Ex-Detroit Tigers catcher spoils comeback effort in 10-5 loss to Texas Rangers

Detroit Free Press

Former Detroit Tigers catcher John Hicks has played four games for the Texas Rangers.

In the fourth inning, he stepped into the batter’s box for his 10th at-bat in 2021. Three pitches later, Hicks came away with his fourth home run — a two-run blast for a 2-1 lead — on a hanging slider from Tigers starter Jose Urena.

Detroit’s newest catchers came to the rescue in the sixth and seventh innings. Trailing by four runs, Jake Rogers crushed a solo home run in the sixth. Eric Haase then added a pinch-hit three-run homer to tie the game at five runs in the seventh.

But Hicks got the last laugh.

In the bottom of the seventh, Hicks singled to left field. The ball rolled underneath Haase’s glove, allowing two runs to score for a 7-5 Rangers lead. This time, the Tigers (39-47) couldn’t mount a comeback, losing 10-5 in the second of three games at Globe Life Field.

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The Rangers tacked on their final two runs in the eighth inning. Brock Holt and American League Rookie of the Year candidate Adolis Garcia homered against reliever Bryan Garcia, who has allowed four home runs (and five earned runs) in the past two nights.

Hicks finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs.

The game-tying homer from Haase was Detroit’s first pinch-hit home run since Hicks on Sept. 28, 2019, against the Chicago White Sox. In that game, Hicks was pinch-hitting for Rogers. (Hicks played for the Tigers from 2016-19.)

It was Haase’s 12th home run in 39 games this season.

The rookie’s power against Rangers reliever John King helped the Tigers climb back from Urena’s woes.

Tigers manager AJ Hinch was forced to call on his bullpen with two outs in the fifth inning, after David Dahl smacked a two-out RBI double to center field for a 5-1 lead. Righty reliever Buck Farmer entered and retired the first batter he faced to end the inning.

Urena kept the Rangers scoreless through three innings but was attacked in the fourth. The veteran righty conceded five runs on six hits and four walks, with three strikeouts, in 4⅔ innings. He threw 47 of 84 pitches for strikes.

The lone run vs. Dunning

Rangers starter Dane Dunning owned the Tigers.

He cruised through five innings, allowing one run on one hit and one walk. He stayed efficient to keep his pitch-count low and made Tuesday’s performance look easy. The 26-year-old — traded from the White Sox to the Rangers in December — recorded six strikeouts and threw 45 of 64 pitches for strikes.

The Tigers scored their only run against Dunning in the fourth inning, when Robbie Grossman smoked a change-up for a 413-foot home run. It was Grossman’s 11th homer in 82 games this season. (Back in 2019, the last full MLB season, Grossman had six homers in 138 games for the Oakland Athletics.)

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The only other batter to reach base against Dunning was Miguel Cabrera in the second inning. He drew a six-pitch walk.

In the second, Mazara watched three 90-92 mph fastballs in the strike zone for a strikeout looking. During the fifth, Mazara struck out swinging in his second at-bat. He went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts before Haase entered as a pinch-hitter.

Evaluating Urena

Entering Tuesday’s start, Urena had a 12.50 ERA, 11 walks and 12 strikeouts in his past five starts, only pitching 18 innings because of his struggles. Following his outing against the Rangers, he owns an 11.91 ERA, 15 walks and 15 strikeouts in his past six starts.

But Urena didn’t crumble until the fourth inning.

Even when he hit Garcia to start the fourth, his defense — Rogers’ strong arm and shortstop Zack Short’s quick tag — cut him down trying to steal second base.

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Given a clean slate, Urena walked Joey Gallo. Hicks followed with his two-run homer for a 2-1 lead, and Dahl singled up the middle to keep the pressure on Urena. After a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter, Andy Ibanez walked on five pitches.

Urena picked up his second out, but Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled. The ball came off his bat at 102.9 mph, and third baseman Jeimer Candelario tried to make a back-handed pick instead of getting in front of the ball to knock it down.

As a result, the ball skipped passed him and rolled into left field. Kiner-Falefa was given a double, which drove in two runs for a 4-1 lead. Despite Urena’s struggles, Hinch sent him back out for the fifth inning. The frame started with a walk, double and falling behind 3-0 in the count to Gallo.

Urena battled back to strike Gallo out looking, but Dahl’s two-out RBI double chased him.

Candelario’s second mistake

Before Hicks put the Rangers ahead 7-5 with his single (misplayed by Haase), Gallo singled to left field to put two runners on base with one out. Instead of a possible double play, the ball scooted underneath Candelario’s glove.

He should have made the play, but Gallo’s hit was ruled a single.

Later in the inning, Dahl doubled to right field for a 8-5 lead.

In the seventh, left-handed reliever Daniel Norris was charged with two of those runs on two hits. He only got one out before Hinch turned to righty Joe Jimenez. And Jimenez allowed one run on two hits but finished the inning.

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

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