The Detroit Tigers allowed a first-inning solo home run to Jose Ramirez, which wasn’t much of a surprise. Last year’s American League MVP runner-up has crushed 21 home runs against the Tigers — only the Chicago White Sox have allowed more — in his career.
In the second inning, right-hander Jose Urena allowed the first of two solo home runs to Bobby Bradley. He followed that by striking out four batters in a row with his sinker-slider combination, then gave up another solo home run, this time to Cesar Hernandez in the third inning.
Urena’s inability to keep the baseball in the ballpark hurt him, but the Tigers (35-45) salvaged a 9-4 win in Game 1 of Wednesday’s seven-inning doubleheader at Progressive Field. Urena allowed a career-high four home runs and only generated three ground-ball outs.
“Jose looked pretty good,” reliever Kyle Funkhouser said. “Just a couple mistakes that they really took advantage of. … Limiting the damage, getting the guys right before and right after, is pretty big.”
Before Game 1, the teams had to wait through a rain delay for two hours, 29 minutes. This came after Tuesday’s contest was postponed — creating Wednesday’s doubleheader — because of rain.
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Urena allowed four runs on five hits over 3⅓ innings. He walked one batter, struck out five and threw 39 of 58 pitches for strikes. In his past eight starts, the 29-year-old has a 9.46 ERA.
He exited with two runners in scoring position and one out in the fourth. Funkhouser struck out Austin Hedges with a slider and retired Oscar Mercado with a first-pitch slider to escape the jam Urena created. Funkhouser then was perfect in the fifth, dropping his ERA to 3.04 this season.
“The coaching staff is trusting me a little bit more, putting me in some big spots,” Funkhouser said. “I love that. As a competitor, you want to be in those moments when the game is on the line, whether it’s the middle of the game or late in the game. You want to be in those moments. It’s kind of a competitor’s dream to get the ball with the game on the line.”
The winning run (and more)
Facing reliever Bryan Shaw in the fifth, the Tigers posted the game-winning run on a two-out single from Harold Castro. His at-bat was set up by a double from Nomar Mazara — which went off the diving right fielder’s glove — and a walk from Zack Short.
The late-inning bullpen efforts of Funkhouser (1⅔ innings), Gregory Soto (1 innings) and Bryan Garcia (1 inning) kept Cleveland from scoring the rest of the way. Soto owns a 2.18 ERA and struck out two of the three batters he faced in a perfect sixth inning.
“Really, it’s just trying to execute each pitch,” Funkhouser said. “Execute the first one, the second one, the third one. Just focus on pitch-to-pitch with execution, and if you execute all your pitches, more times than not, you’re going to get the guy out.”
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Castro finished 3-for-3 with three RBIs and one walk, and Short went 1-for-2 with two walks. (Entering Wednesday, Castro was 6-for-60 in his past 18 games.) Akil Baddoo had a three-hit performance; Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario and Jonathan Schoop each chipped in two hits. For their nine runs, the Tigers recorded 15 hits and five walks.
Cabrera pushed the Tigers ahead 6-4 with a sacrifice fly off Blake Parker in the sixth inning, and Candelario added to the damage with a sharp RBI single to right field. Schoop’s two-RBI single in the seventh gave his team a 9-4 lead.
“Giving up runs stinks, but if you keep them to a solo home run — one here, one there — you’re still giving your team a chance to win,” Funkhouser said. “But we really swung the bats well. I think we answered every inning, or just about every inning. We’ve been doing that a lot this year, and it’s huge.”
Staying in the game
The Tigers helped Urena with a two-run second inning, starting with a leadoff single from Cabrera. Candelario jumped on a changeup from Cleveland starter Cal Quantrill to put two runners in scoring position without any outs.
Mazara struck out swinging, but the Tigers drew back-to-back walks — Short and Castro — to load the bases and plate the first running. An ensuing single from Jake Rogers, who smothered a first-pitch slider, pushed the lead to 2-1.
Of course, it wasn’t long before Urena squandered the lead his offense gifted him.
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Still, the Tigers kept attacking Quantrill. They put together strong swings in the third inning, as well, but didn’t score. In the fourth, those swings paid off with runs. Castro ripped a line-drive double to the right-center field gap, which scored the speedy Short to tie the game.
Baddoo doubled off the wall with one out, and Castro should have scored from second base. But he made a base-running mistake — poorly reading the 396-foot extra-base hit. He thought it was going to be caught on the warning track, which forced third-base coach Chip Hale to hold him at third base.
The double from Baddoo chased Quantrill. Against reliever Phil Maton, Schoop slapped a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Castro and giving the Tigers a 4-3 lead. Quantrill allowed four runs on eight hits and two walks, with three strikeouts, over 3⅓ innings.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.