Manning impresses in final 1st-half start

Detroit Tigers

MINNEAPOLIS — For the second consecutive night, a Tigers rookie pitcher held the Twins hitless for four innings at Target Field, only to end up with a defeat. But much like Tarik Skubal, there was a lot to like about Matt Manning‘s final turn in the Tigers’ rotation heading into the All-Star break.

Detroit’s 4-2 loss Friday night was an odd outing in which Manning arguably looked better while giving up baserunners late than he did while stringing together outs early. His four hardest-hit balls surrendered all went for outs in his first four innings, from Josh Donaldson’s first-inning drive to the center-field fence to a Nelson Cruz second-inning lineout with a 115.4 mph exit velocity. His two hits allowed were line-drive singles — one in the fifth inning from Max Kepler at 80.6 mph, the other from Luis Arraez in the sixth at 97.7 mph.

In between the early outs and the late damage, Manning found his best form. It wasn’t just the leverage counts leading to groundouts, but the way he worked ahead of hitters after they just missed punishing him for fastballs over the middle of the plate.

Manning threw first-pitch strikes to 13 of his 20 batters. Eight of those first-pitch strikes came on non-fastballs. He threw breaking balls or offspeed to 13 batters, including eight of his final nine.

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