The Detroit Tigers have scored just 17 runs in the last eight games.
The team’s poor offense was exposed by the Kansas City Royals when right-handed starter Casey Mize didn’t keep the Tigers within striking distance. Recently, the starting rotation has been a bright spot through a rough stretch early in the season.
But Mize gave up all six runs in a troublesome 6-2 loss to the Royals on Friday at Comerica Park. The Tigers (7-13) have lost seven of the last eight games. Before Friday’s defeat, they got swept in four games by the Oakland Athletics and dropped two of three to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Infielder Zack Short recorded his first MLB hit in the sixth inning and made a slick back-handed glove-flip in the ninth. He drove a single to left field in a 3-2 count with one out in the second game of his career. He made his debut Wednesday and drew two walks in three plate appearances.
Jeimer Candelario and Robbie Grossman each posted two-hit performances. The Tigers finished with five hits, three walks and 14 strikeouts in 31 at-bats.
Detroit takes on Kansas City at 1:10 p.m. Saturday in the second game of a four-game set. Left-hander Matthew Boyd is starting, opposed by righty Brady Singer.
What happened to Mize
Already trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning, three of the first four batters reached on singles, Carlos Santana worked one of his three walks and Jorge Soler smacked a two-out double to left field for a 6-0 lead.
The 23-year-old gave up six runs on seven hits and three walks, with one strikeout, across 4⅔ innings. He owns a 5.23 ERA through four starts. The bullpen — Tyler Alexander (2⅓ innings), Buck Farmer (one inning) and Derek Holland (one inning) — kept the Royals from adding runs.
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Mize allowed home runs in the second and fourth innings, both following double plays. Andrew Benintendi drove a 95.7 mph fastball to left field in the second for his first homer this season; Ryan O’Hearn crushed a hanging first-pitch splitter to right field in the fourth for his first homer this season.
Even then, Mize responded with ground outs against the next batters to end those innings.
His slider was filthy in the first inning, especially the one he used to strike out Salvador Perez swinging. By the fifth inning, Mize left that same pitch over the middle of the plate, allowing Soler to smack a double and end his night with two outs
Mize used 25 sliders, 25 sinkers, 16 splitters, 14 four-seam fastballs and three curveballs. He got swings-and-misses with four sliders, two sinkers, two four-seamers and one splitter. Without his esteemed splitter, combined with shaky fastball command, Mize couldn’t get the most out of his arsenal.
Tigers make Minor look good
Through four innings, the Tigers made Mike> Minor — the Royals starter — look like a Cy Young candidate. He faced the minimum (12 batters) and did not allow a hit until the fifth inning. Niko Goodrum reached with a leadoff walk in the fourth, stole second base and then got tossed out by catcher Perez while trying to swipe third base.
The next two batters, Short and Jonathan Schoop, struck out.
Entering Friday’s game, Minor had a 5.17 ERA in his first three starts. He possesses 10 years of MLB experience but has only made the All-Star Game once (2019). Still, the Tigers’ woeful bats struggled to make contact against him.
In the fifth, Candelario doubled for his team’s first hit. He scored when Grossman homered on a first-pitch slider with one out. Despite the two runs, the Tigers still trained by four runs. Minor was chased in the sixth by singles from Short and Candelario, despite already striking out Goodrum and Schoop.
Minor gave up two runs on four hits and two walks in 5⅔ innings. He picked up nine strikeouts and used 102 pitches (62 strikes). With runners on first and second base, reliever Tyler Zuber entered and made the final out in the sixth.
A break for Willi
As the Tigers slowly transition shortstop Willi Castro to second base, it’s clear the new role is a bit overwhelming. Before Game 1 in Wednesday’s doubleheader with the Pirates, Castro had only handled second base once in his MLB career. Also, he often struggles defensively, regardless of his position in the infield.
He made a few mistakes in Thursday’s 4-2 loss, so manager AJ Hinch wanted to give him a break from Friday’s series opener with the Royals. So, the Tigers’ coaching staff used Castro’s day off as an opportunity to teach him.
“Obviously, Willi is going through a lot,” Hinch said before the game. “… We’re throwing a lot of things at Willi. Yesterday, we overloaded him a little bit. He came out with a few plays that we want to work on. We met with him today, going over video and all that stuff. It’s a good mental day for him.”
Castro has a .211 batting average, one double, two triples, four RBIs, three walks and 19 strikeouts in 18 games this season. He has yet to provide a home run. Last year, he tied for fourth place in American League Rookie of the Year voting by hitting .349 with six homers and 24 RBIs in 36 games.