Two relievers squander Alex Faedo’s splendid start in Detroit Tigers’ 5-3 loss to Twins

Detroit Free Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit Tigers right-hander Alex Faedo threw more sliders than fastballs for the second time in his second straight start against the Minnesota Twins. He commanded all three of his pitches, changed eye levels and posted five scoreless innings with six strikeouts.

The Tigers failed to reward Faedo with a victory.

The combination of right-handed relievers José Cisnero and Will Vest — replacing Faedo after 81 pitches — surrendered five runs in the sixth inning. The Tigers lost, 5-3, to the Twins in Tuesday’s opener of the two-game series at Target Field.

“Third time (through the Twins’ batting order) is obviously part of it,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said of pulling Faedo after 81 pitches. “The bigger deal to me was that he faced them five days ago. He wasn’t going to get to (Carlos) Correa again. Sending him out without a full inning of leash, we didn’t feel great about it, and Cisnero is pretty nasty.”

The Tigers (53-66), despite winning three of four games in the matchup last week at Comerica Park, trail the first-place Twins by nine games in the American League Central race.

A leadoff walk and defensive mistake doomed the Tigers in the sixth inning, which changed the game. After Jorge Polanco worked a five-pitch walk, a foul ball from Max Kepler hung in the air near home plate before dropping between catcher Eric Haase and third baseman Matt Vierling.

“I got to catch that ball,” Haase said. “But then, we just failed to stop the bleeding after that. … It’s a laundry list of things. It’s tough to put it on one thing, but that’s how it goes. If you give good teams extra chances, that’s what happens.”

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Both Kepler and Royce Lewis hit singles — with Lewis’ single scoring Polanco for the Twins’ first run — to end Cisnero’s appearance after three batters. Vest replaced Cisnero and hoped to protect a 2-1 lead, but instead, Correa reached safely on an infield single to load the bases with no outs.

“He didn’t have his cutter for strikes,” Hinch said of Cisnero. “The leadoff walk showed that. He got Kepler out, but we didn’t make the play, and then the inning unraveled. When Vest came in, we liked the matchup on Correa, and he gets the infield hit.”

The next batter, left-handed hitter Matt Wallner, crushed a seventh-pitch middle-middle fastball for a 450-foot grand slam to center field. The 25-year-old, selected No. 39 overall in the 2019 draft, blasted the fastball with a 111 mph exit velocity.

Wallner accepted a curtain call from the 30,150 fans at Target Field.

His grand slam put the Twins ahead, 5-2, with no outs in the sixth inning.

“The leadoff walk kickstarted the entire momentum,” Hinch said. “Nothing really went well that inning until the end. We couldn’t get out of it. It was a big inning and a tough one to navigate.”

The Tigers used three relievers in the five-run sixth inning: Cisnero (zero outs), Vest (two outs) and left-hander Andrew Vasquez (one out). Cisnero was charged with three earned runs, while Vest was charged with two earned runs.

Spencer Torkelson hit a solo home run, his 19th homer of the season, in the top of the ninth inning, trimming the Tigers’ deficit to 5-3. Kerry Carpenter kept the comeback opportunity alive with a one-out single, but Miguel Cabrera grounded out and Zach McKinstry struck out to end the game.

Fantastic Faedo

Only three batters reached safely against Faedo: Correa on a hit-by-pitch in the second inning, Michael A. Taylor on a single in the third inning and Joey Gallo on a walk in the fifth inning.

“I’m happy with how I threw,” Faedo said. “I thought Haase called an excellent game. I thought we were pitching out there and using all three pitches to lefties and righties. It sucks we weren’t able to get the win there.”

In his ninth start, the 27-year-old fired five scoreless innings on one hit and one walk with six strikeouts. He tossed 51 of 81 pitches, but he didn’t return for the sixth inning to face the Twins for the third time through the batting order.

“A little bit, not a lot though,” Hinch said, when asked if he considered letting Faedo return for the sixth inning. “He had a short leash to begin with. Obviously, I’m trying to navigate through both situations. Go out there with a short leash, and if somebody gets on, I take him out anyway. We liked what he had done up to that point. He just faced these guys five days ago.

“Didn’t work out. It makes you wonder what would have happened if we would have gone the other way, but I love going to our bullpen. We haven’t had a blow-up game like that in a long time, and these guys have been really good with the lead.”

The Tigers turned to Cisnero for a matchup with Polanco, the leadoff hitter in the Twins’ lineup, to begin the sixth inning.

“It’s one of those things,” Faedo said. “If we throw up a zero right there, no one says a word about it. It’s just baseball. We’re just playing the game. Our bullpen has been lights out all season, so they’ll pick us right back up tomorrow.”

Faedo threw 36 sliders (44%), 32 four-seam fastballs (20%) and 13 changeups (16%) to shut out the Twins through five innings. He recorded eight whiffs — six sliders, one fastball, one changeup — and 23 called strikes.

He utilized a slew of changeups against right-handed hitters, specifically during the second time through the batting order, for the first time this season. Donovan Solano, a righty, struck out looking on a changeup for the second out in the fifth inning.

No. 509

Cabrera was honored by the Twins in a pregame ceremony before his final series in Minneapolis.

The 40-year-old — a 21-year MLB veteran and future Hall of Famer — received a $5,000 donation to his charitable foundation from Glen Perkins, a fishing pole, tackle box and bucket hat from Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, and a silver hockey stick from Pablo López.

In the second inning, Cabrera blasted a two-run home run to left-center field off right-hander Bailey Ober’s 92.2 mph four-seam fastball. The ball traveled 438 feet for Cabrera’s longest home run since April 27, 2021.

“Gave us the lead, which is what we needed,” Hinch said. “We felt like we had command of the game at that point. We had another opportunity with the bases loaded, and we didn’t get the big hit. When they got the bases loaded, they did. But Miggy giving us the lead was exactly what we needed.”

It was Cabrera’s second homer in 70 games this season. Hitting the 509th homer of his historic career tied Cabrera with former Tiger Gary Sheffield, who played 22 seasons, for 26th place on the all-time homers list.

The Tigers stranded the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Early on, Vierling failed to tag-up and advance to third base on Carpenter’s 356-foot flyout, and later on, Isan Díaz struck out swinging to let Ober off the hook.

Ober, who has a 3.40 ERA in 20 starts this season, allowed two runs on four hits and three walks with six strikeouts in five innings, throwing 56 of 87 pitches for strikes. He generated 14 whiffs.

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

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