Cleveland – It wasn’t for a lack of opportunity, that’s for sure. And afterward there was no lack of accountability in the Tigers’ clubhouse.
The Cleveland Guardians, behind ace Shane Bieber, evened the series with a 2-0 win at Progressive Field Tuesday, on a night when the Tigers left 11 runners on base and went 1-for-15 with runners in scoring position – and 10 of those outs were strikeouts.
“He just made quality pitches in big-time moments,” said Tigers’ Spencer Torkelson, who had three hits. “That’s what a Cy Young (winner) does. You tip your cap to that. But that eighth inning, we grinded our butts off for that one opportunity and I didn’t tag up. I didn’t get to third and then (Matt) Vierling hits what should’ve been a sacrifice fly.
“That’s my bad.”
Torkelson led off the eighth with a double off reliever Sam Hentges. Pinch-hitter Jonathan Schoop followed with a bullet to center field. Guardians’ center fielder Myles Straw got a quick jump on the ball and ran it down. Torkelson went halfway to third and came back.
“He has one objective and that’s to get to third base,” manager AJ Hinch said. “With no outs, I think he got caught watching the play a little bit. Just a play where he was over-aggressive with his first read. Even if that ball gets by (Straw) and he only gets to third, it’s still first and third and no outs.”
The Guardians brought in right-handed reliever Trevor Stephan and he dispatched Vierling and Andy Ibanez to end the Tigers’ final threat.
“Schoop hit it hard but I thought he was going to catch it running toward third,” Torkelson said. “Either way, I should be on second base tagging up, regardless.”
The Guardians tacked on an insurance run off reliever Jose Cisnero in the bottom of the eighth on a two-out triple by Amed Rosario and the Tigers did not threaten against closer Emmanuel Clase.
But they certainly had Bieber on the ropes for six of his innings.
They scratched out seven hits off him, all singles. They were gifted a pair of errors by the Guardians normally sure-handed infielders. They stole three bases, exploiting Bieber’s methodical delivery.
But they were 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position at that point.
“Just chase,” Hinch said, meaning Bieber repeatedly got Tigers’ hitters to chase breaking balls out of the strike zone with runners in scoring position. “He got us to really expand the zone. Credit him for continuing to spin us over and over. He was relentless.”
Nick Maton struck out three times with runners in scoring position. He didn’t see a fastball strike in any of those at-bats. Ibanez was 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position. Javier Báez left runners stranded in scoring position three times.
“Our pitch selection was not our best when we needed it the most,” Hinch said.
The one hit with runners in scoring position was a single by Torkelson. Báez, who beat out a double-play ball and then stole second, was thrown out at the plate on a strong throw from right fielder Will Brennan.
Báez, sliding head first, thought he got his right hand on the plate before catcher Cam Gallagher applied the tag. The Tigers challenged the call, and also whether Gallagher had illegally blocked the plate. But the call and block were upheld.
“We challenged the entire play,” Hinch said. “There was no reason not to. He didn’t block the plate but if you ask me to challenge any part of the play, I can challenge both.”
Báez got some payback, though, in the bottom of the fifth. He took an RBI single away from speedy Steven Kwan with a brilliant quick-dive and backhand play going to his right.
The Tigers’ defense also cut down a potential run in the sixth. Rosario led off with a shot into the right-field corner. Vierling got to the ball quickly and threw a dart to second base. Báez made a quick tag to complete the play.
“I used to hate Javy,” said Lorenzen, long-time National League Central rivals with Báez. “Being in Cincinnati and having to play against him for six or seven years, I couldn’t stand it. It’s really nice to be on his team. I give up a leadoff double and that turns into an out. Vierling got to it quick but that tag by Javy was incredible.”
Lorenzen allowed a first-inning run and nothing else in his seven innings.
“The defense was insane behind me,” he said. “Javy with the tag and that play he made (on Kwan). Someone who is extremely fast, left-handed out of the box − the fact that he was able to throw him out was incredible.”
The Tigers had won six of seven before Tuesday and in that span they were winning a big percentage of the key at-bats. The Guardians had been struggling to score runs over the same stretch of games. On this night, the theme changed teams.
“Just flush it,” Torkelson said. “We will be ready tomorrow.”