Detroit Tigers Newsletter: Can Matt Manning grab another piece of history vs. Royals?

Detroit Free Press

There’s always a slight stench of “What if?” when a manager pulls a starting pitcher in the middle of a no-hitter.

It’s there even if the relief crew finishes off the combined no-no, as Jason Foley and Alex Lange did for Matt Manning on July 8 in the Detroit Tigers’ ninth no-hitter as a franchise and MLB’s 20th combined no-no ever.

(That’s fewer than MLB’s perfect game total; if you’re curious, we ranked all 20 no-nos here.)

Yes, the pitching change was justified, considering Manning’s injury history, the 2-0 score and the tying run coming to the plate with two outs in the seventh inning; as manager A.J. Hinch told reporters afterward, “Sometimes, that doesn’t always line up with what everybody wants to see in their head.”

Manning was at 91 pitches. Getting seven more outs seemed … far-fetched without Manning reaching an Edwin Jackson-like pitch count. And still … a no-hitter.

Even Foley was “a little surprised” to get the call to warm up. But he came in and got four outs, and Lange picked up the final three, for history’s sake.

But … what if?

Hello, and welcome to the Man, Oh, Manning Newsletter!

We can’t know what would have happened against the Blue Jays (though our expectations aren’t far from Hinch’s, considering Toronto has the fifth-best batting average in the majors this season).

But, if you’ll permit the thought experiment, we’d like to see if Manning can finish off a faux no-no — that is, get to nine consecutive hitless innings, even spread across a few games — on Monday night against the Kansas City Royals. For what it’s worth, he finished his July 2 start in Colorado with 1⅔ hitless innings, so, hey, he’s at 8⅓ innings already! Two outs to go!

No, it won’t count for anything — especially involving the Royals, who are on pace for 115 losses and possess MLB’s second-worst offense (averaging 3.7 runs a game) — but it might add a little spice to the type of mid-July game in K.C. that has proved disappointing all too often for the Tigers over the past few seasons.

And while we’re waiting for Manning’s first pitch — 8:10 p.m. Detroit time — let’s look back at the starters of the previous seven combined no-nos, over the previous five seasons, to see how close they came to reaching that magic nine-inning run in their followups to greatness:

(Innings thrown in combined no-no in parentheses.)

How starters of past 7 combined no-nos fared in next start

June 25, 2022: Cristian Javier, Astros (7) — After burning down the Bronx with 13 strikeouts, Javier returned to Houston to face the Angels on five days’ rest. For two batters — and two strikeouts — it was all good. And then Shohei Ohtani launched a 3-2 slider 394 feet into the right-field stands to break up the no-no fun. That was the only hit Javier allowed over his seven innings, though, while striking out 14 Angels. (Javier didn’t have to wait too long for his next entry into MLB immortality, though — he and three other Astros combined for another no-hitter in Game 4 of the World Series.)

April 29, 2022: Tylor Megill, Mets (5) — The then-26-year-old looked like he was on his way to history again five days later as he held the Braves hitless over the first four innings — bringing his personal streak to 9⅔ innings — before Adam Duvall broke the spell with a one-on, no-out single in the fifth. Megill escaped that inning, then allowed three straight one-out hits in the sixth inning to end his day at four hits, three runs, two walks and nine strikeouts over 5⅓ innings.

Sept. 11, 2021: Corbin Burnes, Brewers (8) — If the no-no was the crown jewel of Burnes’ NL Cy Young campaign, his followup on Sept. 18 was pretty solid. The righty got through the first three innings against the Cubs without allowing a hit — including the final three batters he faced on Sept. 5, it brought him to 12 hitless innings — before finally getting bested by … pitcher Justin Steele, who singled. Burnes wound up scattering five more hits over his final three innings, but finished with 11 strikeouts.

TRENDING: Self-taught Tigers draft pick Jatnk Diaz’s story is right out of a fairytale

June 24, 2021: Zach Davies, Cubs (6) — The dream of another no-no ended quickly on June 29 vs. the Brewers, as the third batter, Christian Yelich, doubled to drive in a run. Davies allowed one more hit — another run-scoring double, in the fourth inning — before getting pulled for a pinch-hitter to open the fifth.

Aug. 3, 2019: Aaron Sanchez, Astros (6) — The no-no was Sanchez’s first start with Houston (after losses in 14 straight decisions with Toronto), and start No. 2 was sharp as well: after giving up a leadoff double, Sanchez allowed just two more (and one run in all) while lasting five innings. Of course, his Astros teammates took some of the pressure off him with 14 runs over the first five innings en route to a 23-2 win over the Orioles.

July 12, 2019: Taylor Cole, Angels (2) — Cole was a reliever pressed into “opener” duties, so his next appearance came just three days later, entering in relief on July 15. He started with four straight outs — an inning-ending double play, followed by a strikeout, a groundout and a hit-by-pitch to open the next inning. But he finally allowed a hit to the fifth batter he faced; in all he allowed three hits (and no runs) over 3⅓ innings.

May 4, 2018: Walker Buehler, Dodgers (6) — The no-no came in Buehler’s 26th MLB appearance, but only his third career start. Start No. 4, on May 10, saw the drama vanish pretty quickly; after two strikeouts, he gave up back-to-back walks en route to allowing five hits, two runs and no walks with eight strikeouts over six innings. Buehler would later play a part in another combined no-no — he was the losing pitcher in the Cubs’ 2021 effort.

So there we have it: Of the seven previous starters of combined no-hitters since 2017, four gave up a hit in their first inning the next game, one made it into the second inning of work and two made it to that faux no-no — at least nine straight no-hit innings — in their next appearance. Will Manning become the next one to do it?

