“They want to take advantage of these opportunities,” manager AJ Hinch said. “They’re learning. They’re growing. But most importantly, they’re putting us in a position to win. That’s what their job is the day they have the ball.”
The efforts from the rookie arms helped deliver the Detroit Tigers three consecutive wins over the Texas Rangers, the latest being a 4-2 victory Wednesday — ignited by three home runs — in front of 21,132 fans at Comerica Park in the third of four games in the series.
The Tigers (46-51) extended their winning streak to six games, all since the All-Star break. They are 37-27 since May 8.
“It’s really been such a fun team,” rookie shortstop Zack Short said. “Fun is the only way to put it. You’re expecting to win every day when you come to the field.”
‘WE’RE A GOOD TEAM’: Tigers are proving they’ve taken the next step in winning process
Manning fired six innings of two-run ball (one earned) before the Tigers went to their steady trio of relievers. Ahead by two runs, righty Joe Jimenez delivered a perfect seventh to keep the momentum alive.
Righty Jose Cisnero pitched a scoreless eighth. Left-hander Gregory Soto worked around a bloop single to right, a hit-by-pitch and a balk to complete a scoreless ninth inning for his 10th save.
“I was just so happy to get through the sixth inning and get through the third time around the lineup,” Manning said. “Those guys were in a good position to do their thing. They’ve done it multiple times, and it’s not their first time. They’re good at it, so I was very comfortable with where we were at.”
Striking first, adding on
For the second time in 2021, Robbie Grossman homered in consecutive games. After taking Dane Dunning deep on Tuesday night, he attacked Rangers starter Jordan Lyles in the first inning.
Grossman fell behind 0-2 but extended the at-bat to seven pitches. He saw at least one four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, slider and changeup before clobbering the first curveball Lyles offered him. The ball traveled 400 feet into right-center field for a 1-0 lead.
“He didn’t make a ton of mistakes,” Hinch said about Lyles. “But when he made mistakes, we were able to capitalize by putting a couple of long at-bats up against him and hit the ball out of the ballpark a few times to give us a lead that we needed.”
It was Grossman’s 15th homer this season. The last time he homered in two straight games: June 9-10 against the Mariners. He also extended his on-base streak to a career-high 20 games.
The Rangers tied the game in the top of the second inning, but the Tigers struck back in the bottom of the frame. Short — known more for his defense — showed some sneaky power.
Lyles threw Short a first-pitch slider for a called strike. He then went back to his slider for the second pitch. Both pitches were elevated, but the second slider was down the middle, and Short didn’t miss.
He blasted his fourth home run (in 25 games) to left field, giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit the last week or so, and that’s just taken such a back seat,” Short said. “It would be selfish to worry about your own success when guys are busting their (expletive) and we’re on a roll like this.”
Six innings for Manning
Wednesday was 23-year-old Manning’s sixth MLB start, and for the first time, he completed six innings. He threw 50 of 77 pitches for strikes and generated 11 swings and misses: Seven fastballs, three sliders, one changeup.
He allowed two runs on four hits and two walks, striking out four batters.
“Just being efficient, keeping the walks down and trying to attack them,” Manning said. “I’m trying to get them either on base or out in less than three pitches. That’s kind of been my thing. My strikeouts have suffered a little bit for that, but I’m attacking guys in the zone as much as I can.”
Manning worked quickly throughout his outing, needing only 30 pitches for the first three innings. The lone earned run against him came in the second, when John Hicks followed Joey Gallo’s first-pitch single with a double to center field.
Hicks drove one of three curveballs Manning offered in his outing. Manning then retired the next three batters on six pitches.
The Rangers tallied their second run in the fourth. Manning walked Adolis Garcia (an American League Rookie of the Year candidate) on five pitches. A passed ball from catcher Grayson Greiner allowed Garcia to advance to second base.
With two outs, David Dahl doubled on Manning’s first-pitch changeup to score Garcia and cut the Rangers’ deficit to one. But Manning responded by striking out Eli White with a 94 mph fastball. He struck out his first two in the fourth and added another strikeout in each of the fifth and sixth frames.
Manning tossed 57% fastballs, 19% changeups, 19% sliders and 4% curveballs. His fastball averaged 92.8 mph.
“I’m not going to beat myself up about it,” Manning said about his fastball velocity. “I know it’s going to come back. I throw the ball hard. Sometimes I get a little too focused on location rather than getting that ride on it. I’m trying to find a mixture of the two.”
Baddoo hits No. 8
Manning pitched a scoreless fifth and sixth innings. He didn’t need the extra run support, but rookie Akil Baddoo provided it anyway. The Rule 5 draft sensation worked a 3-1 count against Lyles in the fifth before finding the perfect fastball.
Baddoo swung at a 93-mph fastball down the heart of the plate, launching it 409 feet to right-center, for a 4-2 lead.
“Just to watch Akil, I tell everybody, all my friends, about this guy,” Short said. “He’s 22 years old, hasn’t played above High-A (in the minor leagues). And he’s leading off for us and hitting (.273). He’s launching balls, having great at-bats.”
Lyles allowed four runs on six hits and one walk, with five strikeouts, over seven innings. He has given up 24 home runs across 20 games (19 starts) in 2021.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.