Tigers 6, Blue Jays 2: The Keith and Carp Show

Bless You Boys

Well, we can all breathe a little sigh of relief tonight as the losing streak is over: the Tigers beat the Blue Jays 6-2 on Friday night in Detroit, riding a pair of home runs from a pair of guys who came into the season with lofty expectations.

Kenta Maeda, fresh off a stint on the IL with a viral illness and a three-inning tuneup with Toledo, made his eighth start of the season. Things have been up-and-down for Maeda so far, coming into tonight’s game — of those seven previous starts with the Tigers, three were downright clunkers, one was so-so, and three were pretty decent.

Speaking of starting pitchers who’ve had a strange go of things lately, Alek Manoah started for the Blue Jays. He started the year in the minors, making a disastrous start for Dunedin in Single-A in which the Lakeland Flying Tigers knocked him out of the game early, then had four middling starts in Triple-A Buffalo. His 2023 season was a disaster, and given that he was third in the Cy Young voting for 2022, I can’t imagine how much his head has been spinning the past fifteen months or so. However, his previous start before tonight was a sensational 7-inning, 1-hit, 7-whiff performance against the Rays… so, like Maeda, you have to wonder which pitcher’s going to show up on a given night.

In the bottom of the first, with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. on second base after a two-out double, Bo Bichette hit a soft fly ball into right field that Kerry Carpenter knew he wasn’t going to catch in the air. But Carpenter played it perfectly and nailed Guerrero at the plate for the third out of the inning with a strong throw.

In the bottom of the second Colt Keith smacked a fly ball over the right-centerfield wall for his first career home run and a 1-0 Detroit lead.

Finally off the schneid! Here’s hoping that’s the first of many.

Meanwhile, Maeda was looking pretty good early, scattering a couple of hits in the first few innings, and the aforementioned solid throw from Carpenter sure did help. He had all his pitches going — the fastball didn’t have a whole lot on it but he mixed in cutters, changeups, curveballs and his slider — and his control was solid.

In the fourth Riley Greene hit a leadoff ground-rule double that stuck underneath the padding in right field, taking third on an infield single by Mark Canha that should’ve been ruled an error, putting runners at the corners with none out. Carpenter walked to load the bases, and then Matt Vierling hit a fly ball to left between two of the best outfielders in the game, Kevin Kiermaier and Daulton Varsho, who collided and let the ball drop.

Greene scored, everyone moved up ninety feet (27.4 m), and Vierling got credited with a sacrifice fly on the E-8. Keith got hit in the shoelaces (which is technically part of his body) on an 0-2 count for a 3-0 Tiger lead. Spencer Torkelson struck out in a nine-pitch at-bat, and a Zach McKinstry productive-groundout pushed another run across for a 4-0 lead. Carson Kelly sent a sizzling line drive to left that Varsho initially mis-read, but he corrected himself, made a great leaping play, and the inning was over.

With two outs in the fifth and Canha on first after a walk, Carpenter launched a first-pitch changeup to about the same spot that Keith hit his home run.

When the dust settled and the cheering subsided, the Tigers were up 6-0 and Manoah was headed for the showers.

Speaking of starters departing, Maeda’s day was done after five solid frames, scattering four hits, walking nobody, and striking out Cavan Biggio, once. That’s about as good an outing as one could hope for, after coming back from an illness and a short, Triple-A stint.

Maeda gave way to Beau Brieske, who had a pretty easy sixth… and seventh, and walked Danny Jansen with two out in the eighth before being relieved by Will Vest. He gave up a single to put runners on first and second but then bore down and struck out Bo Bichette looking to end the threat.

Andrew Chafin came in for the ninth and gave up four straight weak two-out singles in the wrong spots, allowing Toronto to score a pair of runs. Jason Foley was brought in to nail down the final out, and on three pitches he coaxed a grounder to third out of Jansen to seal the victory.

Notes and Observations

  • To make room for Kenta Maeda’s return to Detroit, the Tigers optioned Matt Manning back to Toledo.
  • Wenceel Pérez led off tonight, instead of usual leadoff hitter Riley Greene, who was dropped to the second spot. Pérez has spent most of May hitting out of the 3-spot, but nothing has worked for the Tigers lately, so why the neck not?
  • WXYT bumper-music of note: “Go All the Way” by Raspberries. Do I have the musical tastes of a person decades older than myself? Perhaps. Either way, RIP, Eric Carmen.
  • Remember, Sunday’s game now starts at 11:35 am, because… uh… hmm.
  • Interesting group of birthdays on May 24th: Bob Dylan, Queen Victoria of the UK, Coleman Young, Priscilla Presley, Patti LaBelle, Roseanne Cash, Joe Dumars, John C. Reilly, Kris Draper, Bartolo Colón, and much-beloved former Tiger, Brad Penny.

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