Zach McKinstry’s 400-foot blast in 10th inning sends Detroit Tigers to 4-2 win over Rockies

Detroit Free Press

DENVER — The Detroit Tigers and Colorado Rockies, both implementing bullpen-only games, were deadlocked in a scoreless game going into the bottom of the sixth inning. Hits were scarce, and scoring opportunities were rare.

After the teams traded runs, the second of three games in the series went into extra innings. A free runner in the 10th inning, an important leadoff single and a 400-foot home run propelled the Tigers to a 4-2 victory over the Rockies on Saturday in front of 48,108 fans at Coors Field.

Zach McKinstry launched the monster three-run homer to right field.

“To start out July on a good roll and keep it going,” McKinstry said. “We got some guys (Eduardo Rodriguez, Tarik Skubal, Riley Greene and Akil Baddoo) coming back soon from injuries. I think this is going to be a good month for us.”

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The Tigers (36-46) won their first game against the Rockies on Saturday night and have a chance to win the series on Sunday. The finale begins at 3:10 p.m. with right-hander Matt Manning starting his second game since returning from the injured list.

The 10th inning started when Eric Haase, struck in a miserable slump, battled with right-handed reliever Pierce Johnson. He dropped an eighth-pitch curveball into shallow left-center field for a crucial single, advancing Jonathan Schoop — the free runner in extra innings — to third base.

“It’s big to feel like you’re contributing,” Haase said. “I’m trying to work my ass off behind the plate, and to ultimately walk away with the win was huge there, but for something to fall was a breath of fresh air.”

McKinstry, a left-handed hitter, took care of both base runners when he turned on a second-pitch 97 mph fastball from Johnson. His sixth homer of the season put the Tigers ahead, 4-1.

“Last night, I saw a few curveballs hard, so I was just sitting hard,” said McKinstry, who faced Johnson in Friday’s game. “I got a fastball up-and-in. I was kind of late all day, so I tried to get my foot down as early as possible. I got it pretty good.”

Right-handed reliever Alex Lange retired all three batters he faced in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game to extra innings. A two-out walk and Kris Bryant’s RBI single cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the 10th inning, but Lange struck out Ryan McMahon to strand runners on the corners and end the game.

Lange threw 31 pitches.

“Two-inning stints are not his norm,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said, “but we really needed it, and he delivered.”

Trading runs

The Rockies took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, not long after C.J. Cron crushed right-handed reliever José Cisnero’s 97 mph four-seam fastball for a double to left field.

Two batters later, Ezequiel Tovar shot a cutter into right field for a two-out single.

On the play, Cron — who ranks in the 11th percentile for sprint speed according to Statcast — tried to score from second base. Testing the arm strength, and arm accuracy, of right fielder Kerry Carpenter paid off for the Rockies, leading to a 1-0 advantage. The throw from Carpenter to Haase wasn’t close, but an on-target throw to the catcher would have gotten him at the plate easily.

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The Tigers, though, answered almost immediately with Miguel Cabrera’s leadoff single and Jonathan Schoop’s double in the top of the seventh inning. Jake Marisnick, pinch-running for Cabrera, scored from first base on Schoop’s double to the wall in left, knotting the score at one run apiece.

“Miggy confirmed he wouldn’t have scored on that,” Hinch said. “That makes for a good move.”

Before scoring, the Tigers missed two scoring opportunities.

In the second inning, Cabrera struck out looking on a perfect down-and-away sweeper from right-hander Peter Lambert and stranded Matt Vierling, who hit a two-out triple, on third base.

Lambert covered the first three innings to begin the Rockies’ bullpen-only game.

In the sixth inning, Vierling grounded out against right-hander Matt Koch to strand runners on the corners. Andy Ibáñez hit a one-out double, Carpenter was hit in the foot by an 89.6 mph sinker, and Javier Báez grounded into a force out.

Zach Logue shines

The Tigers began the bullpen-only game with right-handed reliever Brendan White, making the first start of his MLB career in his eighth appearance. The 24-year-old recorded four outs and worked around a walk and a single in the first inning.

His sweeper generated three of his four whiffs.

“We knew that today was going to be a bullpen day,” White said. “It was just making sure everybody’s mentally and physically prepared to take a big load of innings. Make sure you’re ready, and then go out there and get the job done.”

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After White, the Tigers relied on left-hander Zach Logue to carry them through into the middle of the game. Logue had been stretched out to 80 pitches in Triple-A Toledo, so the Tigers knew he would be able to eat innings.

Logue, in his Tigers debut, posted 3⅓ scoreless innings and threw 35 of 53 pitches for strikes. In the third inning, Báez completed a spectacular play at shortstop — diving to keep the ball from going into left field — for the second out.

“That was outrageous,” Haase said. “I think he went up rather than sideways.”

A single from Jurickson Profar with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning forced Logue’s departure.

Cisnero, who didn’t allow an earned run through 10⅔ innings in June, replaced Logue to face Bryant. He struck out Bryant on three pitches: 97.4 mph fastball, 89.1 mph cutter, 96.7 mph fastball.

“When you look at this lineup, you circle Kris Bryant,” Hinch said. “I’m not going to give him a free look at a lefty unless I absolutely have to, and he’s not going to get a second look if he gets one. I love Cisnero’s fastball, and I love the fact that he’s very good about mixing his pitches.”

The Rockies scored off Cisnero, though, more so because of Carpenter’s poor throw, in the bottom of the sixth inning. Left-hander Tyler Holton didn’t allow a run in the seventh, and right-hander Jason Foley retired all three batters he faced in the eighth.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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