The Tigers nearly blew this one after leading the entire game. Alex Lange melted down in the ninth inning, but Will Vest and Miguel Cabrera were there to pick him up. The Tigers won in 10 innings by a 5-4 score, and they’ll go for the sweep on Sunday.
The big question heading into Saturday night’s contest in Anaheim was whether right-hander Sawyer Gipson-Long could live up to his stellar debut against the Chicago White Sox last weekend. He clearly has the stuff, but whether he could command it all against a good lineup needs a little more proving. That will have to wait until he faces a good lineup, however. The Angels certainly do not fit the bill with Trout and Ohtani injured.
The Tigers got out to a good start against veteran soft-tossing lefty Tyler Anderson. However, they couldn’t cash in after Matt Vierling led off the game with a walk and Andy Ibáñez lined a single to center field. They used up plenty of pitches, but Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter couldn’t lay off Anderson’s quality changeup and struck out. Miguel Cabrera flew out to right field, and Anderson escaped unscathed.
The first inning went similarly for Gipson-Long in his second major league start. A single, then a walk to Zach Neto put him behind the eight-ball early. He struck out Brandon Drury with some nasty sliders, then blew away catcher Logan O’Hoppe with fastballs. Jared Walsh flew out to Vierling in center, with the Tigers playing all right-handed hitters other than Carpenter, and we were on to the second with no blood drawn.
The Tigers got right back to working Anderson as Tyler Nevin led off with a double off the center field wall. Javier Báez walked, and after Carson Kelly lined out to center, Zach Short got a 1-0 fastball right down the middle and cranked it 400 feet to left for a three-run shot. 3-0 Tigers.
Now holding a lead, Gipson-Long gave up a leadoff walk to David Fletcher in the second, and then bore down to carve up the next two hitters on swinging strike threes on a slider and a sinker respectively. He also ramped the fourseamer up to 96 mph at one point, which we haven’t seen before from him. It all seems to be coming together rapidly for the right-hander. Jordyn Adams flew out to end the inning.
The Tigers went quietly in the third with Torkelson and Carpenter again striking out swinging at Anderson’s deceptive changeup.
Gipson-Long’s first pitch of the third was a 94 mph fastball down the middle, and Nolan Schanuel ripped it to right field for a solo shot and wore the samurai helmet in celebration in the Angels’ dugout. Gipson-Long walked Drury, but he also struck out three of the next four hitters to end the inning with seven strikeouts already.
He came back out in the fourth and struck out the side to reach 10 punchouts in four innings of work. His command was sharp, he was getting some whiffs on the fastballs and changeups, but the slider was absolutely eating up Angels hitters.
Andy Ibáñez lined out to open the fifth, and Torkelson struck out for the third time. However, Carpenter held off Anderson’s junkballing styles and drew a walk. Miguel Cabrera dumped a pop-up into center as three fielders came together and no one made the play. With two outs, Carpenter was rounding third by the time it hit the ground. 4-1 Tigers.
Gipson-Long got two quick outs to open the fifth and then struck out Zach Neto swinging with a filthy changeup right under his hands. That made 11 strikeouts as the rookie reached 82 pitches on the night. There was no letdown at all after a sterling debut.
Anderson gave way to Andrew Wantz for the sixth, but the Tigers didn’t get anything going. Beau Brieske took over for Gipson-Long in the bottom half, with Gipson-Long’s line ending at 5.0 IP, ER, 2 H, 3 BB, 11 K. He racked up 23 swinging strikes in this one, mostly with the slider and the changeup. Extremely impressive stuff from the rookie.
Through two starts, the 25-year-old, acquired in what looked like a throwaway deal at the 2022 trade deadline, now has 16 strikeouts to three walks allowed over 10 innings of work with three runs allowed. Pretty darn good beginning to a major league career.
Brieske brought more of the high velocity, high fourseamer approach to the proceedings, but he picked up where Gipson-Long left off, whiffing Drury and O’Hoppe to start the bottom of the sixth, and getting Jared Walsh to ground out to end the inning.
