Tigers 4, Royals 3: Casey Mize and Jonathan Schoop star in a close fought victory

Bless You Boys

Casey Mize continues to show his ability to handle MLB hitters, even when he doesn’t have his strikeout touch. He spun another quality outing on Tuesday, saving the bullpen and leading the Tigers to a 4-3 victory, and a series win, over the Kansas City Royals.

The Tigers quickly got on the board against Mike Minor in this one. With one out in the top of the first inning, Jonathan Schoop and Jeimer Candelario slapped singles past diving Royals infielders to set Miguel Cabrera up with runners on first and third. The big man ripped a single to right center, and the Tigers led 1-0. Casey Mize got a quick three outs, featuring a fine double play turn—we haven’t said this a ton—between Niko Goodrum and Willi Castro to end the inning.

Something we’re going to discuss a lot in the coming weeks, the foreign substances crackdown, was on display as home plate umpire John Tumpane examined Mize for foreign substances as he left the mound after the first. He then forced Mize to switch gloves, and Mize ultimately ended up borrowing one from Kyle Funkhouser. Mize did seem to have a few command issues after the incident, but ultimately settled in and was spotting everything well in the middle innings once again.

As reported by Mize himself, the umpire’s issue didn’t even have anything to do with a foreign substance. Which is even more bizarre.

This all gets even weirder once you realize that Mize’s glove was dark gray, while Funkhouser’s glove was light blonde. Who knows what is going on here at this point. Maybe the ump didn’t like the contrast with Casey’s pale wrists? Everything is stupid already anyway, so why not?

Both clubs quickly went 1-2-3 in the second inning.

In the top of the third, Robbie Grossman lined a one out single to right field. Jonathan Schoop came to the dish, quickly got down 0-2, but Mike Minor tried to fish for a strike just off the plate away with a slider, and Schoop extended and drove it over the fence in right field to make it 3-0 Tigers.

You had to wonder about the foreign substances protocols again in the bottom of the third. With one out, Mize gave up a pair of seeing eye ground ball singles to Nicky Lopez and Whit Merrifield. Mize then wild pitched them both up 90 feet. Lopez scored on a Carlos Santana ground out, Salvador Perez was nicked by a pitch, and then Mize walked Jorge Soler to load the bases. A second yanked slider for a wild pitch then scored Merrifield, before Mize turned to a pair of fastballs to finish off Kelvin Gutierrez, and the inning, on strikes.

The Tigers went in order in the fourth, while Mize came back out and retired Hunter Dozier and Jarrod Dyson quickly. Center fielder Michael A. Taylor came to the dish and Mize quickly got him to fly out in foul territory down the right field line. The fifth was another sprightly frame as the Tigers went 1-2-3, and after snaring a Nicky Lopez liner that was destined for his jawline, Mize allowed a single to Merrifield but got Carlos Santana to ground into another well turned double play by Castro and Goodrum.

In the sixth, the Tigers opened their lead up by another run. After two quick outs, Cabrera hit a screamer to the wall in right center for a double. Eric Haase followed with a single to left, and that ended Minor’s night as Mike Metheny brought in right hander Kyle Zimmer to face Daz Cameron. Cameron spanked a hot shot off the mound into center field to plate Cabrera as the Tigers fourth run.

Whatever was going on in the grip department, Mize seemed to find the handle on his slider as he went along. He went almost entirely slider-splitter in the sixth, getting Sal Perez on a lineout and then freezing Jorge Soler and Kelvin Gutierrez for just his second and third strikeouts on the night. At 92 pitches, and with a tired bullpen, another frame seemed unlikely, but possible for him. A.J. Hinch agreed.

The Tigers went quickly in the seventh, with a Robbie Grossman single with two out their only hit of the inning, and Mize came back out in the bottom of the seventh. He knew he had to work quickly and he did, throwing strikes aggressively. He surrendered a one out double into the right field corner to Jarrod Dyson, but then got Taylor to fly out to center field. Unfortunately, Mize fell behind 2-0 to Lopez. He absolutely painted the edges with two straight fastballs to even the count, and then tried to go up and in with the fastball. It was honestly a perfect pitch. The right call, the right execution. But Lopez managed to flare it off the handle just over a leaping Goodrum at shortstop and Dyson scored to make it 4-3 Tigers. Newly minted Tiger Wily Peralta came on to punch out Merrifield and end the inning.

Mize finished with a career high pitch count of 103, throwing 6 23 innings with three earned runs allowed on seven hits and a walk, with three strikeouts. Mize has now thrown six innings or more in eight of his last nine starts, and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in any of them. The strikeouts weren’t there tonight, and the fallout from the grip issue is going to be interesting to watch, but Mize continues to throw a ton of strikes and get an awful lot of weak contact. This bodes well for his future success whatever comes of the league’s half-assed plan to make the ball as slippery as possible for its pitchers.

The Tigers offense couldn’t muster any add on runs in the eighth or ninth, but it didn’t matter. Peralta issued a two out walk to Soler in the eighth, but got Kelvin Gutierrez to ground out to end the inning. Gregory Soto had the ninth, and while he had battle through a 12 pitch at-bat by Taylor, eventually got him to swing over a slider for strike three to collect his sixth save of the season.

The Tigers will look for the sweep on Wednesday afternoon at 2:10 p.m. EDT. Tarik Skubal will take on the Royals’ Brady Singer looking to make it three straight before the Tigers fly out to LA for four game starting Thursday.

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