Indians rough up Tigers rookie Matt Manning, cruise in series opener

Detroit News

Cleveland – This must be like a nightmare for Matt Manning. Finally getting to pitch in the big leagues and not having the one weapon that got him this far. Think Nuke Laloosh’s dream sequence in Bull Durham.

Manning seemed weaponless against the Indians Friday night. The velocity on his fastball, which two years ago was ringing upper-90s consistently, was sitting at 93. His slider was flat. His change-up and curveball were non-factors. No chance.

The Indians tagged him for six runs and 10 hits in four innings and cruised to a 6-1 win over the Tigers at Progressive Field. The average exit velocity on the 18 balls put in play by Indians hitters was a robust 94 mph.

Had it not been for a spectacular defensive play in the third inning, the carnage might have been worse.

► BOX SCORE: Indians 6, Tigers 1

Four runs had already crossed the plate in the inning and lefty Derek Holland was warming in the bullpen. The Indians had ripped three doubles and two singles and there was only one out when Harold Ramirez hit another bullet into center field.

Bobby Bradley was hustling around third and headed for home with the fifth run. He didn’t get there.

Tigers center fielder Derek Hill charged and threw a missile (94.4 mph according to Statcast) to the plate and catcher Eric Haase made a brilliant one-motion play to catch the ball and make a swipe tag on Bradley.   

► RELATED REPORT: AJ Hinch tries to ride wave of Miguel Cabrera’s chase while keeping Tigers’ focus on point

Manager AJ Hinch sent Manning back out for the fourth, giving him what he’s called a developmental inning. He’s had success doing that with rookie Casey Mize and Tarik Skubal, letting them try to finish a rough outing on a high note.

Not this time. Manning gave up three more hits and two more runs.

His frustration boiled over in the dugout between innings.

The issue of Manning’s velocity has been well-documented. He missed all of 2020, first with COVID-19 and then with a forearm strain. He lost 15 pounds which he still hasn’t regained. The physical issues plus missing a full year of development set him back significantly.

He hasn’t shown the same arm speed or velocity he had back in 2019 when he was dominating Double-A hitters in Erie.

Manning was summoned to the big leagues somewhat before his time because of injuries to the top three starters in the Tigers’ initial rotation – Spencer Turnbull, Matthew Boyd and Jose Urena. Even though he was getting hit around by Triple-A hitters at Toledo, the Tigers felt it would be best to let him develop under pitching coach Chris Fetter, hoping he would rise to the challenge of pitching against big-league hitters.

It hasn’t been all negative. Since he’s been up, he’s brought the slider back into his mix and incorporated a two-seam fastball on the fly.

But on Friday, none of that was clicking for him.

Speaking of not clicking, the Tigers offense came into the game leading the Majors with 112 runs since the All-Star break and they were subdued by Indians right-hander Cal Quantrill. The Tigers got two hits in the first inning – the threat doused by a double-play grounder by Miguel Cabrera – and just two more over the next six innings.

Quantrill, who set down 15 straight at one time, posted a career-best 10 strikeouts.

Cabrera is still on 498 home runs, but he collected hit No. 2,946, a single in the seventh. 

The Tigers loaded the bases in the ninth inning against reliever Blake Parker. But it led to one run, on a Jeimer Candelario single.  

Twitter@cmccosky

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