Milwaukee — This was a mismatch on paper. The Brewers were throwing their ace, Corbin Burnes, and the Tigers, well, they were throwing the kitchen sink, Johnny Wholestaff — a bullpen game to fill the slot of injured starter Jose Urena.
But this is why they go ahead and play the games on the field.
This was a battle. The Tigers offset a strong six innings by Burnes with five scoreless innings (three by recently called up Rony Garcia) and when Rule 5 rookie Akil Baddoo launched a solo home run in the seventh inning off reliever Trevor Richards, it was a 2-2 game to be settled in extra innings.
After Brewers reliever Brad Boxberger struck out Robbie Grossman and Harold Castro, both looking, to strand a runner at third in the top of the 10th, the Brewers’ Luis Urias stroked a double to the gap in right-center off Jose Cisnero giving the Brewers a 3-2 win at American Family Field, snapping the Tigers’ three-game winning streak.
After the Tigers were dispatched in the top of the ninth by All-Star closer Josh Hader, Gregory Soto, the sixth Tigers reliever, came out throwing fire in the bottom of the ninth. He struck out Christian Yelich with a 101-mph heater and got pinch-hitter Manny Pina on a rollover groundout.
But Travis Shaw kept the inning alive with a two-out bloop single that Baddoo misplayed, allowing him to get into scoring position.
Soto never flinched, getting Omar Narvaez to ground out to send the game to extra innings.
While the plan was for this to be a bullpen game, the carousel wasn’t supposed to get started in the second inning. But you don’t always get to pick when your opportunities will arise against a pitcher like Burnes. You just have to be ready to take advantage when they do.
The Tigers loaded the bases with one out against Burnes in the top of the second. Not ideal in a bullpen game in a National League park where pitchers have to hit. But there it was. A single by Jonathan Schoop, a double by Victor Reyes and a walk to Baddoo and the Tigers were knocking.
But they were at the bottom of the order. When No. 8 hitter Jake Rogers struck out, manager AJ Hinch had to decide between letting starting pitcher Tyler Alexander bat, something he’s never done in his college or professional career or use a pinch-hitter and elongate the string of relievers.
He went for the run. But Burnes got pinch-hitter Nomar Mazara to bounce out to first.
The rationale was solid. The Tigers mustered only one other scoring chance against Burnes — and on that one they cashed.
With two outs and Harold Castro at third base in the top of the sixth inning, Schoop, a former Brewer, hit two long foul fly balls, both hooking just outside the foul pole in left field. The first one was close enough that Hinch asked for a review, but the ball was clearly foul.
But on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Schoop lined a single to left that broke a scoreless tie.
Schoop had his third straight multiple hit day and since May 15 is hitting .333 (21 for 63) with three homers and 10 RBIs.
Garcia, the Tigers Rule 5 pick in 2020, allowed only a walk in his three innings taking over for Joe Jimenez. He followed Alexander, who struck out a pair in the first. He was recalled on Sunday to replace reliever Bryan Garcia who was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.
The Brewers two runs came on one swing off lefty Daniel Norris in the sixth. Former Tigers prospect Willy Adames knocked a two-run home run to left field.
Right-hander Kyle Funkhouser, pitching for the third time in four days, struck out four in two scoreless innings, sending the game to the ninth inning still tied. Funkhouser has punched out 11 in 12.2 innings this month.