The skies were cloudy for the Detroit Tigers‘ series finale against Cleveland on Thursday, but no snow was falling, with a gametime temperature in the 60s. Likewise, Miguel Cabrera wasn’t in the lineup, getting a day off instead. And Matthew Boyd couldn’t keep up with the ace he was facing.
Yes, there was a lot different from the last time Cleveland right-hander Shane Bieber took the mound at Comerica Park. That last time, on Opening Day, the Tigers got to Bieber for three runs — including a first-inning Cabrera homer into the snow — in the first two innings en route to a 3-2 win.
This time though, Bieber — the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner — no-hit the Tigers into the seventh inning. He racked up 12 strikeouts and allowed only one hit and one run. That lone hit and run came on a solo home run by Jonathan Schoop to open the seventh inning.
Bieber finished the inning, then handed things off to his bullpen, which handed the Tigers (19-31) a 5-2 loss Thursday at Comerica Park. Detroit dropped three of four in the series and has lost five of its past six games.
“Generally I give up a hit in like the first inning and kind of get it over with nice and early,” Bieber said about his no-hit bid. “Tried to extend it as long as possible. I was just having fun with it.”
The Tigers added another run in the bottom of the ninth inning off Cleveland’s James Karinchak. Victor Reyes ripped a two-out RBI triple to right field, but Willi Castro popped out to strand Reyes and end the game.
“Our mood is always going to be fine,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We understand we got to find a way to scratch, claw and stay in the game. Sometimes these games feel a lot worse from the outside looking in. We’re still only a couple of swings away.”
Bieber steamrolled the Tigers through seven innings with his entire arsenal. He logged 24 swings and misses — 13 with his knuckle curveball and nine with his four-seam fastball — and 19 called strikes. He threw 66 of his 103 pitches for strikes, picking apart Detroit’s woeful bats.
His curveball accounted for seven of his 12 strikeouts.
“When you can throw it over the plate and down, it takes incredible discipline to try to lay off of it,” Hinch said. “He also could land it. When you’re doing both of those, it becomes a really tall task to get after him. Adjustment-wise, you can look for it and know it’s coming, and he can still entice some swings and misses and soft contact. We didn’t have a lot of answers.”
The Tigers finally broke through in the seventh inning. Schoop saw back-to-back sliders, and on the second, he lined a 402-foot home run to left field.
It was Schoop’s fourth home run this season.
“He’s special,” Schoop said of Bieber. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. You’ve got to grind him out, just try to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it. He doesn’t make many mistakes. Even when he makes a mistake, he’s still going to get away with it. He’s that good.”
Schoop was one of only two Tigers — along with Harold Castro — to avoid striking out. The rest of the lineup piled up 15 strikeouts: Robbie Grossman (2), Jeimer Candelario (2), Niko Goodrum (3), Eric Haase (2), Akil Baddoo (3), Victor Reyes (1) and Willi Castro (2).
After Bieber departed, Bryan Shaw punched out one batter in a scoreless eighth inning, though he wasn’t without a jam: Trailing 4-1 in the eighth, the Tigers put runners on second and third with two outs, but Schoop popped out to end the threat. In the ninth, Karinchak chipped in two strikeouts.
The Tigers’ futility at the plate once again left Boyd wanting: For the seventh time in his 10 starts, the Tigers were held to three runs or less.
Boyd gave up four runs on six hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. He threw 65 of his 102 pitches for strikes but went to seven three-ball counts. Cleveland scored one run against him in the first inning and three more in the sixth.
Boyd’s record dropped to 2-6 despite a solid 3.43 ERA and three homers allowed over 57⅔ innings. It’s an improvement over his 2020 season, in which he conceded an MLB-worst 15 home runs across 60⅓ innings in 2020.
“That was more of a product of just being a little too fine in those 1-2, 0-2 counts,” Boyd said of Thursday’s outing. “Instead of just filling (the strike zone) like I have been doing.”
The Tigers had Bryan Garcia warming in the bullpen, but Hinch left Boyd in to face Eddie Rosario, a lefty. Rosario drilled a two-run homer 406 feet to right on a 2-0 slider, giving Cleveland a 4-0 lead.
“I missed with the slider twice and should have gone back to the heater there,” Boyd said. “Just to get back on my slider. Who knows what he would’ve done with a fastball down and away, but that’s the one you really want back.”
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.