Tigers 7, Rangers 2: Cats persevere despite more injury woes

Bless You Boys

Well this was an eventful one. Through three innings, the Tigers scored four runs and lost two pitchers, presumably to the injury list. Starter Matt Boyd departed in the first with an arm injury, and Will Vest followed him with a knee issue in the third. It didn’t stop the Tigers as Andy Ibáñez and Jake Rogers provided the power, and the bullpen once again did outstanding work to take this first of four by a score of 7-2 on Monday.

Just as the injury list looked to start clearing with Matt Manning returning on Tuesday to start in Texas, and Tarik Skubal and Eduardo Rodriguez not far behind him, the baseball gods conveniently began balancing the scales once again.

After the Tigers went quietly against Andrew Heaney in the first inning, Matt Boyd took the mound and promptly gave up a Marcus Semien solo shot on the second pitch he threw. Boyd bounced back, getting both Corey Seager and Josh Jung whiffing on the fastball. And just like that Boyd’s day was done.

He missed badly with the second fastball he threw to Adolis Garcia and cringed in pain, bringing A.J. Hinch and the trainer out of the dugout. Clearly an arm injury of some sort, and of course Boyd only returned from flexor tendon surgery last September. We’ll have to see what the diagnosis is on that one.

Meanwhile, Will Vest had to rush to get himself ready to enter the game. Once he took the mound he promptly struck out Garcia to end the inning.

Eric Haase tripled to the wall in center field with one out in the second inning. A sacrifice fly from Jonathan Schoop scored him, and the Tigers had the 1-0 lead.

Vest allowed a Nathaniel Lowe double to open the bottom of the second, but bounced right back to strike out Jonah Heim and Mitch Garver. And then Vest began walking around the mound like he was trying to shake out something in his right leg. He had to be lifted with what is initially described as right knee discomfort. Such is the cascade of pitcher injuries. Did Vest possibly not get warmed up adequately? There’s no way to know, but it’s easy to be suspicious. Anyway there’s nothing to be done about it.

Mason Englert took over and struck out Ezequiel Duran to finish the second inning.

Two innings, two pitchers down. The Tigers needed something good to happen and they got it in the third. Matt Vierling singled to left with one out and Spencer Torkelson walked. Andy Ibáñez took a meatball of a slider down the middle for strike one. The next pitch from Heaney was a changeup in the same spot and Ibáñez smashed it into the visitor’s bullpen to make it 4-1 Tigers. Big swing from Andy there.

Englert did a nice job in the third, surrendering just a walk to Corey Seager while punching out both Semien and Jung.

Miguel Cabrera got a little threat going with one out in the fourth with a line drive single to right field. Former Rangers and Tigers catching legend, Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez hung with Matt Shepard and Craig Monroe in the booth and we got a montage of Pudge giving Miguel a saddle and a check for his foundation. At some point Miggy should display all the loot he’s collecting this year.

Jake Rogers followed with a walk and the Tigers had two on with one out. Unfortunately Zack Short popped out and Matt Vierling grounded out to end the half inning.

Adolis Garcia greeted Englert in the bottom half with a deep drive to dead center field for a solo shot to make the score 4-2 Tigers. Englert also allowed a single to Heim in the inning but was able to pitch around it without further incident.

The Tigers went quickly in the fifth, and Tyler Alexander took over on the mound. After striking out Leody Taveras, Semien singled and Seager was hit by a sinker that tailed inside on him. A fairly epic duel then took place between Alexander and Josh Jung. The southpaw ended the 10-pitch battle by spotting a fastball on the outer edge for strike three. That left it up to Garcia again, this time with two ducks on the pond and two outs.

Andrew Heaney looked to be on his last inning as we headed into the top of the sixth. With his pitch count climbing over 90, he got Eric Haase to fly out and then punched out Jonathan Schoop. Miguel Cabrera was still having fun out there however, spraying a textbook Cabrera line drive to center. Taveras dove for it, couldn’t make the catch, and knocked the ball all the way back to the infield. Still, just a single for the big man. It was well timed, as Jake Rogers, back in his old Texas stomping grounds, proceeded to lift a moonshot to left for his team-leading 10th home run of the year.

6-2 Tigers.

Alexander allowed a Lowe single to open the bottom of the sixth, but he was promptly erased as Heim grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Alexander dusted Mitch Garver with three straight fastballs after falling behind 1-0, and hey location and movement still works at 91 mph, kids.

Lefty Brock Burke took over from Heaney for the final out of the sixth as Bochy stayed with the southpaws. Matt Vierling greeted him with a single to open the seventh inning. Torkelson flailed at a fastball out of the zone and struck out, but once again Ibáñez was there, drilling a single to right to get Vierling over to third. Javy Báez lifted a fly ball out to right field and Vierling tagged and scored easily to make it 7-2. Eric Haase popped out to end the inning, and Alexander came back out for his third full inning of work.

Ezequiel Duran doubled to open the bottom of the seventh, and that was unnerving with the top of the order coming up again. Alexander was up to the challenge even as I wondered if Hinch shouldn’t be using Foley here. The lefty struck out Taveras, popped up Semien, and then got Seager to ground out on a hotshot to Báez. Really good work for Alexander.

In the eighth, the Tigers got a two-out Jake Rogers single against right-hander Yerry Rodriguez, but that went nowhere as Short flew out to right field. Jason Foley took over and made short work of the Rangers. He struck out Jung, got Garcia to ground out to Báez, and then froze Lowe with a 98 mph sinker right at the top of the zone to end the inning.

The Tigers got a leadoff hustle double from Vierling to start the ninth, complete with a Báez-esque swim move around Marcus Semien as he tried to apply the tag. It went nowhere, as Torkelson grounded out, Jake Marisnick flew out to left after taking over in center field the previous inning, and Báez struck out.

Tyler Holton got the call to pitch the ninth, and the rookie has been really good for the Tigers. He got the first out, but walked Mitch Garver and then a ground ball to third hit the bag, bouncing high over Zack McKinstry’s head and forcing him to spin and dive into the outfield to make the catch. Everyone was safe and the lead was still five runs. Things improved when Holton punched out Taveras for the second out, but that weird bounce meant the Rangers fearsome twosome were in line to bat again, and no one wanted to see that. Holton pitched Semien carefully and walked him on a close 3-2 pitch, loading the bases for Corey Seager. Yikes.

Chris Fetter came out to settle his young lefty down and coordinate the plan against the very dangerous Mr. Seager. A first pitch slider did the trick, as Seager lifted a routine fly ball to Haase in left to end it.

Really good win for the Tigers. This is the toughest series on their schedule for a while, so to go into Texas and take game one after losing both Boyd and Vest early, was a fairly impressive performance. And once again, Torkelson and Báez were barely involved other than some nice defensive work.

Give the stars of the game to Jake Rogers, Andy Ibáñez, and Tyler Alexander.

Matt Manning returns from the injured list on Tuesday to make his first start since April 11. A corresponding move will be made prior to the game, but considering the two injuries tonight, plenty of moves are inbound. Left-hander Martin Perez goes for the Rangers, with first pitch set for 8:05 p.m. ET.

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