Mize shows mettle as Tigers take KC series

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — The steady, deliberate march from the home dugout to the mound at Comerica Park almost always means manager A.J. Hinch is about to pull his pitcher. The dejected look on Casey Mize’s face, his head dropping, certainly suggested the Tigers starter expected the hook with two outs in the sixth inning Wednesday night.

Hinch lingered on the mound with words of encouragement for his young right-hander, but he never made the motion to the bullpen. Instead, he walked back to the dugout and let Mize face Andrew Benintendi for a third go-around, this time as the Royals’ potential tying run. Benintendi had homered against Mize three weeks earlier.

One pitch later, Mize was headed back to the dugout after six innings of three-hit, two-run ball and his third consecutive quality start. Once Detroit’s bullpen held the lead for three more innings and a 4-2 win, the Tigers had their first three-game winning streak since sweeping Houston four weeks ago, and Mize had his first win since the opener of that series on April 12.

The mound visit was a sign of the extra attention Hinch is paying to his young starters. The walk back is a reflection of the trust he’s quickly gaining in Mize.

“Where his confidence level is, you’d have to ask him,” Hinch said before the game, “but I know I’m very confident in him going out every five or six days and having an idea on what he needs to do to be successful.

“He’s got the spotlight on him. He’s the big pick. He’s got all sorts of attention on him. I think he’s exhaled a few more times over the last two or three or four weeks. That’s allowed him to open up and ask a lot of questions and not have to magnify his own performance. He’s a very inquisitive guy. He’s very cerebral. He listens and remembers everything, and so we need to mold that clay and continue to push him and nudge him in the right direction, that his best stuff is good enough. He doesn’t have to create things, make stuff up.”

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