Twins 9, Tigers 1: Well, that was lousy

Bless You Boys

The finale of an abbreviated two-game weekend series between the Twins and Tigers in Detroit saw the Tigers drop a 9-1 decision on a muggy Sunday afternoon. Honestly, you could’ve had a better afternoon cleaning out your garage… which reminds me, I really need to clean out my garage.

Rony García got the nod for the Detroiters today. He’s been a valuable asset, bouncing between long relief and the rotation, but he spent time on the IL earlier in July with a sore right shoulder (more on that below). His problem this year has been hard contact: league-average “hard hit” percentage is 38.6%, but this year batters have been hitting the ball hard over 53% of the time. That wouldn’t really be a problem today, though.

Sonny Gray’s season for the Twins has been fairly typical for him, although his strikeouts per nine innings is down a bit this season. His previous two outings had been clunkers, against Texas and the White Sox, but as is the case for so many pitchers, facing the Tigers’ lineup will likely put you right back on track — and he had a 10-strikeout game earlier this season against Detroit, so there you go.

The Twins got on the board early, with some long at-bats in the first. A single, a double, and a play at the plate with a nifty Carlos Correa hook slide made it 1-0, a hot shot off Harold Castro’s forearm at first base made it 2-0, and a pair of hit-by-pitches brought the score to 3-0 with only one out. A 5-4-3 double play got García out of the inning, but 33 pitches were thrown and the bullpen was already stirring. He did manage to settle down for a 1-2-3 second inning, but in the third after a 2-1 pitch to Nick Gordon in the third, he waved his hands and started walking towards the dugout with an injury (more details below). Angel De Jesus took over, and with one pitch retired Gordon on a fly ball to right.

García’s fastball was noticeably slower today (sitting at around 89-90 mph instead of his usual 93), so you had to think something was off. Well, it was. You can’t make this up, people — not that you’d want to.

Meanwhile, Gray needed 35 pitches to go nine-up, nine-down against the Tigers, with no hard contact to speak of. This is gettin’ pretty old, fellas.

The Tigers got off the schneid in the fourth, with a Javier Báez hit-by-pitch (more on that later) and a walk bringing Eric Haase to the plate with two outs. Haase hit a grounder under Jorge Polanco’s glove which was somehow scored a hit, scoring Báez, narrowing the gap to 3-1.

De Jesus really saved the Tigers’ bacon, replacing the injured García: he got lots of swings and misses, mixing a lot of sinkers and sliders with the occasional changeup, not blowing anything past anyone but touching mid-90s with the fastball. His job was to eat some innings and, by gum, he did. José Cisnero continued his triumphant return in the sixth, getting a pair of flyouts and a strikeout.

As the game wore on, we got a little more information about García:

I mean, c’mon, you don’t want to see that. Or this: in the sixth, Báez was lifted for pinch-hitter Victor Reyes; after Báez scored in the fourth, he was seen in the dugout getting attended-to by a trainer. Word on the street is that it was “left upper arm contusion,” from getting plunked earlier in the game.

[insert pained and frustrated sigh here, with a pinch of the bridge of the nose]

Michael Fulmer got touched-up for three big runs in the seventh, and the game quickly slid off the rails for the Detroiters. Alex Lange came on for the eighth and his changeup mojo was workin’, but that wasn’t enough as the Twins tallied another pair of runs to make it 8-1; Gregory Soto, who needed to get a little work in, took over with two outs and got a flyout to end the frame.

In the bottom of the eighth, Nick Gordon returned Akil Baddoo’s favor from the day before, by robbing Riley Greene of a home run to left. Greene tipped his cap afterwards to Gordon.

In the ninth we saw Kody Clemens on the mound again as the Tigers officially waved the white flag. I was in attendance for the game in 2003 in which his dad, Roger, tried (and failed) to get his 300th win in Detroit; that game ended up going 17 innings, and both Steve Sparks and Boomer Wells pitched at least five innings in relief. Anyway, the moral of the story today is that the Tigers lost and looked miserable doing so.

A Minute for Kerry Carpenter

You may follow the minor leaguers, or you may not. If you’re in the latter category, allow me to introduce you to corner-outfielder Kerry Carpenter, who had a rather ordinary 2021 in Double-A Erie, but has since, ahem, made some adjustments this year:

  • In 63 games with Erie this season, he hit 22 home runs, hit .304 with an OPS of 1.005.
  • Great stuff, right? But let’s see how he does in Triple-A Toledo against plenty of pitchers with major-league experience.
  • Well, in 19 games and 73 plate appearances — yes, mother, I know it’s a small sample — he’s hitting .339 with a 1.022 OPS, hitting four home runs and seven doubles.

The catch, and there’s always a catch, is that he doesn’t walk enough and strikes out too much. But, aren’t you just a little bit curious what he could do in the big leagues? I know I am.

Observations and Notes

  • Sonny Gray’s real first name is Sonny.
  • Before Mr. Gray’s arrival in the major leagues in 2013, MLB’s previous Sonny was Sonny Siebert, who pitched primarily for Cleveland and Boston in the ‘60s and ‘70s. His real first name is Wifred. In 1971, Siebert had a heck of a year for the Red Sox: not only was he named to the All-Star team, he cracked six home runs and batted .266 with an OPS of .821.
  • Congratulations to the late Buck O’Neil, who was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame today. If you’ve never watched Ken Burns’ Baseball series for PBS, holy moly, you really need to — and you’ll see why O’Neil was an absolute gem. I could listen to him talk all day.
  • On this date in 1701, Antoine de la Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, founded “Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit” for France. Since that was a mouthful, and since the area now known as southeast Michigan became British territory, the whole thing was shortened, the accent was dropped, and the modern city of Detroit now stands on its site. But, if you’ve ever wondered why so many streets in downtown Detroit have French-sounding names (and indeed the name of the city itself is French for “the strait,” i.e., the Detroit River), that’s why.

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