‘Pretty sick’: Manning, Foley, Lange spin first combined no-hitter in Tigers’ history

Detroit News

Detroit – He knew he was going to get booed. He was probably booing himself. But he also knew he had to do what he did.

Right-hander Matt Manning walked Cavan Biggio with two outs in the seventh inning. In just his third start after missing more than two months with a broken bone in his foot, he was at 91 pitches and the Tigers were clinging to a two-run lead.

Manager AJ Hinch bolted out of the dugout to make a pitching change.

Most of the 30,621 fans at Comerica Park Saturday booed. Manning hadn’t allowed a hit. He’d walked three and hit one, but he hadn’t allowed a hit and Hinch was interrupting a history-making bid. He was booed on his way to the mound. The crowd stopped to give Manning a standing ovation as he walked off and then resumed booing when Hinch walked back to the dugout.

“That’s hard,” Hinch said. “You want your guy to do well. I want to see history just like everybody else does.”

History would be made. Just not in the traditional way.

Jason Foley got the last out of the seventh and pitched a clean eighth, giving way to Alex Lange who plowed through the top of the Toronto batting order in the ninth. When Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., grounded out to end the game, Manning, Foley and Lange had not only secured the Tigers’ 2-0 win over the Blue Jays, they had executed the first combined no-hitter in franchise history.

“It’s pretty sick,” Foley said. “Anytime you achieve something like this in the game, it’s awesome. And I’m happy I got to do it with these guys.”

It was the ninth no-hitter in Tigers history and the first since Spencer Turnbull’s gem in Seattle, May 18, 2021.

“I think we were all aware of it,” said Lange, who earned his 13th save. “But it’s just one of those situations where you make the moment as small as possible and go execute. These guys (Manning and Foley) had a helluva eight innings ahead of me so it was on me to just finish the job.”

Not everyone was aware of it, truth be told. When Manning left the mound in the seventh, he didn’t fully understand the relevance of the boos.

“I just thought they were Toronto fans,” he said. “I swear I had no idea. After I scuffled in the first, I was just trying to eat up innings. We had a two-run lead and I was just trying to protect that lead.”

It didn’t dawn on him that he had a no-no going until pitching coach Chris Fetter sidled over to him on the bench and said, “You didn’t give up any hits.”

“I was like, ‘Oh dang,'” Manning said. “But Foley was coming in and I knew Foley wasn’t going to give up a hit and Lange wasn’t going to give up a hit. I was pretty confident when I came out.”

Hinch didn’t relish playing the role of the Grinch Saturday. But he also knew the booing masses didn’t have all the facts of the situation at their disposal.

“I saw that Matty was grinding the whole day,” he said. “He didn’t feel great the whole day. He was getting looked at by the trainers every inning.”

Manning said later that he’d tweaked something in his side in the second inning.

“He’s had a long run of injuries,” Hinch said. “But when you’re the manager, that’s just excuses when something big is going on. My first responsibility is to Matty and sometimes that doesn’t always line up with what everybody wants to see in their head.

“He was laboring a ton and his stuff was getting worse.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 2, Blue Jays 0

Hinch said he nearly took Manning out after both the fifth and sixth innings. But Manning kept getting quick outs. He was at 65 pitches after five innings and 73 after an eight-pitch sixth.

“I sent him out for the seventh and as soon as a runner gets on, the responsibility shifts to winning the game,” he said. “We had a two-run lead with (Whitt) Merrifield coming up and he’d had a couple of good swings earlier. It was a tough situation but it’s nice when it ends well.”

The day started with rain and the stadium shrouded in a gloomy mist.

“We played the anthem with the tarp on the field,” Hinch said. “That tells you how the day started.”

Rain delayed the start of the game an hour and 22 minutes. And it was still raining hard when Manning took the mound to start the game at 2:32 p.m. And he struggled mightily with the wet mound, the slippery ball, his grip, everything.

“I was frustrated with how the rain started in the first inning,” Manning said. “That’s another reason my mind was so focused on just eating up outs and getting through innings.”

He hit Bo Bichette with his fourth pitch of the game, grazing his batting helmet. He then walked Brandon Belt on four pitches. He regathered himself, though and got Matt Chapman to foul out and he struck out Biggio to end the inning.

Gradually the skies cleared and the sun came out and with it came some of the best command Manning has showed in his young career. He mixed his three pitches perfectly, throwing 34 four-seamers, 30 sliders and 27 curveballs.

“That’s what I’ve been talking about for the last couple of starts,” Manning said. “When I mix the curve and slider in the same at-bat, that’s when I can show them different shapes and I get different flinches and swings — that’s when I can be off the barrel of the bat a little more.”

Catcher Eric Haase, who also caught Turnbull’s no-hitter in 2021, effectively sequenced the three pitches throughout the game.

“When Matty was shaking (off signs) a little, obviously he had a better feel for his breaking stuff right away,” Haase said. “So we went to it straight away. And once he started landing them, it was just all in his hands. He did a great job throwing breaking balls behind in the count, sliders to finish guys off and heaters late.”

Manning, who struck out five, got 32 called strikes — 10 with the four-seamer and eight with his curveball. In one sequence against Chapman in the seventh inning, he threw eight pitches, all sliders and curveballs. He went slider, curve, slider, curve, slider, curve, slider, slider, finally striking him out.

“He was freezing guys with his heater, too,” Haase said. “When you are doing that to good hitters like that, that’s a great sign.”

He also got some terrific defensive plays. Kerry Carpenter made a sliding catch in foul ground in right field. Third baseman Zach McKinstry took a base hit away from Chapman with a diving play going to his left. Shortstop Javier Báez ran some 150 feet into left field to catch a fly ball hit by Bichette.

“That clubhouse is really loud right now, celebrating a pretty special moment,” Hinch said.

It was still raining pretty hard when Blue Jays starter Kevin Gausman took the mound in the bottom of the first. Like Manning, he had trouble commanding his pitches.

Riley Greene singled and scored from first on a double to left-center by Spencer Torkelson. Kerry Carpenter followed with an RBI triple, a ball that traveled 407 feet and hit off the top of the wall in right-center field.

Single, double, triple and the Tigers had all the runs they would get or need.

Greene, in his first game since injuring his leg May 30, was on base four times (two singles and two walks), and yet his return ended up being a side note to history.

“Yeah, welcome back, right?” Hinch said, smiling.


Twitter: @cmccosky

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