Tigers 5, Reds 3: Wenceel Pérez was the hero of bullpen day

Bless You Boys

Well they rarely come easy for the Tigers, but another win on Saturday gives them just their second series victory since taking out the Boston Red Sox early in June. The bullpen did a great job, and the bats finally got loose once starter Hunter Greene was out of the game.

The Cincinnati Reds presented a good opportunity for the Tigers to win a series and start righting the ship after taking the first of three on Friday night. Saturday’s test would be tougher as the Tigers went with a bullpen day with Jack Flaherty skipping another start to get his back right. They would have to hit Hunter Greene and hope their beleaguered bullpen could string together a bunch of good outings. They did not hit Hunter Greene, but the bullpen did an outstanding job.

Things started off pretty well. The Tigers went in order in the first, but Alex Faedo returned serve with a 1-2-3 inning, striking out Elly De La Cruz along the way. Carson Kelly drew a one-out walk in the second, but it went nowhere. Faedo allowed a single in the bottom half to Nick Martini, but a strike’em out, throw’em out finished the inning.

Parker Meadows led off the third with a line drive single to right field, but then he tried to steal second and was thrown out. The Tigers went in order from there, and Beau Brieske took over in the bottom of the third from Faedo. Brieske racked up two strikeouts in a strong inning of work, but the Tigers still got no more than a Riley Greene walk in the top of the fourth. Brieske needed just nine pitches in the bottom of the fourth and looked excellent as he also struck out De La Cruz.

So, for a bullpen day, you can’t ask for any more. What was required were runs for the good guys, but they remain hard to come by most days. A lead here would’ve really tilted things in the Tigers direction, particularly if they could knock Greene out of the game.

Justyn-Henry Malloy started things off with a strikeout, and the vibes were not auspicious. Gio Urshela dumped a single into center field, but Meadows flew out, and Ryan Kreidler popped out to end the half inning.

The dam was going to break eventually and Brieske finally came unglued in the bottom half. He walked Spencer Steer and Nick Martini, then surrendered a two-run double to Tyler Stephenson, still with no outs in the inning.

Brieske bounced back to punch out the rookie Noelvi Marte, and with a lefty at the dish, A.J. Hinch made the switch to Tyler Holton. This got Reds’ manager David Bell to pinch hit Blake Dunn in for the left-handed Will Benson. Hinch won out as Holton quickly struck out Dunn on three pitches. He walked Stuart Fairchild, which was a real mistake with Jonathan India up next, but India grounded into a force at third to end the inning.

Two runs in, but it could’ve been much worse.

Colt Keith singled with one out in the top of the sixth, but Mark Canha grounded into a double play. Jeimer Candelario singled with one out in the bottom half, but Holton got Steer on a line out and struck out Martini to send this to the seventh with the Tigers still down 2-0.

One could’ve hoped that Hunter Greene would fade beyond 90 pitches, but he did not. Instead he got three relatively quick outs in the top of the seventh and finished a dominant outing at 104 pitches.

Shelby Miller came on for the bottom half and spun a much needed clean inning, striking out Dunn to finish things off.

RHP Fernando Cruz took over from Greene in the top of the eighth. Once again, two runs allowed in seven innings of a bullpen game is quite good. Would be nice to see the Tigers take advantage now that Greene was out of the game.

Urshela lined out to open the inning, but Parker Meadows saw three good fastballs and then adjusted to a splitter up on the inner edge, rifling a double to the right field wall. Wenceel Pérez then got a 1-0 cutter right down the middle and blasted it to right field for a two-run shot to tie the game. Okeh!

Wenceel was pretty hyped, as you’d imagine.

Matt Vierling followed Wenceel by drawing a walk, and David Bell went to lefty Sam Moll to face Colt Keith with Riley Greene in the hole after Canha. Hinch countered with Andy Ibáñez, who put together a patient AB and drew a walk as well. So it was Mark Canha, against a lefty, with two on and one out. He’s been struggling badly, but he couldn’t ask for a better spot to hit in. And so he did.

Canha smoked a line drive down the right field line into the corner, scoring Vierling and getting Ibáñez to third. Huge knock right there. Zach McKinstry came to run for Canha, and it was 3-2 Tigers.

And so it was Riley time. Greene battled his way through a lengthy nine pitch AB, fouling off several good two-strike pitches before getting a sinker up and in at 94 mph and pulling it to first base for an RBI ground out than scored Ibáñez and moved McKinstry to third with two outs. 4-2 Tigers.

Bell went back to the well, bringing in right-hander Lucas Sims against Carson Kelly. That didn’t work out either, as Kelly ripped a line drive to left to plate another run. 5-2 Tigers. Justyn-Henry Malloy drew a walk, and the Tigers were still in business with two on and two outs for Urshela. After getting a home run robbed yesterday and lining out sharply directly to right fielders over the past two days, the struggling infielder is probably feeling a bit snakebit, That continued, as he spanked a sharp line drive to the right center field gap only to see Fairchild run it down.

Still, a very impressive comeback inning from the Tigers, and a chance to win a series for the first time since they played the White Sox two weeks ago. McKinstry took over at shortstop, with Ibáñez at second base, and Pérez in right field. They needed six outs as Miller took the mound again.

Miller gave up a one-out double to India, but he dialed it back in and struck out Elly De La Cruz and Jeimer Candelario to send this to the ninth. Good outing for Miller collecting six outs there, and he needed a good one.

Old friend, southpaw Justin Wilson took the mound for the Reds in the top of the ninth. The last few seasons haven’t been too kind to him as struggles with command have undercut his production. Meadows grounded out, and after an eight pitch battle, Wilson got Pérez to ground a ball to Marte at third. The throw was a little wide, and after challenges, Pérez was ruled to have reached on Marte’s throwing error, but Vierling and Ibáñez struck out to send it to the bottom of the ninth.

It didn’t go great. Jason Foley immediately gave up a solo shot to left center field to Spencer Steer. Nick Martini sliced one the opposite way but Riley Greene was playing him to do so and hauled it in on the run. Stephenson grounded out to McKinstry, and the Reds were down to their final out. However, Noelvi Marte dumped a blooper into right field and suddenly the tying run was at the plate.

I rarely accuse Hinch of overmanaging, but he may have gotten there here. With a powerful but also a terrible hitter in Edwin Rios at the dish, Hinch surprisingly pulled Foley in favor of Andrew Chafin. David Bell quickly countered with a right-handed hitter in Santiago Espinal. In a 3-2 count, Chafin broke off a nasty slider for strike three, and so it all worked out.

Really nice work by the bullpen all day, and the offense came through in a big way once they got into the Reds pen. That’s a series victory, and the Tigers are set up for the sweep tomorrow with Tarik Skubal on the mound.

Box Score

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