Twins 2, Tigers 0: A good start squandered

Bless You Boys

After a pair of wins to open the four-game weekend series against the Twins in Minnesota, the Detroit Tigers looked to extend their winning ways with… what’s this… an acutal starting pitcher, you say? Not a bullpen day?! Well, how about that.

Anyway, armed with this newfangled “starting pitcher” idea, the Tigers forgot how to score runs and wasted a nice outing from their starter, Joey Wentz, losing 2-0; each team got a grand total of three hits in the contest.

Wentz took the mound for his twelfth start; his only non-start was against Arizona last weekend, in which he took the mound from the second through the sixth innings after an opener pitched the first. With the dearth of starting pitching employed by the Tigers in recent weeks and days — well, starters that aren’t injured, that is — it was crucial that Wentz gave the team a few good innings.

The Twins, however, went with a bullpen day, and José De León got the nod. He’s had assorted cups-of-coffee in the major leagues between shoulder and elbow injuries since his 2016 debut with the Dodgers, mostly out of the bullpen. So far in 2023 he’s been a decent relief arm for the Twins: ten appearances, 14 innings pitched, a 3.86 ERA.

De León did his job, getting the first six Michiganders he faced; Wentz did the same with the first half-dozen Minnesotans he was tasked to retire. Emilio Pagan took over for De León in the third and got the next five hitters, giving way to Brent Headrick who finished the fourth with a flyout by Kerry Carpenter.

Shoot, was this going to be another sub-two-hour game? Would I have time this afternoon to do some weeding in the garden?

Spencer Torkelson made a lovely play in the netting a long way from first base in the bottom of the fourth:

The game entered the fifth without a baserunner for either team. The Tigers broke the spell with two outs in the fifth, with a Zach Short walk. Miguel Cabrera followed with a double to left field, but Short got thrown out at home trying to score. A.J. Hinch asked for a replay on the close play, but eventually a camera angle upheld the call on the field.

Meanwhile, Wentz was mixing his pitches really well and generally keeping his pitch count down. He came into the game with an ERA over 7, with the idea that, to succeed, he had to play off the Twins hitters’ overall aggressiveness and not nibble the corners too much. He struck out 7 of the first 13 hitters he faced, many on swinging strike-threes.

The Twins got their first baserunner in the fifth via a walk as well, which was followed by a Willi Castro single. Alex Kirilloff followed with a single, pushing the first run of the day across. Ryan Jeffers followed with a sharp ground ball on which Short made a great diving play at third; he got up, threw to second, and a possibly-questionably-too-hard slide prevented the Tigers from getting out of the inning with a double play. A run scored on the play, making it a 2-0 Twins lead.

Wentz continued on through the sixth, ending his outing with a beautiful low changeup and a swinging third strike on Carlos Correa. That’s just a great start from Wentz, and he gave the Tigers some valuable length during a work-heavy stretch for the bullpen: six innings, two runs on two hits, one walk and nine strikeouts.

Tyler Alexander took over in the seventh, and in a pair of innings he gave up a pair of walks, a hit, and no runs.

Jhoan Duran came on in the ninth for the save, and Zach McKinstry came off the bench to face Duran’s high heat. He flared a single to left to lead off the inning, but Eric Haase grounded into a double play to erase McKinstry. So, it was all up to Matt Vierling, who worked the count full but struck out on a 103 mph fastball to end the game.

Brayan Peña Got His Money’s Worth

In case you missed it (or “ICYMI,” as the kids these days say), Brayan Peña — who’s managing at West Michigan this year — got a little tired of lousy ball-and-strike calls, and decided he’d voice his displeasure to the official in charge of such things on Friday night. Said official ejected Peña, and as they say, “he got his money’s worth” out of the dismissal. Be sure to watch it all the way to the end, as he certainly knew how to make a unique exit. Enjoy.

Notes and Numbers

  • In the ten games before today’s (45 plate appearances), Javier Báez’s stats: 13-for-43, four extra-base hits, and a slash line of .302/.311/.512 for an OPS of .823.
  • In the eight games before today’s (38 plate appearances), Spencer Torkelson’s stats: 11-for-32, six extra-base hits, and a slash line of .344/.447/.656, for an OPS of 1.104.
  • Look, I know that’s a small sample size, but… there’s really no good way to end that sentence.
  • I can never seem to get the ratio of croutons-to-greens right on a salad. This has nothing to do with baseball, but everything to do with the salad I ate during the game. We’re growing spinach, arugula and lettuce in the garden this year. Can recommend.
  • On this date in 1631, Mumtaz Mahal died while giving birth to a child in what is now India. Her husband, an emperor in the Mughal Empire, started building a mausoleum in her memory soon afterwards, and it took him 17 years to complete the building: the Taj Mahal.

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