Detroit — Hall of Famer Jack Morris told the story of how veteran catcher Milt May set him straight on using all his pitches.
“I had no clue,” Morris said before the game Wednesday. “It was my first trip around the league and there were days when I had no confidence in my secondary pitches. So every time he’d throw down three fingers or anything other than fastball, I’d shake him off and he’d put it right back down.
“He told me, ‘You’ve got to throw those pitches in those counts. Trust me. Trust your pitches.’”
It was a story Morris told in reference to rookie Matt Manning, who made his second career start and his first at Comerica Park Wednesday, going 5⅔ innings and earning his first major league win as the Tigers beat the Cardinals, 6-2, sweeping the short, two-game set.
In his big-league debut last week in Anaheim, Manning threw 68% fastballs, often shaking off catcher Jake Rogers when he called from a change-up or slider.
“Sometimes a catcher has more confidence in pitches than the pitcher who is throwing them,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I love that Matt trusts his fastball. It’s got him to this level. This level now has to show him that he can’t pitch the way he always pitched.
“It has to prove to him it’s not the right way.”
Manning didn’t wait. He brought his full arsenal into his outing Wednesday, mixing 15 sinkers, 12 change-ups and even a couple of curveballs with 51 four-seam fastballs. And he didn’t lack for conviction in any of them.
Case in point: Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado led off the second inning and hoisted a 1-1 slider over the wall in left field for his 14th home run on the year. So when Arenado led off the fourth inning, you expected Manning to go back to the heater. Nope. Unfazed by the home run, Manning threw him three straight sliders, getting him to ground out to shortstop.
Manning allowed five hits, two were off his fastball, including a triple by rookie Lars Nootbaar that set up the second run off him.
Manning’s fastball continues to be somewhat of an enigma. It had a velocity range of 89 to 95.5 mph but sat at 92 mph — 2 mph off his pace in Anaheim. It had a below average spin rate, as well (under 2,000 rpm).
He got just three swings-and-misses with it (four total and just one strikeout) and the average exit velocity on the 13 put in play was 92 mph (hard-hit).
Bottom line, though, he was one out shy of a quality start.
The Tigers took advantage of the one flaw in Cardinals starter John Gant’s profile — wildness. He came in leading the National League with 44 walks. And he walked four in the first three innings. The Tigers made him pay for the last two.
Sizzling Jonathan Schoop doubled home Jake Rogers and Akil Baddoo with a ringing double after Gant had walked them both.
Rookie Daz Cameron ended Gant’s day with a leadoff home run in the fourth. He turned on a change-up and hit it 407 feet over the bullpen in left, putting the Tigers up 3-2. It was Cameron’s third homer since being recalled earlier this month.
Schoop, though, continues to be a marvel in June. He hit his 10th home run of the month leading off the fifth inning. The 10 homers, plus his 23 RBIs and 17 extra base hits, leads Major League Baseball in June.
And since May 15, he’s hitting .305 (43-for-141) with 10 doubles, 13 homers and 32 RBIs.
Baddoo singled home the fifth run in the sixth and was deprived of a second RBI on the play when Cardinals right fielder Nootbaar gunned down Isaac Paredes trying to score from second.
Paredes’ sacrifice fly in the eighth scored Cameron. Cameron walked, stole second and went to third on an infield single by Willi Castro. The Tigers stole three bases in the game, two without throws.