Detroit Tigers, Andrew Chafin strike out the side in 8th, still lose 8-4 to Cleveland

Detroit Free Press

CLEVELAND — Detroit Tigers left-handed reliever Andrew Chafin screamed at catcher Eric Haase with two outs in the eighth inning.

“The ball,” Chafin yelled. “Go get it.”

Haase flipped up his face mask and scanned the dirt around home plate. He didn’t know where the ball went until Chafin pointed to the backstop — the two-strike slider had bounced off home plate, under the swing of Cleveland Guardians batter Luke Maile, and skittered off to Haase’s right — but it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. The ball had skipped too far away, and Maile was already well on his way to first base on the third strikeout of the eighth inning.

“I couldn’t make the block,” Haase said. “I’m not trying to be lazy or anything, I just didn’t compete the play. That’s extremely frustrating, seeing how it played out. … That’s my fault, extending that inning. I just missed the ball.”

The Guardians struck out three times in a row to begin the eighth, but Chafin’s wild pitch allowed Cleveland to extend the inning, score six runs and secure an 8-4 win over the Tigers in Wednesday’s series finale at Progressive Field.

The Tigers (45-75) and Guardians split the four-game series.

“I’m not sure if I’m seen that before,” Chafin said. “I’m frustrated with the results, but how we got there, it’s kind of like, ‘Well, I did good. Well, no you didn’t.’ But, I mean, that’s baseball. … It’s not a nice game, and it’s going to get you like that sometimes.”

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Chafin, protecting a 4-2 advantage, struck out three straight batters: Owen Miller (fourth-pitch slider), Andres Gimenez (eighth-pitch sinker) and Maile (fifth-pitch slider). After Maile reached, Myles Straw ripped a single to center field to bring the go-ahead run to the plate in Steven Kwan.

“My initial reaction was like, ‘Why did he swing at that one? That was like three feet short of the plate,’ and then it got by him,” Chafin said. “I’m like, ‘Ah, crap, let’s get a ground ball here.’ I got the ground ball, but it was up the middle. That didn’t work.”

Kwan hit a fly ball that dropped fair just inside the right-field line and bounced over the side wall for an RBI ground-rule double, trimming Cleveland’s deficit to 4-3. Had the ball stayed in play, Straw would have scored to tie the game.

“I made the pitches I wanted to make when I needed to make them, but it just didn’t pan out,” Chafin said. “How frustrated can you get if you’re out there executing the pitch you want to execute? I did exactly what I wanted to do, but they beat me. I can’t really get mad about it, but I’m not happy about it.”

The Tigers turned to right-handed reliever Alex Lange to face Amed Rosario with two runners in scoring position and, still, two outs. Rosario evened the score, 4-4, with an RBI single on a weak grounder to third baseman Willi Castro.

Castro charged, gloved and fired the ball to first baseman Kody Clemens, but the throw was too late. Jose Ramirez then followed with a two-run double for a 6-4 lead. The ball dropped in front of left fielder Akil Baddoo, then bounced past his outstretched glove.

“I gotta check Akil’s jump and see how that was,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “It looked like it fell semi-close to him. Just frustrating plays that don’t get completed. Not necessarily always easy plays and gimmes, but when we look back, this was a winnable game.”

Oscar Gonzalez added a double off the left-field wall over Baddoo’s head for a 7-4 lead, and Miller completed the rally with a single to center field to score the Guardians’ sixth run — all with two outs — for an 8-4 margin.

Chafin joined Arizona Diamondbacks reliever Chad Qualls in 2008 as the only pitchers in MLB history to post three strikeouts in two-thirds of an inning or less and take the loss. The Guardians became the first team since at least 1961 to strike out at least three times in an inning prior to scoring at least six runs in the same inning.

“I feel for our whole team,” Hinch said. “It’s not just Chafin. He got the three strikeouts and had another opportunity to get out. We’re all in this together, so I don’t feel for him more than I feel for anybody else.”