Right-hander Jimmy Herget took over from Andrew Wantz for the seventh and started his outing by striking out Vierling. Akil Baddoo pinch-hit for Ibáñez as AJ Hinch re-inserted his left-handed hitters back into the lineup with Anderson out of the game. Baddoo struck out and Torkelson, having an uncharacteristically ugly night, popped out to end the inning.
Brieske came back out for the bottom of the seventh and quickly got a pop out from Fletcher and a ground out from Brett Phillips. He froze Kyren Paris with a 97 mph fourseamer on the outer edge, ok just off the outer edge perhaps, for strike three. That made 14 Angels retired in a row by Tigers pitching.
The Tigers got a two single from Nevin and then another walk to Báez in the top of the eighth, but Carson Kelly flew out to end the half inning.
Jason Foley took over from Brieske, and quickly got Jordyn Adams out on a hotstop to shortstop that Báez made a slick play on. Schanuel flew out to left, and Zach Neto grounded out to end a snappy inning for the sinkerball artist.
Zack Short led off the top of the ninth with a walk and then stole second base. Matt Vierling struck out, but Akil Baddoo also drew a walk. However, the Tigers dynamic duo continued to have a miserable night as Torkelson popped out and Carpenter struck out to send this to the bottom of the ninth.
From the beginning, Alex Lange had zero feel for snapping his high velocity curveball. Brandon Drury grounded out for the first out on a curveball, but O’Hoppe drove a curveball to center for a single. Lange missed with a changeup and a curveball that sailed up with no break to start Jared Walsh off 2-0. The third pitch was a pure cement mixer that didn’t break at all, and Walsh hammered it to center field for a two-run shot to make it 4-3 Tigers.
Carson Kelly quickly turned more to the fastball against David Fletcher and Lange fired two good ones in for strikes after falling behind 2-0 again. A little better curve down and away drew the whiff for strike three, and that left things up to Brett Phillips.
They tried not to throw another curve in the zone to Phillips. Two fastball for strikes, and two curveballs for balls made it 2-2, but despite lefties at the plate and Lange struggling to break off his best curveballs, they didn’t mix the changeup in hardly at all, and so Phillips looked to be sitting heater in the zone, and he got one. Phillips hit a rocket to center field as well, and we were tied at 4-4.
Not cool, man.
Lange struck out Paris to send this to extras, and the Angels brought on hard-throwing Jose Soriano to try and keep the Tigers in check with Kerry Carpenter starting at second base. The first hitter was Miguel Cabrera, and he saw nothing but fastballs. In a 1-1 count, Soriano spotted a 99 mph heater down, and the future Hall of Famer spanked a line drive down the right field line to score Carpenter. 5-4 Tigers.
Parker Meadows took over as pinch-runner for Cabrera, and Tyler Nevin then made a bid of his own, drilling a rocket to center field. Phillips was all over the place on his route, but got back to the wall just in time for a leaping catch that probably robbed a home run. Báez struck out as Meadows stole second base, but Kelly struck out to send it to the bottom half.
Will Vest took over, and the Tigers have missed the length to the bullpen Vest provided early in the season before his hamstring injury. Recently he’s looked to be dialing it back in, and he came up big for the Tigers here.
Eduardo Escobar pinch hit for Jordyn Adams, and went down swinging at a slider. A chopper from Schanuel was wisely held by Nevin, who really had no play. That put the double play in order, but it wouldn’t be necessary. Ramping the heater up to 98 mph, Vest froze Neto for strike three and while Drury hit the heck out of a fastball, driving it 109.5 mph on a line to center field, Vierling was able to run it down on the warning track and hold on as he crashed into the wall to secure the victory.
That turned out to be harder than it needed to be, but good to see the Tigers handle some adversity and rebound in the tenth inning.
They’ll go for the sweep on Sunday at 4:07 p.m. ET.
Albert comes to pay his respects to Miguel
Pretty cool to see Albert Pujols show up for the Miguel Cabrera gift presentation prior to Saturday’s game. Pujols, Mike Trout, and the Angels presented Cabrera with a custom surfboard and a donation to his charity. Cabrera was, as usual, willing to ham it up a bit with the surfboard. There are only 14 games left in his Hall of Fame career, and it’s finally sinking in that we’re watching the end.