You know the old saying... say it along with me... “Thursday night rainshowers bring Friday doubleheaders!” We used to say that on the ol’ school yard all the time. Then again, I went to an extremely bizarre elementary school.
Forsooth, I digress. On with the business at hand.
A traditional doubleheader between the Guardians and Tigers in The Forest City on Friday afternoon/evening ended in a split, with Detroit taking Game 1 and Cleveland taking Game 2.
Game 1: Tigers 4, Guardians 2
The opener featured a Tarik Skubal/Gavin Williams matchup. Skubal’s been working his way up to normal-length outings and is basically there now, although his previous outing against Boston got derailed by a mistake to Triston Casas and a subsequent three-run dinger. Gavin Williams, a rookie making his 11th start, has been great so far for the Cleves, limiting home runs and generally getting soft contact, although he does give up a walk or three at times.
Akil Baddoo waited until the second pitch of the game to get things going:
Spencer Torkelson nearly had another home run with two outs, but it hit off the top of the wall for a double. Kerry Carpenter drove him in with a single, then Miguel Cabrera doubled him in, and it was 3-0 after a half-inning. Cleveland got a run back in the bottom of the inning, with a José Ramírez double and an Oscar Gonzalez single.
The Tigers threatened in the third, with runners on second and third with none out. But then Torkelson struck out, Greene got thrown out at home on the ol’ contact play (mind you, it was a perfectly-executed one and it was a close play at home), and Cabrera struck out.
They also mounted a similar threat in the fifth, with runners on second and third with two outs, but Carpenter hit a grounder to first that Gabriel Arias bobbled. He recovered in time to throw to Williams covering first, and after a review, Carpenter was declared out and that was that.
Meanwhile, Skubal really settled down and limited the hard contact after the second inning, getting a nice scattering of strikeouts and groundouts, and using the changeup effectively. He retired 12 batters in a row at one point, and his final line was 6 innings, 3 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts, 63 of 88 pitches (72%) for strikes, his longest outing of the year.. He also broke two of Raimrez’s bats in the same at-bat, which is fun.
Tyler Holton came on for the seventh, and while he allowed a rare walk, he got out of the inning otherwise unscathed. He then took all of five pitches in a 1-2-3 eighth. I like this guy.
Jake Rogers added some insurance in the top of the ninth with a solo home run, pushing the Tiger lead to 4-1.
Jason Foley came on for the bottom of the ninth and the save, and gave up a leadoff triple to pinch-hitter Steven Kwan, who scored on a groundout to narrow the gap to 4-2. Kole Calhoun singled, we all clenched various muscles a bit, but then Foley coaxed a foul popup out of Andrés Giménez and Brayan Rocchio struck out on a slider.
Game 2: Guardians 4, Tigers 1
The nightcap saw Joey Wentz, the 27th-man for the doubleheader, take on Xzavion Curry. Wentz has had a rough go of it in the majors this year, and was optioned to Toledo after a lousy start against the Twins on August 7. (Matt Manning was originally scheduled to start, but he got pushed back a day, allowing the rotation to all be on regular rest next week against the Cubs. Plus, this would’ve been Wentz’s normal start day in Toledo.) Curry’s been mostly a reliever this year, although it looks like Cleveland might be auditioning him for a permanent role in the rotation; it’s been going decently well for him, although his previous start, against the Rays, did not go well.
In the second inning Carpenter led off with a walk, and with two outs Zach McKinstry singled to left. Unfortunately, Carpenter tested Kwan’s excellent arm in left, trying to reach third, and was thrown out. Wentz got out of some trouble in the bottom of the inning: with runners on first and second with two out, he got Arias to line out to right on a nice sliding catch by Carpenter, who sure had a busy second inning.
Wentz settled down and had himsef a nice third frame, though, and Eric Haase was calling some nice pitch sequences against a lefty-heavy lineup.
In the top of the fourth, Greene led off with a single, and with two outs Andy Ibáñez hit a fly ball to right that Gonzalez completely lost in the twilight. It landed ten feet behind Gonzalez, and Greene scored to make it a 1-0 game.
In the fifth, Zack Short walked, was sacrificed to second by Haase, and he took third on a Baddoo groundout. Alas, Greene smacked a 101-mph liner to left, but Kwan hauled it in on the warning track for the third out.
