For the second time since the amateur draft began in 1965, two former first-round picks squared off as a starters in their MLB debuts — Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize and Chicago White Sox righty Dane Dunning.
Mize entered as the No. 1 overall pick in 2018, while Dunning was selected No. 26 overall in 2016. (The first pair of first rounders to debut against each other were the Tigers’ Rick Porcello and the Toronto Blue Jays’ Ricky Romero in April 2009.)
But the Mize-Dunning matchup Wednesday ended up a sideshow at Guaranteed Rate Field, where the Tigers (9-13) were unable to defeat the White Sox (14-11), losing 5-3 in a debut-filled night in Chicago.
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Despite Mize’s seven-strikeout performance, the Tigers’ losing streak grew to eight games as reliever Gregory Soto allowed two solo home runs in the eighth inning.
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After the White Sox put up 17 combined runs in their wins Monday and Tuesday, they mustered just five against Mize and Co. in Wednesday’s contest. The four-game series concludes at 2:10 p.m. Thursday with right-hander Spencer Turnbull on the mound for Detroit.
The Tigers got an impressive debut showing from Mize, who dazzled with his splitter-fastball combo and his overall command. In 73 pitches, he produced 40 swings with 16 foul balls, 11 whiffs and 13 in play.
His fastball maxed out at 96.2 mph, while his splitter averaged 85.9 mph.
In 4⅓ innings, Mize gave up three runs on seven hits. He struck out seven and did not allow a walk; he’s the first pitcher in franchise history with seven strikeouts and no walks in his big-league debut. His first MLB strikeout came on a splitter to Yoan Moncada in the first inning.
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Other than a home run to Edwin Encarnacion in the second inning, Mize had few issues with the White Sox until the fifth. That’s when he gave up a double to Zack Collins, an RBI single to Tim Anderson and an RBI single to Moncada, allowing Chicago to tie the game at three runs.
With one out in the fifth, Mize was replaced by reliever Jose Cisnero.
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Wednesday was more than a matchup of two first-round picks: the clash paired two former SEC pitchers — Mize from Auburn and Dunning from Florida.
Dunning gave up a leadoff double to Jeimer Candelario but responded with a 92 mph fastball to shut down Niko Goodrum and record his first MLB strikeout. He retired 11 in a row before Jonathan Schoop’s two-out single in the fourth.
After Isaac Paredes drew a walk to put two runners on in the fifth, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper visited Dunning on the mound. The next batter, Candelario, launched a three-runer homer for a 3-1 lead — chasing the 25-year-old from his debut.
Dunning, just like Mize, went 4⅓ innings. He gave up three runs on five hits and one walk with seven strikeouts.
Bonifacio’s Tigers debut
With two runners in scoring position with two outs in fourth, Jorge Bonifacio struck out on a full count on a curveball from Dunning. In the fifth, he made an error in right field, allowing Anderson to score from second base standing up.
He was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his first game for the Tigers and left the game for pinch-hitter Christin Stewart in the ninth.
After Bonifacio was released by the Royals in November 2019, Detroit signed him on a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training. He began the season at the alternate training site in Toledo.
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Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here’s how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content.