Detroit Tigers mess with Abraham Toro, get the horns in 5-3 loss to Seattle Mariners

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers reliever Alex Lange bounced a fresh ball from his glove to pitching hand while Abraham Toro rounded third base on his way to home after lining a curveball over the right-field wall for a two-run home run in the seventh inning.

“We got beat,” catcher Eric Haase said. “But at the same time, that’s his best pitch.”

Lange, one of the Tigers’ most effective relievers in the first half of the season, has allowed 16 earned runs in 16 innings since the All-Star break. On the pitch before Toro’s home run, Adam Frazier smoked a triple.

Both hits came on Lange’s revered curveball, but the home-run ball was the difference maker for the Tigers in Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the Mariners in the second of three games in the series at Comerica Park. Javier Báez snuffed out a rally in the ninth, striking out swinging with two runners on base to end the game.

“We were just looking for a ground ball,” Haase said. “I think his best chance of getting a ground ball right there is his breaking ball. It’s down, and (Toro) scooped it. Just kind of ‘is what it is’ at that point. … He was super-aggressive on the first pitch and didn’t miss it.”

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The Tigers (50-80) will try to avoid the sweep with left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez starting Thursday’s finale. Detroit is the second American League team to reach 80 losses this season, following the Oakland Athletics (49-82).

Left-handed closer Gregory Soto entered with the Tigers trailing by one run in the top of the ninth inning. He walked three batters, allowed one single and needed 32 pitches (14 strikes) to record three outs.

He walked Ty France with the bases loaded to give the Mariners a 5-3 advantage.

“His command is not where it needs to be,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s struggled to find his delivery that executes it. Sometimes the slide step, sometimes the high leg kick. Confidence-wise, I think he always believes that he can get the guy out. But function-wise, it’s been a struggle.”

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Before Lange’s mishap, the Tigers grabbed a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning. It was left-handed starter Marco Gonzales’ final inning, and the Tigers capitalized on three singles from Eric Haase, Kerry Carpenter and Jeimer Candelario.

Carpenter’s single advanced Haase to third base, but the rookie was thrown out by right fielder Mitch Haniger while trying to advance to second base on the play. Candelario bailed him out by ripping a first-pitch cutter into center for an RBI single with two outs in the sixth.

Gonzales, an eight-year MLB veteran in his sixth season with the Mariners, gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk with one strikeout over six innings, throwing 62 of 86 pitches for strikes.

“Both teams left some runners out on base that you wish you would have scored to separate yourself a little bit,” Hinch said. “In a close game, it feels like you have to be perfect, certainly right now. They’ve been very good in close games, and I think we saw why tonight.”

Candelario went 2-for-4 with two RBIs.

No lefty left behind

Each starting pitcher — Tyler Alexander for the Tigers and Gonzales for the Mariners — completed more than half the game, despite the left-handers struggling at times during the first two innings.

Alexander allowed two runs on four hits and one walk with four strikeouts. He threw 50 of 78 pitches for strikes and recorded five swings and misses (three cutters and two four-seam fastballs).

“Uncharacteristically long at-bats and a little bit erratic,” Hinch said. “I thought he got better as the outing went. He started to settle in and had some quick innings. … Tyler made a few adjustments. His delivery was better tonight, a little quicker.”

A seven-pitch leadoff walk to Julio Rodriguez, who fell behind 0-2 in the count, in the first inning came back to haunt Alexander. He struck out the next two batters, but ex-Tiger Eugenio Suarez hammered a 3-0 sinker over the right-field wall for a two-run home run.

After Suarez’s homer, Alexander allowed three hits the rest of the way: Abraham Toro’s two-out single in the second, France’s one-out single in the third and Sam Haggerty’s one-out double in the fifth.

The Tigers evened the score, 2-2, in the bottom of the second.

Haase singled, Carpenter was hit by a pitch and both players advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch from Gonzales.

Candelario lined an RBI single to left field for the Tigers’ first run, followed by Willi Castro grounding into a forceout to push home the second run. Still, the Tigers stranded two runners on base in the first and second innings.

“Very frustrating,” Haase said. “We stuck to our plan really well. We had a lot of hard-hit balls that just found people. I don’t know if that’s their defensive positioning or whatnot, but there were a lot of balls smoked right at people that ended some pretty big innings for us.”

In the first, Riley Greene walked and Victor Reyes singled.

The next three batters, in the heart of Detroit’s lineup, were retired in order: Báez flied out on a changeup that bounced in front of the plate, Miguel Cabrera struck out on three pitches and Harold Castro lined out on a swing that produced a 103 mph exit velocity (and a .560 expected batting average).

Báez, Cabrera and Castro combined for one hit in 13 at-bats.

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After Haggerty’s one-out double in the fifth, Alexander stayed in the game to face Rodriguez for a third time. On the first pitch, Rodriguez lined out for the second out. With France stepping to the plate, Hinch called for Alexander’s departure.

“I went and got him trying to be aggressive,” Hinch said.

Right-handed reliever Jason Foley took over on the mound and needed three pitches to retire France and strand the runner on second base. He fired two sinkers — both for strikes — and induced a flyout with his third-pitch slider.

Foley, who lowered his ERA to 2.68 this season, returned for the sixth and sent down the Mariners in order.

Although Lange imploded in the seventh, the Tigers were down by only one entering the ninth, as right-hander Joe Jiménez shut the door on the Mariners in the eighth.

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