Cleveland — Andrew Chafin’s postgame reaction to yielding a go-ahead, three-run home run to Cleveland’s Andres Gimenez in the first game of the doubleheader Monday was, well, it was classic Chafin.
“It was middle-middle,” he said. “He should’ve hit it 300 feet farther.”
Actually, he was told, Statcast showed the pitch middle, but about a half a ball off the plate inside.
“That’s even worse,” he said. “It was supposed to be down and away, in the dirt.”
That moment was about as 2022 as it gets for the Tigers. It was a 1-all game. Starter Drew Hutchison had clawed and scratched out of trouble for 5⅓ innings. Will Vest finished the sixth inning, but put two on with one out in the seventh.
Still, in terms of matchups, the inning was falling the way manager AJ Hinch thought it might and he had left-handed throwing Chafin up and ready for Jose Ramirez (not as dangerous hitting right-handed) and lefty Gimenez.
After Vest got right-handed hitting Amed Rosario to hit into a force, putting runners at the corners, Chafin was summoned and he promptly struck out Ramirez.
“We felt going into the at-bat that Ramirez was going to be the toughest assignment for Chafe,” Hinch said. “But Andres Gimenez is a pretty good player. He’s an All-Star and he didn’t miss the mistake.”
Chafin threw a first-pitch slider. At that point, hitters were 3-for-53 against his slider. This might’ve been the worst one he’d thrown this season.
“I knew he was going to be hacking,” said Chafin. “You can’t go middle-in to him because of his swing path. He was ambushing and I just missed the spot so bad. It is what it is.”
It was just the third home run he’d allowed in 44 outings covering 39 innings and 155 hitters. He’d allowed just one in his first 42 outings.
“As soon as it left my hand I knew it wasn’t going to go my way,” he said. “It’s one of those where you go, ‘Please don’t swing.’ Homers in back-to-back games. I need to restart that streak and move on with life because there is nothing else you can do about it now.”
Another statistic that is pure 2022.
Since July 21, the Tigers’ starting pitchers rank sixth in the big leagues and third in the American League with a 3.31 ERA.
And the Tigers’ record since July 21 — 7-19.
“The record part of it I am aware of,” Hinch said. “At the end of the day, a starter’s job is to put us in position to win. We’ve been pretty good with starting pitching. But the game is 27 outs.”
This is a staff that has been decimated by injuries. Every member of the Opening Day rotation has been on the injured list. Casey Mize has had Tommy John surgery. Eduardo Rodriguez has been on the restricted list since June 13 and hasn’t pitched since May 18. Matt Manning missed three-plus months. Tarik Skubal is shut down for the rest of the year. It went on and on.
Here are the pitchers who contributed to this current run: Garrett Hill (five starts), Drew Hutchison (five starts), Tyler Alexander (four starts), Bryan Garcia (three starts), Manning (three starts), Skubal (three starts), Michael Pineda (one start), Rony Garcia (one start) and Daniel Norris (one start).
“I’m certainly proud of those guys,” Hinch said. “Their efforts and some of the emerging guys who have taken those spots. There’s a lot of positives there. But the score is what matters the most. We need contributions from everybody to get that done.”
Around the horn
Skubal remains in Los Angeles waiting to be examined by Dodgers team physician and elbow specialist Dr. Neal ElAttrache.
“If you follow the news, Dr. ElAttrache has been a little busy,” Hinch said.
ElAttrache performed Tommy John surgery on Dodgers All-Star Walker Buehler, pushing Skubal’s appointment back.
… Willi Castro was initially in the starting lineup Tuesday, but he was scratched because of a sore right wrist. He injured it sliding into second base in Game 1 Monday. Akil Baddoo, who turned 24 Tuesday, was inserted into the lineup.
… Hinch was informed before the game that he had homered on Aug. 16, Baddoo’s birth date, in both 1998 and 1999.
“Did I?” he said. “I love today!”
Tigers at Guardians
First pitch: 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Progressive Field, Cleveland
LHP Daniel Norris (0-4, 5.97), Tigers: Fighting to stay in the rotation, Norris gave the Tigers 4⅔ scoreless innings at Chicago last Friday. And he’s looking to build on that against one of the best contact teams in the game. That could play to his strengths, especially now that he’s added a sweeping slider to his mix. He can move the slider in to right-handed hitters to set up his best pitch, the changeup, which moves away from righties.
RHP Cal Quantrill (9-5, 3.67), Guardians: Awfully impressive lately. He’s on a streak of 15 straight scoreless innings having blanked two of the best teams in baseball in his last two starts — Houston (three hits, four strikeouts in six innings) and Toronto in Rogers Centre (a hit, no walks, seven strikeouts in seven innings). He also shut out the Tigers over six innings back on July 16. His sinker, cutter and changeup are doing most of the heavy lifting.