Guardians 4, Tigers 3 (10 innings): Late comeback isn’t quite enough

Bless You Boys

On Thursday afternoon, the Detroit Tigers tried to avoid a three-game sweep at the hands (and bats, and feet, and gloves) of the Cleveland Guardians. They almost did, but after a late comeback to tie the game in the ninth, Cleveland scored in the top of the tenth and held off the Tigers to win 4-3 and sweep the series.

Let it be written down that I do not like the “ghost runner” rule. It needs to go, pronto.

Garrett Hill started for the Detroiters, and only now did I truly notice how many double letters he has in his name, which is kinda fun. Hill’s start today was his seventh of the year and of his major-league career, and he’s been pretty consistent so far: every start has gone at least five innings, he’s limited home runs, he’ll walk a couple of guys and he won’t strike out a ton. I’ve been pretty pleased with his results up to now — however, given the injury problems that Tiger starting pitchers have had so far this year, I figure it’s just a matter of time before he falls down an old well, gets injured in a bizarre gardening accident, or spontaneously combusts and only leaves behind a small pile of green ash.

Opposing Hill was Zach Plesac, whose results actually look a lot like Hill’s so far: he’ll usually give you five or six innings, largely limit the home-run damage and walk a couple, but he routinely strikes out seven or eight guys in a start. He faced the Tigers twice before today’s game, both in July, with different results: on the 4th he pitched well but the Guardians lost, but on the 15th he wasn’t so great but Cleveland won. Baseball, amirite?!

The Cleves took the early lead with a single run in the second; an errant Javier Báez throw — and, yes, I’m getting sick of typing that — allowed Andrés Giménez to score.

Hill got into some dangerous waters in the fourth, putting runners on first and second with one out. Tyler Freeman hit a ground ball to second, and a nifty 4-6-3 double play appeared to get Hill out of the inning, but upon review (the third challenge of the day) it was just a simple forceout, so that left runners on the corners with two outs. Luke Maile punched a single to right to drive in Giménez and make it 2-0 for the Cleves.

The Tigers looked like they might be able to answer back in the bottom of the inning, as a Báez single and a Willi Castro double put runners on second and third with two outs. But, as though on cue, Jonathan Schoop popped the next pitch up to first base, and that was that.

Steven Kwan, who has been a royal pain in the neck for the Tigers all year, turned a knuckle-curve around and deposited a home run well up the right-field stands to lead off the fifth, pushing the Cleves’ lead to 3-0. Man oh man, I’d love to have Kwan on the Tigers — he rarely strikes out, makes great plays in the field, runs the bases well… imagine if he was batting leadoff in the Olde English D. Oh well, a writer can dream.

Because this recap has been nothing but text and likely rather boring to read so far, here’s an “on this date” clip that you might enjoy.

Long live Kid Rick.

Hill’s day was done after five, and José Cisnero took over. Great to have him back, for sure. He allowed a runner to reach third base but a flyout got him out of the inning. Meanwhile, Zach Plesac was cruising, allowing a meagre three singles and no walks with a half-dozen whiffs through five.

Báez awoke the slumbering crowd in the bottom of the sixth with a home run to left field.

Not sure if it woke up Shep though, from the sound of that call. Jason Beck had this observation, and I can’t say I disagree:

We all knew, coming into the season, that Báez would drive us crazy — Cubs fans said exactly that, over and over again. Well, here we are.

Will Vest came on in the eighth, and he allowed a couple of singles but got out the inning with no further damage. If you take a look at Vest’s OPS-against month-by-month, it looks like maybe AJ Hinch might have to manage his workload a bit: .444, .457, .793, .654, .821 (small August sample size, though). Food for thought.

Eric Haase, pinch-hitting for Akil Baddoo to lead off the bottom of the eighth, took pitch #4 as a called strike three from Sam Hentges.

“Horsefeathers,” I say, if you’ll pardon my French.

Now, because Báez gonna Báez, on the first batter of the ninth inning he backhanded a hot shot off the infield dirt, spun 360 degrees, and fired a rocket to first to retire the speedy Myles Straw. Two batters later he couldn’t handle a relatively easy ground ball that clanked off his wrist for his second error of the day. In the end the error did no harm, but still, I mean, c’mon.

Trevor Stephan, who got the final out of the bottom of the eighth, stuck around to start the ninth — Emmanual Clase appeared in the first two games of the series, so it was going to be Stephan’s job today — and Harold Castro drew a leadoff walk (Stephan’s first walk surrendered since June). Willi Castro punched a ground ball through the left side to put the first two runners on, and Schoop laced a single down the thrid-base line to score Harold. That closed the gap to 3-2 and put runners on the corners for Kerry Carpenter, who struck out.

Miguel Cabrera then made a rare pinch-hitting appearance, and he was promptly intentionally walked and replaced by Kody Clemens; there’s a decent chance this was Cabrera’s easiest game ever (go to plate, jog to first, jog back to dugout). That loaded the bases with one out, and Terry Francona went to the bullpen to bring in Enyel De Los Santos to face Haase; he hit a full-count pitch up the middle which deflected off De Los Santos’ glove to Giménez at second base and Clemens was thrown out at second.

So, the deflection prevented a double play… but there’s a chance the deflection prevented Haase from getting a two-run single to center to win the game, too. We’ll never know.

This left runners on the corners with two outs and Riley Greene at the plate, who was 0-for-4 on the day to that point, with a chance to win the game if he could cash-in the runner from third. Greene struck out on a high fastball, but at least the game would go to extra innings, something that looked pretty unlikely about a half-hour beforehand.

Gregory Soto came on for the tenth in a non-save situation, in which he’s been not-so-sharp this season. With two outs, and after a great play on a pop-up to no-man’s-land by (who else) Báez, Oscar Gonzalez hit a single to right field, scoring Jose Ramirez from second to put Cleveland up 4-3. A lineout to Greene in centre got him out of the inning, and then it was the Tigers’ turn to play Extra-Inning Manfredball.

Greene started the bottom of the tenth on second base, with Bryan Shaw was on the mound; Victor Reyes led off and grounded out to second, and Greene advanced to third. Báez then struck out on a shoulder-high cutter for the second out, and Harold Castro followed suit to end the game. Sweep, complete.

Numbers and Notes

  • The radio guys mentioned that Garrett Hill had some wonky reverse splits this year coming into today, so I took a deeper look. Indeed, it’s quite unusual: it’s a small sample size, of course, but against lefties, the righty Hill has given up a slash line of .137/.267/.255 for an OPS of .522 (60 plate appearances). Against righties: .319/.372/.569 for a .941 OPS (78 PA). Wow.
  • Riley Greene’s OPS in the last 28 days: .652. In the last 14 days: .716. In the last 7 days: .868. To quote Disco Stu, “If these trends continue… eyyyyy!!!!!
  • Tomorrow, old friend Daniel Norris will get the start. He will be the 16th different pitcher to start a game for the Tigers this year, which is totally bananas.
  • Pandy Fackler was a working girl, living alone in another world.
  • On this date in 1956, artist Jackson Pollock died in a car accident. Pollock’s abstract paintings often have drips and dribbles of paint splotched all over them; he usually put the canvas on his studio’s floor and applied the paint from above. (It makes sense, when you think about it.) I never really “got” abstract art until a friend of mine explained, “You don’t really have to ‘get’ it. Just look at it and think about how it makes you feel.” That helped a lot.

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