Kansas City, Mo. – Typically, Casey Mize’s fire burns subtly. He’s not very vocal or demonstrative, even when he’s in full lather.
But after he pitched 6.2 strong innings and helped the Tigers to a series-clinching 4-3 win over the faltering Royals at Kauffman Stadium Tuesday, Mize didn’t try to contain his fire.
Between the first and second inning, home plate umpire John Tumpane made Mize change gloves. Mize ended up borrowing reliever Kyle Funkhouser’s glove and used it from the second inning on.
“He said the gray color was too light,” Mize said, shaking his head.
Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. But earlier Tuesday, Major League Baseball sent a memo to all 30 teams informing them that umpires would be checking for sticky substances starting Monday.
“I thought it was pretty (crappy), a pretty (crappy) thing to do,” Mize said. “I assume everyone thought I was using sticky stuff, which I was not. I just think the timing of it was pretty (crappy), honestly.
“Either the umpires need to get on the same page — I’ve made 12 starts with that glove — or John Tumpane needs to have some feel and just let me pitch with the glove the other team didn’t even complain about.”
Mize has made every start of his big-league career with that charcoal gray colored glove. But on Tuesday he had to borrow teammate Kyle Funkhouser’s much lighter-colored glove.
“I think I’m in a situation now where I assume everyone thinks I was using sticky, which in reality is not the situation at all,” Mize said. “Starting Monday they’re going to check, so it wouldn’t look too suspicious then. But obviously today it looks very suspicious with the memo coming out and I come out in the second inning with a completely different colored glove.”
Mize, though, was able to push his frustration aside and provide the Tigers a much-needed lengthy and quality start.
“Quality is more important than length,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We had plenty of pitching today, though I know it didn’t feel like it. But quality is what we needed. Casey had to battle a little bit but I thought he got better and better as the game got along”
Still, after the bullpen had eaten up 35 innings over the last five games, Mize knew the Tigers needed him to go as deep as he could go.
“Coming in I knew that was something really important for our team,” Mize said. “I was definitely thinking about it. I was trying to be efficient, trying to get weak contact and go as deep as I could. The bullpen has been wearing it for us and I wanted them not to have to work too hard tonight.”
Mission accomplished. He threw a career-high 103 pitches over 6.2 innings, helping the Tigers securing their first series win in Kansas City since July of 2018.
It was the longest outing by a Tigers’ starter since June 3, when Mize pitched seven complete innings against the White Sox in Chicago. He left with a runner at first and two outs in the seventh.
Veteran right-hander Wily Peralta, who last pitched in the big leagues in July of 2019 for the Royals and was summoned from Triple-A Toledo before the game, got four big outs, setting up lefty Gregory Soto, who worked a clean ninth inning for his sixth save.
“Ideally, I didn’t want to bring Peralta in in the middle of an inning,” Hinch said. “But then you remember he’s been an effective reliever at times. It’s nothing he hasn’t done before. He’s done it in this stadium. It’s a comfortable mound for him. He’s been here before.
“It didn’t cause me any indigestion or heartburn. I felt like he was going to come in and do his thing.”
Soto ended the game by winning a 12-pitch battle with Royals hitter Michael A. Taylor. After five straight foul balls, Soto struck Taylor out with a wicked slider.
Mize was staked to a 3-0 lead early. Miguel Cabrera singled in a run in the first inning and then with a runner on in the third, Jonathan Schoop slammed a hanging, 0-2 slider from Royals starter Mike Minor and knocked it over the wall in right-center.
It was Schoop’s 11th homer of the season. He hit five in his first 207 plate appearances, six in his last 52.
The Tigers chased Minor and tacked on a fourth run in the sixth on a two-out RBI single by rookie Daz Cameron. Cabrera had started the two out rally with a double.
Mize’s only real trouble came in the bottom of the third. With one out, he gave up an infield single to Nicky Lopez and two-strike bloop single to Whit Merrifield. He seemed to lose his rhythm for a bit.
He threw a wild pitch, which move the runners up, Lopez scoring on a ground out. They he hit Salvador Perez, walked Jorge Soler and threw another wild pitch that plated Merrifield.
“He had to fight a little at the beginning,” Hinch said. “You don’t see him spike breaking balls like that, 90-mph spiked breaking balls. He was a little amped. But if you would’ve said at the start of the day that you’re going to pitch into the seventh and give up three runs, you’d feel pretty good about it.”
Mize struck out Kelvin Gutierrez to end the third and settled back in. He gave up just one single until the seventh. It was his ninth quality start out of 13.
“I see him dismissing some misfires a lot faster as he’s getting deeper into the season,” Hinch said. “It’s a very mature approach, a lot of lessons learned. He’s able to make adjustments faster and that’s development at this level.
“I actually see him dialing back a little. When he gets going too hard or too fast, you see him steal a sinker strike in the low 90s as opposed to emptying the tank on every pitch. That’s an artistic way to pitch.”