Tigers 6, Twins 1: A satisfying series win

Bless You Boys

After splitting the first two games of a three-game weekend series in Minnesota, on Sunday the Tigers bounced back from some questionable fielding the day before to seal the series victory with a nice, easy 6-1 win.

All eyes have been on Casey Mize this spring, tracking his continuing injury recovery. Early returns have been promising: he gave up exactly five hits in his first three starts, but limited power to a single home run. (Will he give up five hits today? Stay tuned to find out.) He’s generally been keeping his walks in check; after Tommy John surgery, sometimes your control takes a while to come back. The stuff, at least, has looked very good.

Louie Varland, a Twin Cities born-and-bred product, has had a rough go of it coming into today’s game so far in 2024. He got ten starts last year and acquitted himself fairly well, but so far this year, while he’s certainly been striking out a bunch of dudes, he’s been giving up home runs and his walk rate has been way up. Would the Tigers’ seemingly-warming hitters be able to take advantage of this?

(Narrator: “They would.”)

As it turns out, the Tigers struck early in the first: the walks were plentiful and a timely single by Kerry Carpenter plated Riley Greene for a 1-0 lead. With the bases loaded and one out, Buddy Kennedy drove a fly ball to centre which was deep enough to score Spencer Torkelson for the second Tigers run. (Torkelson has had a tough time with the leather lately, so he was DH’ing today. Good call, A.J.)

Mize’s bottom of the first wasn’t so smooth either — a pair of walks and a single loaded the bases with one out, but a liner back to Mize and a flyout got him out of the jam unscathed. His second inning was much less eventful, thankfully. Also, check out this slide by Javier Báez on a steal of second base; he may drive you crazy with strikeouts on sliders in outrageous places, but you really can’t teach a slide like this.

I mean, my goodness, that’s some wizardry. Gracias, El Mago.

Kennedy struck again in the third, with a runner on third base and two outs, turning a cutter around and depositing it into the left-field seats for a 4-0 Tigers lead. That was the end of Varland’s day.

Kennedy’s first three plate appearances as a Tiger: walked and scored a run, hit a sacrifice fly for an RBI, two-run dinger. Not bad, Clifton.

Things stayed relatively quiet for a while. Both teams’ pitchers benefitted from home plate umpire Roberto Ortiz’s strike zone, who called the game as if he was late for a Dashboard Confessional cover-band show.

(Fun fact: I once saw a three-piece band that did mostly funny songs, and the “opener” was one of the guys from the band who did, extremely seriously, a Dashboard Confessional cover set, solo on the bass as he sang. Despite not being a fan of that band at all, I must say, he was actually very good and I enjoyed the set a lot. Go see some live music, people.)

In the seventh the Tigers added to their lead with a Greene single and a Torkelson double rocketed to the left field wall, making it 5-0. Tork’s double was 106.5 mph (171.4 km/h, 47.61 m/s, 1.431 × 10⁵ furlongs per fortnight); he’s been hitting the ball hard lately, which is exactly what you want to see — and this is all exactly how things unfolded last year. Slow start, hard-hit balls into gloves, hard-hit balls out of gloves, hard-hit balls over the fence. Maybe this is just how Tork is, folks.

Mize’s day was done as the seventh inning commenced. His final line was solid, especially after his sticky first inning: 6 IP, 5 H (again! neat!), 0 R, 3 BB, and 4 K. I’ll take that every time… but hopefully as the season goes on and his control improves, he can be more efficient and go deeper into games. Tyler Holton took over and had two gleefully boring innings.

In the ninth, Torkelson had another nice at-bat with Greene on third: he battled back from being down 0-2, worked the count to 2-2, then hit a sacrifice fly to right to drive in Greene for an even half-dozen.

Alex Faedo came on to try to close things out in the ninth, and Austin Martin hit his first offering for a solo home run, making it 6-1 and thus ruining the combined-shutout-in-progress. Faedo gave up a seeing-eye double to left to Willi Castro and walked Carlos Santana, and Chris Fetter came out for some words of wisdom. Fortunately a couple of mistake-sliders found fielders’ gloves, and a routine fly ball ended the proceedings. It wasn’t a tense ninth inning, per se, but I really wasn’t expecting it, given how the rest of the game had gone.

Did Javier Báez Strike Out On An Outside Breaking Ball Today?

Your honour, Exhibit A.

Báez also had a single, walked, and stole two bases today. We’ll take that everytime.

Notes and Minutiae

  • Louie Varland is the fifth person from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota to reach the major leagues. The fourth one is his brother, Gus, who is with the Dodgers. The third is Dick Siebert, who spent 11 seasons with the Dodgers, Cardinals and A’s. (The other two got cups-of-coffee decades ago.) Neat.
  • Similarly, Buddy Kennedy is the fifth major-leaguer from Millville Senior High School in Millville, New Jersey. If that place sounds familiar, you probably know the fourth major-leaguer who went there.
  • Coming into today, Riley Greene was sixth in the American League amongst position players with a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 1.3. How about that.
  • On this day in 1966, Haile Selassie visited Jamaica. Selassie, who was the Emperor of Ethiopia for over forty years, helped modernize the country, repel an Italian invasion, and bring many African countries together into what is now the African Union. He is also seen as something of a messiah to those who follow Rastafarianism; Ras is a word roughly equivalent to “duke” or “prince,” and Tafari was Selassie’s given name at birth. Rastafarianism took hold in Jamaica in the 1930s in the wake of Marcus Garvey’s writings, and Selassie’s visit to Jamaica was a seminal moment in the country’s history.

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