An imperfect start

Guardians right-hander Cal Quantrill retired the first nine batters he faced.

The momentum flipped in the fourth, as a rare walk from slumping leadoff hitter Riley Greene, a 21-year-old rookie, set in motion a two-run inning. After Greene drew a seven-pitch walk, Quantrill walked Victor Reyes on five pitches and gave up a single to Javier Báez on an inside third-pitch sinker. The three plate appearances loaded the bases with nobody out.

Rookie Kerry Carpenter produced a one-out sacrifice fly to tie the game, 1-1, and Haase attacked Quantrill’s sinker with two outs for an RBI single and a 2-1 advantage. Jonathan Schoop grounded out to strand runners on the corners.

“He came out pretty hot,” Hinch said. “He’s pitched very well the last couple outings, so we knew coming in, he was going to feel good about his stuff. We hung in there and put some pressure on him at the end. He gave us a few opportunities with the back-to-back walks.”

But the Tigers weren’t done with Quantrill. Although they were limited to five hits and four walks, the Tigers tacked on additional runs in the fifth and sixth innings.

In the fifth, Baddoo singled with one out and swiped second base. His third stolen base this season was critical, as Reyes grabbed Quantrill’s cutter below the strike zone for a two-out RBI single to left field.

Entering the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers removed first baseman Harold Castro from the game with left thumb soreness. Willi Castro entered as the third baseman, batting fourth, while Kody Clemens shifted from third base to first base.

The Tigers increased their lead to 4-1 in the sixth, when Willi Castro received a sinker at the bottom of the strike zone, where he does the most damage. Castro launched the ball into the seats in right for a solo home run.

Quantrill allowed four runs on five hits and two walks with two strikeouts over six innings, throwing 60 of 99 pitches for strikes.

“I certainly felt like we made him battle,” Hinch said.

Norris’ trophy

In his second MLB start this season, left-hander Daniel Norris allowed one run on four hits and two walks (and three hit batters) across four innings.

He hit a batter in the feet in each of the first three innings — all three on sliders: Rosario in the first, Miller in the second and Ramirez in the third. The Guardians loaded the bases with one out in the second, but a gutsy play from Báez saved a run from scoring.

Báez fielded a grounder from Straw and, without any hesitation, threw the ball home to Haase. He received the ball with his foot on the plate before Josh Naylor could cross the plate for the second out.

“It’s the movement,” Norris said. “It’s a new pitch for me. I’ve been throwing it this year, and I haven’t had a ton of issues with that, but I felt like it was moving a lot. Those balls that ended up hitting them, I was starting them in the left-handed batter’s box, and they kept bearing in. … I changed my sights as the game went on, throwing it for strikes and starting it outside a little farther.”

Norris, though, couldn’t work around his hit batter in the third inning. After plunking Ramirez, Gonzalez cranked a double to the gap in right-center field. Ramirez scored easily to put the Guardians ahead 1-0.

For his 89 pitches (52 strikes), Norris tossed 25 sliders (28%), 25 four-seam fastballs (28%), 18 changeups (20%), 15 sinkers (17%) and six curveballs (7%). He recorded seven swings and misses and 17 called strikes.

Norris got swings and misses with three four-seamers, three changeups and one sinker.

“He always competes,” Hinch said. “He holds himself to a pretty high bar. He had to escape some things and battled himself with some walks and issues like that. He had base runners on, so he was under a little bit of stress.”

The Tigers nearly imploded in the sixth inning.

Right-hander Jose Cisnero opened his relief outing by giving up a double to Gimenez, who advanced to third base on a groundout. Straw took a four-pitch walk to put runners on the corners, and a passed ball charged to Haase — though Cisnero’s command was extremely inconsistent throughout his 21-pitch outing — plated Gimenez from third base.

The Guardians cut their deficit to 4-2 with one out. Cisnero responded by retiring the next two batters with Straw standing on second base.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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