Detroit — Ambushed.
That’s how Tigers starter Mike Fiers must have felt early in the Tigers 5-4 win over the White Sox Friday night.
Back in April, he pitched six innings of shutout baseball against the White Sox in Chicago. On Friday, the White Sox jumped him right out of the gate. Lead-off hitter Yoan Moncada hit Fiers’ first pitch on a line over Castellanos’ head for a double.
He would score on a double by Jose Abreu. Abreu scored on a single by Tim Anderson.
The first four hitters swung at the first pitch. Fiers threw just nine pitches to the first four hitters.
“They obviously had a good scouting report,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They know he throws a lot of first-pitch strikes and they were ready.”
Fiers would settle in after the two-run first and get the Tigers into the sixth inning. The hardest hit ball was a solo home run by Tim Anderson in the fifth.
“They came out swinging,” Fiers said. “But better pitches would have got them out. I didn’t think they were going to do that. They kind of caught me off guard. It wasn’t just one or two guys, it was everybody.
“But if they’re swinging at the first pitch, and I make a good pitch, I get early outs.”
Fiers threw 26 pitches in the first inning, and didn’t once throw his curveball.
“I had my curveball, I just didn’t throw it,” he said. “I’m not trying to back down from them. My fastball is a good pitch for me and I’ve got to use it. It’s about making better pitches, not throwing a different pitch.”
That said, when he started throwing the curveball for strikes in the second inning — getting strikeouts from Daniel Palka and Anderson — he started getting the White Sox hitters off-balance.
He ended up throwing 20 curveballs, getting four called strikes with it.
The pitch burned him only one time. In the fourth inning, Adam Engel on second base guessed that Fiers was going to throw an off-speed pitch and stole third base easily. He ended up scoring on a single by Trayce Thompson.
“As a starter, you have to make adjustments throughout the start, and hopefully limit the damage,” Fiers said. “Obviously, I didn’t want to give up four runs. They got me early, but I adjusted and they kept swinging. They made it tough on me.
“But this team, we are resilient. The bullpen came in and shut it down and we battled back. It shows what this team is about.”
Tigers hitting coach Lloyd McClendon has been working with struggling Dixon Machado the past few days. Machado is hitless in his last 15 at-bats and his average is down to .206.
So, Gardenhire gave him a mental health day Friday.
“He’s been working on his swing,” Gardenhire said. “He’s had a couple of good days with it. They are changing his swing plane. Today, he had a really good early (batting practice) but the second one wasn’t so good.
“As you are going through something like that, sometimes you need a mental break. He will be back in the lineup Saturday.”