Tigers 6, Astros 3: A series win and a Tork Bomb

Bless You Boys

After a tense, extra-inning victory on Monday night against the reigning World Series champions, could the now-juggernaut Detroit Tigers continue their winning ways and pull off a pair of victories in a row?

I must say, I took a look at the Tiger lineup before the game and I made a few mental notes:

  • Matt Vierling got the leadoff spot after a four-hit night, including the game-winning two-run home run in the 11th inning, on Monday — not to mention a slick diving catch with two outs and the bases loaded.
  • Jonathan Schoop made his first start at third base since 2014.
  • Riley Greene was moved up to the 2-hole against a lefty starter.

Bold moves, Mr. Hinch. Did they pay off? Well, mostly yes, and you can’t argue with the results: a 6-3 win for the Tigers. Let’s sweep this thing on Wednesday, fellas!

Matt Manning got the start for the Tigers, after an injury-plagued 2022 which saw him miss time due to problems with his right shoulder and forearm. Arguably his best start last year was on September 16 against the White Sox in which he went seven innings, walked none and whiffed five in a game the Tigers won in ten innings. Overall in his major-league career so far, Manning has struggled a bit with control, although he did see improvements in his strikeout, walk and home runs per 9 innings ratios, and lowered his WHIP to a respectable 1.175 last year. The key for Manning this year will just be to stay healthy, I’d think.

Opposing Manning was Framber Valdez, the lefty who finished fifth in AL Cy Young voting last year with a sub-3 ERA, over 200 innings pitched (remember when that was routine for starters? I do), and only 11 home runs served up in those innings pitched. His OPS against righties was a meagre .621, and against lefties was even better at .505. (For reference, in 2022, Daz Cameron’s and Kody Clemens’ OPSes were .629 and .505, respectively. Yoiks!)

The Tigers got on the board in the first: Javier Báez scored all the way from first on a Spencer Torkelson double that took quite a bounce off the left-field wall and was eventually picked up by the Houston shortstop.

Also of note: the Tigers had three batters make contact with exit speeds over 100 mph in the first inning. (Hot tip: velocity is a vector, so we’re really talking about speed here.)

The Astros strung together three singles in the bottom of the first to tie the game at 1, including an infield single to Schoop at third by José Abreu, not exactly known for his wheels. Early on, Manning was sitting in the low-90s with his fastball; you’d expect a little more from him, given his history.

Nifty play by Ryan Kreidler in the second:

In the third, Vierling was on second with two outs, and Riley Greene hit a single to left. Gary Jones gave Vierling the ol’ Lamont Windmill as he rounded third, and a sensational, spot-on throw nailed him at the plate for the third out.

Kyle Tucker turned a 91 mph Manning fastball around for a solo home run in the bottom of the fourth to put Houston ahead 2-1… again, if Manning’s going to have success, he’s gotta bump that up a bit. The Tigers tied it back up at two in the fifth with a Schoop single, a wild pitch, and a Jake Rogers single… but then Rogers got picked off, 1-3-4.

The Tigers got back on top 3-2 in the sixth: Greene reached on an error, was singled to second by Torkelson, took third on a passed ball, and scored on an Eric Haase groundout that was bobbled by Jeremy Peña at shortstop. Peña opted for the surer out at first rather than trying to nail Greene at home, despite the infield already playing in.

Manning’s night ended with a two-out walk of Tucker in the sixth; we shall conclude that Manning’s first outing of the year was indeed a success. With 5 23 IP, six hits, two runs, two walks and four strikeouts against a tough Houston team, I’ll take that any day of the week. Jason Foley got the third out with a popout to shortstop, stranding Tucker.

The score stayed static until the eighth: with one out, Greene’s third hit of the night was a one-out single to centre. Torkelson followed him and absolutely tattooed a two-run blast to left-center (106 mph off the bat, 424 ft), making it 5-2.

And that, my friends, is why people get jazzed about ol’ Spenny-T. Heck, Dan Dickerson himself even called it a Tork Bomb.

Chasen Shreve took over for Foley in the eighth and had a solid inning, giving up a harmless single but looking very comfy out there.

Ryan Kreidler hit a comebacker that Seth Martinez thankfully got his glove up onto, or else Martinez’s head might’ve been taken clean off. Vierling then smoked a double to the left-field corner; Kreidler scored from first and it was a 6-2 game.

Trey Wingenter came in for the ninth in a non-save situation and immediately gave up a pair of singles to put runners on the corners with one out. A weak grounder to third cashed in a run to close the gap to 6-3, but then another grounder to third closed out the game and the series win.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

It’s not just a Rush lyric, unfortunately. Le sigh.

Meanwhile in Toledo…

Notes and Numbers

  • Can we take a second to appreciate what Mason Englert did on Monday night? A Rule 5 pick, a scant three games at AA in 2021, his second major-league appearance against the damn Astros, in a tight game. He went three scoreless innings, gave up two harmless hits, got batters to beat the ball into the ground, and froze-out Yordan Alvarez with the help of the pitch clock. Magnificent.
  • WXYT used “Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo” by Rick Derringer as commercial-bumper music at one point tonight. Do that song’s lyrics sing poetically to one’s soul? Probably not, but it RAWKS.
  • Happy 110th birthday to McKinley Morganfield, more popularly known as Muddy Waters. If you listen to any blues or, indeed, rock and roll, you owe Mr. Waters a debt of gratitude. I assure you, even if you don’t know his music, I bet the artists you listen to do.

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