The ‘lessons’ Detroit Tigers rookie Matt Manning learned by struggling vs. Cleveland

Detroit Free Press

Matt Manning displayed his frustration in the dugout by slamming his glove.

Later, he voiced his disappointment as he tried to make sense of allowing nine runs Monday night in the Detroit Tigers‘ 13-5 loss to Cleveland at Progressive Field.

Simply, Manning did not pitch well.

At all.

Manning, making his third MLB start, gave up nine runs on nine hits over 3⅔ innings. He was chased by Jose Ramirez, who crushed a three-run home run. Ramirez’s 17th long ball of the season forced Tigers manager AJ Hinch to signal for reliever Miguel Del Pozo.

Manning, 23, couldn’t complete the fourth inning.

“We’ll encourage him to make better pitches,” Hinch said. “The lessons are out on the field. I think the bad taste is going to be left in his mouth. It’s going to be key for him to get to work and execute from the beginning of the game when he gets the ball again.”

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The fourth-inning exit was set up by allowing two runs in the first inning and three runs in the second. Manning — trying to throw down and away — missed up and in with a second-inning four-seam fastball to Austin Hedges.

Hedges put Cleveland ahead, 5-1, with a home run to left field.

After Cleveland scored its sixth run in the fourth, Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter went to the mound for a discussion. There were two outs. The Tigers had Del Pozo ready to pitch, but Hinch wanted to give Manning a chance to leave his start with positivity so he left him in to face Ramirez.

Also, Hinch wanted Ramirez, a switch-hitter who finished second in American League MVP voting in 2020, to bat from the left side. This season, Ramirez has more home runs as a righty (14) than as a lefty (3).

“We tried to go up and in, and I left it over the plate,” Manning said. “It went bye.”

Hinch added: “He just got a bad pitch and smoked it out of the ballpark.”

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The home run from Ramirez gave Cleveland a 9-2 lead.

Tigers pitching continued to get rocked, giving up two runs in the fifth inning, one in the sixth and one in the seventh before left-handed reliever Tyler Alexander pitched a scoreless eighth inning. His eighth inning and Manning’s third inning were the only scoreless frames.

Cleveland used 19 hits to score 13 runs.

Manning allowed nine runs on nine hits over 3⅔ innings. He did not allow a walk but struck out just two batters. His three pitches produced three swings and misses, and Cleveland finished with an average 92.8 mph exit velocity against him. Manning did not miss bats and his opponents made hard contact.

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“The big leagues is hard if you don’t execute,” Hinch said. “They put the ball in play pretty hard and delivered some big blows. We didn’t get into the game, and we didn’t keep them off the scoreboard in many innings. Just a bad day on the mound.”

Manning became the Tigers’ first starting pitcher to allow nine-plus earned runs without completing four innings since Sept. 20, 2019, when Jordan Zimmermann got throttled by the Chicago White Sox for nine runs (11 hits, one walk, six strikeouts) over 3⅔ innings.

So, what did Manning learn?

“I thought my breaking ball was good,” Manning said. “I think my changeup, especially to righties, was a weapon. Use those more often and in different counts and not be so predictable, and then try to expand the zone when I get ahead in the count. And not leave balls in the middle.”

Hinch simplified the problems.

“It looked like he was missing locations,” Hinch said, “and got a little predictable.”

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Manning threw 75 pitches (50 strikes) before his removal. He fired 47 four-seam fastballs, for a 63% fastball rate, 18 changeups and 10 curveballs. Through three starts, Manning has tossed fastballs for 151 of his 232 pitches, or 65.1% of the time.

Cleveland simply hunted the fastball. Manning doesn’t overwhelm opponents with his other offerings, and he wasn’t locating his fastball. When Manning commands his fastball, however, he can get away with avoiding substantial damage, as exemplified by his first two starts.

Facing the Los Angeles Angels for his MLB debut, Manning threw 69% fastballs and allowed two runs (four hits, two walks, three strikeouts) in five innings. Against the St. Louis Cardinals for his Comerica Park debut, Manning tossed 64% fastballs, allowing two runs (five hits, two walks, one strikeout) over 5⅔ innings.

“The (pitch) usage could’ve been a little better tonight,” catcher Jake Rogers said. “He could’ve finished some balls with two strikes in the dirt. I thought we left a lot of pitches over the plate with two strikes. There’s a little bit of everything. It was an off night. They put together some good at-bats.”

In three starts, Manning has an 8.16 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, four walks and six strikeouts. He has allowed 13 earned runs over 14⅓ innings, giving up three home runs.

“The ability to mix pitches a little better is going to be key,” Hinch said. “When he’s got the really good powerful fastball, you saw him beat some guys up in the (strike) zone. He’s got all the weapons to do it. It’s a maturation process at this level.

“We’ll see how the pitch mix goes and how convinced he is in his breaking ball and when he can execute a changeup in a fastball count when he falls behind. Those are all lessons he’s going to have to learn. We don’t expect him to do it all in one outing. This is a tough one tonight for him to take back to the hotel, but he’ll get a bullpen in a couple days. He’ll throw in the next series or the series after that.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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