Detroit Tigers rookie Casey Mize is back.
The 24-year-old never left, but he finally returned to a full workload in Thursday’s 6-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park. His first three starts in July were on pitch-count restictions as part of the organization’s long-term plan to preserve his health. He began building up pitches in his previous start in Kansas City and is now free to pitch deep into games.
“Hopefully it’s back to regular scheduled programming from here on out,” Mize said. “It feels good. That’s where I can provide value, getting as many outs as possible and limiting runs. Those are my two goals when I pitch.”
Mize made the most of his opportunity, posting seven innings of one-run ball. The right-hander — allowing four hits and two walks with two strikeouts — guided the Tigers (50-55) past the Orioles for the team’s third consecutive win.
Detroit is 41-31 since May 8 and 10-4 since the All-Star break.
The lone run the Orioles scored off Mize was scored as unearned. Mize recorded the second out in the seventh inning on a fly ball. Left fielder Akil Baddoo, attempting to hold Ryan McKenna at third base, made a throwing error.
An accurate throw would have kept McKenna from scoring.
Mize threw 54 of his 88 pitches for strikes. He only produced five swings and misses but stayed efficient with 21 called strikes and soft ground-ball contact early in at-bats.
“They were swinging the bat a lot, so I wasn’t even able to get to many two-strike counts, wasn’t able to pitch that deep into counts because they were swinging,” Mize said. “They weren’t shying away from swinging the bats early, so that played into our hand tonight. We were able to get some quick outs.”
In the fifth and seventh innings, Miguel Cabrera crushed opposite-field solo home runs. The 38-year-old finished 3-for-3 with two RBIs and one walk. It marked the 43rd multi-homer game of Cabrera’s career and his second this season. (His other in 2021: A two-homer affair May 21 against the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.)
Cabrera is 61 hits away from No. 3,000 in his 19-year MLB career and three home runs away from No. 500.
“They’re big hits on a big scale, just looking at the big numbers, that also changed the scoreboard,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We’re trying to beat the Orioles tonight, and Miggy was a huge contributor. Big day for him and ultimately the catalyst for us to come away with a win.”
Schoop delivers early
The Tigers attacked Orioles left-hander Alexander Wells in the first inning, starting with Baddoo’s leadoff walk. Because Baddoo is a threat to steal, Wells tossed over to first base and threw the ball away. His error allowed Baddoo to advance to third base.
Jonathan Schoop followed with a single into left to score Baddoo for a 1-0 lead. Schoop advanced from first to third base on Cabrera’s one-out single and scored on Eric Haase’s sacrifice fly to left for a two-run advantage.
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In the third inning, Schoop produced a one-out double to set the table for a 3-0 lead. Haase plated him with a single to left, extending his hitting streak to 10 games. Jeimer Candelario then singled to load the bases.
But Willi Castro flied out to right-center on a solid swing, ending the threat. The ball was tracked down by speedy Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins.
Mullins also played a role on offense, leading off with a triple to right in the first inning. The Tigers kept him from scoring, though, when Trey Mancini hit a bouncer back to Mize, who immediately threw the ball home.
Haase charged down the third-base line, forcing Mullins back toward third before dumping the ball to Candelario. He chased Mullins toward home and, before the speedster could dive in an attempt to score, extended his glove to tag him out.
“The first inning changed the course of the game entirely, with Casey being able to execute a come-backer with the infield in,” Hinch said. “Casey is one of the best defending pitchers in the league. He’s really good off the mound.”
The Orioles didn’t threaten again until the seventh inning.
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In the second inning, Domingo Leyba grounded into an inning-ending double play. He hit a bouncer to first base, and Cabrera jumped into the air to keep the ball from finding its way into right field. Cabrera threw the ball to shortstop Zack Short at second base and returned to first ahead of Short’s return throw for the double play.
“Going into it, I wanted to pitch these guys away with the fastball a lot,” Mize said. “But then we noticed how aggressive they were, so we were just throwing two-seamers in on the right-handers a lot. That kind of surprised me and changed the game plan with the fastball a little bit.”
Cabrera made another solid play in the fifth inning, stopping Mullins’ sharp groundball. After bobbling the ball, he flipped to Mize for the third out.
Mize and Cabrera shared smiles on their way back to the dugout.
“I didn’t think I was going to need to get over there, and then he fumbled it a little bit, so I took off late,” Mize said. “I told him, ‘Miggy, I didn’t think I needed to go.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m glad you did, papa,’ and I’m like, ‘All right, we got him, so don’t worry about it.’ It’s amazing to be able to share the field with him.”
After an infield single from McKenna in the fourth inning, Mize didn’t allow another batter to reach safely until he had one out in the seventh. He allowed back-to-back one-out singles to McKenna and Maikel Franco, forcing a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter.
Baddoo made his mistake in left field, which allowed the Orioles to score, but Mize finished his outing with a forceout. Right-handed reliever Jose Cisnero conceded one run on three walks and a wild pitch in the eighth inning.
Righty Michael Fulmer pitched a perfect ninth with three strikeouts.
“He was electric,” Hinch said. “It’s so good to have him back.”
496 & 497
As if Cabrera’s defense wasn’t enough, he lined an opposite-field home run with one out in the fifth inning for a 4-0 lead. He tagged a fastball from Wells into the seats in right field.
Hanging from the fence atop the brick wall in left field, the “Miggy Milestones” banner changed numbers, going from 495 to 496, signifying Cabrera’s career home runs over 19 seasons.
“Seeing what Miguel is doing through his career is special,” Candelario said. “It’s really special for us.”
The number increased to 497 in the seventh.
That’s when Cabrera smacked a fastball from righty reliever Adam Plutko for his second opposite-field homer, giving the Tigers a 5-1 lead. Later in the seventh, Candelario tripled to score Haase for a 6-1 lead.
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.