Athletics 3, Tigers 0: Wait a minute, that’s not a one-run win

Bless You Boys

Saturday was Red Wings Day at the ballpark, as fans packed into Comerica Park for a pleasant day in downtown Detroit and 15,000 of our most punctual fans received a free Tigers sweater! How fun.

Unfortunately for the not-so-punctual fans in attendance, they could have used that sweater, as Tigers hitters went ice-cold during Saturday’s action. The lowly Athletics defeat the upstart Tigers 4-0, tarnishing the dream of a 40th-anniversary 35-5 start to the season. Perhaps the team was metaphorically (or literally!) hungover from the Red Wings losing last night’s Tigers Night game by one run? After all, this team is powered by one-run wins, not one-run losses.

One storyline to follow in 2024 — Detroit was shut out 22 times in 2022, and reduced that number to 15 games in 2023 (still over 9% of all games). Today marks the Tigers first zero-run effort of 2024, and it comes a bit earlier than we would have liked to see this year.

(On the bright side, we’re still on pace for 30-10, right guys? Right?)

Kenta Maeda’s day started rough, provoking the ire and anxiety of Tigers fans after he had already allowed six earned runs in his Tigers debut. Maeda needed just two pitches to work his first out of the game, but he proceeded to walk Zack Gelof and — yes, I’m not joking — allow an early home run to the only threatening hitter in a terrible team’s lineup! Sound familiar?

He Kenta stop throwing to the heart of the lineup with runners on, and he Maeda ‘nother mistake to give Vegas — I mean Sacramento — I mean Oakland — an early 2-0 lead. Sigh. Buckle up, Tigers fans: Kenta Maeda had a 5.02 career ERA in March and April entering today, so this outing was above-average by his early-season career standards.

The game sat at 2-0 for a majority of the game, as Kenta Maeda mostly settled in thereafter; he only allowed two hits all day, but allowed just over one baserunner per inning as he walked four Athletics (that low WHIP, high ERA combo is fairly common for Maeda in recent years). Maeda’s final line: 5.2 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K.

Pretty un-Maeda like in the command department.

Through seven innings, the Tigers managed just three hits and no walks against 30-year-old Athletics starting pitcher Paul Blackburn and relief pitcher Austin Adams, although they only struck out six times in that span. Blackburn, a fastball-heavy hurler, didn’t exactly overpower Tigers hitting, but any contact Detroit made mostly went directly to the Athletics infielders and outfielders.

Oakland took a 3-0 in the sixth. Zack Gelof’s second walk of the day opened the inning, and while Maeda managed to get two outs with Gelof only advancing to second base, A.J. Hinch opted for Joey Wentz out of the bullpen. Wentz, if you followed along in 2023, has given up his fair share of runs in his young Tigers career, and this time, he allowed his inherited runner to score on a Seth Brown single. In case you didn’t notice when I shared his final line a moment ago, Kenta Maeda allowed more earned runs than hits today! Ah, baseball. We missed you. (It would have been more fun if that had been the case for Paul Blackburn, of course.)

Austin Adams entered for Blackburn in the seventh inning and promptly struck out Opening Week superstar and former Athletic Mark Canha. Colt Keith, who made solid contact off Blackburn but fell victim to poor BABIP luck, also struck out, and Gio Urshela grounded out.

The best chance of the day for Detroit came against young stud relief pitcher Mason Miller. Miller struck out Javier Báez on a 102 mph heater to open the eighth inning, but Carson Kelly knocked 101 mph heat into right field for a double, and Spencer Torkelson worked a walk to give Detroit its first legitimate rally of the day. They were left on the base paths by Parker Meadows, out on a first pitch pop-up to drop his season average to .095, and Kerry Carpenter, who looked for Miller’s heat but grounded out on his (admittedly somewhat flat) slider.

While Will Vest worked a scoreless ninth inning, the Tigers didn’t score in the ninth, either, and that was that. Things set up fairly well for a Tigers comeback — Detroit sent their 4-5-6 hitters to the plate to open the frame, but in his second inning of work, Miller channeled his inner Sean Doolittle / Grant Balfour / Huston Street… honestly, he looks more like Joel Zumaya than any of these guys, but the point is he looked the part as A’s closer today. A Colt Keith single was all Detroit could muster in its last chance, and that was that.

I, for one, am ready for our new Roboump overlords

One mild annoyance of today’s game was another subpar strike zone. Home plate umpire Charlie Ramos is not one of the least accurate pitchers in baseball — his 93.5% accurate strike zone over the past year has been on the lower end of MLB umpires, per Umpire Scorecards — but when strikes are being called balls, and balls are being called strikes, I find that particularly annoying. Just another day at the ballpark, sure, but probably the second-worst strike zone Detroit has worked with so far in this young season (throwback to Jack Flaherty’s first start; that zone was worse per “the eye test,” but at least that strike zone was consistent).

(One major annoyance of today’s game was Zack Gelof walking three times and scoring all three times. Grrr.)

The Tigers will be back in action tomorrow against the Athletics in the rubber match of this series. Right-handed pitcher Jack Flaherty, who impressed in his Tigers debut striking out more than a batter per inning and allowing just one earned run versus the White Sox, will face all-stuff, no-results right-hander Joe Boyle.

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