Detroit – Casey Mize, almost quietly, certainly without much fanfare, has put together a most solid rookie season.
He made his penultimate start of the season Friday, going the first three innings in the Tigers’ 3-1 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. He will finish his season next week in Minnesota.
Barring any unforeseen calamity or change of plans, he will finish the season with 30 starts and 149.1 innings. Given all the uncertainty coming into the season about health and workloads coming off a shortened 2020 season, that alone is a major victory.
He will be well-positioned to pitch without restrictions in 2022.
But it’s not just that he posted every fifth day or so, the consistency of his work was impressive. After a couple of rocky starts in April, Mize kept his ERA between 3.69 and 3.28 over 23 starts since May 17. He gave up three runs or less in all but two of those starts, holding hitters to a .220 batting average.
And he seems to concoct a different formula every start. The last couple of starts, Friday included, he simplified his arsenal and pitched off his four-seam fastball. In his 41 pitches against the Royals, he threw 22 four-seamers and 16 sliders.
Mize allowed two hits and a run with three strikeouts in his three innings. The lone run came in the third inning, set up by a fluky opposite-field double down the left field line by left-handed hitter Kyle Isbel. Whit Merrifield’s sacrifice fly brought the run in.
The Tigers, whose four-game win streak ends, went scoreless with just two singles against Royals starter Carlos Hernandez, not capitalizing on three walks and a hit batsman. They did break through in the sixth off reliever Domingo Tapia.
After a walk to Robbie Grossman and an infield single by Miguel Cabrera (career hit number 2,980 on the night the club celebrated his 500th home run with a pre-game ceremony), Eric Haase delivered a two-strike, two-out single inside the bag at first.
But the Royals retook the lead off reliver Alex Lange in the top of the seventh on a triple by Adalberto Mondesi and a single by Ryan O’Hearn.
Lange had pitched a clean and quick sixth before taking the one-two punch in the seventh.
The Tigers had two runners thrown out on the bases in this one, plays magnified by the narrow margin of defeat. Haase stumbled, fell and was out after he tried to stretch his single to a double in the sixth.
Niko Goodrum was thrown out at third in the seventh, trying to stretch a lead-off double into a triple. He slowed up and stopped rounding second, then took off for third. He was out on a strong relay throw by second baseman Merrifield.
It was costly, too, given that Victor Reyes followed with a double down the line in left. Reyes was stranded at second. One of eight runners left stranded by the Tigers.
The Royals tacked on a third run in the eighth off lefty Derek Holland. Left-handed hitting Kyle Isbell led off with a triple and scored on another sacrifice fly by Merrifield.