Brewers 5, Tigers 4: Mize struggles again

Bless You Boys

After the drubbing Reese Olson received at the hands of the Brewers on Friday night, it was hard to feel too good about Casey Mize’s chances in this one. Each game is its own thing, and players vary in performance from day to day, but the speedy, contact oriented Brewers offense was well positioned to win this one, and they ultimately did to set up a potential sweep on Sunday.

Mize looked pretty shaky from the start. His splitter continues to be nothing more than a show me pitch with no real depth or deception, and he doesn’t look confident throwing it anywhere near the zone to bait hitters into swings. Mize walked Brice Turang to open the game, got William Contreras on a fly ball to left that saw an adventurous route from Justyn-Henry Malloy, and then balked Turang to second. Mize just didn’t look comfortable at all. Christian Yelich got an 0-1 fastball right down the middle and ripped a one-hopper into right field for an RBI single. Fortunately, Willy Adames grounded into a tailor made 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.

The Tigers faced a really tough task in Brewers starter Freddy Peralta. The only real way to succeed against Peralta’s tough fastball-slider combo is to be disciplined and force him into the zone. The Tigers were up to the challenge.

The first three Tigers hitters saw a combined 26 pitches, resulting in a Matt Vierling strikeout, and walks to Riley Greene and Mark Canha. Gio Urshela flicked a little line drive into left field for an RBI single, and the game was tied.

Mize went with heavy doses of fourseamers and more knuckle curves in the second, and stranded a Sal Frelick single without issue.

The Tigers appeared to be taking cues from the Brewers in the first and it continued in the second inning with one disciplined at-bat after another. Akil Baddoo led off the bottom half of the second by drawing a walk, and Javier Báez singled to center field to get Baddoo to third. Carson Kelly singled the run in, and a Vierling ground out moved Báez and Kelly to third and second, respectively. Riley Greene grounded one to third and Joey Ortiz fired home to cut down Báez trying to score, but another long AB from Mark Canha resulted in single through the right side to score Kelly. The relay through to get Canha trying to go first to third sailed wildly into the Tigers dugout, Canha trotted home, and it was 4-1 Tigers.

The problem, is that while Casey Mize wasn’t doing terribly, it’s only a matter of time because he can’t get whiffs to save his life. The third opened with a pair of soft singles, and then a blooper from Contreras into shallow right field saw Akil Baddoo and Colt Keith collide, knocking Keith out of the game as the ball dropped for a single to load the bases. Zach McKinstry took over at second, and Christian Yelich quickly lifted a fly ball to left field for a sacrifice fly to score Jackson Chourio from third. Malloy hit Báez with his throw in, but Báez was 10 feet down the third base line, and Brice Turang took third base right in front of him. An Adames ground out scored Turang to make it 4-3 Tigers, and Mize needed a good play from Báez on a rocket of a one-hopper off the bat of Rhys Hopkins to end the inning.

Through three innings and 50 pitches, Mize had not a single whiff. Hard to roster a pitcher that can’t collect swing and misses in a major league rotation these days. You can blame the defense for some of it, but they also bailed him out a couple of times. Allow just about every hitter you face to put the ball in play, and you’re going to eventually get a few mistakes behind you too.

In the bottom of the third, with one out, J-Hen was plunked by a Peralta fastball after a nine pitch battle. At very least, the Brewers were going to need a lot of innings from their pen. Nothing else developed as Baddoo and Báez popped out to end the inning. Peralta was at 80 pitches and nearing the end of his day.

Mize allowed a leadoff single in the fourth, but he continued to rack up plenty of ground balls. Joey Ortiz grounded into a double play, and Mize froze Blake Perkins on a fastball above the zone that drew a generous strike three call for his lone strikeout of the day.

Matt Vierling finally spelled the end of the day for Peralta in the fourth. With one out, Vierling drew an eight pitch walk, and Peralta gave way in favor of reliever Jared Koenig. Koenig got a pair of quick outs from Greene and Canha to strand Vierling at first, and we were on to the fifth.

Jackson Chourio open the inning with a grounder to short, but Báez’s throw pulled Urshela off the bag. However, Chourio then tried to steal second and a good throw from Carson Kelly and a quick tag from Báez sent him back to the Brewers dugout. Mize allowed a Turang single, and he then stole second base successfully. William Contreras grounded out, but Christian Yelich singled Turang to third and then stole second base. Mize was in deep trouble, but with two outs he got Adames to pop out on a well located fastball away to smother the Brewers hopes of a rally.

The Tigers went quickly in the bottom half. Mize came back out and walked Hoskins to lead off the inning. Sal Frelick smoked a drive to Riley Greene in center, but Joey Ortiz singled through the right side and that was the end of Mize’s day as Shelby Miller took over. Perkins grounded into a force of Ortiz at second, and Miller just needed one more to escape. He didn’t get it, as Chourio ripped a double to left field. Hoskins scored, and Perkins roared all the way around from first to beat the relay throw from Malloy to Báez to Kelly. Miller got Turang to fly out to end the inning, but it was 5-4 Brewers.

Mize ended with 5.1 IP, 5 R, 3 ER, 8 H, 2 BB, K. Not very good. His defense cost him a bit, but a few nice plays also bailed him out. 97 pitches with 60 strikes on the day. Reasonably good ratio, but command isn’t really the problem. One whiff all day is the problem.

The fact is, until Mize finds another pitch to pair with the fastball, he’s basically Mike Pelfrey out there. He’s still coming back from TJ, but command isn’t really the issue with him. The problems are the same ones that have hurt him since he was first called up to the big leagues, a distinct inability to get swings and misses on the splitter and slider. Hopefully they can find something for him as the season progresses. The curveball might be part of the answer, but it’s not exactly a big whiff generator either, just a change of pace and eye level.

The Brewers turned to Enoli Paredes in the sixth. The right-hander struck out Báez swinging, but Carson Kelly’s grounder ate up Adames at shortstop and he reached with a single. A Vierling ground ball forced Kelly at second, but Vierling was called safe at first, and it held up after a Brewers’ challenge. That left it up to Riley Greene. The Brewers brought a tough lefty in Bryan Hudson to face him, but in a 3-2 count, Greene fouled a fastball off Contreras, and home plate umpire Jeremie Rehak called catcher interference, based on the sound presumably, as Greene’s bat never touched Contreras’ glove. The Brewers had just lost their challenge on the Vierling play, and so Greene took first. Unfortunately, a patient Canha got ahead in the count but was too patient, taking two fastballs for strikes to strike out and end the inning.

Miller did a really nice job in the seventh. He popped up Contreras, whiffed Yelich on a splitter, and then punched out Adames swinging at a fastball up and in. The Tigers went 1-2-3 as well, with McKinstry whiffing for strike three and Malloy taking a cutter at the bottom of the zone for strike three.

Jason Foley handled the eighth without issue, and the Tigers were down to their final six outs in need of a comeback against a good bullpen. Joey Payamps came on for the Brewers and carved up Wenceel Pérez, got Báez to pop out, and froze Kelly for strike three.

Andrew Chafin dug a little hole in the top of the ninth, still struggling to locate his sinker-slider combo effectively. He escaped without allowing a run, however, and it was last call for the Tigers.

Hard-throwing Trevor Megill took over to close it out, and his 100 mph gas was too much for the Tigers. Vierling grounded out, and Greene and Canha lifted routine fly balls to end it.

Box Score

The Tigers will have their stopper on the mound on Sunday, as Tarik Skubal looks to avoid the sweep. The Brewers have a good pitcher of their own going in RHP Bryce Wilson. First pitch is set for 1:40 p.m. ET.

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