Detroit — Might as well start with the future Hall of Famer.
The Tigers have been searching and searching for somebody to spark their dormant offense. Why not Miguel Cabrera?
Cabrera smoked a double into the right-field gap to put Detroit on the board in the third inning then hit a solo home run to left field igniting a three-run sixth and the Tigers opened a fresh, three-game series with a 4-2 win over the Baltimore Orioles Friday night on Pink out the Park night at Comerica Park.
The double was No. 602 for Cabrera, pushing him past Barry Bonds and into 17th on the all-time list. The homer, reaching down and hoisting a slider from Orioles starter Jordan Lyles over the fence in left, was No. 504, tying him with former Orioles great Eddie Murray for 27th all-time.
The rest of the story was the Tigers’ new ace lefty.
By now, it’s an old and tired bit for Orioles fans. Yes, the club traded a left-handed pitching prospect named Eduardo Rodriguez to get Andrew Miller for their playoff run in 2014. And hey, Miller made good, pitching in 23 games down the stretch and throwing 7.1 scoreless innings in the playoffs.
But, just like John Smoltz will forever remind Tigers’ fans of the Doyle Alexander trade in 1987, Rodriguez keeps rubbing the Orioles’ noses in it.
The Tigers’ lefty came into his start Friday night with a 9-0 record and a 1.81 ERA against Baltimore and then proceeded to shut them out for 6.2 innings. He was masterful, cleverly mixing cutters, four-seam fastballs and sinkers, moving them around the strike zone and keeping the baseball off the barrel of the bat.
He gave up five hits, all singles and the average exit velocity on the 20 balls the Orioles put in play was a mild 78.6 mph. Rodriguez has allowed three earned runs or less in six of his seven starts.
The Orioles put the first two runners of the game on against him, two infield singles. But with one out and runners at second and third, Rodriguez got Anthony Santander to pop to Jonathan Schoop at second base and Tyler Nevin to ground it back to him.
His outing ended at a season-high 104 pitches after he walked two hitters with two outs in the seventh. Lefty reliever Andrew Chafin cleaned up the mess. After Cedric Mullins’ infield single loaded the bases – excellent stop by first baseman Spencer Torkelson to keep a run from scoring – Chafin struck out Jorge Mateo.
Things got a little dicey after Rodriguez left, though.
Jacob Barnes had allowed one run in 12 innings this year, but the Orioles hit his first two pitches out of the yard. Trey Mancini hit his first pitch on a line into the Tigers’ bullpen in left. Santander hit his second pitch deep into the seats in right field.
Barnes walked Tyler Nevin before departing. Alex Lange got quickly into the soup, too. An error at third base by Jeimer Candelario and a two-out walk to No. 9 hitter Chris Owings loaded the bases, bringing Mullins to the plate again.
Lange fell behind 3-1, but got Mullins to pop out to Schoop behind first base.
Wait, there was more drama.
Closer Gregory Soto hit the first two Oriole batters in the ninth. He hit Mateo in the foot with his first pitch and had Mancini in a 1-2 count before hitting him. After striking out Santander, Soto walked Nevin to load the bases.
Manager AJ Hinch took the ball from Soto at that point, calling on Will Vest. Vest came in on a streak o 11.2 scoreless innings.
He struck out pinch-hitter Ramon Urias and then got rookie Rylan Bannon to strike out.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers missed tacking on another run by a few feet. Javier Baez launched a high, hooking drive toward the foul pole in left. He stood at home plate long after third base umpire Mark Wegner signaled fair ball, as if he knew it was foul.
The umpires huddled and changed the call to foul. The Tigers challenged the call but it was confirmed by video review. Baez struck out on the next pitch.
It was just the Tigers’ third win this month, their fourth in their last 20 games.
We’re running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.