The Tampa Bay Rays’ typically deep, talented bullpen was too much for the Tigers’ offense in this one. A bit of sloppy defense and no batted ball luck doomed Detroit to a 5-2 loss in the first of four from Tropicana Park.
Tyler Alexander put together a very Tyler Alexander outing in this one. For the most part he pitched well, but a couple mistakes bit him along the way. Things didn’t start out very well though. The first pitch Alexander threw was crushed to center field for a solo shot by Yandy Diaz. Manuel Margot walked after Jonathan Schoop dropped a foul pop-up, and then Nelson Cruz was hit by a cutter that got in on his hands and nicked his right elbow. Dustin Garneau had a fastball in the zone clang off his glove, allowing both runners to advance, and a sacrifice fly from Randy Arozarena sent Margot jogging home with the second run of the inning.
The Tigers got their first base runner on in the second inning when Niko Goodrum ripped a line drive single to left off of lefty Dietrich Enns. Goodrum was primed to run since there were two outs and the bottom of the order coming up, but instead got himself picked off and thrown out at second base. Garneau walked to lead off the third, but getting the leadoff man on didn’t help. Willi Castro lined out, and Derek Hill grounded into a force, taking Garneau’s place at first. With Robbie Grossman quickly down 0-2, Hill was also looking time Enns, and he also got himself picked off and thrown out at second base.
So, don’t run on Dietrich Enns. Noted.
The Tigers got a leadoff single from Grossman in the fourth, but again getting the leadoff man on didn’t help as they hit three balls solidly but right to Rays’ defenders. Finally in the fifth, they broke through when Goodrum hammered a fly ball to center field for a home run. Clearly he appreciated getting to swing the bat right-handed as Goodrum had his best night at the plate in months.
Unfortunately the Rays got that run right back in the bottom of the fifth. Kevin Kiermaier singled to lead off, and move to second on a Diaz ground out. Margot drilled a hard grounder into the hole and while Goodrum made a nice diving stop and an accurate throw, but Schoop couldn’t quite handle the scoop. The ball bounced away and Kiermaier roared around third base to score.
They scored two more in the sixth when Alexander issued a two-out walk to Joey Wendle. A.J. Hinch turned to Drew Carlton, who promptly gave up a two-run shot to Mike Zunino. Carlton was a complete mess from there, walking three straight hitters to load the bases before Austin Meadows—pinch-hitting for Cruz, who was feeling the effects of the hit by pitch earlier—mercifully flew out to left.
Kevin Cash turned to J.P. Feyereisen in the sixth, and the Tigers got a Jonathan Schoop walk with two outs but no more. In the seventh, they turned it over to Pete Fairbanks, and the Tigers went in order. Ian Krol allowed a single that Lowe dumped into shallow left field, but otherwise threw a good seventh with strikeouts of Arozarena and Taylor Walls, and a nice barehanded play from Goodrum to get Wendle on a ball that deflected off of Krol.
In the eighth, the Tigers got a one-out single from Willi Castro against Adam Conley. A ground ball from Hill forced Castro at second, and brought up Grossman with Hill on first. Unfortunately he grounded into a double play, as the Tigers just could not string anything together. Cash just continued to match up good reliever after good reliever against the Tigers lineup in a pretty comprehensive demonstration of the Rays brilliance in how they develop and deploy their bullpen.
We got a look at Jason Foley in the bottom of the eighth. He spotted a couple good fastballs to Mike Zunino and punched him out, then issued a four pitch walk to Kiermaier. Yandy Diaz slapped a firm grounder to second and Willi Castro made a nice stop and flip to Niko Goodrum, who turned it over and gunned down Diaz at first. That was nice to see.
We’ve gotten used to A.J. Hinch’s 2021 Tigers being a difficult group to put away late in games. That wasn’t the case in this one. J.T. Chargois took over with a four-run lead in the ninth. Jonathan Schoop struck out, and Miguel Cabrera grounded out to second base, and this one was just about in the books. However, Jeimer Candelario wasn’t done, and he blasted one into the stands in right-center field for his 15 round-tripper of the season. That left it up to Eric Haase, who swung over a slider for strike three to wrap this one up.
Casey Mize (7-8, 3.66 ERA) will take on Luis Patiño (4-3, 4.62 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. EDT on Friday in a matchup of two very talented young starters.