Tigers 7, Giants 5 (F/11): Nick Maton walkoff winner!

Bless You Boys

Scott Harris and his Detroit Tigers welcomed in his old club, the San Francisco Giants on Friday night. They got the victory, but it was an eleven inning marathon displaying most of the team’s weaknesses that was finally punctuated by a three-run walkoff blast from Nick Maton.

The theme in this one early on was Joey Wentz punching a lot of tickets. Giants left fielder and leadoff man, Thairo Estrada, gave them an early margin when he battled through an eight pitch at-bat and eventually ripped a solo shot to center field. From there, Wentz would not be denied.

His command was much improved over his last outing, so while he wasn’t exactly efficient, he allowed no walks which kept his pitch count in shape. He was also very effective in terms of getting ahead of hitters, a crucial component for a young starting pitcher. The first nine batters he faced in this one got down 0-2. Hard to do any damage in protect mode. The fourseamer was drawing plenty of whiffs, with both J.D. Davis and Brandon Crawford flailing wildly to strike out in their first at-bats of the game, and Wentz mixed his cutter and curveball in effectively.

The Tigers offense didn’t exactly pounce on Sean Manaea, but they did come through with runs in the second and third inning to take the lead.

Javier Báez was back in the lineup as expected, and hitting fourth in this one against the lefty. He led off the second inning with a soft single, and Eric Haase smoked a double to left field. Spencer Torkelson did his job, lifting a deep enough fly ball to left field for Báez to race home, and the game was tied at 1-1.

The trio of players recently in A.J. Hinch’s doghouse for their baserunning mistakes includes Matt Vierling, so with Báez and Haase getting something done, it was Vierling’s turn in the bottom of the third. He lined a one-out single to center field and stole second as Tyler Nevin struck out. Riley Greene followed by hammering a triple off the wall in left-center to score Nevin. A very patient Báez followed with a walk and the Tigers had a two-out rally brewing, but Haase popped out to end the threat.

Finally in the fourth, Wentz got himself into a bit of trouble. Mike Yastrzemski’s sinking liner to right field looked like it was caught by Matt Vierling but the Giants challenged and replay showed it was trapped. J.D. Davis followed with a solid single to center and the Giants had runners on first and second with no outs.

Wentz got Darin Ruf to fly out to center field for the first out. He got ahead of David Villar and then dropped a pair of curveballs that were well located but didn’t draw swings. Wentz turned to the cutter and fastball, eventually punching out Villar on a foul tip off the cutter. Brandon Crawford grounded out, also on the cutter, and Wentz was out of trouble in the fourth. His pitch count was at 66, and he really continued to locate well with very few mistakes. When Wentz doesn’t make those big mistakes and allows his stuff to play he’s looking quite good at this point. That rebuilt cutter is opening up plenty of options for him against hitters of either hand.

Wentz got the first two outs in the fifth quickly, but the pesky Mr. Estrada came up again and doubled for his third hit on the night. It didn’t matter as Wilmer Flores lifted a routine fly ball to right off a Wentz changeup. Five innings. 77 pitches. Six punchouts, no walks, and a ton of first pitch strikes. Pretty good stuff.

Jake Rogers got iced by a Jakob Junis slider down the middle, striking out to open the bottom of the fifth. However, Matt Vierling ripped a double to center field. Nick Maton hit for Nevin and popped out, but Riley Greene drew a walk to keep the inning alive. Javy Báez made it count, lashing a two-run double off the wall in left to make it 4-1 Tigers. Haase followed with a screamer to left for a single but it was hit too hard to score on as Báez held up at third. Unfortunately Torkelson struck out on a fastball on the outer edge, and we were on to the sixth.

Wentz picked right up where he left off in the sixth, getting up on Yastrzemski 0-2 and putting him away with a nasty cutter down and away that froze him. Rogers did a nice job getting the strike three call there. J.D. Davis battled Wentz and drew a one-out walk, but Ruf flew out to Haase in left field for the second out. At that point the Giants had put together enough long at-bats to get Wentz out of the game at 94 pitches.

Wentz finished with 5.2 IP, ER, 6 H, BB, 7 SO. That will do nicely. Other than Estrada there were only a couple of hard hit balls all night against Wentz.

Tyler Alexander took over against Villar and popped him up with a cutter to turn back the Giants, and we were on to the bottom of the sixth with the Tigers still up 4-1.

Miguel Cabrera led off with a ground ball single back through the box, but Schoop grounded into a double play. However Jake Rogers stayed hot by smoking a double to center field to keep the Tigers in business with two outs. Unfortunately, Matt Vierling struck out to end the threat.

Alexander made quick work of the seventh, surrendering a one-out Joey Bart single but erasing him on a double play ball from Heliot Ramos

Maton led off the bottom half of the seventh with a walk. Ah, walks. You love to see it. Riley Greene bounced out, moving Maton to second base, and then wouldn’t you know it, Javier Báez walked for the second time in the game. Get the statisticians!!

It was also Báez’s first two-walk game since July 23 of last year.

