The throw from Detroit Tigers left fielder Akil Baddoo looked perfect.
But the ball was late.
Toronto Blue Jays slugger Vladimir Guerrero Jr. — the free extra-inning runner on second base to open the 10th inning — slid into home just before Baddoo’s rocket connected with catcher Eric Haase, who turned to apply the tag. Guerrero had been running on Corey Dickerson’s single.
“The ball stalled out coming to Akil, so he couldn’t get his momentum going,” Haase said. “He had to stop, set his feet and make a throw. But I don’t think he could have done anything better on that ball. It was a nice one-hop, but he beat it by a step.”
The Tigers then failed to score in the bottom of the 10th, taking a 3-2 loss Saturday at Comerica Park.
Blue Jays closer Jordan Romano pitched the ninth and 10th frames without giving up a run. Zack Short — the Tigers’ free runner — was thrown out trying to advance to third base on Harold Castro’s leadoff grounder to shortstop Bo Bichette.
“The goal is to get to third base,” Tigers (62-68) manager AJ Hinch said. “I think there was a momentary delay, freeze, pause that cost Zack a little bit. He tried to get into the throwing lane, but Bichette made a throw right over his shoulder. I think he was a tick delayed in going as he read the bounce. Created a window of opportunity for Bichette to make the play.”
In the top of the ninth, left-hander Gregory Soto retired Marcus Semien, Bichette and Guerrero Jr. to work around a leadoff single. Kyle Funkhouser allowed the RBI single to Dickerson in the top of the 10th.
After Blue Jays starter Alek Manoah held the Tigers to one hit through six innings, Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman rattled off consecutive singles in the seventh to set up Jeimer Candelario’s one-out RBI single to center to chase Toronto’s 23-year-old rookie at 103 pitches.
Righty reliever Trevor Richards entered as the replacement.
The next batter, Haase, knotted the score at 2-2 by beating out an attempted double play. He hit a chopper to Bichette, who backed up at shortstop to play the ball on a hop. Despite a clean turn to Semien at second base, Bichette’s adjustment gave Haase the extra step he needed.
He beat the relay from Semien, allowing Grossman to score.
“We play hard,” Hinch said. “It’s a play that represents us, but now it’s expected around here. The guys play for each other. I really appreciate the effort that our guys give, and the fact that we’re going to play as many outs as we need to on a given night.”
Manoah allowed two runs on four hits over 6⅓ innings, without giving up a walk and striking out eight batters. All four of the right-hander’s pitches were at their best, especially the two-seam fastball, four-seam fastball and slider.
“He’s a guy that can pitch off his fastball,” Hinch said. “Later in the game, he went to a few more secondary pitches. I know our lefties had a hard time staying with that inside fastball that was coming back over the plate. He’s a good-looking arm.”
Jays strike first
Left-hander Tyler Alexander recorded one of the best performances of his career Aug. 20 at Rogers Center in Toronto, keeping the Blue Jays to one run across seven innings in a 4-1 win. He entered out of the bullpen Saturday, and in his second inning of work, the Blue Jays opened the scoring.
Alejandro Kirk blasted a solo home run to left field with two outs in the sixth inning, tagging Alexander’s cutter for a 1-0 lead. Dickerson (walk) and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. (single) applied additional pressure before the Blue Jays called on All-Star Teoscar Hernandez as a pinch-hitter.
Pitching coach Chris Fetter used a mound visit to help Alexander prepare for Hernandez, who flied out to right field on the third pitch he saw to conclude the sixth. A second run was charged to Alexander in the seventh. Rookie reliever Jason Foley took over for Alexander, but he inherited a runner on first base and two outs.
Bichette delivered an RBI single to put Toronto ahead 2-0.
“We need him to get right-handed hitters out,” Hinch said. “I didn’t want Bichette to face a lefty more than I wanted to test Foley. It was more about Bichette, less about Foley. But yeah, it’s the big leagues. This is what’s going to happen when you come up and get an opportunity.”
Urena’s scoreless start
Making his return from the injured list, right-hander Jose Urena started and pitched three scoreless innings. He allowed just three hits — without conceding a walk — and struck out two batters, throwing 22 of 49 pitches for strikes.
Urena, coming back from a right groin strain, is healthy again, but he isn’t guaranteed a spot in the starting rotation. When the Tigers play the Reds in Cincinnati next weekend, the Tigers plan to start Alexander before bringing Urena out of the bullpen.
“That was the best I’ve ever seen him, period,” Haase said of Urena. “I don’t know how long he was pitching with that injury, if it was nagging him or whatnot, but that was a really good sign that he’s back to full health. He was throwing a lot of four-seamers up in the zone, which really opened up his sinker after that.”
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In the first inning, Urena struck out Guerrero swinging at a changeup. Haase received the pitch and executed a double play by throwing out Bichette trying to steal third base. The arms of Urena and Haase ended the inning.
Instead of throwing an abundance of two-seam fastballs, Urena tossed 18 four-seamers and 11 two-seamers, along with a healthy mix of sliders (11) and changeups (9). To get through his first two innings, he used more four-seamers/changeups than two-seamers/sliders.
“I didn’t do anything (different),” Urena said. “We recovered and got back to my normal.”
Two sides of Lange
Upon replacing Urena, righty reliever Alex Lange showcased why the Tigers expect him to become a dominant member of the bullpen in the future. But he also displayed how much improvement he needs to get there.
The 25-year-old rookie struck out Guerrero and Breyvic Valera with his advanced curveball in 3-2 counts to start and conclude the fourth inning. He also maxed out at 98.3 mph with his four-seam fastball and tossed in six changeups.
“Never going to argue on a scoreless inning,” Hinch said. “He’s learning and growing and got out of his own mess. We did see some of the good and some of the struggles. We’ll get him back out there as soon as we can.”
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But Lange needed 24 pitches (13 strikes) to complete the fourth, a product of inconsistent command. He threw eight pitches to record the first two outs but allowed a single and a five-pitch walk to put himself in a jam.
Lange escaped by striking out Valera.
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.