Why Detroit Tigers’ Casey Mize feeling ‘disappointed’ illustrates his ‘edge that matters’

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch knew Casey Mize wouldn’t be pleased.

“Disappointed, for sure,” Mize said Thursday night.

“I love the fact that he’s going to leave tonight pretty pissed off,” Hinch said. “I mean, he didn’t keep the ball in the ballpark the way he wanted to. To his night, he feels he should have thrown a shutout with his stuff. He’s got that edge that matters when you’re on the mound.”

With their ace-of-late pitching, the Tigers (23-33) were beaten by the Chicago White Sox, 4-1, in the four-game series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field. The White Sox scored all four runs on solo homers.

Mize allowed three runs on five hits across seven innings. He threw 61 of 89 pitches for strikes. He fired first-pitch strikes to 17 of the 26 batters he faced. He went to a three-ball count twice, both to Yermin Mercedes, and didn’t concede a walk for his second consecutive game. And he struck out six, generating 17 swings and misses by utilizing his entire arsenal.

But Mize wasn’t all that proud.

“My stuff was there, and I felt good physically,” Mize said. “I just hate the outcome. This is where it’s kind of tough to balance trust the process. My body was in a good position, my stuff was fine, but the outcome wasn’t good. Obviously disappointed there.”

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The 2018 No. 1 overall pick also acknowledges there was plenty good from his most recent start.

“I know that if I feel like I did tonight, there’s gonna be many more nights of success, where I’m not disappointed like I am tonight,” Mize said. “Unfortunately, we came out on the wrong end of it.”

The problem: The White Sox crushed three of five hits for solo home runs. The first of three came on a nasty splitter to Yoan Moncada, which was a spectacular piece of hitting. The next two were poorly executed fastballs. It seemed like those were the only two mistakes he made in his seven-inning outing.

Yet Mize is tough on himself.

He expects perfection.

“He’s a pretty damn good pitcher,” Hinch said. “He’s challenging the strike zone against really good teams. I love that.”

Mize carried the Tigers through May, posting a 1.74 ERA in 31 innings, with 27 strikeouts, over the span of five starts. He has a season-long 3.34 ERA, the second-best — behind Spencer Turnbull’s 2.93 ERA — in a rotation that ranks 11th in baseball with a combined 3.85 ERA.

After allowing two home runs in May, Mize gave up three during his first start in June. The first one was hit by Moncada in the first inning. Mize threw him back-to-back splitters; the second splitter was executed well, but Moncada did damage for a two-out homer to left field.

“Below the zone, that was weird,” Mize said. “I’m not sure if I consider that truly a mistake. His approach was trying to hit something soft the other way, especially with two strikes. He was able to drive it over the wall.”

In the second inning, Jake Lamb hit a home run on a fastball. He drove the ball 412 feet for a no-doubter to right field. The third home run came in the seventh inning, when Yasmani Grandal unloaded on a fastball for a 457-foot blast to right-center field, giving the White Sox a 3-1 lead.

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Leading up to the second and third home runs, Mize fell behind 1-0 in the counts with his fastball. And both homers occurred in 1-1 counts against his fastball, after Lamb and Grandal watched second-pitch sliders for called strikes.

“I got to be better,” Mize said. “I can’t afford to make that many mistakes, and they took advantage of them.”

The Tigers didn’t give Mize much help from an offensive standpoint, a bigger reason for the three-run loss. Willi Castro’s solo home run in the fifth inning served as the lone damage against Lance Lynn, Aaron Bummer, Evan Marshall and Liam Hendriks. Lynn posted six innings of one-run ball.

Mize might not be happy, but he gave his team a chance to win.

Following Anderson’s lead-off single in the third, the rookie retired 12 of the next 13 batters to get through one out in the seventh inning. The only player to reach base during this stretch, Grandal, did so on an error by Castro at second base in the fourth. Mize’s 17 swings and misses were a product of four strong pitches: His slider (seven whiffs), two-seam fastball (three), four-seam fastball (six) and curveball (one).

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Also, Mize kept his pitch count in check.

Hinch said he “could have easily gone out” for the eighth inning.

“Not going out was an example of paying attention to the bigger plan,” Hinch said. “But Casey doesn’t start the game with like a governor on him or a mindset that he’s only got so many innings left. That mentality is not what we’re doing here, so I think Casey is going to give us his best as long as he’s got the ball in his hand.”

Through 11 starts, Mize has pitched 64⅔ innings. He has a 3-4 record with a 3.34 ERA, 1.067 WHIP, 20 walks and 53 strikeouts, throwing 63% of his 996 pitches for strikes. (His last full season was in 2019, when Mize tossed 109⅓ innings in the minor leagues. Last year, he delivered 28⅓ innings in his MLB debut season but also worked at the alternate training site in Toledo.)

Mize continues to thrive, but the Tigers will carefully monitor his workload.

“We’ve started looking at what we’re going to do with him between now and the All-Star break, and then after the All-Star break,” Hinch said. “We want Casey to pitch a full season. We want him to feel strong at the end. We want to be cognizant of where he’s at in his career.

“The way he goes about it, the way he prepares and the extra rest that we can give him, we haven’t dialed in on exactly what we need to do with him.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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