That was the end of the night for Junis, and right-hander Sean Hjelle took over against Eric Haase. A grounder to third forced Báez at second, with Maton taking third and Haase at first, with two outs and Torkelson at the dish. Hjelle got ahead with a heavy dose of knuckle curves, and Tork fouled a couple more off before popping out to end the threat.

Garrett Hill took over in the eighth, and no doubt Hinch hoped he could take this one to the house. He walked Estrada to open the inning, which might have been wise considering the way he swung the bat in this one. But that got Mason Englert warming up just in case. Wilmer Flores popped out, but with Yastrzemski up a wild pitch sent Estrada down to second base. Hill got jobbed on his second pitch, which was easily a strike. Instead of a strikeout, he ended up in a full count and Yastrzemski lined a changeup to center for a single, Estrada taking third on the play.

That was enough for Hinch, who pulled Hill for Englert. It did not go well. Davis took an Englert first pitch fastball and drilled it to right field for a three-run homer. Tie ball game. Englert retired the next two hitters, but hoo boy this bullpen, folks.

Zach McKinstry took over at second base as the second hitter up in the bottom of the eighth. The first hitter, Miguel Cabrera, struck out, as did McKinstry. Jake Rogers walked, but Vierling struck out to send this to the ninth all tied up.

Englert did his job in the ninth. He struck out Brandon Crawford and LaMonte Wade Jr., and Gabe Kapler pinch-hit Michael Conforto for Bart. Englert fished for the strikeout with a pair of changeups, then missed up with a fourseamer, but Conforto wasn’t biting and drew a walk. Blake Sabol pinch-ran for him. That brought up Estrada again with three hits, including a double and a homer, plus a walk, already under his belt for the night.

Englert got ahead 1-2, and Estrada fouled off a changeup. Chris Fetter came out for a little conference on what to throw next. They went with a changeup at the bottom of the zone, and Estrada lifted a routine fly ball to left. Unfortunately, Haase just flat out dropped it.

Sabol ended up on third and Estrada on second, with Wilmer Flores, elder brother of Tigers’ top pitching prospect of the same name, at the dish. Mercifully, Flores lifted another fly ball to left and Haase put that one away to send this to the bottom of the ninth.

Kapler turned to lefty Scott Alexander in the ninth and he had no trouble with Maton, Greene, and Báez.

Hinch’s options at this point were pretty limited. He had Jose Cisnero and Trey Wingenter presumably available, but stuck with Englert despite him starting the inning at 30 pitches already. Wilmer Flores was the runner on second to begin the inning.

Englert struck out Yastrzemski for the first out. Then he hit J.D. Davis, which frankly wasn’t the worst thing as it set up the double play. Darin Ruf whiffed at a breaking ball and then a changeup, and then Englert just painted the outer edge with a fastball to put him away. That left it to David Villar for the Giants but he grounded out. Pretty good work from Englert, who threw 46 pitches in relief.

The bottom half started with Báez at second, and Akil Baddoo pinch-hitting for Haase. Hard-throwing right-hander Camilo Doval took over on the mound for the Giants, which was a huge weapon to have at this point. Baddoo dropped a sacrifice bunt down to move Báez to third base. Torkelson’s AB was awful. He chased three pitches out of the zone and swung through a 99 mph nearly shoulder high to strike out. That left it to Miguel Cabrera, who grounded out to end the inning on the first pitch he saw. Miserable stuff.

Jose Cisnero took over in the 11th. Wade greeted him with a sharp single to right. The Giants held Villar, who started on second, at third on the play, but it didn’t matter as Wade singled to left to score him anyway. 5-4 Giants. Blake Sabol struck out for the first out. Estrada lined out to Vierling in right, and that left it to Wilmer Flores. Cisnero jammed him a bit and Flores lifted a little pop fly out into right center field that would have blown the game open had McKinstry not made a really stellar play ranging way out on the grass to pull it in.

McKinstry, Rogers, and Vierling were due up, with Kreidler pinch-running for Cabrera at second base, and Doval still pumping 98-100 mph sinkers on the mound.

McKinstry grounded one to Villar at second base, but for some reason he threw to third and couldn’t get Kreidler. Rogers struck out, while McKinstry took second base. Vierling also went down swinging, and that left it up to Nick Maton. Doval missed up with three straight pitches, and on the fourth, Maton pounced, crushing a three-run game winning shot to right field!!!!

Joey Wentz was really good. Báez responded well to the benching. Maybe just ride his backside on the daily, A.J. The bullpen remains a menace. Torkelson and Greene still look lost at the plate too often. Hopefully things start to click more consistently. And Nick Maton and Matt Vierling continue to look like pretty nice additions.

RHP Michael Lorenzen will be reinstated off the 15-day IL on Saturday to make his first start of the year. It will be very interesting to see who the Tigers move to open Lorenzen’s spot. They could option Ryan Kreidler down, potentially. That would be my guess although McKinstry hasn’t really done anything to impress either. He doesn’t have an option, however. We’ll see what they decide tomorrow.

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