You could be forgiven if, in the first inning of today’s game, with the Tigers loading the bases and a tea party on the mound, you thought: does Zack Greinke still have it?
That, friends, is the silent power of Zack Greinke, because one pitch later, the inning ended with a classic TTBDNS. You’ll also have to forgive me if I wax a little poetic about Greinke in the midst of this recap, because he’s just such an unusual creature in the majors: a pitcher who can start games and top out in the mid-80s and still keep batters tied up.
At one point he threw a 51mph eephus pitch that actually made me giggle.
Greinke is just such a delight, and it’s easy to be delighted when the Tigers are winning.
Yes, instead of talking about the wonderful oddity of Greinke, let’s talk about an even more wonderful oddity: a Tigers win. And better than that, it was a win where the offense and the defense were both incredible.
First, there was the utterly sensational start by Casey Mize. The first inning saw him a little rough with his control, throwing many of his pitches well outside the zone where they weren’t fooling anyone, let alone the power-hitting core of the Houston Astros lineup. Yet as the innings progressed, so too did Mize’s command and confidence. He gave up two walks in the first, but quickly got himself out of the pinch.
In the second inning, it was the bottom of the Tigers lineup that started things going. Renato Núñez, who was still hoping to get his first Tigers hit, got it, and then a Grayson Greiner home run brought them both home.
Remember those names, because in the third inning, it was a solo shot from Núñez (bounced off the left field foul pole), followed by a 450-foot solo shot from none other than Akil Baddoo that put the Tigers ahead 4-0.
Mize, meanwhile, was in the zone, working in tandem with his defense to keep the Astros from ever getting in a real opportunity to score (this included a spicy comebacker and possibly one of the most awkward pitcher-covering-first instances I’ve ever seen).
In the top of the fifth the Tigers added to their lead with a Mazara single, followed by a Schoop single (up to this point Schoop had a couple ugly check swings to end his at-bats, so the hit must have felt pretty good). Then Baddoo came on, looking to make up for his Cleveland slump a little more, and hit a sacrifice fly to score Mazara. And it was Greiner coming in hot again to score Schoop on a single, and put the Tigers up 6-0.
The Tigers had chased Greinke in the fifth and he was replaced by Luis Garcia, who aside from a very weird two-step pre-delivery motion was pretty solid for the Astros.
Mize came back out for the sixth and seventh and continued to look tuned in and the best he has in the majors to this point. He likely could have gone on to finish the game, but by the top of the eighth it was all hugs and handshakes in the dugout, and Mize’s final line for the night was a satisfying 7.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K on 89 pitches. Just an absolute gem of a start that put Mize on the line for his first win.
Buck Farmer came on in relief of Mize in the eighth, and I’m afraid to tell you that the shutout game was gone by his second batter, as Michael Brantley hit a solo shot to right to give the Astros their first run of the game.
Jose Cisnero came on to close out the game in hopes of getting the final three outs to secure Mize’s win. Unfortunately, like Farmer, he gave up a solo home run to the first batter he saw in Carlos Correa. This was followed by a no-outs double to Gurriel. Pardon me while I start to chew on my thumbnail. Cisnero was gone after the requisite three batters, paving the way for Gregory Soto.
Soto managed to quickly collect the final two outs necessary to get the Tigers win, and Mize’s first in the majors.
Final score Tigers 6, Astros 2.