On Thursday night, the Detroit Tigers looked like they were playing a little league team as the Oakland Athletics committed error after error and allowed the Tigers to put up a 7-0 lead with ease. On Friday night, things were quite different as the Tigers found themselves locked in a pitcher's duel, pitting their newest starter, Sawyer Gipson-Long, against swingman Ken Waldichuk.
Gipson-Long pitched well enough to allow the Tigers to take a brief lead but literally as soon as the bullpen entered, the lead evaporated and it only got worse from there as the bullpen allowed seven runs in their first two innings of work en route to a 8-2 loss. The loss officially gives the Tigers their 82nd loss on the year and secures them a seventh consecutive losing season.
Last night’s game was a comedy of errors in the first inning for the Athletics, but tonight was a much cleaner performance to start. Andy Ibañez hit a two-out double, and Spencer Torkelson fouled off a bunch of good pitches before getting one to square up but he hit it right to the left fielder, Tony Kemp. Miguel Cabrera popped out to end the threat. In the bottom of the inning, Sawyer Gipson-Long took the mound but was greeted with a groundball single on his first pitch. This was followed up with a double roped just out of the reach of Tyler Nevin to give the A’s a 1-0 lead just four pitches in. He settled down from there to retire the side in order.
The Tigers couldn’t do much in the top of the second, as they were set down with Kerry Carpenter taking a called third strike from the lefty Waldichuk. Gipson-Long worked a cleaner second inning, walking only Tyler Soderstrom as he struggled a bit to locate his sinker and changeup, but he still made his way through the weak second half of the Athletics already meager lineup.
Not that the Tigers have much to boast about in their second half of the lineup, as the third inning started with Carson Kelly and Zack Short striking out swinging. Matt Vierling lined out softly as the lineup turned over, as Waldichuk reached eight straight batters retired after the double. Gipson-Long started to find the feel of his pitches in the bottom of the third, retiring the side with two strikeouts bookending a deep flyball that died in the heavy Oakland night air.
The Tigers continued to struggle to get to Waldichuk in the top of the fourth as Ibañez and Torkelson struck out to start the inning before Cabrera hit a double down the left-field line. The future Hall of Famer’s 624th career double moved him into a tie with the great Hank Aaron for 13th all time. But he was stranded there as Carpenter grounded out. In the bottom of the inning, Gipson-Long found himself suddenly being squeezed at the bottom of the zone and issued a one-out walk to Kemp, but he was cut down trying to steal second. He retired the next batter on a ground out to quickly end the inning.
The Tigers finally took the lead in the top of the fifth when Javier Báez hit a long flyball off the wall that was badly misplayed to give him a one-out double. Then Carson Kelly followed with a flyball pulled down the left field line that just hooked around the fair pole to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Short and Vierling were retired to end the inning.
In the bottom half, the Athletics got a two-out rally going when Nick Allen singled, followed by a single from Ryan Noda and then a walk from Zack Gelof to load the bases. But after a mound visit, he got Seth Brown to hit a shallow flyball to center to end the inning.
That would be the end of the night for Gipson-Long, his final line coming one inning short of a quality start. Five innings, four hits, one run, three walks, and four strikeouts on 89 pitches. His four strikeouts gave him 20 total strikeouts in his first three career starts on the Tigers, which ranks second all-time behind only Denny McLain who had 22. The rookie’s control wasn’t nearly as sharp as his first two starts, but pitched through traffic with composure and made a lot of good pitches when he needed them.
The Tigers went quietly in the top of the sixth inning as Waldichuk finished out his night, his final line showing a start of some quality against Detroit. Six innings, four hits, two runs, no walks, and seven strikeouts. Will Vest took over in the bottom of the sixth but was greeted with a leadoff game-tying home run from Brent Rooker on the first pitch he threw.
Things continued to snowball for the Tigers as Báez misplayed a Tony Kemp groundball to lead to a single. That was followed by another single where Kemp nearly sprained his own ankle trying to avoid the ball going over his head. Vest got Kevin Smith to strikeout and was replaced by Tyler Holton but Shea Langeliers came off the bench to pinch hit and he hit a three-run home run to put the Athletics up 5-2. Holton struck out the next two batters but the damage had been done.
The Tigers went quietly in the top of the inning, save for a double from Báez which came from a misplayed flyball on Estuary Ruiz, who entered the game for the injured Tony Kemp. But he was stranded as Kelly flew out harmlessly. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Athletics did not hit harmlessly in the bottom of the inning. Trey Wingenter replaced Holton and gave up a walk, double, hit-by-pitch, and two-run single to blow the game wide open. A sacrifice fly pushed the lead to 8-2 and the rout was on. Before Wingenter could record the final two outs of the inning he allowed Estuary Ruiz to collect two more steals, pushing his season total to 63 stolen bases.
Zack Short led off the top of the eighth with a walk, looking to spark some kind of rally, but the top of the Tigers’ order was set down in order. Jose Cisnero replaced Wingenter in the bottom of the inning. He got Allen to ground out thanks to a great play from Zack Short, though the Tigers had to challenge the call to get the out. He retired the next two on a strikeout and groundout. Zach Neal took the mound for the final inning and he worked a quick 1-2-3 inning as the Tigers showed no interest in putting together a quality at-bat, emphasized with finality as Tyler Nevin took a called third strike to end the game.
The Tigers move to 72-82 on the season with the loss. The Tigers will use an opener tomorrow before handing things to Joey Wentz. Joe Boyle will make his second MLB start on Saturday night at 4:40 p.m. ET.
As mentioned above, Miguel Cabrera’s fourth-inning double moved him into a tie for 13th all-time in career doubles. The next spot on the list, David Ortiz (632), is out of reach, but there are a few more leaderboards Miggy can climb up in his final few games.
- He’s 1 HR away from Mel Ott (511) for 25th, and 2 would tie him at 23rd with Ernie Banks and Eddie Mathews (512)
- He’s 1 RBI away from Cap Anderson (1,879) for 12th.
- He’s 3 singles away from (my favorite name on these lists) Rabbit Maranville (2,220) for 46th.
- He’s 1 walk away from Rusty Staub (1,255) for 54th.
Speaking of Miggy, Spencer Torkelson reflected on his interactions with Miggy in his rookie season.
In today's Miggy's Moments, Spencer Torkelson talks about how Cabrera had his back when Torkelson struggled in his rookie season.#MiggysMoments | @FamilyCooling @MiguelCabrera pic.twitter.com/wsYWD8z2OJ— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) September 23, 2023
In the first game of the series, the Athletics presented Miguel Cabrera with a rather embarrassingly small “gift” in his farewell tour, a $90 bottle of wine signed by the team. If you want to check out the list of gifts so far, a dedicated soul on Reddit has you covered. Fortunately for the A’s, the notoriously cheap Rays came through by giving no retirement gift, but hey they’ve got a new stadium to build.