The Detroit Tigers needed a starting pitcher but were out of options.
So, they implemented a bullpen-only pitching plan.
Because of Spencer Turnbull’s injury, manager AJ Hinch relied on his relievers from start to finish in Thursday’s series finale. And the bullpen helped the Tigers to a convincing 8-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park.
The Tigers (26-36) took two of three games from the Mariners.
“You need a lot of guys to have good days out of the ‘pen and throw the ball well,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We kept tacking on a few runs, which made for breathing room a little bit. A lot of arms in a bullpen day, but the guys stepped up to pitch well.”
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The Tigers used six relievers, starting with Tyler Alexander’s 2⅔ innings of one-run ball. Hinch then received 1⅓ innings from Bryan Garcia, two innings from Jason Foley, one inning from Joe Jimenez, one inning from Alex Lange and a perfect ninth inning from Gregory Soto.
Once Alexander departed, Garcia and Foley allowed runs in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively. Mitch Haniger drilled his second home run of the game — and 16th this season — to left field in the fifth.
But Robbie Grossman padded the lead in the sixth inning. Facing Mariners reliever Anthony Misiewicz, who attended Anchor Bay High School, Grossman attacked a two-strike curveball and pulled a two-run homer to left for a 7-3 lead.
Catcher Jake Rogers tripled to center to score Daz Cameron for an 8-3 edge in the seventh. Rogers finished 2-for-4 with one home run and two RBIs.
“He’s playing with confidence,” Hinch said. “He’s very comfortable in his own skin, and you can see that the heartbeat is slow. He provides a lot of stability for us when he’s contributing on both sides of the ball. I’m very happy with him. … He’s been very productive and a big part of why we’ve stabilized things behind the plate.”
Called up from Triple-A Toledo to replace an injured Derek Hill, Cameron made his season debut and finished 0-for-3 with one walk.
Jimenez, Lange and Soto kept the Mariners from scoring.
Another Rogers HR
The Mariners struck first on the seventh pitch Alexander threw, a 90 mph cutter to Haniger. He slugged his first of two home runs to left field. And on the ninth pitch thrown by Mariners starter Justus Sheffield, Jonathan Schoop evened the score with his 10th home run.
Miguel Cabrera doubled — his 2,900th career hit — and Isaac Paredes, robbed of a walk-off homer in Wednesday’s extra innings loss, pushed the Tigers’ lead to 2-1 with a single to left field.
In the second inning, Rogers launched his second home run in as many days in a full count. Sheffield tossed him a four-seam fastball, two sinkers, two changeups and two sliders. He unloaded on a slider for a 413-foot blast to left field.
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The Tigers capitalized on errors by the Mariners in the fourth inning. Mistakes from third baseman Kyle Seager and second baseman Donovan Walton put runners at third and first.
Willi Castro poked a fly ball to center to go ahead by two runs. Grossman chipped in a single up the middle to score Rogers for a 5-2 lead. Sheffield’s pitch count was 87 after the fourth and he did not return.
Alexander faced his biggest test in the second inning.
Alexander allowed a four-pitch walk and single with one out to put runners on the corners. The crafty left-hander filled up the strike zone and battled deep into at-bats with Taylor Trammell and Donovan Walton.
Both players struck out.
Trammell swung and missed at Alexander’s fastball, the ninth and final pitch in the their battle. Walton was called out on strikes when he watched Alexander’s cutter — the seventh pitch he saw — to strand the runners.
Alexander recorded the first two outs in the third inning. He was removed following a single from Seager. Garcia completed the inning in one pitch. Alexander, making his second spot start for a bullpen-only game this month, conceded one run on three hits and one walk, with two strikeouts.
He threw 35 of 56 pitches for strikes.
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.