Tigers 4, Rays 2: Another Cardiac Cats comeback victory

Bless You Boys

After an easy series-opening win on Monday night in St. Petersburg, this one had a little bit more drama: an early slim lead vanished, but a pair of late-inning home runs helped your Detroit Tigers come back to win 4-2 and ensure a series win.

Kenta Maeda got the nod for his fifth start of the season. Yes, he’s been disappointing so far, and yes, his previous start was a 2⅔-inning clunker against the Rangers, and yes, in 35 career March/April starts coming into tonight he’s had an OPS-against of .829 and an ERA of 5.07. But I’m generally an optimistic guy, and I think he has a good chance to eat some innings (even though, yes, he’s only topped 155 innings once, and that was in his age-28 year). Is he a Chad Innings-Eater? Absolutely not, but a fan can dream.

Making the start for the Rays tonight was Ryan Pepiot (PEP-ee-oh; I assume it’s French). He bounced between the Dodgers and Triple-A last year and the year before, and he missed most of 2023 with an oblique injury. He was a stud at Butler University with killer whiff numbers, and as a pro he’s definitely kept up with the whiffin’, but his biggest challenge lately is staying off the IL. It’s the Rays, though, so there’s a decent chance he’s a diamond-in-the-rough kind of guy, and his solid finish to that abbreviated 2023 season strongly suggests that.

Maeda looked like a new man, though, early on — he was spotting his fastball well, which was not present in the Texas start. He was getting quite a few swings-and-misses with the splitter too, and a lot of ground balls.

Riley Greene mashed a slider to straightaway centre in the third to open the scoring, making it a 1-0 contest.

Meanwhile, the defence was clearly napping for the Tigers, as Colt Keith’s mis-handling of a José Caballero grounder in the bottom of the third was the team’s third error of the game. Maeda figured out a way through, though, and kept the Rays off the scoreboard yet again.

With runners on first and second with two outs in the bottom of the fifth courtesy of a pair of softly-hit singles, Maeda was in a bit of trouble with Richie Palacios at the plate. But he managed to coax a soft fly ball to short right field where Wenceel Pérez pocketed it for Maeda’s last out of the night. His final line, significantly better than his previous starts: 5 IP, 3 singles, 0 walks, 5 whiffs.

Meanwhile, Pepiot was no slouch either: he walked Riley Greene twice, but other than the Greene home run and a Mark Canha double, the contact was generally weak and his stuff looked great. Well, Rays’ brass, it looks like you’ve found another great pitcher — and, in other news, water is wet!

Alex Faedo — hmm… Maeda? Faedo? Neat! — took over for the bottom of the sixth. So far this year he’s typically gone about two innings and been solid… but he got into trouble early in this one with a single by Randy Arozarena followed by a two-run home run from ol’ Isaac Paredes. Harold Ramírez followed with a single and you had to wonder what was up with Faedo tonight. He did manage to settle down in the next inning and go 1-2-3 in the seventh, which was nice.

In the top of the eighth the Tigers got those two runs back courtesy of a Carson Kelly single and another Riley Greene home run, making it a 3-2 game. Mark Canha thought that hitting home runs looked like a pretty fun thing to do on a Tuesday night, so he followed suit and made it 4-2.

Alex Lange came on to face the heart of the Rays’ order in the eighth. He had his curveball, and thus his mojo, workin’. Buddy Kennedy, the third third-baseman of the night, had his workin’ too on this play.

Jason Foley came on for the save in the ninth and minimized the drama with one flyout, one strikeout, and one groundout. Reminds me of a George Thorogood song, really.

Great, now I’m thirsty.

Numbers and Observations

  • Through the first ten games of the season the Tigers averaged 3.3 runs and 7.3 hits a game. In the 13 games after, they averaged 4.5 runs and 7.8 hits, which suggests to me that their power is improving. I’d look at total bases and slugging average and whatnot, but I don’t really have that data handy.
  • They still have a ways to go, though, as coming into tonight they were second-last in the American League with a meagre 17 home runs, only better than the White Sox. They were sitting at 12th (out of 15) in OPS, SLG and OBP, but darn-it, they’re tied for the lead in triples. (Comerica is generally a good triples park.)
  • The broadcast had a really interesting historical segment on Nippon League baseball explaining why the number 18 is a popular one for Japanese pitchers in MLB. The Yomiuri Giants began assigning it to their ace in the ‘60’s, and the idea spread. Kenta Maeda had it in his first contract with the Dodgers that he’d wear the number 18. Fellow Japanese star pitchers like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hiroki Kuroda have also worn the number in MLB, as does Yoshimoto Yamamoto, who signed with the Dodgers this past offseason.
  • Jose Caballero reminds me of Guy Caballero. RIP, Joe Flaherty.
  • You know what might be better than a Nanaimo Bar? A frozen Nanaimo Bar. Give it a try.
  • Happy 460th birthday to William Shakespeare! The Bard of Stratford-upon-Avon certainly wrote some things, didn’t he? When I was in high school we did one of his plays per year; generally comedies earlier on and tragedies as older, wiser students. Someone once said that every one of his plays ends with either a wedding or a funeral… but how about a wedding at a funeral? Now that would be worth the price of admission.

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