Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch trotted to the mound to check on rookie Casey Mize with two outs in the sixth inning. Lefty reliever Daniel Norris was ready to enter, but Mize wanted to face Andrew Benintendi.
Mize rewarded him with a one-pitch out to complete the sixth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. For the third start in a row, the 24-year-old went six innings. He gave up two runs on three hits and two walks, with four strikeouts.
Behind Mize’s performance, the Tigers (12-24) picked up a 4-2 win Wednesday over the Royals. They have won three games in a row — and four of their past six — with a chance to sweep Kansas City in the finale of the three-game series on Thursday.
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The go-ahead run scored on by Jeimer Candelario’s double to deep center field in the fifth inning, plating Robbie Grossman, who started the frame with a triple to the right-field corner, for a 3-2 lead.
Royals starter Danny Duffy went six innings. He gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks, with eight strikeouts. The Tigers’ offense provided four runs on eight hits and three walks, but also struck out 11 times.
For the finishing touches, the bullpen protected the second victory of Mize’s career. Norris delivered a perfect seventh inning. Righty Michael Fulmer kept Kansas City scoreless through the eighth, and lefty Gregory Soto walked one batter but got the save in the ninth.
The series finale is at 1:10 p.m. Thursday. Right-hander Spencer Turnbull is set to start, opposed by left-hander Daniel Lynch.
Another six innings
The Royals tagged Mize for two runs in the first inning, which began with a hit-by-pitch of Whit Merrifield and a 10-pitch walk from Carlos Santana. Salvador Perez ripped a slider for an RBI double to the left-center gap, and Benintendi added a sacrifice fly for a 2-0 lead.
Mize fell behind 3-0 to Ryan O’Hearn but climbed back to strike him out with a sixth-pitch fastball to escape the inning. He fell into three-ball counts numerous times Wednesday’, but he didn’t crack under pressure.
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After Nicky Lopez’s single in the second inning, Mize retired 10 batters in a row, plowing through the fifth inning. To start the sixth, though, Santana snapped Mize’s dominance with a four-pitch walk. Perez delivered a single to put runners at first and second base.
An ensuing 5-4-3 double play from Jorge Soler on a first-pitch two-seam fastball earned Mize two outs. And Hinch went out to the mound.
But Mize stayed.
One pitch later, the sixth inning was complete.
The right-hander used 39 four-seam fastballs, 23 two-seam fastballs, 21 sliders, seven curveballs and six splitters. Mize got 10 swings and misses — seven with his four-seamer, two with his two-seamer and one with his slider — and 16 called strikes.
His fastball averaged 94.2 mph and topped out at 96.8 mph. He has a 4.19 ERA through seven starts this season.
Miggy moves up (twice)
With Miguel Cabrera’s single in the third inning, the 38-year-old reached 2,877 career MLB hits, tying him for 43rd on the all-time list with Omar Vizquel. He also tied Vizquel for the most hits in the majors by a Venezuelan-born player.
More importantly, Cabrera’s single to left — on a 1-2 slider from Danny Duffy — plated Jonathan Schoop and tied the game at two runs apiece. (Niko Goodrum and Nomar Mazara struck out in back-to-back at-bats to end the inning.)
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In the fifth inning, Cabrera delivered his second RBI single. This time, he scored Candelario for a 4-2 lead. The single moved him past Vizquel on the hits list for all players.
And Cabrera now ranks No. 1 in career hits for Venezuelan-born players.
Winning the review
Hinch signaled to the umpires for a review in the second inning, and his decision to challenge the call on the field led to a run. After drawing a walk, Goodrum was called out at second base on a fielder’s choice grounder from Mazara.
The fans at Comerica Park didn’t agree.
Neither did Hinch, so he challenged.
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The call on the field was overturned, Hinch’s first victorious replay challenge as a Tiger, in his fourth try. Goodrum was deemed safe at second, and Mazara took first base to put two runners on the bases with one out. The next batter, Willi Castro, flied out to center field for the second out.
But JaCoby Jones delivered by punching a two-strike single through the right side of the infield, scoring Goodrum for the Tigers’ first run. It cut the deficit to 2-1. Mazara advanced to third on Jones’ single to beat the shift, but Jake Rogers struck out to end the inning.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.