Tigers 4, Guardians 1: Garrett Hill’s debut goes pretty darn well

Bless You Boys

For the day-game portion of your Detroit Tigers’ Fourth of July Day-Night Doubleheader Extravaganza, a rookie making his major-league debut threw six great innings and Jonathan Schoop had four hits as the Tigers won 4-1. Hot dogs and sparklers for everyone!

Garrett Hill was welcomed to the big leagues on a warm, sunny afternoon. A bit about Hill: he was drafted in the 26th round in 2018 out of San Diego State University, he was also raised in southern California, he was born in 1996, and his favourite Steely Dan album is probably Countdown to Ecstasy. In 2019 he split his season between (then-single-A) West Michigan and (then-high-A) Lakeland, with some pretty nice stats. He then split 2021 between (then-high-A) West Michigan and Erie, again with some nice numbers, before climbing the ladder earlier this season to Toledo for eight starts. Of note in Toledo this year, he had 46 strikeouts in only 37 23 innings, although he’d also averaged 3.6 walks per nine innings, so that’d be something to keep an eye on.

Facing Hill today in the opener was Dan Plesac’s nephew, Zach. Like Hill, he probably also enjoys Countdown to Ecstasy but also possibly admits liking Aja better. This is Plesac’s fourth year in the major leagues, and he’s never struck out a ton of hitters — but has never walked a ton of ‘em either, or surrendered a lot of home runs. He’ll give you some innings, keep you in a game, and won’t be terribly flashy doing so. In his previous six starts before today he went exactly six innings in each, although the last start of this stretch was his best, not allowing a run and striking out seven Twins in Cleveland on June 28 (also the first game of a doubleheader). He’s also pretty much owned the Tigers for his career, with a 1.91 ERA in seven starts, so there’s that too.

The Tigers got things going in the first with runners on the corners and none out. A one-out wild pitch allowed Willi Castro to take second, and a perfect Miguel Cabrera chopper through the middle plated both runs, putting the Tigers up 2-0.

Early on the bespectacled and high-socked Mr. Hill was looking pretty good, even earning a coveted “yella-hammer” from Jim Price in a second-inning at-bat by Josh Naylor, which ended in his first major-league strikeout. Six up, six down through two, on 23 pitches. Not too shabby.

Plesac did a pretty good Matrix-esque move to get out of the way of a Jonathan Schoop liner back through the box in the second, dropping to the ground in the process. Very nimble move, Zach.

With two outs in the third inning and Myles Straw on second base, Steven Kwan singled to left and Straw roared around third, trying to score. Robbie Grossman’s throw was a little wild up the line, but Tucker Barnhart grabbed it, lunged to his right, and (as the replay showed) clipped Straw on the right hip with his glove as he went by. Curiously, Straw didn’t slide here, as he also didn’t slide whilst stealing second earlier in the inning. (It’s okay, Myles, you can get your pants dirty — they have people to wash them for you. Even between games today!)

Cleveland got on the board with a two-out solo home run by Josh Naylor in the fourth to the right field corner, narrowing the gap to 2-1.

Through five innings, Hill had mostly induced an assortment of soft groundouts, pop-outs and the occasional long (but not too long) fly ball on an economical 64 pitches. He looked confident out on the mound with an easy set of mechanics; he touched the low-90s from time to time but wasn’t going to blow anyone away with triple-digit heat.

Hill’s final line in his first major-league start: 6 innings, two hits, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts, 78 pitches with 52 strikes. Personally I’d have liked him to start the seventh with a short leash, but (a.) with a rookie, maybe not, and (b.) better to have a reliever — in this case, Andrew Chafin — start the next inning with a clean slate. Chafin walked Naylor with one out, but Naylor tweaked his back a bit on a check-swing, eventually having to be replaced by a pinch-runner.

Jonathan Schoop led off the seventh with his third line-drive single of the day (more on him below). He stole second with a nifty slide before Barnhart walked, putting two on base for Riley Greene. The first pitch to Greene was called a strike.

Ahem.

Anyway, Greene hit a long fly ball to centre for an out, but Schoop advanced to third so all wasn’t lost. Willi Castro popped out to shortstop for the second out, bringing up Javier Báez who hadn’t done much all day. Since Báez is much better against lefties, Sam Hentges (who had been brought in to start the seventh, and who I always want to call “Hentgen” for obvious reasons) was dispatched in favour of James Karinchak, making his season debut after a bunch of injuries. Well, Báez stuck the bat out on a looping curveball, got it to go far enough over the second baseman’s head, and it was a 3-1 game.

A walk to Cabrera loaded the bases with two outs, but Jeimer Candelario struck out to end the inning.

Chafin got the first out of the eighth, and Michael Fulmer was brought in to face the righty, Gabriel Arias, who struck out on an assortment of nasty sliders. Pinch-hitter Ricky Palacios popped the first pitch to second base, and that’s the nasty Fulmer we love to see.

Schoop had his fourth single of the day with two outs in the eighth; masha danki, Jonathan! He came around to score on a Barnhart double to give the Tigers some breathing room and a 4-1 lead.

Gregory Soto came on for the save in the ninth. He walked a couple of guys to put runners on first and second with two outs to bring up Owen Miller, who’d pinch-ran for Naylor earlier. Miller hit a check-swing grounder to Kody Clemens at first, and that was the ballgame.

Game Two of the doubleheader is scheduled to start at 6:40 pm EDT.

A Lot of Stats and Notes, Primarily About Jonathan Schoop

  • Jonathan Schoop’s previous six games before today have been pretty lousy at the plate: he went 3-for-24 with no extra-base hits, no walks, and eight whiffs. The nine games before that suggested there were signs of life with his bat, with a 9-for-35 stretch which included a pair of doubles and a home run.
  • During that good stretch, Schoop had a BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .308, but during the bad stretch it was .188. Since the league average of BABIP is consistently around .300, this suggests Schoop’s been fairly unlucky lately. I would’ve given him the day off today, but I’m not AJ Hinch. That’s why he earns the big bucks and I don’t.
  • One of Schoop’s middle names is Jezus. Neat.
  • The Tigers looked very weird today, as they had red accents on their hats and some players wore high socks with a lot of red on them. Not a colour you see Detroit wearing often, for sure.
  • Dan Dickerson does not like either mustard or pickles in his potato salad.
  • I do not like potato salad. I also do not trust potato salad. That’s a flavour and a texture that just don’t go together for me.
  • On this day in 1776, the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia formally pronounced that thirteen British colonies in North America declared themselves independent of the Crown. The resolution to do so (the Lee Resolution) was actually passed two days earlier by the Congress, but July 4 is the day on which independence was formally declared. The declaration was primarily written by Thomas Jefferson, and listed twenty-seven grievances against George III; the colonies had been at war with Britain for about a year at the time. Since that declaration things have been interesting, to say the least.

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