Tigers 6, Mets 5 (Gm 1): A Battle of the Joeys

Bless You Boys

The opener of a three-game mid-week interleague series against the New York Mets in Detroit was postponed from a rainy Tuesday night to a slightly less rainy Wednesday afternoon. When it finally did get underway, a drizzle-drenched slugfest broke out early on before the Tigers ultimately got a huge two-run single in the eighth from Eric Haase that led them to a 6-5 victory.

Joey Wentz got the nod for the Tigers today, in his sixth start of the year. It’s been a rough go so far in the 2023 season; a typical start appears to be five innings or so, giving up three or four runs. The strikeouts are there, though (22 in 22 13 innings coming into today). He’s been tough on fellow lefties, holding them to a .499 OPS so far; righties have an OPS of .753 against him, which isn’t terrible, but it could be better. He’s generally limiting hitters’ power; the percentage of at-bats ending in an extra-base hit is 7.3% this year (the league average is 7.6%), and his WHIP coming into today was a decent-ish 1.343.

Facing Wentz this afternoon was Joey Lucchesi. The big lefty from California made his debut in 2018 with the Padres, missed all of 2022 due to a certain surgery named after a certain left-handed pitcher from days gone by. It’s a small sample size so far this season — tonight was only his third start — but so far, so good for Lucchesi in terms of walks, strikeouts and home runs.

The starting lineup contained a couple of notable changes: for one, Zach Short got the start at third base, batting ninth. But, I did see that Javier Báez was moved up to the #2 spot in the order; he’s been in #3 in the lineup for most of the last month. Nice to see AJ Hinch has that much confidence in the Mercurial One.

Eric Haase made like Julia Child and got cooking, right off the bat in the first: after singles by Báez and Riley Greene, the local fella found the right-field seats for his first home run of the year, putting Detroit up early, 3-0.

But then the Mets decided hitting home runs looked like fun, so they hit a pair of solo shots in the second: one by Tommy Pham and another by Mark Canha, narrowing the lead to 3-2.

Báez got in on the home run parade himself in the third, too, also hitting his first of the season to make it 4-2, an absolute no-doubter.

The Mets snatched the lead in the fifth, though, with some sloppy play by the Tigers: a Brett Baty single had an extra base tacked on by a Greene error, and he came around to score on a single to left with a lousy throw home (and an even worse catch attempt by Haase). Francisco Lindor made the Tigers pay again with a home run in the rain, another no-doubter to left-center, putting the Mets ahead 5-4.

It’s not like Wentz was bad, per se… his strike-throwing was decent, and he pitched six innings, but he got burned by the home run ball. (Knock that off, Tigers lefties!) He gave up nine hits and five earned runs, but only walked one (the second-last hitter he faced, who was eliminated on a double play).

Will Vest took over in the seventh and had a delightfully boring inning. We like boring innings around here. Unfortunately the bottom of the seventh was quite boring as well. Vest handle the first two outs in the eighth, but a Tommy Pham double brought the hook. Tyler Alexander came on to matchup against McNeil and got him to fly out to end the half inning.

Adam Ottavino took over for the Mets in the bottom half of the eighth. He struck out Baddoo, but things turned the Tigers way from there. Ottavino allowed a soft single to Vierling that Starling Marte couldn’t quite handle in shallow right field. Vierling stole second and Báez was clipped by a pitch. Riley Greene grounded out to first, and again, the kids were not alright. Fortunately, Eric Haase was locked in, drilling a two-run single to center that put the Tigers back on top 6-5.

That put the game in the right hands, as Alex Lange took over to close it out. Lange walked Brett Baty with one out, but got Dan Vogelbach to fly out, and left it up to Nimmo. Lange struck him out with liberal doses of the curveball and the Tigers had a come from behind victory.

The Tigers are now 11-17. RHP Michael Lorenzen will battle that Verlander character in game two, set for a 6:40 p.m. ET start.

Brieske Update

In case you missed it on Tuesday…

Three Things about Gordon Lightfoot

As you may have heard, legendary Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot passed away on Monday night, at 84. I normally include a handful of baseball notes at the ends of recaps, but today’s going to be a little different.

  • Someone once said about his songs, “I can’t think of any Gordon Lightfoot song I don’t like. Every time I hear a song of his, it’s like I wish it would last forever.” Who was this person, you might ask? Bob Dylan.
  • For nearly the last twenty years, Lightfoot would play a run of shows just before Christmas at legendary Toronto music venue Massey Hall. When it was due to be closed for two-plus years for extensive renovations in 2018, he played the last show before it closed. He also played the first show after it reopened in 2021. I consider myself fortunate to have been at one of those late-fall shows, back in 2015.
  • Lightfoot grew up in Orillia, Ontario (about 150 km north of Toronto). He taught himself to play guitar and gravitated towards folk music, and was also a multi-sport athlete in high school. He moved to Los Angeles to study jazz composition at a small college there, but missed Canada and moved back to start his music career. Initially he wrote songs for others, but then started recording them himself in the mid-1960s.

It’s really hard to overstate the impact Lightfoot had on Canadian music. We’re a much smaller country than the US (in terms of population, of course), and it’s very easy to get lost in the cultural noise. Lightfoot, soon followed by the likes of Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, most of The Band, and a host of others all showed that Canada can write and make music that’s just as good as our larger, louder neighbours.

As former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau observed in a speech to the Washington Press Club in 1969, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.” I can assure you that these twitches and grunts can be both geopolitical and cultural, and when you’ve got Gordie on your side to speak up for the dreamers, the workers, the lovers and the fighters, well then, that made it a much fairer contest.

Now, go listen to some of his music. Close your eyes and listen carefully, preferably at a high volume. It’s perfectly constructed, both lyrically and musically. Don’t be fooled by the quietness of some of the songs: the words run deep, and the stories are told masterfully. Rest in music, Gord.

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