Blue Jays 12, Tigers 2: Beat up and beat down blues

Bless You Boys

One very bad, no-good inning sank the Tigers in game 1 of their final series of the first half, but they didn’t play the other eight innings well enough to win either. The Tigers did not do much of anything well on Friday night, with defensive mistakes and poor at-bats scattered throughout their performance. After a quiet start, the Toronto Blue Jays jumped all over Alex Faedo the second time through the order, and they managed to stomp on Jose Cisnero late in a non-save situation as well to turn this into a complete debacle and win 12-2.

The ballpark was rocking on Friday night, but it was the Blue Jays providing most of the energy. The Tigers had luminaries like Alan Trammell and Frank Tanana others stopping in to chat with the Players’ Only weekend broadcast team of Dan Petry, Craig Monroe, and Todd Jones. There were giveaways and contests going around the park. Unfortunately most of those contests were presumably more competitive than the actual game that unfolded before a big crowd bolstered by our friends across the river in South Detroit, or Windsor as others prefer to call it, and parts beyond.

Alex Faedo made his return after missing the last four weeks with a broken nail on his pitching hand, and for three innings he went toe-to-toe with the Jays’ Alek Manoah. The big right-hander finished third in AL Cy Young award voting in 2022, but was just returning to the majors after a brutal first half that saw his command come apart entirely, necessitating some re-tooling in the minor leagues to get him straightened out. The Tigers are a pretty good team to get right against, and he did.

Faedo got out to a good start, locating his fastball pretty well and showing off his typically good slider. He got Brandon Belt and Bo Bichette swinging in a quick 1-2-3 first inning of work. The Tigers got a two out single from Matt Vierling, and Manoah was losing his fastball up quite a bit, but Kerry Carpenter flew out to left to end the inning.

The Blue Jays went quickly in the second as Faedo jammed them with fastballs and broke off sliders on both edges of the plate. He got Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Whit Merrifield both to pop out, but the Tigers went in order as well, and Manoah looked much more in control.

The Blue Jays contact against Faedo got louder in the third, and with two outs, Kevin Kiermaier singled and then scored from first on a line drive double into the right field corner from George Springer.

The Tigers fought right back with a leadoff single from Andy Ibáñez, and then a bloop single that dropped in right field off Jake Rogers’ bat. Zach McKinstry struck out, but Spencer Torkelson spanked a ground ball sharply back through the box, scoring Ibáñez and tying the game. Unfortunately, Manoah was able to wiggle out of the jam as Matt Vierling grounded out to Guerrero at first, and Carpenter drilled a line shot right to Guerrero to end the inning.

Then came the fourth inning, and it wasn’t much of a game by the time it was over. Whether it was the long layoff for Faedo or just the pressure of the Blue Jays lineup is hard to say, but Faedo’s slider just wasn’t sharp as the game progressed and he was tentative pitching to a tough offense. The fourth started with a walk to Brandon Belt, then a wild pitch followed by a single from Guerrero that moved Belt to third. Matt Chapman did a great job laying off some tough sliders just off the plate down and away from Faedo with two strikes and he walked as well, loading the bases with no outs.

Can’t do that against a good lineup like the Jays.

A sharp single from Whit Merrifield scored Belt from third. Daulton Varsho popped out to shortstop, but Danny Jansen slashed a sinking line drive to left that dropped and as he slid to cut it off from going up the gap, the ball got away from Akil Baddoo briefly and Guerrero and Chapman scored to make it 4-1.

If Faedo had managed to shut things off there the Tigers may have had a much better shot. Kiermaier grounded out to second, scoring Merrifield, and it looked like Faedo might get out of the inning without a complete implosion. Instead, we got an explosion from George Springer, who got a hanging slider on the inner third first pitch and launched deep to left and high off the foul pole for a two-run shot that ended Faedo’s night and sank the Tigers chances.

Mason Englert took over and got the final out of the inning but only after Bo Bichette doubled to left bringing Brandon Belt up to bat for the second time in the inning.

For all intents and purposes, that one half inning was the ballgame. Instead of jumping Manoah early while he was likely still a little tentative after the way this season has gone, they failed to really break through and now the big right-hander had a 7-1 lead to work with. He would cruise through the seventh, striking out eight without surrendering a walk.

Englert allowed a lot of hard contact and didn’t record a strikeout, but he and some solid defense kept the Blue Jays off the board until he turned it over to Brendan White in the seventh. White pitched around a throwing error from McKinstry at third base, and Chasen Shreve handled the eighth with little trouble.

In the bottom of the eighth, McKinstry singled, and then got a big jump on a 3-2 pitch as Matt Vierling slapped a ground ball single into center field. McKinstry raced all the way around to score. 7-2 Blue Jays.

Jose Cisnero had a rough time in the top of the ninth. Bichette led off with a single and Cisnero walked Belt. A Guerrero single to center scored Bichette, and then Chapman walked for the third time to load the bases. A wild pitch scored Belt to make it 9-2 and Cisnero’s control issues were evident as he fell behind Merrifield 3-0. He pumped three fastballs down the middle to get the count to 3-2, with the sixth pitch fouled off down the right field line, where Torkelson and Ibáñez collided a bit and neither could get over to haul it in. There were multiple miscommunications between those two on the night. Anyway, the seventh pitch of the at-bat got launched to left for a grand slam. 12-2 Jays.

Zack Short came in to pitch at that point and managed to escape with no runs against him despite giving up two singles and hitting Springer with a 53 mph curveball. The Tigers went in order in the ninth. Other than Matt Vierling, Brendan White, and Chasen Shreve, pretty much the whole team deserves the boos for this one.

This won’t get any easier on Saturday as the Blue Jays send their ace RHP Kevin Gausman to the mound against RHP Matt Manning at 1:10 p.m. ET. The Tigers will activate OF Riley Greene from the injured list for the final two games of the series, and while the faint hopes for this season can just about be put to bed for good, let’s just hope we actually get to see what this team can do the rest of the way at something close to full power.

Players Only broadcast

The Players Only broadcasts would probably drive me insane if the Tigers were playing really meaningful games. Instead, they’ve been something of a welcome diversion.

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