Well this one got ugly. A rain delay led to a short night for Matt Manning, and AJ Hinch’s bullpen management in this series, along with the Scott Harris’ desire to keep Mason Englert, led to a debacle as the Padres erased a 3-0 deficit and turned it into a complete rout of the Tigers.
Things were a little dicey out of the gate for Matt Manning. He walked the first two hitters he faced on eight straight balls. That brought Juan Soto to the plate looking for a second straight first inning three-run shot. He didn’t get it, as Manning got ahead of him and then backed him up with a couple of sweepers that missed inside. Soto grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, and Manning froze Manny Machado with a good fastball at the bottom of the zone to escape unscathed.
Interesting that Manning is using the fastball much more at the bottom of the zone than in year’s past. That might put his angle to the plate to better use and make it harder to lay off his redesigned slider. He certainly still has the ability to work in the high fastball as required.
The Tigers didn’t acquit themselves well in the bottom half of the first. With 6’7” lefty Jackson Wolf making his major league debut up from Double-A, and throwing from a fairly unique arm slot, Matt Vierling, Spencer Torkelson, and Riley Greene combined to see four pitches for three weak outs. Not great, guys.
Manning cruised through the second inning as fans were being advised to seek shelter from a storm burst with lightning in the area. Andy Ibáñez and Javier Báez made outs in the bottom half before Zach McKinstry, playing right field with Vierling in left, drew a two-out walk. As the fans were advised to seek shelter with a storm burst and lightning in the area, Miguel Cabrera pulled a changeup through the left side with McKinstry running on the pitch and taking third on the big man’s single. Jake Rogers strafed a line drive that got by Fernando Tatis Jr. and rolled to the wall as McKinstry scored and Cabrera went first to third. At that point, with two outs and men on second and third, the tarp came on and we went into rain delay mode.
Play resumed at 8:00 p.m. ET as a massive downpour did hit Detroit, but fortunately it was short-lived.
The Padres decided to stick with Wolf after the delay, and Zack Short got into a good count and knocked a solid single to center, scoring Cabrera and Rogers. 3-0 Tigers. Matt Vierling followed with a ground ball up the middle for a single, but a deep drive from Torkelson that was barreled up was then caught after an adventure of a route from Trent Grisham.
The Tigers decided to take Matt Manning out after the delay, despite a relatively short 80 minute duration. That was a bit of a surprise. Manning’s ERA dropped to 3.19 on the year. Considering the Padres let their rookie re-start the game, pulling Manning was a little bit curious.
Unfortunately, A.J. Hinch then made a pretty poor decision to go with Mason Englert, one of baseball’s most home run prone relievers, facing the 9-1-2 hitters. If anyone reached, you have Englert facing Juan Soto and Manny Machado with runners on. Should probably have gone with someone like Jose Cisnero, and let Englert take over the next inning. Of course, Englert shouldn’t be on the roster, but that’s a Harris mistake he seems stubborn about correcting. Either way, as much as possible he still has to be kept away from elite hitters with runners on base, particularly with a lead.
And as expected it turned out badly. Englert walked Grisham after a good battle and Ha-Seong Kim flew out to Ibáñez in right field, after the second baseman ran right through McKinstry, who was camped and waiting for the ball. Fortunately they didn’t collide. Tatis Jr. singled up the middle to move Grisham to second, Soto lashed a double up the left center field gap, scoring Grisham, and Machado crushed a three-run shot to left. 4-3 Padres.
Englert struck out Bogaerts and got Jake Cronenworth to line out to left, ending the top half of the inning.
The Tigers got a single from Ibáñez and no more in the bottom half. In the top of the fourth, Englert allowed a leadoff single to Luis Campusano, then got Alfonso Rivas and Grisham to fly out. But once again, we were back to the top of the order, and Kim singled and Tatis Jr. doubled to make it 5-3. Once again Juan Soto stepped to the dish with two men on base. Fortunately he lined out to left.
The Tigers went quickly again in the fourth, as Wolf and his low power stylings settled in. Machado also lined out to left to open the fifth. Xander Bogearts singled and Cronenworth tripled him home. Campusano followed with a single to plate Cronenworth. Chris Fetter came out to chat, but couldn’t give him a better fastball to use. Rivas doubled to move Campusano to third, and that finally brought Hinch out to go to Brendan White. A sac fly from Grisham scored Campusano, and White walked Kim, bringing Tatis Jr. to the plate. White walked Tatis Jr. because hey let’s pitch to Juan Soto with two on again. We’ll eventually get this right! But not here because of course Soto laced a two-run single to left. 10-3 Padres. Machado flew out to mercifully end the five-run frame.
Final line for Mason Englert: 2 1/3 IP, 10 H, 9 R, 9 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HR. 60 pitches.
— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) July 23, 2023
I’m a fan of Hinch. Think he’s done pretty fantastic work with the whole organization since he’s arrived. Likely the best manager the Tigers have had since Sparky. But these two games have been two of the worst in his time here in terms of bullpen management. Using White, Holton, and Brieske, down four runs yesterday, only to be caught short and have to use Englert with a three-run lead today. Got it backwards there.
Obviously he didn’t know Manning would only throw two innings today, but when you have a piece of deadweight your GM isn’t moving off the roster, using him in games where you’re down multiple runs in the late innings would seem to be the time to get his work in. This is the kind of thing that made me scratch out my eyes watching Brad Ausmus manage a bullpen even if both were the result of poor decisions by the front office ultimately.
Anyway…the Tigers got a two-out single from Greene and no more in the bottom of the fifth. White got the Padres 1-2-3 in the top of the sixth with the help of a full extension diving play by Greene on a Cronenworth fly ball in the left center field gap.
Báez reached on an infield single to open the bottom half against reliever Brent Honeywell. McKinstry flew out, but Cabrera reached on an error by Kim on a groundball, moving Báez to third. Rogers struck out, but Short walked to load the bases.
Unfortunately, to compound AJ’s bad night, he stuck with Vierling instead of pinch-hitting Carpenter. This is the situation that justifies sitting Carpenter against lefties. You have him for a key AB against a right-hander later. And so Vierling grounded out to shortstop to end the threat. I mean, if Carpenter has to sit against a lefty, Vierling and his 91 wRC+ against right-handers should probably be making way for Carpenter’s 129 wRC+ in a big spot. Vierling has been pretty good, but it’s hard to argue the platoon thing only in one direction.
Chasen Shreve gave up a two-out solo shot to Kim in the top of the seventh to make it 11-3. Jose Cisnero gave up three on a Campusano home run in the eighth. There is little left to say about this one. Zack Short managed to pitch a scoreless top of the ninth. The Tigers went in order in their final trips to the plate.
Alex Faedo is being recalled tomorrow to start, so we’ll see who gets the ax. Or perhaps a trade is close to completion. With these two losses, the Tigers will have no qualms about selling off hard at the deadline yet again. That was probably always the play anyway.