The Detroit Tigers didn’t quite get that sweep.
After they took games from the Houston Astros on Monday and Tuesday, the defending champions salvaged the series with an 8-2 victory over Detroit on Wednesday as the Tigers fall to 2-4 on the young season.
After a not good but not bad season premiere in Tampa Bay on March 30, Detroit left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez struggled to put his team in position to beat the Astros. He failed to get out of the fifth inning, allowing six hits and walking two batters for four earned runs. He struck out just a single hitter.
His four-pitch mix of fastball, sinker, cutter and changeup — with a few sliders mixed in — didn’t yield much success. In fact, the only pitch that got more than one whiff was the changeup, which missed two bats on eight swings. The fastball was especially ineffective: on 16 swings, Houston hitters hit 11 foul balls and put four in play. The greatest damage was done on a sinker to Chas McCormick in the first inning, which was turned around for a home run into the left field Crawford Boxes.
The bats didn’t give him much support; Cristian Javier forced light contact from Detroit hitters all afternoon, with the Tigers netting an average exit velocity of just 85 mph off the right-hander’s vicious fastball-changeup mix. He allowed just one run on five hits in six innings with five punchouts and no free passes. His lone run surrendered came via a Nick Maton single to plate Zach McKinstry, who got into scoring position via a single and stolen base.
Speaking of steals, Detroit hadn’t swiped a bag in their first five games of the season but vehemently tested rookie catcher Cesar Salazar, who failed to throw out any of the four Tigers base stealers. Along with McKinstry, Riley Greene, Eric Haase and Matt Vierling all safely took second base.
Down 4-1 in the top of the seventh, the Tigers had a chance to chip into the lead or, with a home run, tie the game. Haase and Kerry Carpenter both drew quick walks off Houston reliever Bryan Abreu, and with Ryan Kreidler due up, AJ Hinch opted to pinch-hit Javier Báez. Abreu threw the now-traditional down-and-away slider to the free-swinging shortstop, with the third educing a meek chopper to shortstop for a double play, ending the Tigers’ last best threat.
Doubles from Jeremy Peña and Kyle Tucker, a sacrifice fly by Yordan Alvarez and an Alex Bregman chopper that resulted in a base via Javier Báez throwing error (though it’s arguable it could have gone to Spencer Torkelson, who wasn’t on the base) got Houston up 6-1 in the seventh. Peña roped a two-run blast in the eighth off Tyler Alexander to get the world champions up six runs. Lockdown closer Ryan Pressley entered for the ninth and a stress-free inning to put Detroit away.
On the bright side, a handful of Tigers hitters stayed hot. Greene continues to be must-watch, as the budding star singled early and hit an eighth-inning triple, a rope into the right field gap that allowed him to saunter into third uncontested. Austin Meadows drove Greene in, and Matt Vierling remained one of the team’s top early hitters with a single.
Miggy’s farewell tour continues
The Astros sent Miguel Cabrera into the sunset following his final regular season excursion through Houston in one of the most wholesome ways possible.
As we’ve seen with fellow legends of the sport like Mariano Rivera and Albert Pujols, teams are expected to honor Cabrera with a small ceremony and gifts as he goes through his final run in the league. The Astros did exactly that on Wednesday in grand Texas style.
Cabrera traded his blue-and-orange Tigers road cap for a snazzy cowboy lid, and the team provided him with a bottle of wine to sip on the flight back into Detroit.
His first game at Comerica Park in 2023 is up next, with Opening Day in Motown coming on Thursday, April 6. The Tigers will battle the Boston Red Sox, pitting Spencer Turnbull against Chris Sale.