Detroit — No need for a video dissection from Jomboy Media on this one.
Whether Tigers rookie Elvin Rodriguez was tipping his pitches, as Jomboy picked up on in New York last Friday, is immaterial. Major League hitters will generally have success against pitches over the heart of the plate, whether they know what’s coming or not.
“It was execution,” manager AJ Hinch said. “The middle part of the plate is trouble, especially against an offense like this. They can do damage all through the lineup and we saw it tonight.”
The Toronto Blue Jays hit three home runs off Rodriguez in the second inning and cruised to a 10-1 romp over the Tigers on a damp, rainy Friday night at Comerica Park.
Already up 2-0, Lourdes Gurriel, Jr., hit a center-cut fastball 407 feet over the bullpen in left-center field. After a walk to Cavan Biggio, George Springer launched one 383 feet to left center. Bo Bichette followed with a 373-footer to left.
After two innings, the average exit velocity on balls put in play against Rodriguez was over 100 mph. At that point he’d given up nine home runs in 18 big-league innings.
“I’m not going to deny it, (tipping pitches) was on my mind,” Rodriguez said afterwards through Tigers’ bilingual interpreter Carlos Guillen. “I wanted to avoid the situation that happened in New York. That didn’t help me focus on what I had to do today.”
Rodriguez, who was optioned back to Toledo after the game, worked into the fifth and ended up with eight runs and eight hits on his ledger. He allowed 18 runs in the last two starts.
“The reality of it is, execution, whether you are tipping pitches or not, is paramount for a young pitcher,” Hinch said. “The leadoff walk (in the first inning) had nothing to do with tipping. If you execute pitches, you get outs.”
Springer had three hits and was a triple shy of a cycle. Alejandro Kirk had two hits and two RBIs. Bichette had a double and a homer and Gurriel contributed a homer, double and two RBIs.
Tigers outfielder Robbie Grossman, in his first game back off the injured list, left the game in eighth inning after fouling an 0-2 pitch just under his right knee. X-rays after the game were negative.
“It was ugly,” Hinch said. “When he came out it made me nervous because he’s not one to leave the game. He has a tremendous pain threshold.”
Grossman after the game said he was optimistic that he wouldn’t have to miss time.
“It sucks because I feel good,” he said. “I’m glad it’s just a bruise. It’s not broken. We’ll be back tomorrow and see how I feel.”
It happened in the middle of the Tigers only threat against Toronto starter Jose Berrios, who’d allowed three hits through seven innings.
Grossman was up with the bases loaded. Willi Castro inherited the at-bat and delivered a sacrifice fly to deep right-center field.
But it was another night of frustration for Tigers’ hitters, particularly Javier Baez, who was booed after each of his three hitless at-bats. His average has dipped below .200 again.
“Not just Javy but any player feels the heat when they’re not performing and it’s in your park and everybody, including Javy, is frustrated,” Hinch said. “I didn’t see anything different from him than any other night. I think he continues to search for solutions. Obviously, the more he struggled the more frustrated people have become.”
Baez in his last 14 games is 8 for 52 (.153) with 17 strikeouts.
“We’ve got to focus on solutions,” Hinch said. “We’ve got to put our arms around him and get him in a better place. Because we are not going anywhere without the production of Javier Baez, whether it’s this series or the season or in the coming years.”
The game was delayed for 26 minutes by harder-than-expected rain fall with two outs in the bottom of the third.