Moya clubs two homers, Tigers win third straight
Detroit – Steven Moya broke the seal in Kansas City Sunday – hitting his first career home run after going dry for parts of three big-league seasons (75 plate appearances).
And now the floodgates have opened.
He hit a pair of home runs Wednesday – one to right field and one to left – helping the Tigers to their third straight win over the Mariners, 5-1.
“After I hit that first one, it’s like, ‘OK, I can hit home runs here,’” he said. “It feels good. I’m just trying to repeat it over and over and trying to get good pitches to do it.”
BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, Mariners 1
Moya, who had three hits on the night, did all his damage against Mariners starter Hisashi Iwakuma, who did not survive the fifth inning.
His first home run fell just short of the Belle Tire ad in the right field corner. The second one he appeared to just flick into the bullpen in left. Three home runs in three games for Moya, who didn’t play Tuesday against the left-handed throwing James Paxton – he’s easing the pain of losing J.D. Martinez to a broken elbow.
“He’s worked hard to be more selective,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He’s trying to lay off pitches out of the zone to cut down on his strikeouts. He’s doing a nice job.”
Miguel Cabrera also homered off Iwakuma, his 16th of the season. He got a first-pitch, 71 mph breaking ball in the first inning. It’s a pitch from Iwakuma that is rarely swung at. Cabrera timed it expertly and sent it on a majestic arch into the seats in left field.
“I wasn’t sitting on it,” Cabrera said. “He throws like two or three in a game, why would I be sitting on it?”
If he wasn’t sitting on it, how was he able to stay back and put such an authoritative swing on it?
“I don’t think he was sitting on it,” Ausmus said. “A lot of guys will take a first-pitch curveball, even if it’s a strike. Miggy just saw it up and attacked it.”
Jose Iglesias had three hits, including a two-run double in the second.
The offensive outburst masked a troublesome start for rookie Michael Fulmer. Amid organizational talk about limiting his innings before the All-Star break, he managed to last just 4⅓ innings.
“I had a little dizziness, didn’t feel well after that first inning,” Fulmer said. “The good thing about this team is they saved me. The bullpen did their job, did fantastic. Moya had a couple of nice catches in right field, along with the two home runs.
“That’s why I love this team. Everybody contributes, and they picked me up big time tonight.”
He said he expects no lingering effects from his bout of light-headedness. But it was a strange outing.
His command seemed out of whack early, going to five, three-ball counts in the first two innings. He worked out of a two-on, two-out jam and fell behind a couple more batters in the second.
“He was a tick off tonight,” Ausmus said. “He was yanking the ball. But he still only gave up one run. He wasn’t the guy we’ve seen the last few starts but everyone’s going to have an off day.”
Then he seemed to settle in. From the end of the first through the fourth, he set down 10 straight Mariners hitters.
He went into fifth with a 4-0 lead, and suddenly couldn’t throw the ball over the plate. After a walk and a single, he drilled Nori Aoki in the ankle to load the bases. One pitch later, he threw a slider off the foot of Leonys Martin, forcing in a run.
Ausmus didn’t hesitate. He pulled him right there, after 74 pitches.
“I could tell early on he wasn’t sharp,” Ausmus said. “So we were on high alert. That could’ve been the turning point in the game right there. They had the bases loaded. We were up 4-1 and they had the middle of their order coming up. The way he was throwing and that being a big spot in the game, it was time.”
Kyle Ryan, as he did for Mike Pelfrey on Monday, put out the fire. He struck out pinch hitter Franklin Gutierrez and got Robinson Cano to bounce out to Cabrera at first.
“Ryan was definitely the key,” Ausmus said. “Coming in with the bases loaded and getting those two guys, one being Robinson Cano. That was an outstanding job.
Ryan, who was credited with the win, worked a clean sixth, as well, striking out left-handed hitters Kyle Seager and Adam Lind.
Ryan was sent to Toledo earlier this season because of his inability to get lefties out. He has seemingly rectified that. Lefties are 1 for 9 against him since he’s been back.
“His breaking ball is better,” Ausmus said. “And he’s using the sinker in more. It’s a combination.”
Ryan, Shane Greene, Justin Wilson and closer Francisco Rodriguez retired 14 straight Mariners to close the game.
“It’s really nice to see the bullpen do well,” Ausmus said. “The downside is the bullpen has been used quite a bit in this stretch of games with no days off. It’s a little bit of a balancing act.”
But as he said, you win the game and then worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.