Detroit — The big walk-up crowd didn’t materialize — tickets sold were 19,494. Imminent thunderstorms in the area didn’t do much to encourage a spur-of-the-moment rush to Comerica Park.
Nevertheless, the Angels rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani made his lone Detroit appearance Wednesday night. He did not disappoint, nor did the home team, beating the Angels 6-1.
“Yeah, he’s pretty good,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said afterward.
Unaffected by a rusty start and a 23-minute rain delay after four innings, Ohtani kept getting stronger every inning — allowing a run and three hits, with five strikeouts, leaving the game after five innings and a second rain delay.
The score was 1-1 when he left.
The Tigers were leading 6-1 by the end of the sixth and the legend of the Rally Goose was born.
“We need to get ourselves a little decoy,” catcher James McCann said. “We need to get a little Canadian goose decoy and put it in our dugout.”
Before the game resumed after a 41-minute rain delay, the Comerica Park grounds crew had to chase a large goose off the field. It took a while, as the petrified goose was having difficulty taking flight. It finally got airborne but crashed into the electronic scoreboard just above the second-level suites.
The goose caromed back into the stands. Amazingly, it was shaken but not badly injured and was released.
“The best part of the day was that the goose was OK,” Nick Castellanos said.
Just a coincidence then that the Tigers then erupted for five runs off a pair of Angels relievers — Cam Bedrosian and former Tiger Jim Johnson.
“We broke up the goose eggs, OK?” Gardenhire cracked.
The Tigers loaded the bases right away against Bedrosian. After Grayson Greiner struck out looking at a disputed pitch, Jose Iglesias smacked a two-run single to left field.
Johnson entered and got Dixon Machado to ground to shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who threw home to try and get JaCoby Jones. No chance.
Leonys Martin (who had two hits and two walks) and Castellanos (three hits on the night) each had RBI singles before the end of the inning.
“That just speaks to the character of this ballclub and how focused we are and how much we want to win as a group,” Castellanos said.
Iglesias, who scored on Martin’s single, made an awkward slide into home plate. He was removed from the game with a right hip contusion. He said afterward that he was sore but he wasn’t seriously injured.
Before all that, though, Ohtani was as advertised.
“Him being so young and having those weapons, you can tell he wasn’t really letting it eat early,” Castellanos said. “He was 91-93 mph and then all of a sudden he got it to 101 mph. He has that in his back pocket and you have to respect that as a hitter.”
Ohtani seemed to be at his nastiest to Tigers’ third baseman Jeimer Candelario. He struck him out in the first inning with his signature split-fingered pitch. Then in the fifth inning, just before the rains fell for a second time, Ohtani broke his bat with a 101.1-mph fastball — a dribbler back to the mound — with runners at second and third.
“He’s got powerful stuff,” Castellanos said. “When he gets to a place where he can harness that, and he can play with that 101 whenever he wants, that’s kind of a Justin Verlander-type thing.”
Ohtani ended up throwing 83 pitches in five innings, getting 14 swings and misses and 19 called strikes. He threw his four-seam fastball 36 times, ranging in velocity from 91 to 101 mph. He got five swings and misses and eight called strikes with it.
He threw 22 sliders, a velocity range on those from 77 to 83 — six swings and misses and four called strikes.
The splitter is his money pitch. Until Wednesday, hitters were 1 for 44 off that pitch. And he threw 18 of them, between 83 and 88 mph, and got two swinging strikes and five called strikes.
Only four were put in play, but Castellanos got him. He whacked a splitter to the base of the wall in left for a double in the third inning. Hitters are now 2 for 48 off Ohani’s splitter.
“That was his splitter?” Castellanos said. “Huh. When I’m hitting, I have no idea. I just look for a pitch I can hit hard.”
Castellanos also doubled off him in the fifth, his 21st multi-hit game.
Tigers starter Mike Fiers, though maybe not with as dynamic an arsenal, matched Ohtani for 5.2 innings before the second storm blew in.
He allowed seven hits, but worked out of trouble in the second (getting Jefry Marte to ground out with runners at second and third) and in the fifth (stranding Ian Kinsler after a lead-off double).
The Angels scratched out a run in the third on a double by Mike Trout and a two-out single by Albert Pujols.
Fiers had two outs in the sixth and two strikes on Martin Maldonado when the rain came again.
After the second delay, Louis Coleman was on the mound to finish off Maldonado, which he did with a swinging strike three.
The Angels didn't get a hit after the second rain delay. Coleman worked a scoreless seventh inning. Joe Jimenez pitched a clean eighth inning. And Shane Greene did the same in the ninth.