Tigers 3, White Sox 2: Season-Startin’ South-Side Sweepin’

Bless You Boys

After two one-run victories on Thursday and Saturday, the Tigers looked to close out the sweep on the south side of Chicago on Easter Sunday. They continued that pattern to a T for a third straight game, getting a late run to lead Detroit to a 3-2 victory and a 3-0 start to the season.

Making his Tigers debut was Jack Flaherty, who split last year between the Cardinals and the Orioles. His 2023 season was definitely a far cry from his excellent 2019 in St. Louis, where he placed fourth in the National League Cy Young vote. Last year he walked too many, gave up too many hits and home runs, but what he did do was stay healthy. He had a 2022 season beset with shoulder injuries, so maybe he just never really felt like himself. However, as Brandon described in his excellent preview of Flaherty recently, the Tigers’ coaching staff may have unlocked something in him, so we’ll see what the season holds.

Erick Fedde took the mound for the Pale Hose, after a sensational 2023 season in South Korea. He went 20-6, had an ERA of exactly 2.00, a miniscule 0.954 WHIP, walked nobody and struck out everybody, and won the KBO’s equivalent of the Cy Young award. This was after a middling few seasons in Washington with fairly unspectacular ERA, WHIPs, and walk rates, although he’s always been fairly handy with the strikeout. Now, we’ve definitely seen players — both hitters and pitchers — come back from places like South Korea and Japan and look like entirely new people. Will Fedde be another success story? (Personally, I love seeing stuff like that happen. Good for them.)

Both Flaherty and Fedde looked really good early on, giving up a couple of soft singles of no real consequence. Flaherty leaned heavily on his slider, and was touching mid-90s with his four-seam fastball. Fedde had quite an array of sweepers, splitters, sliders and cutters, inducing weak contact with lots of movement.

Korey Lee jumped on the first pitch of the bottom of the third to give the Socks a 1-0 lead with a solo home run. With two outs, a runner on third and the dangrous Eloy Jiménez at the plate, Flaherty got a nice little gift from the ump and a low-and-outside slider got the call for strike three.

Kerry Carpenter tied up the score with a solo dinger of his own to right field in the top of the fourth.

After a strikeout, a single and a walk put a pair of Tigers aboard for Gio Urshela, who lined out sharply to right. Javier Báez then followed and struck out swinging on a down-and-away breaking pitch, because… well, you know, leopards and their spots, and all. To be fair, the plate umpire was calling stuff low all game, so maybe that got into Báez’s head a bit.

The home runs continued with Jake Rogers in the top of the fifth, belting a solo homer to put Detroit up 2-1.

If you can have both Rogers and Kelly hitting a decent number of home runs… my goodness, what a change from recent years where catcher-offence was basically non-existent.

In the sixth, a weird situation arose: with Mark Canha on first and two outs, Urshela hit a grounder to short that was thrown away by Paul DeJong. The ball sailed side of second, and Canha motored around third… and was thrown out by a mile trying to score. Ah well, you’ve gotta force some plays sometimes, right?

Meanwhile, Flaherty continued to sail through the sixth, getting through the heart of the order with relative ease. At the end of six innings Flaherty had thrown 87 pitches (with 57 strikes), so that was going to be the end of his day. His final line: 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K… and I’ll take that, every time, no question. (Then again, this is the White Sox we’re talking about, who aren’t exactly a Murderer’s Row these days.)

Andrew Chafin relieved Flaherty in the seventh, and the second batter he faced, DeJong, clanked a home run off the top of the right-field fence to tie the score at 2. Tyler Holton took over in the eighth and he struck out the side.

In the top of the ninth the Tigers had two runners on with two outs, via an Urshela single and a Zach McKinstry walk (who had pinch-hit for Rogers). Andy Ibáñez came on to face sidewinding lefty Tim Hill, and he delivered with a single to left; the speedy Matt Vierling, who’d been inserted as a pinch-runner for Urshela, came around to score from second, putting Detroit up 3-2.

Holton stuck around to start the ninth, and continued his own personal strikeout party by mowing down pinch-hitter Gavin Sheets. Jason Foley and his 100-plus-mph gas was brought in to nail things down, getting the inning’s second out with one pitch on a groundout, and on a full-count sinker he coaxed a grounder to second to complete the sweep.

The Tigers move on from the Second City to, uh, the First City, I guess, to take on the Mets in a three-game weeknight set starting on Monday.

Notes and Numbers

  • Jack Flaherty has a slightly unusual middle name: Rafe. Maybe his parents were big fans of the actor Ralph Feinnes, who pronounces his first name in the manner of Flaherty’s middle name’s spelling.
  • The largest crowd to attend an event at New Comiskey US Cellular Guaranteed Rate Field was for a Chance the Rapper hometown concert in 2016, which saw an attendance of over 47,000.
  • Jack Flaherty wears #9; Shelby Miller wears #7. I don’t like pitchers wearing single-digit numbers. And, yes, I also yell at clouds.
  • Dave Attell has a new comedy special out on Netflix, which I need to see. He’s one of the absolute best, but take this as a warning, his comedy is definitely not family-friendly.
  • René Descartes was born on this day in 1596. He was a mathematician, a philosopher, and probably a hell of a dancer. His most famous quip, “cogito, ergo sum” translates to “I think, therefore I am.” Also, you know how x is used to indicate an unknown in math, how there’s a flying 2 in x², and how we have that x-y coordinate grid that’s called a Cartesian Grid? Yup, that was all him.

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