Home plate umpire John Tumpane approached Detroit Tigers right-hander Casey Mize and catcher Jake Rogers after the first inning for a conversation.
Manager AJ Hinch exited the dugout to join them.
“He said the gray color was too light,” Mize said. “I thought it was pretty shitty, pretty shitty thing to do. I assume everyone thinks that I was using sticky stuff, which I was not. I just thought the timing of it was pretty shitty, honestly.”
For the second inning, Mize returned to the mound with Kyle Funkhouser’s glove. Tumpane told him to make a change. (MLB announced Tuesday that pitchers caught using foreign substances will be given an automatic 10-game suspension, beginning June 21. Starting pitchers will be checked more than once per game.)
Even without his main glove, Mize used Funkhouser’s leather to pitch into the seventh inning and lead the Tigers (28-39) to a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals at Kauffman Stadium. Detroit has a chance to sweep the three-game series Wednesday with Tarik Skubal on the mound.
“Casey came out and had to battle,” Hinch said. “I think he got a little better and a little better as the game got along, but there were some really efficient innings in the middle. He had to fight a little at the beginning finding his rhythm and delivery. … Very good start for him, and certainly the quality is what we needed.”
WELCOME TO THE SHOW: Prospect Matt Manning to debut Thursday; Wilson Ramos cut from roster
A much needed start
Before Mize switched gloves, he escaped runners on the corners in the first inning with a strong double play turned by shortstop Niko Goodrum and second baseman Willi Castro. The throw from Castro to first baseman Jonathan Schoop was just in time.
With a new glove in the second, Mize sent down the three batters he faced.
“The umpires need to get on the same page because I’ve made 12 starts (with the glove) and everybody was fine with it, or John Tumpane just needs to have some feel and let me pitch with the glove that the other team did not complain about,” Mize said. “John’s a good umpire and a very nice guy, just have some feel for the situation. I hate that I’m in a position now where I assume everyone thinks I was using sticky. In reality, that was not the situation at all.”
But he fell into trouble in the third because of two wild pitches.
Back-to-back one-out singles and a wild pitch put two runners in scoring position. Although Carlos Santana grounded out, it was enough to score Kansas City’s first run. Then, Mize hit Salvador Perez with a splitter and walked Jorge Soler on five pitches.
A second wild pitch plated Whit Merrifield, trimming the Royals’ deficit to 3-2. Before the damage got worse, Mize struck out Kelvin Gutierrez swinging, with a slider, to complete the third inning in 29 pitches.
“The third inning was tough,” Mize said. “I was just overthrowing. I was throwing sliders at 89-90 (mph), just not giving it time to do what it was supposed to do because I was throwing too hard. Once I settled in, when I was throwing sliders back down at 85-86, they were doing what they were supposed to do.”
In Monday’s 10-3 win, the Tigers used nine pitchers to get through nine innings. The bullpen needed a starter to pitch deep into Tuesday’s game, and Mize delivered. He handed his team 6⅔ innings of three-run ball, allowing seven hits and one walk.
Mize threw 68 of a career-high 103 pitches for strikes and generated three strikeouts, two of which came in his next-to-last inning.
“Definitely coming into today I knew that was really important for our team,” Mize said. “I was trying to be efficient, trying to get weak contact, trying to go as deep into the game as I could. Our bullpen is kind of wearing it for us, and I didn’t want them to work too hard tonight.”
He retired Perez, Soler and Gutierrez in order in the sixth inning, striking out Soler and Gutierrez looking with sliders. Despite Mize’s pitch count sitting at 92, Hinch sent him back to the mound for the seventh as Wily Peralta warmed in the bullpen.
Mize conceded a one-out double to Jarrod Dyson and a two-out RBI single to Nicky Lopez. That’s when Hinch replaced him with Peralta, who protected a one-run lead by striking out Merrifield in six pitches for the final out in the seventh.
“I wasn’t going to bring him in for the middle of an inning, but then you remember he’s been a pretty effective reliever at times during his career, and it’s nothing he hasn’t done before,” Hinch said about Peralta. “In fact, he’s done it in this stadium before. He’s a veteran guy, so it didn’t cause me any sort of indigestion or heartburn. I felt like he was going to come in and do his thing.”
Offense strikes first
The Tigers scored first against Mike Minor in the first inning, thanks to three consecutive one-out singles from Schoop, Jeimer Candelario and Miguel Cabrera. With Candelario on third base, though, Eric Haase grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Schoop made the score 3-0 in the third inning with his 11th home run this season. He tagged an 0-2 slider to right field. Through 12 games in June, Schoop is hitting .354 (17-for-48) with six home runs, 14 RBIs, three walks and eight strikeouts.
In the sixth inning, a Cabrera double to right field and a Haase single to left field chased Minor with two outs. He threw 97 pitches (64 strikes) before giving way to reliever Kyle Zimmer. On Zimmer’s second-pitch slider, rookie Daz Cameron singled up the middle for a 4-2 Tigers lead.
A wild pitch from Zimmer allowed Cameron and Haase to reach second and third, respectively, before Goodrum struck out swinging.
Cabrera’s double gave him 5,001 total bases in his 19-year career. He became the 22nd player in MLB history to reach 5,000 bases. The double was also the 585th of his career, tying him with Rafael Palmeiro for 20th all-time. (Todd Helton is 19th, at 592.) On Tuesday, Cabrera finished 2-for-4 with one RBI.
New face in bullpen
After finishing the seventh inning, Peralta returned for the eighth.
He got the first two outs — Santana and Perez — but walked Soler. Still, Peralta responded by getting Gutierrez to ground out. He pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings in his season debut. The 32-year-old, now in his ninth year in the bigs, was called up to the majors before Tuesday’s game.
“I’ve never seen him before in person, other than from the other side,” Hinch said. “Pretty cool, calm, collected. Landed both breaking balls, some finish fastballs that were good. He got some really big outs against the top of their order.”
Gregory Soto pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his sixth save.
Peralta had a 2.75 ERA, eight walks and 21 strikeouts in 19⅔ innings this season for Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers signed him to a minor-league contract in the offseason, but he didn’t report to spring training because of visa and travel issues.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.