Toronto at Detroit, July 7-9

Friday, July 07 2023 @ 09:45 AM EDT

Contributed by: Magpie

Every time I see your face
It reminds me of the places
We used to go.

Happy 83rd, Sir Richard!

The "first half" wraps up with a visit to Detroit.

The Tigers have to be frustrated and disappointed. You will recall that two years ago, in their first full season after losing a whopping 114 games, the Detroiters surged back in the general area of competence, posting a 77-85 mark under new manager A.J. Hinch. They had some interesting and promising young talent - outfielder Riley Greene and Akil Baddoo, first baseman Spencer Torkelson, pitchers Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize. So last year they went on the market and brought in some Proven Veterans to help out. They added southpaw Eduardo Rodriguez, who had gone 45-19 over his last three seasons with Boston, to their rotation. They signed free agent Javier Baez to take over at shortstop. They probably weren't expecting to win, or even contend, but it should have been another step in that direction.

And they fell flat on their collective faces, going 66-96. The biggest problem was the offense, as everyone - without exception - stunk. It's not like they had a great attack in 2021, but they did manage to score 4.3 times per game. A year ago they collapsed completely, managing just 3.44 runs per game, the worst figure in the major leagues. Young Riley Greene hit .253/.321/.362 - that's an OPS+ of 98 - and Greene was their best hitter. It was simply stunning, and more than a little inexplicable. And just to make their cup of joy complete, the pitching staff was ravaged by injuries and other issues. Mize made two starts before his elbow required Tommy John surgery. Skubal made it into August before flexor tendon surgery ended his season. Rodriguez missed time with a ribcage sprain and an unexplained personal issue.

This season? A little more of the same (they brought Matthew Boyd back to bolster the rotation, and after making 15 starts for the Tigers, Boyd now needs Tommy John surgery.) But Mize has progressed to throwing bullpen sessions, Skubal returned to the active roster just this week. So have Rodriguez and Friday starter Alex Faedo. And the offense hasn't quite been the wall-to-wall disaster they provided in 2022, mainly because Riley Greebe has improved upon his rookie performance, is still this team's best hitter, and is still just 22 years old. He's been out with a leg injury, but just had a 5-for-5 game for AAA Toledo on his rehab assignment and may be back this weekend. Torkelson is fighting the league to a draw - not what one wants or expects from someone drafted first overall, but an improvement on last year's grisly [performance. Akil Baddoo should be back this weekend as well - he's been out with a quad strain - he hasn't matched his rookie year performance, but he's still doing much better than he did in 2022.

Unfortunately, the more Javier Baez sees of the American League, the worse it gets. And the older Miguel Cabrera gets, the older he gets. But the Tigers do look like they're generally returning to where they were in 2021 - approaching respectability, with a lot of interesting young talent, most of which either hasn't quite figured it out yet or keeps getting hurt.

Detroit was here when the season was young, providing the opposition for the Jays home opener. The Tigers had stumbled out of the gate, losing seven of their first nine games. The Jays were happy to add to their misery.

The Story So Far

Tue 11 April: Detroit 3 Toronto 9 - Nick Maton jumped on Manoah for a three run homer in the second inning. That was the only scoring the Jays staff would allow on the day. Manoah lasted just 4.1, as he walked five and threw a million pitches, so Pop took over at  that point with the Jays trailing 3-2. They didn't trail for long. Kiermaier and Springer led off the fifth with back-to-back HRs off Manning, and they piled on five more runs in the eighth, with Kirk's three run dinger putting some icing on that cake. Chapman and Bichette also went deep, for a five homer day.

Wed 12 April: Detroit 3 Toronto 4 - Kevin Gausman was on the hill, so naturally we had a tense, low-scoring pitcher's duel. Rodriguez matched Gausman through six, and left with the game tied at 1-1. Detroit broke through in the seventh, with Kerry Carpenter hitting a two run homer off Gausman to put the Tigers up 3-1. And so it stayed until the bottom of the ninth. Guerrero led off with a single and Chapman drew a walk. They both moved up on a wild pitch and Varsho walked to load the bases. Merriield provided the first sac fly, scoring Guerrero and deep enough that Chapman could move up to third. Which allowed him to score the tying run when Kirk provided the next sac fly. Off we wnt to extras. Romano kept the Tigers off the board in the top half; Springer drove in the Zombie Runner in the bottom half.

Thu 13 April: Detroit 3 Toronto 1 - Detroit, their record now 2-9, stopped the bleeding behind a strong performance from Spencer Turnbull and four relievers. Chris Bassitt pitched well for the Jays, but when you only score once, you usually lose. The Tigers have now  gone 36-39 since that gruesome start


Fri 7 July - Manoah (1-7, 6.36) vs Faedo (1-3, 5.54)
Sat 8 July - Gausman (7-4, 3.04) vs Manning (2-1, 4.84)
Sun 9 July - Bassitt (8-5, 4.09) vs Skubal (0-0, 0.00)