The Detroit Tigers expected a pitching duel in Tuesday’s series opener against the Seattle Mariners at Comerica Park.
Instead, the result was lopsided.
Right-hander Matt Manning, dominant in his past five starts, allowed seven runs and couldn’t escape the third inning in the Tigers’ 9-3 loss. Right-hander George Kirby, meanwhile, fired five scoreless innings for the Mariners.
“He obviously wasn’t sharp,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He didn’t have fastball command. He didn’t have his slider that he’s had for recent starts. … Just a bad night for him. It looked like he was off from the get go. It was a difficult hole to climb out of and a rough outing for him.”
The Tigers (50-79) finished with seven hits, one walk and eight strikeouts.
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Detroit scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth on Riley Greene’s RBI triple to the gap in right-center field and Zack Short’s sacrifice fly. For the third run, Kerry Carpenter tripled in the ninth and scored on Jeimer Candelario’s single.
Manning entered Tuesday with a 2.70 ERA in five starts since returning from the injured list in early August. Facing the Mariners, though, he allowed seven runs on seven hits and one walk with one strikeout in 2⅓ innings.
His slider, which has been his best pitch recently, was ineffective.
“I don’t think the shape was as consistent as it usually is,” Manning said. “I wasn’t getting enough movement on it, and I think I threw some over the plate too much. … It’s just one of those things where it got a little flat. They weren’t bad sliders, by all means, but it caught too much plate.”
The Mariners averaged a 100 mph exit velocity on the six sliders they put in play. In the second inning, Ty France hammered a first-pitch slider with a 107.3 mph exit velocity for a 438-foot solo home run.
In the third, Cal Raleigh launched a solo home run on Manning’s 0-2 slider for a 2-0 lead. The next two batters, Abraham Toro (single) and Julio Rodriguez (double), reached safely to put two runners in scoring position.
All three sliders hit by France, Raleigh and Rodriguez ended up around the middle of the strike zone and forced Manning to make an in-game adjustment. He turned to his curveball, but that pitch didn’t stand a chance.
“If I would have commanded the fastball a little bit better on the inside, I could have got away with some stuff,” Manning said. “But yeah, in my opinion, I think they were sitting off-speed and reacting to fastballs.”
Mitch Haniger and Eugenio Suarez delivered RBI singles on back-to-back curveballs, increasing the Mariners’ lead to 4-0 with one out in the third inning. Then, France hit another slider for an RBI single and a 5-0 advantage. An ensuing four-pitch walk to Carlos Santana loaded the bases and ended Manning’s outing.
Facing right-handed reliever Will Vest, the Mariners added a pair of runs on Adam Frazier’s RBI single and Raleigh’s sacrifice fly. Toro struck out looking on a full-count slider at the top of the strike zone for the third out.
For Manning’s 67 pitches (40 strikes), the 24-year-old threw 33 four-seam fastballs (49%), 19 sliders (28%), eight curveballs (12%), four sinkers (6%) and three changeups (4%). He recorded two whiffs — one four-seamer, one slider — on 32 swings.
“I don’t think he executed many pitches tonight,” Hinch said.
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Too little, too late for offense
The Tigers came closest to scoring against Kirby in the fifth inning.
“He’s really good,” Hinch said. “He can do a lot of things and gets into attack mode. We just couldn’t get the ball off the ground. Ten of our first 12 outs of the game were either ground balls or punch outs. He did a good job controlling contact and missing bats.”
Miguel Cabrera opened the inning by crushing a two-strike sinker off the top of the wall in the left-field corner for his 10th double of the year. Candelario reached on a fielding error, and Tucker Barnhart trotted to first base after a four-pitch walk with one out.
Castro popped out to third base and Greene flied out to center field.
“I love the fact that he put up some pretty competitive at-bats,” Hinch said of Cabrera. “I took him out because I’m going to play him again tomorrow (Wednesday). First time (playing) back-to-back in a while.”
Kirby, who tossed 56 of 79 pitches for strikes, gave up two hits and one walk with five strikeouts over five scoreless innings. Cabrera recorded both hits, a single in the second and a double in the fifth.
He didn’t produce many swings and misses — only six, all four-seam fastballs — but landed all five of his pitches for called strikes.
“He has a good fastball and a sharp breaking ball,” Carpenter said. “He threw me one of the best front-door sinkers I’ve ever seen, so I just had to tip my hat to him.”
Left-handed reliever Daniel Norris provided the Tigers with much-needed length out of the bullpen after Manning’s early exit. He completed three innings — fifth, sixth and seventh — but not before giving up damage in the fifth.
France collected a leadoff single and Santana drove him in with a two-run home run for a 9-0 lead. Santana, in a 2-1 count, blasted Norris’ elevated four-seam fastball over the wall in left-center field.
Norris retired the next six batters and worked around a leadoff single in the seventh to finish his 50-pitch relief appearance on a high note. Right-hander Jason Foley pitched the eighth. Position player Kody Clemens — making his fourth appearance this season — retired three straight in the ninth on eight pitches.
Contact Evan Petzold at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.
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