Tigers play ‘clean ball’ and gain split with Twins, despite losing starter Joey Wentz

Detroit News

Detroit — Jonathan Schoop stepped aside for a night so that Kody Clemens could make his big-league debut at his most familiar and comfortable position — second base.

But he didn’t step too far. Schoop still stole the show.

In the lineup as the designated hitter, Schoop knocked in four runs in the first two innings to help the Tigers salvage a split in the doubleheader, beating the Twins in Game 2, 4-0, on Tuesday.

“Fett (pitching coach Chris Fetter) told me a crazy stat today,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “Coming into the game we were 11-3 when we score four or more runs, which is insane to think about.

“And then we get four in the first two innings, so nice.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Twins 0

It was the Tigers fifth win in seven games, as well.

“You can feel it,” Barnhart said. “We’ve not panicked up to this point. We’re playing better, getting some timely hits and playing cleaner baseball. I know I sound like a broken record but in order to sustain winning over a longer period of time, you have to play clean ball.

“We’re starting to play clean ball.”

It was set up for rookie lefty Joey Wentz to earn his first big-league win, too. In just his second start he was in full control through four innings, allowing one single with four strikeouts. But his velocity dropped suddenly and he was wincing after throwing his first couple of pitches in the fifth inning.

Barnhart immediately motioned to the dugout for head athletic trainer Doug Teter and manager AJ Hinch to come out.

“His first fastball was at 90 mph but I didn’t think anything of it,” Barnhart said. “I just thought he was trying to get loose again, which is normal. The next one was at 88 and he winced. I told myself if I see it one more time I’ve got to go out there.”

The next pitch was 87 mph and Wentz was removed from the game five pitches into the fifth with what the Tigers initially announced as a left shoulder strain.

“It was more his neck, kind of at the collarbone,” Hinch said. “He felt a sensation in his shoulder, but originally it was his neck. He didn’t feel anything until the fifth. He’s going to go through a battery of tests but I feel bad for him. He had settled in very nicely.”

Wentz, who was up as the 27th man, was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo. He would be placed on the minor league injured list, pending the results of the tests.

If you are keeping score at home, the Tigers presently have six starting pitchers on the injured list counting Spencer Turnbull, who’s been out all year.

“There seems to be a little bit of a curse on our mound,” Barnhart said. “It’s extremely unfortunate, especially for as many young guys we have here. But it’s really important to protect these guys from themselves.

“We need them out there, we want them out there. But, at the end of the day, we have to keep them from hurting themselves even more.”

As for Clemens, he lined out sharply to left field in his first at-bat, then walked and struck out twice. He also fielded his position flawlessly, handling all four chances.

“I had a blast the whole game,” he said. “I just soaked it all in. I’m super happy that we won. I had so much fun out there.”

The nerves, he said, were real, especially in the first couple of innings.

“Pretty much all day,” he said. “Just sitting around with my knees shaking getting ready. But I was ready to go.”

Hinch said that Clemens would start in left field on Wednesday.

Schoop, who had a single, double and triple against the Twins on Monday, lofted a hanging slider from Twins rookie starter Cole Sands into the left-field seats, a two-run shot in the first inning.

He came up in the second inning with runners at second and third and two outs. He hit a spinning one-hopper toward second baseman Jorge Polanco. The ball, hit with an exit velocity of 72 mph, seemed to spin away from Polanco, hitting off his glove and going into shallow center field.

Both runs scored.

“I got a nice cheap base hit there,” Schoop said, smiling. “I’ve been hitting the ball hard right at them. It finally spun the right way.”

The Tigers didn’t get a hit after the second inning, but the fatal damage had been done.

Just like when Michael Pineda was knocked out of the game early by a line drive, just like when rookie starter Elvin Rodriguez started cramping Saturday and had to leave his start suddenly, it was veteran Wily Peralta who was tasked with coming into the game cold, warming up on the game mound and trying not to rush even though everybody in the stands and in the Twins’ dugout was antsy.

Peralta, as he was the other two times, was up for the challenge. He walked two in the fifth, but didn’t allow any damage over two innings.

Andrew Chafin, Jason Foley and Michael Fulmer pitched an inning each to close out the team shutout.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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