CLEVELAND — For the second time in seven days, Matt Manning walked off the mound and back into the dugout looking to pound something. He had labored in a four-run, six-hit third inning, all but sealing the Tigers’ 6-1 loss to Cleveland on Friday night at Progressive Field, and it would’ve been worse if not for Derek Hill’s throw home to retire Bobby Bradley.
Manning pounded the dugout padding, then the bench, as he sat down and contemplated what went wrong in a 30-pitch inning. But his evening wasn’t over.
By comparison to Manning’s third-inning frustration, his fourth-inning look was more of exasperation after two more runs on three hits and a sacrifice fly. He sat on the dugout bench, head in hands, after slamming a paper cup. The handshake from manager A.J. Hinch on his way down the dugout steps signified a merciful end to an outing that could best be described as a four-inning teachable moment.
While the Tigers are looking to win every game they can, they’re also in the business of developing young pitching for the years ahead, when they expect to contend. They also don’t have much experienced pitching available with Spencer Turnbull out for the year and Matthew Boyd and José Ureña rehabbing from injuries. Detroit has every reason to stick with Manning and let him learn on the job, including difficult lessons like these.
Friday’s lesson was the importance of command and the need for effective secondary pitches. Manning got away with the former early, retiring six of the first seven batters he faced despite falling behind against the first four. He racked up back-to-back strikeouts while pounding the zone in the second inning and tried to do the same when he came out for the third.
From there, Manning’s outing became a nightmare. Unlike his previous debacle at Progressive Field on June 23, he avoided home runs, but Cleveland batters peppered him with singles and doubles. When he wasn’t paying for elevated two-seam fastballs, he was flustered by sliders that repeatedly came out flat.
None of Cleveland’s hits topped 104 mph in exit velocity, but it averaged just under 94 mph in exit velo off his sinker and slider. Add together Manning’s two meetings with the Indians, and he has allowed 15 runs on 19 hits over 7 2/3 innings.
Manning finished Friday’s start with six runs on 10 hits, and has allowed 12 earned runs on 22 hits over 14 2/3 innings in his last three starts.