Tigers 2, Blue Jays 1: Victor Reyes’ inside the park homer for the win

Bless You Boys

Despite the Toronto Blue Jays’ reputation as one of the most fearsome offenses in the game, it was another tight, well pitched and well played game by the two clubs on a steamy evening at Comerica Park. In games like that, one mistake is often fatal, and so it was in this one, fortunately turning in the Tigers’ favor as they downed them 2-1.

Matt Manning showed quite a bit of progress in his outing. The fastball velocity keeps ticking up—potentially at the urging of A.J. Hinch and Chris Fetter, who have asked for a little more speed off the mound—and Manning threw quite a lot of good-looking sliders and deceptive changeups. He also pounded the strike zone, throwing a high ratio of strikes and getting ahead of most Jays’ hitters. He was rewarded with a nice uptick in strikeouts, and got some crucial help from centerfielder extraordinaire, Derek Hill.

Manning allowed a walk in the first, but otherwise had no trouble. In the second inning, the Jays got a pair of singles to start the inning, but Manning stranded them, closing the frame by painting the outer edge with a fastball to strike out Reese McGuire.

In the third, Manning needed a little help. Bo Bichette ambushed a first pitch curveball and doubled into the left field corner, briefly considering going for three before choosing the wiser course. Manning struck out Marcus Semien, and then started Vladimir Guerrero Jr. off with a beauty of a fastball on the inner edge. However, this is Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and so he doubled the opposite way to score Bichette. Teoscar Hernandez made a bid for a homer, but Derek Hill went all the way back to the wall and hauled it in. Manning then struck out Corey Dickerson to escape any further trouble.

Manning went through the Jays 1-2-3 in the fourth, but he got another assist from Derek Hill on a deep fly ball off the bat of Kevin Smith. Get used to it.

Apart from Jeimer Candelario’s first inning double, Steven Matz fairly well cruised through the first three frames, but the Tigers got to him in the fourth. The inning opened with a heck of a play by Matz himself. Jonathan Schoop drilled a comebacker off Matz’s leg, and it ricocheted to Guerrero. Despite taking quite a shot, Matz flew over to first in time to take the flip and tag Schoop out. It was a good thing for the Jays that he did, because the Tigers kept hitting the ball hard.

First, Candelario smoked his second double of the day, this time off the wall in right center field. Miguel Cabrera then drilled a ground ball back through the box to score Candelario. Unfortunately, the Tigers went in order from there, leaving the game knotted at one apiece.

Manning started the fifth inning off with a pair of whiffs on fastballs, but McGuire battled back from 0-2 through a eight pitch AB and singled to center field. Bo Bichette barely beat out a potential double play ball that forced McGuire at second, though it took a review to confirm after Bichette was initially called out. Manning immediately got Marcus Semien way out in front on a sharp slider and he popped out. That left Guerrero. Manning quickly got ahead of him 0-2, ramping the heater up to 97 mph, but Guerrero eventually slapped a ground ball through the right side of the infield, bringing up Hernandez again. This time, Manning punched him out, dropping a short slider into the top of the zone for strike three to escape the jam with his 76th pitch of the night.

The Tigers went quickly in the bottom of the fifth, but Manning breezed through the top of the sixth with three quick outs. He then got the handshake from A.J. Hinch, finishing with perhaps his best outing to date. 6 IP, 1 ER, 6 H, 1 BB, 5 SO.

Jonathan Schoop singled in the bottom of the sixth with one out. Unfortunately, Candelario then bounced into a double play as the Tigers continued to struggle to break through against Matz. The Tigers reviewed the call at second against Schoop, and while it looked very close, things did not go their way, ending the inning. Matz only struck out two in this one, and while the Jays played pretty good defense, it was certainly a frustrating evening full of weak contact and atom balls.

The Tigers turned to Kyle Funkhouser in the seventh and he cruised through the inning on 10 pitches. The Jays, went with sidearmer Adam Cimber. The right-hander struck out Cabrera to start the inning, but Eric Haase drilled a ground ball single. Cimber tried to pick the Tigers’ catcher off, but threw it away. The ball bounced deep into foul territory down the right field line, and Haase rambled all the way to third. Daz Cameron got sawed off, bouncing back to Cimber for the second out of the inning, and that left things up to Willi Castro, who quickly popped out to squander their best scoring opportunity of the game to that point.

The eighth inning was turned over to Jose Cisnero for his 60th appearance of the season. Semien started things off with an extremely weak grounder to first for an out. Cisnero popped Guerrero up with his third pitch of the inning, as the Tigers continued to take advantage of the Blue Jays’ aggression. Teoscar Hernandez worked a walk, only the second one of the game for either side, and Corey Dickerson gave Cisnero a lengthy battle as well, but eventually grounded out to Zack Short.

A.J. Hinch turned to Victor Reyes to hit for Short to open the bottom of the eighth. That prompted the removal of Adam Cimber, with lefty Tim Mayza coming on instead. Hinch probably appreciated that with Reyes to be followed by Derek Hill, Robbie Grossman, and Jeimer Candelario coming up. The latter two typically hit for higher average as right-handed batters. Whatever the reason, don’t question Hinch’s late innings moves.

Victor Reyes laced a sinking liner into right center field, and Josh Palacios dove and whiffed. The ball rolled all the way to the wall, Ramon Santiago nearly achieved liftoff from the intensity of his windmill arm, and Reyes burned all the way around the bases for an inside the park home run, and the Tigers had a one run lead. Baseball is wild.

Derek Hill grounded out, and Grossman lined out to Palacios. However, with two outs, Schoop hit a screaming one-hopper through the left side of the infield, bringing Candelario, master of doubles, to the dish again. He struck out this time, but the pitch got away from McGuire and Candelario was safe at first, with Schoop advancing to third. This brought Cabrera to the plate, but a sharp flyout ended hopes of a rally.

Gregory Soto came on in the ninth as expected to close it out. He almost gave it away immediately. Lourdes Gurriel lifted a deep fly ball left that appeared to be destined for the bullpens, but didn’t quite have enough. Instead, Grossman timed a nice leap and hauled it in. Soto didn’t like that, and quickly blew Santiago Espinal away with three high-powered fastballs. That left the Blue Jays’ hopes in the hands of Randal Grichuk, but he pulled a grounder to third and Candelario made a fine pick and throw to put this one to bed.

Really good win. The Tigers’ high leverage relief threesome were really good once again. Overall there was a lot of good pitching and defense, and the few mistakes that were made, specifically Palacios diving attempt on Reyes’ liner, made all the difference.

RHP Jose Ureña will start Saturday’s game, with Tyler Alexander piggybacking after him. Ian Krol was designated for assignment after Friday night’s contest. First pitch is set for 6:10 p.m. EDT.

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