Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch wants the fans to cheer.
He is asking them to get pumped for the entirety of Miguel Cabrera’s plate appearances against the Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park. For the past three games against Cleveland, the crowd would go silent just before each pitch to the future Hall of Famer, and Hinch didn’t appreciate the added pressure.
Cabrera is one home run away from No. 500 in his 19-year career.
“It almost makes me nervous watching,” Hinch said. “I want to tell them to raise the volume a little bit.”
The Tigers (58-63) took the field in front of 24,714 fans in Tuesday’s series opener, but many of them exited the ballpark before the frustrating 8-2 loss concluded. Gregory Soto allowed a grand slam to Jo Adell with two outs in the top of the ninth inning, breaking a 2-2 tie. The Angels scored six runs in the ninth.
Detroit has dropped two games in a row and three of their past four.
“It’ll take him no time at all (to recover),” Hinch said of Soto. “He’s a back-end reliever, closer, whatever we want to call him. He’s as tough mentally as we’ve got, so he’ll want the ball tomorrow in a big spot.”
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Those in the stands understood Hinch’s early message, especially when the phrase “MAKE SOME NOISE” flashed across the scoreboard with Cabrera at the plate. Despite their efforts, Cabrera finished 0-for-2 with two walks. He was walked on four pitches by Angels relievers Austin Warren and Steve Cishek in the fifth and seventh innings, respectively.
“We were just trying to sell tickets for tomorrow,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “It’s purely promotional.”
Cabrera gets another chance for his 500th homer Wednesday against Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani. He is 1-for-11 (.091) with three walks, four strikeouts and one hit-by-pitch in four games since returning to Comerica Park on Friday.
Rookie right-hander Casey Mize started for the Tigers, allowing two runs on four hits and four walks over four innings. He struggled with his command throughout his outing and only used five splitters. Mize threw 49 of 88 pitches for strikes and logged four strikeouts.
“Definitely just a battle from the whole standpoint of executing pitches and feeling off body-wise,” Mize said. “That led to disadvantage counts and walks. Not very sharp at all. Definitely a tough day for me. … I was fortunate to work out of a couple jams and limit it to two (runs). I guess that’s somewhat of a positive, but I’m not happy with the outing as a whole.”
But the bullpen gave the Tigers a boost, beginning with Kyle Funkhouser in the fifth inning.
The Angels didn’t score against Funkhouser, Joe Jimenez (sixth inning), Michael Fulmer (seventh) and Jose Cisnero (eighth). The four relievers combined for four scoreless innings, four hits allowed, two walks and seven strikeouts.
“They outplayed us,” Hinch said, “and there was an opportunity at the end to sneak a win in a game where we felt like we were having to be defensive virtually the whole game based on how many runners they had on base.”
In the ninth, Soto cracked with two outs and the bases loaded.
After Adell’s grand slam, Kurt Suzuki crushed a solo homer to left for a 7-2 lead. An ensuing Juan Lagares double chased Soto from his appearance after 30 pitches. The Angels scored once with Ian Krol on the mound, thanks to second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s fielding error, but the run was charged to Soto.
Soto allowed six runs (five earned) on four hits and two walks.
“He looked like normal Greg, and a couple pitches got away from him,” catcher Grayson Greiner said. “The pitch to Adell is just middle-middle, something he doesn’t do too often. His stuff is so good. Sometimes you can get away with that pitch. Adell put a good swing on it.”
Tough night for Mize
On the one-year anniversary of Mize’s big-league arrival, the 24-year-old took the mound for his 23rd start of 2021 and the 30th start of his MLB career. The first pitch he threw was ripped by Ohtani — a two-way superstar — for a single up the middle.
Mize needed 33 pitches to complete the first inning but stranded the bases loaded. He kept the Angels to one run, when Brandon Marsh singled to center to score Ohtani, who stole his 18th base earlier in the inning.
“His stuff was a little out of whack,” Greiner said. “He’s normally a really big strike-thrower, and I looked up at one point and he was about 50/50, which is very odd for him. I think it was just an off night for Casey as far as what we’re used to seeing from him, pounding the zone and getting weak contact.”
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The second inning went much better, besides walking Ohtani on four pitches. The 13-pitch frame ended with Ohtani trying — and failing — to swipe second base for the second time. Greiner fired the ball to shortstop Harold Castro.
The Greiner-Castro connection was just in time for the third out.
But Mize fell back into trouble in the third. David Fletcher singled to start the inning, and a wild pitch advanced him to second before Jared Walsh took a walk. Mize responded with consecutive outs, which included striking out Marsh with a slider in a full count.
The momentum escaped Mize, as Jack Mayfield put an RBI single into right field for a 2-0 Angels lead. The former No. 1 overall draft pick retired the next four batters to conclude his outing. He used 27 pitches in the third and 14 pitches in a perfect fourth.
“He did a great job of battling to only give up two runs in those four innings when there was a lot of traffic on the bases,” Greiner said. “He battled without his best stuff and kept us in the game to have a chance.”
Battling with Bundy
Angels starter Dylan Bundy, a right-hander, retired the first seven batters he faced until Greiner worked a five-pitch walk with one out in the third inning. An unlikely source of production, Greiner provided the spark his team needed.
As Bundy struggled to throw strikes, Robbie Grossman capitalized with a four-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base. Schoop then made the walks count, hitting an RBI single to left field to make it a 2-1 deficit.
Cabrera struck out looking for the third out.
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In the fifth, Greiner produced for the second time.
The backup catcher — in the lineup only because starter Eric Haase was scratched with low back tightness — hit a one-out double to left field. The next batter lined out, but Grossman connected with Bundy’s curveball for a single to right field.
Grossman’s single carried just enough to drop between the second baseman and right fielder. Running on contact, Greiner scored easily to tie the game at two runs. Greiner finished 2-for-3 with one double, one walk and one strikeout.
The single from Grossman also chased Bundy, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks over 4⅔ innings. He struck out three and tossed 38 of 63 pitches for strikes.
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.