The first game of a three-game set with the Yankees in Detroit came down to extra innings and a heroic, full-count, two-out, down-by-one home run by Robbie Grossman to win the game for the Tigers, 3-2.
That… was… magnificent. Just magnificent. I’ll take a game like this any day of the week. Baseball is a stupendous sport. Did I say this game was great? Because it was.
But, how did we get here? I’m glad you asked.
This matchup was billed as a showdown between two solid starting pitchers, and gladly, that largely came to fruition. Casey Mize started for the Tigers, facing the always-tough Gerrit Cole for the Yankees. The young gun vs. the established veteran. The up-and-comer vs. the savvy past-ERA champ. A battle of four-letter-last-named pitchers. OK, I’ll stop.
The result was, as imagined, a low-scoring affair. The Tigers pushed across a run in the bottom of the third: consecutive singles by Robbie Grossman, Hittin’ Harold Castro and Jeimer Candelario made it 1-0. That’s quite an accomplishment against the likes of Cole, frankly.
In the fifth, Rougned Odor led off the inning with a solo home run, and Mize found himself in a real pickle after a pair of singles sandwiched around a strikeout of Kyle Higashioka. Would a two-on, one-out, against-the-Yankees rattle the young hurler who was about to face DJ LeMahieu and Giancarlo Stanton?
Nope. He struck them both out to finish his outing. He wasn’t terribly efficient, with 58 of his 97 pitches for strikes, but he gritted it out and acquitted himself well. This one will build character, I assure you.
After Mize came a parade of relievers: Kyle Funkhouser allowed a hit and a walk but got out of the situation unscathed. José Cisnero allowed a hit, to no effect. Michael Fulmer worked the eighth allowed a pair of singles to put runners on first and second with two outs. Clint Frazier then grounded out to shortstop to end the frame.
Gregory Soto’s ninth inning was a little more nail-biting. Miguel Andújar singled to lead off the inning, and a pair of wild pitches and a walk put runners on the corners with Stanton at the plate and Aaron Judge on deck. Soto got ‘em both on swinging strikeouts.
In the bottom of the ninth, Aroldis Chapman suddenly forgot how to throw strikes. Jonathan Schoop walked on a couple of wild ones, and Akil Baddoo was inserted as a pinch-runner… and got picked off by Gary Sánchez’s snap throw to LeMahieu at first after a pitch got away from Sanchez, but obviously not far enough; Baddoo dithered on whether to go or not, and paid the price. After Nomar Mazara struck out and Eric Haase flew out, it was tied at 1, which means…
Judge was placed on second, Bryan Garcia was brought in to start the tenth, and he started off a little wild. A groundout pushed Judge to third, and a passed ball by Jake Rogers scored him. All of Tigerdom sighed heavily and, perhaps, poured themselves another beverage.
Old Friend Justin Wilson took over in the tenth for the Yankees and noted speedster Haase was placed on second. Niko Goodrum flew out; pinch-hitter Victor Reyes grounded out, pushing Haase up to third with two outs.
Grossman stepped to the plate. The count was full. The Tigers were down to their last strike against the Evil Empire. You know what happened next.
Notes and Observances
- Something strange jumped out at me about Aroldis Chapman’s stats so far this year: his won-loss record is 4-0. It’s odd these days that a relief pitcher (a.) has four wins at all during a season, and (b.) has four wins this early in the season. Heck, Tarik Skubal only has one so far, and he’s a starter.
- The visiting fans started an audible “Let’s Go Yankees” chant in the tenth. If that doesn’t get your blood boiling, nothing will. Looks like we got the last laugh on this one, though. Better luck next time, girls and boys!
- On this day in 1888, Jim Thorpe was born. If only half of the stories about his athletic prowess are actually true, he’s in the running for best all-around athlete of all time.
- Apparently nobody can count to four anymore.