The bottom of the inning saw Wentz walk two straight with one out, prompting a visit from Chris Fetter, who brought a bag of magic pixie-dust to sprinkle on Wentz’s left arm. It worked, as the dangerous Ramírez fouled out to third, and Giménes popped an up-and-in cutter harmlessly to second. Wentz’s day was done after these five scoreless innings, scattering four hits, walking two and striking out three.
Beau Brieske took over in the sixth, and Gonzalez scorched a liner to straightaway centre that McKinstry got on his horse and just outran. Brieske then got a strikeout and a groundout to finish the inning.
Six innings would prove to be the end of Curry’s day, and honestly, he did extremely well, limiting hard contact. The only run he allowed was on a misplay by the outfield, and if he can put together some starts like this, he’s going to be a valuable addition to the Cleveland rotation. Javier Báez greeted Nick Sandlin with a single to right — good to see Javy back — and he stole second base. He took third on a McKinstry flyout to right, and with two outs Haase walked to put runners on the corners. Sandlin left, Sam Hentges was brought in, and Matt Vierling ultimately lost a 10-pitch battle via a swinging strikeout.
Brieske stuck around for the seventh, and he walked a guy with two out. Andrew Vasquez was brought in, he walked another guy, and in a 1-0 game there’s a pretty thin margin for error, especially when your pitcher is having trouble finding the plate. But then Ramírez grounded out to third, and I could finally exhale...
...until Vasquez took the mound for the bottom of the eighth, as he walked Giménez on four pitches, putting the tying run on first. (Vasquez threw 11 pitches, and exactly 2 of them were strikes. Not great, Bob.) José Cisnero took over and got a forceout at second but then walked the next batter to put two on with one out. The Tigers’ luck finally ran out when Rocchio, who’d struck out three times so far in the game, hit a single to center to tie the game at 1; a wild pitch resulted in runners on second and third with still only one out, and the way Cisnero’s been pitching lately you had to know there’d be more runs to come.
Well, there were, as a Will Brennan double to the wall scored two and made it a 3-1 lead for Cleveland; Gabriel Arias followed with a single to right to score Brennan and make it 4-1. A caught-stealing and a groundout ended the inning, but the damage had been done.
Would the Tigers be able to climb out of a three-run hole with three outs left?
Not with Emmanuel Clase on the mound for the Cleves, they wouldn’t. The Tigers settled for a split — which is fine, I guess.
I couldn’t help but wonder, though... this bullpen might be pretty gassed. They’ve pitched a ton of innings so far this year, and while people like Holton have been a nice surprise, some of the foundational guys appear to be bending under the workload. I wonder if Casey Mize might be brought back in September to eat a few innings from time to time, or if Wentz might make some piggyback starts. Food for thought.
He’s Looking Pretty Comfy at Third, No?
Matt Vierling with a dive on a line drive in the first game, making a fine play.
Numbers and Notes
- Spencer Torkelson’s OPS by month, coming into today: .575, .783, .716, .768, .955.
- Akil Baddoo’s August, coming into today: 11-for-38 (42 plate appearances), 2 doubles, 2 home runs, .857 OPS.
- Miguel Cabrera’s OPS through June 5: .512. From June 6 through August 16: .785.
- Cabrera also is the last active Major Leaguer to have played a game in Montreal.
- Spencer Torkelson has been great on scooping throws in the dirt at first base this year. He routinely practices this before games, and it appears to be paying off.
- Today’s Immaculate Grid really showed me how little I know about the Milwaukee Brewers.
- Playing softball last night I cranked a deep drive to right-centre. Probably my best contact of the season; I really got a hold of ‘er. But then the centerfielder got on his horse and made a sensational catch. Sometimes you just gotta tip your cap (in my case, an Erie Seawolves hat).
- Happy birthday today to... my mom! There’s a zero percent chance she’ll read this, so here’s all her dirty laundry: none. She has none. She doesn’t drink, she swears very rarely (maybe once a decade), and is kind of a not-so-secret-yet-pretty-subtle feminist, which is great. Call your moms, everybody, because they won’t be around forever — and if your mom isn’t around anymore, take a second to think of her fondly, if you can. (If you can’t, then perhaps... think about kittens snuggling up with puppies? That’s always a winner.)