Detroit Tigers’ win after a pair of injury losses a true indication of team’s character

Detroit Free Press

It’s a single game. And in the six-month grind of a Major League Baseball season, a fraction of the end result.

But then math doesn’t account for the human psyche, and to say the Detroit Tigers3-2 win over the Texas Rangers Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park meant no more than any other win this season is to say the game isn’t played by human beings.

It is.

Jake Marisnick is one of them.

He’s also the newest Tiger, who arrived Tuesday from the Chicago White Sox by way of Charlotte, North Carolina, where the 32-year-old outfielder had been outrighted to the White Sox’ minor league team.

The Tigers’ president of baseball operations, Scott Harris, traded for Marisnick before Riley Greene left Tuesday’s game with a stress fracture his leg. But boy did the move look prescient Wednesday, when Marisnick stepped in for Greene in center field, gloved Marcus Semien’s drive to center to open the game, and knocked in what would be the game-winning run six innings later.

“I guess I did,” Marisnick said, smiling.

Yeah, he did, tagging a 99 mph, first-pitch sinker to right field to score Tyler Nevin and push the lead to 3-1.

“Definitely a good feeling to help win a ballgame,” he said. “It’s been a breath of fresh air to come into a team with this much energy.”

Ah, the energy, the fresh air, the hard-to-define tropes that guys like Marisnick use when they’ve been sprung from baseball purgatory. That he felt the psychic surge on the same day the club found out Greene had fractured his left fibula?

That tells us something, too.

“It’s a crushing blow,” Nevin said of Greene’s injury; he was placed on the 10-day injured list and will get a second opinion.

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And yet?

“You’ve got to step it up,” he said.

Sounds simple, right?

Maybe for a team with a deeper roster, with a wider margin for error, it would be. For these Tigers? Losing Greene a couple of days after losing Eduardo Rodriguez, their best pitcher?

That could be a crushing blow, and perhaps it will be as the Tigers enter June coming off their best month in years.

Then again, perhaps we’ll see more of what we saw Wednesday, when a starting pitcher who got shelled his last time up dug in for four strong innings, when an infielder playing right field dug a ball out of the corner to throw out a runner at second, and when a second baseman dove into the dirt to save a run.

“We had a lot of guys do a lot of good things against a first-place team,” said manager A.J. Hinch, who is bound by baseball code to downplay the significance of a single win and by baseball karma not to dwell on injuries, even as they keep hitting this team hard.

Hinch did allow this:

“When you have a team come in and put up as many runs as they did, this win feels pretty good.”

Still, he said, “I’ve got to spend my time figuring out the White Sox. Think of it like as a person: When something bad goes on in your life and you spend the next 48 hours dwelling on it, pouting, being pissed, in 48 hours that same situation is there … Riley Greene is hurt the next time we have a game. And so is (Kerry) Carpenter and (Eduardo Rodriguez) and (Tarik) Skubal and (Casey) Mize … I could go on and on.”

So?

“We have 26 guys that are ready to play,”

Joey Wentz was one of them, despite his last outing, which was rough: A four-inning, five-run affair against the White Sox. Wednesday, the 6-foot-5 lefty threw up a zero in the first, despite giving up a couple of hard-hit balls.

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“Guys were making plays,” he said.

He followed the first-inning shutout with two more innings, before giving up a run in the fourth. All that did was tie the game though, as the Tigers scored when Zach McKinstry and Akil Baddoo singled and Javier Báez knocked McKinstry home on a fielder’s choice.

McKinstry doesn’t score, however, if he hadn’t taken third from first on Baddoo’s single to center. The infielder-turned-right fielder spotted the angle of Baddoo’s hit and didn’t hesitate when he approached second.

Savvy? Sure. And a sign of this team’s aggressiveness — and speed — on the bases, something Hinch wants this club to be known for. McKinstry, though, credits a baserunning mistake he made in Kansas City.

“I took a bad read,” he said. “I took it to heart.”

That was quick, like he is, like the way he scampered into the corner to chase down Corey Seager’s single in the seventh and throw him out at second as he tried to squeeze out a double. A big little moment, Hinch might say.

Or a big, big moment. The Tigers had many of them, from Wentz using a changeup (per catcher Jake Rogers’ suggestion) on a 3-2 count with the bases loaded to pop Semien out to Zack Short’s diving stop at second in the ninth to nearly five innings of bullpen dominance to Marisnick’s game-winning single.

Everyone made plays. It’s been that way all month, no matter who is in the lineup, and who goes missing from it. Yeah, it stings to lose Greene and Rodriguez, and they will be missed. Yet the Tigers won a game Wednesday afternoon that meant a little more than a single win, as hard as that is to quantify.

“You guys know the character of our team,” said Hinch.

That’s true, we do, and it’s beginning to reveal itself as the days get warmer and warmer.

Contact Shawn Windsor: 313-222-6487 or swindsor@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @shawnwindsor.

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