Detroit — Hit ’em where they ain’t, you say?
The Cubs did some of that, sure, but actually found a fair amount of success hitting it at the defense and watching the Tigers make a mess of one play after another in a 5-1 getaway-day dud at Comerica Park on an otherwise glorious Sunday afternoon.
It was difficult to tell the majority allegiance of the 8,000-fan sellout crowd, because the Tigers did so little to elicit any cheers.
The Tigers only avoided their seventh shutout of the season by a whisker, when Jonathan Schoop beat out what was ruled a game-ending double play, then overturned on replay. The Cubs won a three-games-or-longer series against the Tigers for just the fourth time, and two of those were World Series matchups in the early 1900s.
“We didn’t play clean, we did give away 90 feet here and there,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “And it obviously was part of the difference in the game.
“It was just a mediocre day across the board for our whole team.”
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd (2-4) certainly deserved better. He didn’t give up much hard contact, outside of few swings, including Ian Happ’s opposite-field home run in a three-run sixth inning that really could’ve been a one-run sixth inning — Happ’s at-bat might not have even happened had Robbie Grossman hit a cutoff man earlier in the inning.
The Cubs scored their first run in the third inning when Happ scored all the way from second base on what could’ve been an inning-ending double-play play. But the Tigers’ middle infielders were slow to turn it (that’s been a theme much of this year), then first baseman Schoop’s throw home sailed way over catcher Eric Haase’s head. A good throw almost certainly gets Happ.
They scored their second run an inning later on a bloop double by Happ, the No. 9 hitter who was 3-for-4 to raise his average to .183, that landed between center fielder JaCoby Jones and second baseman Willi Castro (Castro almost made an amazing catch). The inning should’ve already been over, though. Nico Hoerner reached on a two-out error by third baseman Harold Castro, who made a nice diving stop ranging to his left, but then rushed the throw, pulling Schoop.
That was one of two official errors for the Tigers (shortstop Niko Goodrum had the other), though they could’ve been charged with at least two more.
From Boyd’s perspective, he executed most of his pitches Sunday — and he was throwing a lot of different pitches, including first-pitch off-speed to counter the aggressive Cubs attack — but he missed his spot on Happ’s homer.
“That’s what makes them a good team,” Boyd said of the Cubs. “They make the most out of opportunities.
“There are ways, myself included, we can get better.”
The sixth inning, for sure, could’ve gone better.
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Matt Duffy led off with a single that Goodrum booted. David Bote followed with a sharp double — one of the few well-hit balls by the Cubs off Boyd — just inside the bag at third. Duffy scored easily, but Grossman fired home and airmailed the cutoff man, who, if he’d caught it, probably would’ve gotten Bote easily at third base, because he was already committed to trying for the extra base. Then, at least theoretically, there would’ve been no sacrifice fly by Hoerner, and no homer by Happ.
Boyd left after that ugly sixth, having struck out eight, walking one and hitting a batter. He was charged with four earned runs; it could’ve and probably should’ve been fewer.
The Tigers got scoreless, if not clean innings of relief from Bryan Garcia (two strikeouts), Joe Jimenez (one strikeout) and Alex Lange. Jimenez, whose fastball touched 94, lowered his ERA from 43.20 to 27.00.
Lange was sent down to Triple-A Toledo following Sunday’s loss. The Tigers will make a corresponding move before Monday’s series opener in Seattle.
Offensively, the Tigers did very little against Kyle Hendricks (3-4) — who entered the game with a 6.23 ERA, but this marks two good starts out of his last three — outside of two bookend mini-rallies in the first and ninth innings, both sparked by back-to-back singles by Harold Castro (who has 18 hits this season, all singles) and Miguel Cabrera. The first one, Hendricks responded by retiring the next 15 Tigers; the last one ended Hendricks’ day to start the ninth, with Dan Winkler finishing it off.
The Tigers had two-out doubles in the sixth (Grossman, extending his hitting streak to seven games) and seventh (Schoop), and a leadoff double in the eighth (Haase). But Hendricks, who struck out eight and walked nobody, shut it down each time.
“He locates and he’s got a track record of doing that,” Hinch said. “He gives you just enough of the plate to entice some soft contact.
“Our opportunity was at the beginning of the game, and we couldn’t really crack him.”
Detroit now heads out on a six-day road trip, starting Monday with the first of three in Seattle — where the Tigers have played absolutely awful the last four times (1-14).