Twins 3, Tigers 2: Mize good, Minnesota slightly better

Bless You Boys

Today’s tilt between the Twins and Tigers was a makeup game of a rainout on July 16, and in another low-scoring affair, Minnesota beat Detroit 3-2. No word yet if Tiger manager AJ Hinch will summon Jobu to “wake up bats.”

Bailey Ober, whose 6’9” frame definitely provides more leverage on pitches, got the start for Minnesota. This is his rookie year, and coming into today he’d only thrown 68 23 innings in his 15 starts, a little under 5 innings per start, so the Twins definitely have him on a limit. His year so far has been decent, with a 4.06 ERA (4.50 FIP), and a WHIP of 1.238. He’s had a little trouble with walks and home runs, but nothing too gaudy in those respects.

Casey Mize got the start for the Tigers, and his year so far has been pretty darn good. Curiously, though, coming into today he was leading the league in hit-batters, with 11 in 129 13 innings. He also had 38 walks and an even 100 strikeouts; I know a lot has been made of Mize’s relatively low strikeout rate this year, but remember, Justin Verlander’s rookie season “only” featured 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings, and he turned out alright.

Both pitchers cruised through their first inning, and Mize needed only seven pitches to get through the second (which included a Miguel Sano strikeout on a 2-2 pitch). He needed a cool 28 pitches to get through the first nine batters, who he retired in order.

Derek Hill got it done on both sides of the ball in the third inning. First, this, in the top:

Then, this, in the bottom:

Not bad, Mr. Hill. Not bad at all.

The Twins answered in the fourth, as the swings off Mize got better the second time through the lineup: Byron Buxton doubled, and a Jorge Polanco single drove him in. Josh Donaldson pushed the lead to 3-1 with a home run, and after Max Kepler doubled, Chris Fetter paid Mize a visit, and he settled down to get out of that inning.

Mize only needed five pitches for the fifth: the Twins’ batters were playing as if they were late for a train, routinely swinging at the first pitch.

In the bottom of the fifth, Hittin’ Harold Castro led off with a double on an 0-2 curveball, and took third on a Victor Reyes lineout. With the infield playing in against Zack Short, he lifted a perfectly-placed soft fly ball that fell just between the infielders and outfielders, scoring Castro and narrowing the Twins’ lead to 3-2.

Mize left after six innings, and his final line was fairly typical for him this year: 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, with a home run given up to Donaldson.

Alex Lange did indeed pitch the seventh, and he had a little trouble corralling his lively fastball early on. Ryan Jeffers walked with one out, and with Andrelton Simmons up, the hit-and-run was on; Simmons singled and the Twins had runners on the corners with their leadoff hitter, Luis Arraez, up. After falling behind Arraez on a 3-1 count, darnit if Lange didn’t get him to ground into an inning-ending double play, ending the threat.

Ober’s day was also over after six innings (I feel like there’s an Airplane! joke in there), and the fireballing Jorge Alcala started the bottom of the seventh. Hittin’ Harold punched a single into centre with one out, and Reyes beat out an infield single. The throw got away from Miguel Sanó at first; Castro tried to advance to third but got gunned-out by a good Sanó throw. Short popped out, and that was that.

Lange continued on for the eighth against the 2-3-4 hitters; Hinch appears to want to push Lange into being a multi-inning guy out of the bullpen. He was looking good in the eighth, including back-to-back-to-back changeups to strike out Polanco after falling behind 2-0, and retiring the Twins in order in his second inning of work.

Miguel Del Pozo started the ninth, and on the second pitch, Max Kepler hit a comebacker that hit Del Pozo on the chin. He was on all fours for a while before walking off on his own power, coming out of the game. (Such a shame, too: he was pitching well in Toledo and really earned his call-up.) Joe Jiménez replaced Del Pozo and retired the next pair of Twins.

Alex Colomé was called-upon by the Twins to earn the save, coming into a 3-2 game against the heart of the Tigers’ order (such as it is these days; more details below). Things started off pretty ho-hum for Colomé, but then he forgot how to throw to first base: with two outs and two strikes, Eric Haase hit a dribbler down the third-base line and Colomé’s throw went wild. The next batter, Harold Castro, hit a dribbler back to the mound, and Colomé had another bad throw to first, which took Sanó off the bag (upon review) and Willi Castro, who pinch-ran for Haase, ended up on third. Robbie Grossman grabbed a bat and hit for Reyes; Grossman, if you recall, hit a pinch-hit home run against Colomé a few weeks ago. However, there would be no similar heroics today, as Grossman flew out to right to end the game.

The Tigers start a three-game series at home against Oakland on Tuesday night at 7:10 pm EDT.

Bounce-Back Innings

The radio team today mentioned something interesting: the idea of bounce-back innings by Tiger pitchers. Rather than letting the game get away from them, Tiger starting pitchers have really done good work in settling down after giving up a couple of runs. They make adjustments, Chris Fetter probably chants some sort of spell, they calm down, and they get back out there.

If you recall, early in the season, it was a little surprising and unusual that AJ Hinch would let his young starting pitchers get out of trouble, rather than just yanking them. Truly, you best learn how to get out of trouble by actually doing just that; we’re starting to see that bear fruit now with the likes of Mize today, where he followed a rough fourth with a stellar fifth.

Notes and Stats

  • Casey Mize, before the All-Star Break: 95 13 innings, 3.59 ERA, .710 OPS against. After the break: 34 innings, 3.44 ERA, .764 OPS against. This is by no means an in-depth statistical analysis, but whatever “load management” AJ Hinch is doing, it appears to be working pretty well to my untrained eye.
  • In the eight games after their 13-10 loss against the Angels on August 19, the Tigers scored a paltry 20 runs in that stretch, coming into today (2.5 runs per game). However, in those games, they only gave up 19 runs… so, yes, Tiger games have been low-scoring affairs lately, including today.
  • Happy 150th birthday to Ernest Rutherford. This Kiwi-Canadian-British scientist was one of the architects of the model of the atom which is most commonly taught in schools today, among other discoveries. Rutherford’s experiments showed that there was a tiny, dense, positively-charged part in the middle that he called the “nucleus.” But, most of the atom is empty space; indeed, if the outer edge of a hydrogen atom is the size of Comerica Park, the nucleus would be about the size of a baseball placed at second base. Wow!

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