Detroit — It was this kind of day for the Tigers on Monday: Utility player Harold Castro pitched the ninth inning. And it was one of the cleanest innings of the game.
“I told him that was the quickest inning of the game today,” said Wilson Ramos, who ended up catching 215 pitches and only 113 strikes in the Tigers’ 15-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins. “We needed that. I was already tired. I needed that quick inning.”
Castro, throwing 70-mph curveballs, needed nine pitches to get through the ninth. But maybe the Twins’ hitters were tired by that point, too, after knocking out 14 hits and walking 11 times.
“The reality is, we didn’t play very well,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I don’t think we got into the game very well. We didn’t pitch very well and they exploited all their scoring opportunities.
“It was an ugly day. Bottom line.”
That it was, beginning with a 52-minute rain delay.
Longtime nemesis Nelson Cruz came to bat with the bases loaded in the second inning. He lined the first pitch off right-hander Jose Urena down the right-field line. Although it looked like the ball might have grazed the foul pole, replays were inconclusive and the foul ball call stayed.
Undeterred, Cruz lined the very next pitch into the Tigers’ bullpen in left field for a grand slam.
Cruz ended up hitting two homers. His second, off Buck Farmer in the fifth, was majestic. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 116.6 mph and landed 418 feet into the second deck in left. He has hit 25 regular season home runs against the Tigers, and counting playoffs, he’s hit 22 at Comerica Park.
“That’s a good example for guys who want to be here for a long time,” said Ramos, who at 33 is seven years younger than Cruz. “It shows he works hard, he keeps in shape. I like how he works. I want to be like that. I want to play baseball until I’m 40.”
Days like this won’t help him get there.
Urena’s Detroit debut lasted three innings. Of the 81 pitches he threw, only 39 were strikes. He walked four. And it started a trend.
Detroit pitchers issued 11 walks. Six of those came around to score. Through six innings, three pitchers — Urena, Farmer and Derek Holland — threw 161 pitches, 81 strikes.
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“It’s hard to see my guys throwing like that today,” Ramos said. “It was a tough game for everybody, for all the pitchers. A lot of mistakes and not so much control. It’s tough when we have that kind of game, but we have to keep working hard and keep fighting.
“It’s early in the season.”
Gregory Soto, who pitched a scoreless eighth, threw his first pitch onto the netting behind home plate, 9 feet over the head of the hitter.
“This was a tough game for me, those long innings, and when he threw that first pitch, in my mind I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is going to be another long inning,'” Ramos said. “But he got back to it and it was a quick inning.”
Ramos had a big day at the plate with a home run and a double. His homer with two outs in the fifth inning broke up a no-hit bid by Trenton native and Eastern Michigan University product Matt Shoemaker.
In seven games against his hometown team, Shoemaker is 5-1 with an 0.79 ERA. He’s allowed just one run in 13 innings in two starts at Comerica.
“But I like what we did in the ninth,” Ramos said of the Tigers’ five-run flurry highlighted by a grand slam from Rule 5 rookie Akil Baddoo. “We can make runs. We got a good lineup. That’s going to give us good energy to come back tomorrow and show we can play for nine innings.”
All five runs came after two were out. Victor Reyes, who entered the game in the sixth, started it with a solo homer. Jonathan Schoop, Ramos and Niko Goodrum got on ahead of Baddoo, who hit the slam in just about the same spot (left-field seats) as he hit his first home run on Sunday.
“Hopefully (the rally) gives us something to go home with,” Hinch said. “It feels a lot better than any part of the rest of this day. That was the highlight. I hope we can take the momentum from that and bring it into tomorrow.”
It’s been a sudden implosion for the Tigers’ pitching staff. Through the first 24 innings, up until the seventh inning on Sunday, they had allowed six runs. All by starting pitchers. But in the last 12 innings, they were tagged for 22 runs, 18 off the bullpen.
“Urena was at 80 pitches after three innings so there was no balancing act, we had to go to the pen,” Hinch said. “You hope you can get through without exposing all your guys. Unfortunately the game got out of hand and we had to use a position player, and that’s never good.
“Harold saved us an inning, but it’s not ideal.”