Joey Wentz blasted by Minnesota Twins in Detroit Tigers’ 9-3 loss in series opener

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers left-hander Joey Wentz allowed eight runs in three innings.

There was no chance for the Tigers against the Minnesota Twins in Monday’s opener of a four-game series at Comerica Park, losing 9-3. Wentz, who has a 7.03 ERA in 18 games (16 starts), needed 71 pitches to record nine outs.

“It’s a pretty bad game for me personally,” Wentz said. “I put the team in a hole, and it’s hard to get back from down 8-0, and obviously, their guy is pretty good on the hill. Not good for me, that’s about how I think of it.”

The Tigers (49-63) have lost 11 of their past 16 games.

In this blowout, position player Zack Short pitched in the ninth inning. He tossed a scoreless inning, including a swinging strikeout of Michael A. Taylor, and has a 1.80 ERA in five innings across five appearances this season.

Wentz faced nine batters in his 32-pitch first inning: Donovan Solano (double), Jorge Polanco (strikeout), Carlos Correa (RBI double), Max Kepler (single), Ryan Jeffers (three-run home run), Kyle Farmer (pop out), Willi Castro (walk), Jordan Luplow (single) and Taylor (flyout).

The doubles from Solano and Correa put the Twins ahead, 1-0, and the three-run home run from Jeffers off Wentz’s full-count cutter at the top of the strike zone extended the Twins’ lead to 4-0.

“You’re trying to anything you can to get back in the game, especially because after five hitters it was 4-0,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “After the second inning, we were down by more. There’s a competitive component, where you’re trying to do anything positive to give yourself a chance to have a run at it, and then you’re managing the innings. We had to go through basically our whole bullpen that was available.”

The 17-pitch second inning wasn’t as painful, but the Twins still tacked on three more runs with three consecutive hits. Correa followed singles from Solano and Polanco by hitting Wentz’s second-pitch four-seam fastball at the top of the strike zone for a three-run home run, making it 7-0.

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Wentz retired the next three batters — Kepler, Jeffers and Farmer — to avoid further damage. Back-to-back hits from Castro (single) and Luplow (double) to begin the third inning set up Taylor’s RBI groundout for an 8-0 advantage.

In three innings, Wentz allowed eight runs on 10 hits and one walk with two strikeouts, throwing 43 of 71 pitches for strikes.

“I think his zone percentages on his offspeed was well below average,” Hinch said. “If you don’t have a pitch to go to outside of the fastball, it doesn’t matter where you miss, you can do some damage. … He really didn’t get into good counts. He didn’t have pitches to go to. They let him know.”

The 25-year-old threw 34 four-seam fastballs (48%), 18 changeups (25%), 11 curveballs (15%) and eight cutters (11%). He generated 12 whiffs with six fastballs, four changeups and two curveballs.

The Twins had a 91.1 mph average exit velocity against him.

“I didn’t feel good,” Wentz said. “I didn’t feel really comfortable. They hit the ball hard.”

No offense until late

Right-hander Pablo López, opposing Wentz, shoved seven scoreless innings with eight strikeouts. He threw 70 of 96 pitches for strikes, an above-average 72.9% strike rate, and generated 16 whiffs.

The Tigers managed just five hits against him.

“He’s a veteran guy who has really good stuff across the board,” Hinch said. “You give a lead like that to him, and he can utilize his pitches. We had a little bit of chase, a little bit of swing (and miss). We had guys fouling off fastballs and missing fastballs in the zone. He has four pitches, and he uses them.”

A runner advanced into scoring position for the first time in the fifth inning. Zach McKinstry hit an elevated fastball for a single to right field and moved up to second base on a wild pitch. But Nick Maton flew out and Jake Rogers lined out to strand him.

The top-half of the Tigers’ lineup had a chance to chase López in the sixth inning, only to squander the opportunity. Riley Greene snapped an 0-for-9 stretch (including five strikeouts) with a ground-ball single into right field.

The next two batters — Matt Vierling and Spencer Torkelson — struck out.

Facing left-handed reliever Brent Headrick, Greene ripped a two-strike slider down the right-field line for a double with two outs in the eighth inning. He bounced to third base on a wild pitch, but Vierling’s strikeout — losing an 11-pitch battle — stranded him at the hot corner.

After pitching, Short stepped to the plate in the bottom of the ninth inning. He pulled a single through the hole and into left field. Later on, Maton hit Headrick’s first-pitch fastball for a three-run home run.

“In baseball, you got to have a short-term memory,” Maton said. “We’re going to flush today, and we’ll be ready to go tomorrow. Anything that you can build on is big. Three-run homer at the end of the game, we’ll build that into tomorrow. Just use anything you can.”

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Low-leverage Lange

The Tigers received scoreless performances from right-hander Beau Brieske (two innings), left-hander Tyler Holton (one inning) and right-hander Jason Foley (one inning) out of the bullpen.

Right-handed reliever Alex Lange, who has spent the entire season as the de facto closer, entered for the eighth inning in a low-leverage situation. He came into Monday’s game with a 7.32 ERA, 23 walks and 22 strikeouts in 19⅔ innings over his past 21 games, dating back to June 4.

The Tigers hoped the low-leverage situation would help him find his command, but instead, Lange walked three batters for the third consecutive outing. He loaded the bases with three walks and hit Kepler in the foot with a four-seam fastball.

The hit-by-pitch pushed the Twins’ lead to 9-0.

“As good as it is to punch-out hitters, giving them free base runners is not a path of success that you can sustain,” Hinch said. “I’m going to continue to root for him and continue to push him, but it’s one step forward within the inning and one step backward.”

Lange, who threw 13 of 29 pitches for strikes, has a 24.3% walk rate — 26 walks to 107 batters faced — in his past 20⅔ innings.

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

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