Tigers win fourth straight, take opener 5-4 against reeling Cardinals

Detroit News

St. Louis – The Tigers knew they were going up against a wounded animal Friday night.

The vaunted St. Louis Cardinals came in on a six-game losing streak, had just 10 wins on the season and were winless in 10 series-openers this season.

“Don’t let their record fool you,” manager AJ Hinch said before the game. “This is a really good baseball team with a really good set of players who are not only recognizable, but they’re really talented. We want to get in and out of town before they get going.”

So far, so good.

Riley Greene, who came off the bench in the fifth inning, lined a two-run double into the right-field corner to key a three-run seventh inning and send the Tigers to a 5-4 win against the reeling Cardinals at Busch Stadium.

It was the Tigers’ fourth straight win.

Down 3-2 and facing flame-throwing reliever Jordan Hicks, Hinch went to his bench and unloaded his left-handed hitters. First Zach McKinstry walked. After Nick Maton struck out, St. Louis native Matt Vierling was hit in the hand by a 100-mph fastball.

Hicks got ahead of Greene with a pair of 102-mph fastballs and decided to mix in an off-speed pitch. Greene foiled him, staying on the 0-2 sweeper, lacing it into the corner, scoring both runners.

Hicks was replaced by Giovanny Gallegos and Spencer Torkelson greeted him with an RBI double.

The Tigers’ bullpen took it from there, though there was drama. After the Cardinals loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh against Jose Cisnero, Jason Foley was summoned and he ended the threat getting Willson Contreras to roll one right back to him.

Foley got a big double-play ball off Dylan Carlson in the eighth, but then Juan Yepez and Paul DeJong singled. That set up the biggest break of the night for the Tigers.

Lars Nootbar, on a 3-2 pitch with both runners moving, ripped a ball into the left-field gap. It was have easily scored both runners, but the ball bounced over the wall − ground rule double. DeJong had to go back to third.

Hinch brought in rookie right-hander Mason Englert. Easily the biggest pressure cooker he’s pitched in in his young career. He battled pinch-hitter Brendan Donovan for 11 pitches. Donovan fouled off five 3-2 pitches before he drew a walk to load the bases.

Englert then went 3-2 on another pinch-hitter, lefty Nolan Gorman. This time Englert won the battle, punching him out with a slider.

That left it up to Alex Lange. Still not officially the club’s closer, but it was his third save opportunity in the last four games. He got in the soup right away. Paul Goldschmidt spanked a double to the wall in center to lead off the bottom of the ninth.

Lange, though, struck out Willson Contreras, Nolan Arenado and Dylan Carlson to end it.

Facing left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery, Hinch stacked his lineup with nine right-handed hitters. That meant playing Andy Ibanez in right field, a position he’d never before played in pro baseball. The idea was to try to jump ahead early and then bring in his better defensive players later in the game.

They had it going for a minute when Javier Báez continued to sizzle. He put the Tigers up 2-0 in the first inning, launching a curveball at the bottom of the zone over the wall in left field. It was his third homer in four games.

He’s also hit safely in 15 of his last 17 games.

Tigers’ lefty starter Matthew Boyd pitched six strong innings, allowing three runs with six strikeouts. As it was, it was a quality start. The only damaging blow was a solo homer by No. 9 hitter Andrew Knizner in the third inning.

But the fourth inning got messy.

Leading 2-1, Boyd gave up a leadoff double to Paul Goldschmidt. No crime there. Next hitter, Willson Contreras, hit a popup behind second. Andy Ibanez, playing right field for the first time in his pro career, appeared to call off second baseman Jonathan Schoop.

But he couldn’t make the catch. The play was further muffed when Schoop picked the ball up and threw to third. He had no chance to get Goldschmidt and his throw allowed Contreras to advance to second.

Both of those runs scored without a hit. Nolan Arenado’s ground ball to shortstop plated Goldschmidt and sent Contreras to third. Dylan Carlson followed with a ground ball up the middle. Schoop fielded it on the shortstop side of the base and fired home.

Contreras just beat the throw.

Schoop, with one of the strongest infield arms in the game, took a calculated risk. Contreras, a catcher, is not a speedster by any stretch. Schoop’s decision to throw home didn’t have any other ramifications. Boyd worked out of the inning with no further damage.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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