Detroit – AJ Hinch looked up in the ninth inning Tuesday night and striding to the plate, again, was Shohei Ohtani. The Angel leadoff hitter was making his sixth plate appearance.
“If a leadoff guy is getting a sixth at-bat, a lot has gone wrong,” Hinch said.
Oh yeah. By the time Ohtani batted in the ninth, the Angels had scored six times and were on their way to a very sudden 8-2 win over the Tigers before an announced crowd of 24,714 at Comerica Park.
“It was an ugly end to a frustrating night,” Hinch said.
Lefty Gregory Soto was one out away from getting the Tigers up in the bottom of the ninth with a chance to win it. But with two on and two out, he walked light-hitting Jack Mayfield to load the bases.
“We’ve seen this from Gregory from time to time where he looks really sharp and then loses his control,” Hinch said. “With Mayfield he thought he had nailed a pitch and didn’t get the call and walked him.
“You give them enough looks…”
And you get punched in the mouth. Rookie Jo Adell slammed a 97-mph sinker from Soto 416 feet into the seats in left field — a grand slam. Adell was 0 for 4 having stranded five runners before that at-bat.
“He looked like normal Greg and then a couple of pitches got away from him up and arm side to Mayfield — kind of a big at-bat,” said catcher Grayson Greiner. “The pitch to Adell was middle-middle, something he doesn’t do too often.
“His stuff is so good, sometimes he can get away with that pitch. But Adell put a good swing on it.”
Veteran catcher Kurt Suzuki followed with a solo home run and Soto never did get that third out in the ninth. The Angels sent 11 men to the plate in the inning. Lefty Ian Krol finally got the last out.
“Gregory was very upbeat in the clubhouse,” Greiner said. “He’s been a rock all year for us. I’m not too worried going forward with him. It was just one pitch that leaked back toward the middle of the plate.”
Miguel Cabrera is still standing on 499 career home runs, but he didn’t get to take his full allotment of hacks on Tuesday. The Angels walked him twice, on four pitches each time.
Angels manager Joe Maddon, who has a history of walking Cabrera going back to his days managing the Rays, insisted they were not intentionally pitching around Cabrera.
“We were just trying to sell tickets for tomorrow,” Maddon joked. “It was purely promotional.”
It’s been 17 plate appearances since Cabrera hit No. 499. He’s been walked three times and hit once, picking up just one single in that stretch.
It certainly didn’t take long for Ohtani to make his presence felt. He singled on the first pitch of the game and stole second on the fourth. Four batters later, he trotted home from third on a two-out single by Brandon Marsh.
It was the start of a most atypical outing for rookie right-hander Casey Mize. It took him 88 pitches to grind through four innings. His command was as spotty as it’s been all year, tying a season-high with four walks. He went to seven three-ball counts.
“It was just a battle from the standpoint of executing pitches,” Mize said. “Just kind felt off body-wise and it led to a lot of disadvantage counts and walks. Not very sharp at all. It was a tough night for me.”
Yet, despite nine base runners in four innings, only two runs crossed the plate. He got Adell to fly out with the bases loaded in the first and again with runners on the corners in the third after allowing a two-out RBI single to Mayfield.
Ohtani walked in the second inning and this time catcher Grayson Greiner threw him out at second. Mize got Ohtani to ground out to first in the fourth inning.
Speaking of intentional walks. Hinch hates them, but he issued one to Ohtani in the top of the fifth with a runner on second and two outs.
“He’s scary,” Hinch said. “He is one of, if not the best players in the game, certainly the most dangerous. That’s the biggest hat-tip I can give him. I don’t want any part of him and David Fletcher is no cakewalk hitting behind him.”
It was the seventh free pass he’s given this year — the second to Ohtani — after issuing none in 2019 and four in 2018 with the Astros.
But it paid off. Reliever Joe Jimenez struck out Fletcher to end the inning.
Greiner, who wasn’t in the original starting lineup, scored both Tigers runs.
Greiner walked and scored on a two-out single by Jonathan Schoop in the third inning. And in the fifth, he lined a one-out double into the corner in left field. This time it was Robbie Grossman delivering the two-out knock.
Eric Haase was scratched before the game with low back tightness. Hinch said he doesn’t expect Haase to play Wednesday night, either.
“He felt he could catch but would have a hard time swinging,” Hinch said. “And we know how aggressively Haase swings. So we pulled him. I don’t know what it’s going to lead to — we need to get a full update tomorrow.”