Cleveland starter Triston McKenzie wasn’t supposed to pitch this well against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
The 23-year-old, a first-round draft pick in 2015, had walked 30 batters in 31⅓ innings with a 6.89 ERA across eight games this season, forcing a demotion to Triple-A Columbus. Cleveland needed a starter because of injuries, so the organization called up McKenzie — planning to send him back down after Wednesday’s appearance.
McKenzie no-hit the Tigers through his first 4⅓ innings, walked three batters and struck out five across five scoreless innings. Detroit starter Jose Urena departed in the top of the sixth inning with lower right forearm cramping, after firing 5⅔ scoreless innings.
Neither pitching staff budged until the bottom of the eighth inning. Robbie Grossman’s sacrifice fly to center field scored Niko Goodrum for a 1-0 lead. It was all the Tigers (19-30) needed to secure the win and snap a four-game losing streak.
The Tigers combined for 3⅓ scoreless innings from the bullpen: Jose Cisnero, Michael Fulmer and — in the ninth inning — Gregory Soto. It was Soto’s fifth save this season.
McKenzie vs. Urena
The first hit and only against McKenzie came with one out in the fifth inning, as Jonathan Schoop punished a fastball up the middle. Akil Baddoo applied further pressure with a four-pitch walk, but McKenzie escaped his only jam with ease.
While McKenzie was dealing, Urena quietly put together a strong start. He struggled with his command early on, relying on a second-inning double play and spectacular defense to get around walks and hard-hit singles. The stellar defense was a surprise, considering how much the Tigers have struggled to execute behind their pitchers.
Catcher Jake Rogers threw out Jose Ramirez stealing second base to end the first inning. In the next inning, Baddoo — who gathered the ball near the warning track in center field — to Goodrum, who made a perfect relay to Rogers at home plate, cutting down Josh Naylor trying to score from second base on a double, ending the second inning.
After working around two walks in the third, Urena settled in. He retired nine batters in a row before walking Ramirez on four pitches with two outs in the sixth. After one pitch to the next batter — Eddie Rosario — athletic trainer Doug Teter climbed out of the dugout.
Manager AJ Hinch followed.
Following a brief conversation, Urena walked with Teter into the dugout, earning an ovation from the fans at Comerica Park. He was removed after 82 pitches — 46 strikes — but seems to have avoided a serious injury. He tossed 5⅔ scoreless innings, allowing just three hits and three walks. His two strikeouts were generated by his slider.
Even with McKenzie and Urena out of action, the clash remained scoreless until the eighth inning.
Cisnero recorded the final out in the sixth inning and struck out two in a scoreless seventh. He punched out Jake Bauers on three pitches, finishing him off with a 96 mph fastball, to conclude his outing.
In the eighth, Fulmer struck out Jose Ramirez after walking Jordan Luplow to complete the eighth. Soto worked around a leadoff walk in the ninth. He doubled up Naylor on a line drive to Goodrum to end the game.
For Cleveland, Cal Quantrill struck out struck out all three batters he faced — Grossman, Harold Castro and Jeimer Candelario — in the sixth inning. He added another strikeout to his tab in the seventh but conceded the Tigers’ second hit.
Schoop delivered a two-out single to center field for his second hit of the night, but Baddoo grounded out to first base to end Quantrill’s second scoreless inning.
Quantrill returned for the eighth inning — Cleveland manager Terry Francona went with a long-reliever approach — and allowed a leadoff double to Goodrum, who smashed a 2-1 pitch to the left-center field gap. Rogers put down a perfect sacrifice bunt, moving Goodrum to third base with one out.
For his efforts, Rogers received plenty of praise from Hinch and his teammates in the dugout. Because without Rogers, Grossman’s fly ball to center field would not have scored Goodrum — and the Tigers would not have won the game.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.