The Detroit Tigers have now won 25 games this season, which surprisingly isn’t even among the lowest in baseball or in the American League Central.
And a quick glance at their results reveals the team they’ve beaten more than any other this season is the Seattle Mariners, which is impressive since the two teams have played a total of four games – all Detroit wins.
The Tigers got a solid start from former Eastside Catholic standout Matthew Boyd and the Mariners late-inning effort to rally fell short in a 5-3 loss Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
“For whatever reason, the Tigers have had our number so far this year,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said with a level of restraint. “I can’t really explain it. We haven’t swung the bat that well against them.”
Well, Servais sort of gave the reason. The Mariners’ offense, which has been abysmal all season, ranking near the bottom of MLB in multiple statistical categories, seems even worse when playing the Tigers, whose pitching staff is below league average in multiple categories, including ERA (4.38) runs allowed per game (4.66), hits per nine innings (8.3) and walks per nine innings (3.8).
Detroit swept Seattle in a three-game series at T-Mobile Park on May 17-19, which included Spencer Turnbull’s no-hitter. The Tigers outscored the Mariners 15-3 in those games.
Scoring a total of six runs in four games is not good against any team. But it gets worse. The Mariners had just nine hits in the three losses in Seattle. They at least got eight hits Tuesday. But still the Mariners are batting just .140 (17 for 121) with three doubles, two homers, 11 walks and 36 strikeouts vs. the Tigers this season.
With eight hits, four walks and two batters hit by pitches, the Mariners weren’t short on baserunners Tuesday. But the team that came into the game with the best batting average with runners in scoring postition in the American League, went 2 for 12 in those situations and left nine runners on base.
Boyd pitched six innings, allowing one unearned run on a walk with three strikeouts. He allowed at least one baserunner in the first five innings. But with the help of the spacious outfield of his home park and the speed of outfielders Akil Baddoo and Derek Hill, he limited damage.
The best example came in the second inning after his teammates gave him a 3-0 lead. Boyd gave up a double to Shed Long Jr. in his first at-bat with the Mariners this season. Long later scored when second baseman Jonathan Schoop booted a routine ground ball at second base. J.P. Crawford followed with a single, putting runners on first and second for Mitch Haniger.
The Mariners’ best hitter smoked a line drive to left field that seemed like a certain double that would score both runners. Instead, Baddoo made a lunging catch while running at full speed to end the inning.
“It really does change the whole complexion of the game,” Servais said. “The game is probably tied at that point and has a different feel about it. Off the bat, I certainly thought it was a hit. It was kind of weird. Normally that ball from a right-handed hitter down the left field line is going to hook some. That ball did not hook much. It just kind of hung up there.”
In the fourth inning, again with two runners on base, Haniger had another line drive — this one to right-center gap — that was tracked down, this time by Hill.
“There is a big outfield here,” Servais said. “Those balls seem like they hang up there forever, and they’ve got the athletes to run them down.”
Seattle got an abbreviated and atypical outing from starter Marco Gonzales, who was making his second start after a monthlong stint on the injured list with a forearm strain.
After pitching four surprisingly crisp innings a week ago in his first start back despite not making any rehab starts, Gonzales looked and felt more like this was his first outing back from a long hiatus. He pitched four innings, allowing four runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts. He threw 71 pitches with 43 strikes with a 11 first-pitch strikes to the 17 batters he faced.
“I’m keeping that in the back of my mind to give myself a little bit of grace to iron some things out,” he said. “This was really my second outing back from the IL so certainly I’m giving myself a chance to settle back into it. But there’s still some frustration because I want to go out and put up zeros to help the team win. The positive is building up a pitch count and being healthy.”
Gonzales felt his rhythm in his delivery was out of sync and it led his command being slightly off with missed locations on critical pitches, with many leaking to the middle of the plate and staying up in the strike zone.
Gonzales gave up a leadoff double to Robbie Grossman and a one-out single to Miguel Cabrera. A fastball that stayed in the middle of the plate was turned into a two-run homer off the bat of Eric Haase, who has hit three of his eight homers vs. Seattle.
Gonzales gave up leadoff single to Niko Goodrum in the second and a one-out RBI single to Hill. But he didn’t allow another hit after that. He worked 1-2-3 innings in. the third and fourth. And if he had his normal pitch count, he would’ve certainly continued in the game.
“Coming out after the fourth, I felt positive and I felt confident that I was back on the track so to speak,” he said. “That’s the tough thing is that I wish I had more pitches to give my team right now. I wish I had 90 to 100 because I could probably get through six and grind it out after those first couple innings. That will come with time. I’m thankful to be healthy because I’m able to get out there and get my team some innings to build back up in these games.”
Seattle rallied late against the Tigers bullpen, loading the bases with no outs in the eighth inning. But Long’s double play cost two outs to score one run. Taylor Trammell then doubled to score a run. But that was the extent of it.