully, induced a grounder to third to end the frame.
Jake Rogers smoked a pitch over the left-field fence for a leadoff solo home run in the bottom of the fifth for his 12th home run to make it a 4-2 game.
Zach McKinstry followed with a single, but a strikeout, lineout and groundout stranded McKinstry on first. This is why we can’t have nice things.
Brieske stuck around for the sixth and gave up a perfectly-placed bunt single, but the inning was otherwise uneventful. (Well, I mean, it was probably a big deal for Brieske to be able to say he struck out Shohei Ohtani, so I guess that’s an “event,” if you will.)
Brendan White replaced Brieske for the seventh and got three quick, uneventful, boring outs. Since that was so much fun, he got three more in the eighth; both innings required a total of 15 pitches. He’s had some troubles lately but this time out he was nails.
Matt Moore, who briefly pitched for the Tigers in 2019 but got hurt, came out for the bottom of the eighth. Riley Greene singled to centre to lead things off, but then a pair of strikeouts and a foul popout—wait, I’ve seen this before, and I didn’t like it the first time either.
The Angels added a pair of insurance runs off Chasen Shreve in the ninth... or so they thought.
As it turns out, the Tigers would get to the normally-solid Carlos Estévez in the ninth; Báez reached on an error, and with one out Nick Maton hit a single to put two runners on. Jake Rogers hit a single to score Báez, narrowing the lead to 6-3 and keeping the line moving. McKinstry struck out for the second out of the inning, but Greene doubled to score Maton and push Rogers up to third, making it 6-4. Torkelson hit a long drive to center that Mickey Moniak, who’d made several great plays in the game up to that point, misplayed into a ground-rule double, evening the score at 6.
Kerry Carpenter was intentionally walked to Estévez could face Vierling instead, who looked at strike three for the third out. Bonus baseball!
Because scoring in this game is wacky sometimes, consider this:
Ironically, Carlos Estévez still hasn't had a blown save all season. That wasn't a save situation.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) July 26, 2023
Those were all unearned runs.
It's 6-6 now, going to the 10th.
Makes sense, too: Báez was only on because of an error, and all the other runs scored with two outs. If it wasn’t for the error, McKinstry’s strikeout would’ve been the third out, and that’s the inning. Neat.
Alex Lange took over for the tenth, and the first batter grounded out, sending the Ghost Runner, Moustakas, on to third. Moniak, who boofed the fly ball the previous inning, doubled to right to bring home Moustakas for a 7-6 lead. A wild pitch allowed Moniak to take third, and a great block by Rogers on a curveball in the dirt got away from him a bit. Moniak trailed too far off third on the pitch, and Rogers gunned to McKinstry at third to pick him off for the second out. (The replay system was working by then, and the Angels appealed the play, but the call on the field stood.) Pinch-hitter Matt Thaiss was called out on strikes to end the inning, but the Tigers had some work to do to stay alive.
Aaron Loup came on for the save in the bottom of the tenth, with Vierling starting the inning on second base. Báez grounded out to shortstop on the first pitch, keeping Vierling at first. Pinch-hitter Andy Ibáñez struck out swinging for the second out, and Eric Haase, pinch-hitting for Maton, struck out swinging himself to end the ballgame. That was the 18th strikeout by Tiger hitters in the game.
Ah well, at least it was exciting, right?
Kickin’ It Old-School
Due to some technical issues at the ol’ ball yard, the game started without the TV broadcasts, the pitch clock, or the ability to review any plays on replay. The scoreboard didn’t show the pitch speed or type either.
The radio broadcast, with the dulcet tones of Dan Dickerson and the insightful commentary of Andy Dirks, though? Worked like a charm.
You Asked For It
Today’s Obscure Tiger from the Past is from that wretched, 109-loss 1996 squad: Omar Olivares. He spent about a year and a half with the Tigers — all of 1996, and half of 1997 before he and Felipe Lira were traded to the Mariners — and those 44 starts were pretty forgettable. Sadly, Olivares led the 1996 team with a whopping seven wins, but at least his ERA was under 5; famously, the 1996 Detroit Tigers had one of the highest team ERAs of the modern era, at 6.36. Omar, his wife and their fourteen children now live an idyllic life of leisure outside beautiful Boise, Idaho, on a llama farm (I assume).
Around the Horn
- Oh, those Tampa Bay Rays. Remember back in April when they looked unstoppable? Well, the Baltimore Orioles are in first place in the AL East now, so there ya go.
- Speaking of previously-hot teams, guess who’s in the NL Central basement? Yup, it’s Pittsburgh. Lovely stadium, great town, but... well, you’re going to need more than just a revitalized Andrew McCutcheon to compete (although he’s cooled off a lot lately).
- As noted above, we’re staring down the barrel of the trade deadline in a few days. Where will Shohei Ohtani end up? Will he stick around as an Angel? Are we going to be seeing him in the Olde English “D” anytime soon? Check out our Trade Rumour article and the lively discussion found therein.