‘It’s not a nice game’: Tigers tagged for 6 runs after Chafin struck out the side in 8th

Detroit News

Cleveland — How do you strike out the side, actually strike out four batters in the inning, and still end up allowing six runs to score?

Welcome to Tigers baseball, 2022.

“It’s not a nice game,” said Tigers reliever Andrew Chafin, who was in the middle of the ruckus in a most bizarre bottom of the eighth inning. “It’s going to get you like that sometimes. You just have to roll with it.”

Easier said than done after this one.

Up 4-2 in the bottom of the eighth, Chafin struck out Owen Miller, Andres Gimenez and Luke Maile. But the third strike to Maile bounced at the plate and scooted by catcher Eric Haase allowing Maile was able to reach safely.

When the dust finally settled on the inning — after Gimenez struck out for the second time — the Guardians sent 11 batters to the plate, produced six hits and six runs and beat the Tigers 8-4 to earn a split of this four-game series at Progressive Field.

“I’m not sure if I’ve seen that before,” Chafin said. “Obviously I’m frustrated with the results, but how we got there, it’s like, ‘Oh we did good.’ No you didn’t.”

The Tigers just 10 days ago endured a seven-run ninth-inning rampage by the Rays, breaking open a scoreless game — but those runs didn’t come after three batters struck out.

According to research by MLB.com, this was the first time since inning-by-inning data was kept (1974) that a team struck out four times in an inning and still scored six or more runs.

“It went from, ‘All right,’ to ‘Well, crap,'” Chafin said.

BOX SCORE: Guardians 8, Tigers 4

After Myles Straw kept the inning alive with a single, Steven Kwan blooped a ground-rule double down the right field line. That scored one run and had the ball not bounced into the stands, the game would’ve been tied right there.

With closer Gregory Soto presumably unavailable after working the two previous games, manager AJ Hinch summoned right-hander Alex Lange. A hit parade ensued: Rosario, swinging bunt, infield single. Jose Ramirez bloop double down the left-field line. Oscar Gonzalez, double off the wall in left. Owen Miller, single.

Incredible. All after Chafin had struck out the side. The ever-elusive fourth out.

“Chafin does his job, he gets the punchies and I didn’t make the block,” Haase said. “Looking back at the video, I was in good position. I wasn’t trying to be lazy but I didn’t complete the play. That’s extremely frustrating to me, especially how it played out.

“There was a lot of ballgame left at that point, but we gave them the slightest little window to get back in and unfortunately that’s all they needed. I feel like that’s my fault, extending that inning.”

Doubling the frustration was the nature of the Guardians’ hits. Only two balls were hit hard — Straw’s single (98 mph exit velocity) and Gonzalez’s wall-banger (94 mph).

“I felt like we were making quality pitches,” Chafin said. “Getting soft contact. The (Rosario) ground ball was like 12 mph. Dominate the hitter in the at-bat and the hitter wins the at-bat.”

The third strike on Maile that got by Haase was a slider in the dirt and ruled a wild pitch.

“My initial reaction was why did he swing at that one, it was like three feet short of the plate,” Chafin said. “Then it got by him and it was, ‘Oh crap.’ But all right, get the ground ball. Got the ground ball but it was up the middle. Didn’t work.

“I made the pitches I wanted to make when I needed to make them. Just didn’t pan out today.”

Up until that wild pitch, the Tigers were in control.

Lefty Daniel Norris, in his second start since being selected from Triple-A Toledo, where he transitioned back to a starting role after three seasons pitching in relief, soldiered through five labor-intensive innings.

But when he shook manager Hinch’s hand and accepted the atta-boys from his teammates, he left a 4-1 lead and in line for his first win as a starting pitcher since July 31, 2019.

Norris allowed just four hits, but he kept himself in trouble with a pair of walks and three hit batsmen. All three were hit in the foot with breaking pitches. But he kept escaping, holding the Guardians hitless in five at-bats with runners in scoring position.

“He always competes,” Hinch said of Norris. “He holds himself to a pretty high bar. He had to escape some things and he did battle himself some with the walks and other things. But for someone who hasn’t stretched out a ton, he did a nice job getting us to the middle of the game with a chance to win.”

More: Tigers’ Tarik Skubal has flexor tendon surgery, likely to miss chunk of 2023 season

It seemed like a mismatch on paper – Guardians’ right-hander Cal Quantrill, who came in having pitched 13 straight scoreless innings against two offensive powerhouses (Houston and Toronto), versus a Tigers offense that barely averages three runs a game.

But you know what they say about games being played on paper. They aren’t.

Quantrill set down the first nine hitters, but the Tigers started chipping away the second time through the order, helped by a two-batter command lapse.

Riley Greene, who hadn’t walked in 51 plate appearances, and Victor Reyes (who has a puny 3.5% walk rate), drew walks to start the fourth and both scored. Kerry Carpenter plated Greene with a sacrifice fly to left and Haase’s infield single scored Reyes.

Reyes, who walked twice in the game, ripped a two-out single in the fifth after Akil Baddoo singled and stole second.

Then in the sixth, Willi Castro, just inserted into the game, hit a 93-mph sinker from Quantrill 395 feet over the wall in right center.

Castro had entered in the bottom of the fifth, replacing Harold Castro who left with a sore left thumb.

“There were plays that could’ve been made,” Hinch said of the loss. “Not necessarily easy plays, not gimmes. But we look back and this was a winnable game. We were in position. We escaped some stuff early. We didn’t at the end.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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