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Deadline watch

Of course, Michael Lorenzen has never been a part of a no-hitter in the majors; but the right-hander had folks thinking about it during his start Saturday night in Seattle. Lorenzen didn’t allow a hit for the first 4⅓ innings, finishing with just two hits allowed over 6⅔ innings. That, a stretch of strong starts from May 3-June 3 (during which he posted a 1.83 ERA over 39⅓ innings) and an affordable contract (roughly $2.8 million owed over the final two months of the season) make him a suddenly appealing trade candidate as Aug. 1’s trade deadline approaches. But Lorenzen says he’s not worried about that; as he put it to the Freep’s Evan Petzold, “I need to stay off my phone, stay off the internet, do my scouting and play baseball.” Head here to get the rest of Lorenzen’s thoughts — as well as a list of contenders who might be interested in his services.

On the clock, Part I

Lorenzen is nicknamed “Zen Master” for his, well, chill ways — but perhaps not for his focus; as he told the Freep’s Carlos Monarrez, “It’s always been hard to sit and watch every single game sitting in the dugout. There’s just so much downtime, your mind drifts and you want to come back up in the clubhouse and kind of grab a snack or something.” That has all changed with MLB’s new pitch clock, shaving nearly 30 minutes off the average game. Lorenzen has come around on the clock, and so has Monarrez, who sung … well, wrote the praises of MLB’s rule changes as the Tigers headed into the season’s second half. Head here to find out why Monarrez and others are counting the seconds with glee once more.

On the clock, Part II

And then there’s that other ticking clock — it’s not hung up anywhere, but it’s counting down, all the same, to the aforementioned trade deadline: 6 p.m. Aug. 1. The Tigers entered Monday with 14 games before then, sitting six games out of the AL Central lead. Would a sudden run — especially with games against the sub-.500 Royals, Padres and Angels on the docket — impact their deadline plans? As you might imagine, first-year president of baseball operations Scott Harris was mum on individual players, but he suggested the Tigers are staying flexible as they mull whether to buy or sell. Head here to find out from Our Man Petzold what Harris is taking into account.

Take it easy

And as we so often do when segueing away from the trade deadline, we’ll mention this: One player not going anywhere — we think — is outfielder Riley Greene. Well, outfielder/designated hitter Riley Greene, thanks to the Tigers’ second-half plan to make sure he doesn’t aggravate the left tibia that cost him 34 games. (And for good reason: The Tigers are 28-29 when Greene gets into the game, and 13-22 when he doesn’t.) Already, three of Greene’s five games since coming off the IL on July 8 have been as the DH; head here to find out from Our Man Petzold how long that plan will be in place.

On the clock, Part III

We know the trade deadline is coming up soon because we just finished watching the clock — or whatever MLB uses to time its draft picks over three days and 20 rounds, since we didn’t catch one countdown on the ESPN broadcast — as the Tigers laid claim to 21 young prospects. There’s a mix of hitters and pitchers, high schoolers and collegians, and — a true oddity — one pick who didn’t play at all during the spring. That would be Jatnk Diaz, from the Dominican Republic by way of Hazelton, Pennsylvania. So how did the 6-foot-4 righty wind up with the Tigers? That’s … that’s a story, and the Freep’s Jeff Seidel has the whole tale; head here to find out why Diaz’s sudden emergence has scouts citing Clint Eastwood movies.

Oh, and if you want to meet the rest of the Tigers’ draftees …

There’s No. 3 overall pick Max Clark and No. 37 pick Kevin McGonigle, Team USA teammates and polar opposites. (BROMANCE!)

There’s No. 45 pick Max Anderson, who can flat-out rake, and spent all spring showing the Big Ten.

And then there’s the breakdowns of Rounds 3-10, as well as Rounds 11-20, from Our Man Petzold.

3 to watch

It’s a slew of late-round (sorta) draftees to keep an eye on this week:

BEAU BRIESKE: The 2019 27th-rounder (they don’t even have that round any more!) picked up some velocity before returning from the IL this weekend.

KERRY CARPENTER: The 2019 19th-rounder picked up his first two-homer game on Saturday, part of a .949 OPS over 30 gamers since coming of the IL in early June.

NICK MATON: The 2017 seventh-rounder is committed to his new closed batting stance in his return from Triple-A.

Mark your calendar

MLB draft … trade deadline … let’s see, what’s next? Oh, yes: The 2024 schedule, which the league dropped on Thursday. The Tigers will open on March 28 against the White Sox in Chicago (brrrrr…) and get the Athletics — who we’re pretty sure will still stink, even if they ditch Oakland for Las Vegas a bit early — for the home opener on April 5. Our Man Petzold has a breakdown of the season’s other key games; head here to start making your (next) summer plans now. (And if you’re still focused on this summer, we’ve got the breakdown on tonight’s game in K.C. right here.)

Tigers birthdays this week: Eugenio Suárez (32 on Tuesday), Torii Hunter (48 on Tuesday), Phil Coke (41 on Wednesday), Mickey Stanley (81 on Thursday), Heinie Manush (would have been 122 on Thursday; died in 1971), Kimera Bartee (would have been 51 on Friday; died in 2021).

TL;DR

We’ll wrap up with a bit of breakfast musing — with apologies to anyone reading this at midday or later — from the Freep’s Shawn Windsor, who has spent his non-sports time this summer watching FX’s cooking drama, “The Bear.” What does this have to do with baseball— and former Tigers skipper Jim Leyland? You’ll have to head here to see.

And maybe if Matt Manning turns in another no-no (or even part of one), we can get some breakfast tips from him, too.

Contact Ryan Ford at rford@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @theford.

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