Tigers 14, Rockies 9: A good old-fashioned mile-high slugfest

Bless You Boys

The afternoon, high-altitude rubber-match finale of a weekend series in Colorado featured lots of action and plenty of dingers, and the Tigers won the game 14-9. With the win, the Tigers ended their seven-game road trip with a 4-3 record. They are once again four games back of the Minnesota Twins for first place in the AL Central.

Matt Manning got the nod today, in a rare non-bullpen-day start for the Tigers. He pitched two games in April before getting hit on the pinky toe, sat on the shelf for a couple of months, then pitched admirably into the sixth inning against Texas on Tuesday. In order to experience success, he has to knock off the rust that saw him walk four batters in the start against the Rangers, and walk a whole lot in his rehab outings in the minor leagues.

Making the start for the Rockies was Connor Seabold, who’s in his third year out of Cal State Fullerton. He made his eleventh start of the year today, along with seven relief appearances, in his first year in the Mile High State. (That is Colorado’s nickname, right? I couldn’t be arsed to look it up.) He pitched strictly out of the bullpen in April, often making multiple-inning appearances, perhaps to build his endurance up to the point where he could start. As a starter he’s been uneven so far, occasionally giving up a half-dozen runs over three innings, but he also had a great start on June 7 in San Francisco where he pitched into the seventh, only giving up two hits.

In the first, the Tigers loaded the bases with a Zach McKinstry single, a Spencer Torkelson walk, and a Kerry Carpenter single. What followed was a first-pitch, no-doubt grand slam for Javier Báez, the eighth slam of his career.

When Báez gets a hold of one with that giant swing of his, man-alive, he hits it a mile. When he doesn’t, fans in the front row get their hair blown back by the breeze of that swing, and a strike is rung-up on the batter. Don’t change, Javy…unless you can?

Manning got into a little trouble in the first, putting the first two on via a double and hit-by-pitch. He then got a strikeout, a sensational diving catch in left by Matt Vierling, and a flyout to centre to get out of the inning, but he threw 32 pitches in the process.

The Rockies got a pair of runs back due, in part, to some questionable throws. With Randal Grichuk on first, Harold Castro hit a single to left; Grichuk rounded second and went for third, and a lousy throw to third allowed Castro to advance to second. The next batter hit a fly ball to center, which scored Grichuk; Castro bolted for third, and the throw to the infield was cut off by Báez, who threw way off-line to third to try to get the otherwise-dead-duck Castro. Another fly ball, another run — and that runner should’ve been nowhere near third base. Makes a baseball fan a little annoyed, ya know?

In the third a Torkelson double and an Andy Ibanez single preceded a Carpenter three-run home run just over Grichuk’s glove at the left-field fence, for a 7-2 Tiger lead. Jake Rogers followed with a leadoff solo home run in the fourth to make it 8-2.

Manning gave up a couple of runs in the bottom of the fourth to narrow the gap to 8-4, and as the game wore on his fastball speed started slowly but surely increasing. But he still wasn’t terribly sharp, and his pitch count was high as he finished the fifth, getting Kris Bryant on a swinging strikeout with a slider. He ended his day with five innings pitched, five hits, four earned runs, and four strikeouts. He didn’t walk anyone, but he certainly wasn’t hitting his spots as much as he would’ve liked to. On the other hand the slider keeps looking better. Baby steps, Matt!

Brendan White took over in the sixth, and on his second pitch he gave up a solo home run to left by Grichuk to make it an 8-5 game. Hittin’ Harold Castro followed with a single, but White induced a grounder to short to get a double play and you might’ve thought, hey, this could just turn out alright for him. But he then hit Brenton Doyle with a sinker and walked Jurickson Profar, bringing the tying run to the plate. A single to right scored Castro, making it 8-6, and White was dispatched in favor of Chasen Shreve. Ryan McMahon hit a grounder to first, and Shreve barely beat McMahon to first while accepting the toss from Torkelson to get out of the inning.

Tork pushed the lead back to four with a two-run home run to left in the seventh, making it 10-6. It marked the first time the Tigers scored in the double-digits this year, which is kind of shocking, but then kind of not shocking, you know? It was also the second time the Tigers had hit four home runs in a game… but were there more to come? (Yes, there were.)

“Everyday José” Cisnero took over for the bottom of the seventh, and he promptly gave up a pair of singles but got a double-play grounder. Tyler Alexander was brought in to face a lefty with two outs and a runner on third, and on the second pitch he got another old friend, CJ Cron, to fly out to centre and end the inning.

The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the eighth via a Matt Vierling triple, and walks to Zach Short and Rogers. Jake Marisnick, who’s never been accused of hitting too much, smacked the Tigers’ second grand slam of the day for a 14-6 lead.

Profar hit a one-out RBI double in the eighth off Alexander to bring the gap back to seven runs, and McMahon hit a two-run home run to left to make it 14-9. I mean, my goodness, how big of a lead do you have to have out there to feel comfortable?!

Jason Foley came on for the ninth, juuuuust in case something weird was gonna happen. Aside from giving up a one-out single, nothing weird happened and the Tigers closed out the victory.

The Tigers have an off-day on Monday — they’ll need it after three games in thin air — before taking on Oakland in Detroit for three games starting on Tuesday.

Thin Air Is A Big Deal

The first inning was a pretty good case study in how baseball at a high altitude is so hard to play. The outfield at Coors Field is huge, because the ball carries farther in the thin air. The designers of the stadium knew this, hence the dimensions.

If you’re a major-league outfielder, you’ve played thousands of games and seen thousands of fly balls off the bat. But since most of those games weren’t a mile above sea level, your sense about where the ball is going to go is going to be way off if the ball carries ten or twenty feet further than you’d otherwise expect.

Kerry Carpenter — no, he’s not the best defensive outfielder ever, but come on, he’s a professional — took kind of a weird route on the double hit his way. He was really unsure about if it was going to be catchable, if it should be played off the wall, or if it was over the fence. In the end it was off the wall, but it clearly fooled him.

Plus, since the fences are so far back, that means outfielders play farther back than they normally do. This means more “dying quails” fall in front of them for singles. I would not want to play that outfield.

…or pitch there. Curveballs don’t curve, fastballs just sit there, and nothing works like it should.

Notes and Numbers

  • Spencer Torkelson’s OPS by month: April, .575; May, .783, June, .716.
  • His home runs by month: April, 2; May, 2; June, 7. (July so far, including today: 1.)
  • Torkelson’s middle name? Enochs. (Ultra-old-school. I dig it.)
  • I totally forgot that Kris Bryant played in Colorado now.
  • Tyler Alexander’s moustache is looking a little Rollie Fingers-esque these days.
  • Shohei Ohtani’s tied for the American League lead for triples, and leading the league outright in home runs. Seriously, is there anything this guy can’t do? He could probably pick up a French horn and be concert-quality in twenty minutes.
  • Happy 161st birthday to William Henry Bragg, an English physicist who was a pioneer in the field of crystallography. He shared a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1915 with his son, who was also into that sort of thing. I took a crystallography course in university, and the labs were pretty fun: mount the crystal, put some photographic paper behind it, close the door, leave the room, and turn on the X-ray machine. You’d look at the dots afterwards and be able to problem-solve backwards to determine the crystal’s structure. Neat!

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