Detroit — Mike Fiers certainly didn’t damage his value Friday with the July 31 trade deadline looming.
Fiers did what he’s done for most of the season, pitched effectively enough to give the Tigers a chance to win — although they didn’t.
The bullpen collapsed in the eighth inning and allowed four Cleveland runs as the Indians pulled away for an 8-3 victory over the Tigers at Comerica Park.
Joe Jimenez allowed an RBI single to Yonder Alonso, breaking a 3-3 tie, then Brandon Guyer followed with a pinch-hit, three-run home run off Daniel Stumpf to cap the decisive eighth.
“They have a bunch of guys who can hurt you,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Fiers did fine, he pitched real well. He gave a great opportunity. We got back in the game, it was there. We just have to make some pitches in the end, and we didn’t make enough pitches.”
Gardenhire felt it was a learning experience for Jimenez and catcher James McCann, as Jimenez threw seven consecutive fastballs to Alonso before the hitter caught up to the pitch.
“We need to make a professional call and spin a ball every once in a while. He threw all fastballs,” Gardenhire said. “You have to throw a breaking ball somewhere and get him off the fastball. It’s just a learning experience…and the catcher, too. He’s got other fingers. Just pounding away at it, those guys are great hitters and will put the ball in play.”
Victor Martinez continued his recent torrid stretch with a solo home run in the sixth inning, tying the game at 3.
Consecutive RBI doubles from Nick Castellanos and Niko Goodrum in the third inning gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead they couldn't hold.
But a key from the Tigers’ perspective was another quality outing by Fiers, and whether he’ll have another opportunity to pitch in a Tigers uniform after Tuesday’s deadline.
“Still here now, so I’m not trying to think about it,” Fiers said. “I’m coming tomorrow and working and trying to get ready for my next start.”
Fiers allowed a two-run home run to Francisco Lindor, who also added a solo shot in the ninth, and a solo homer by Alonso that broke a 2-all tie in the sixth.
But other than those two unfortunate pitches, it was another serviceable outing for Fiers, who allowed five hits, three runs and two walks, while striking out four.
“I feel like that’s been my whole career, someone you can rely on as a starter,” Fiers said. “I’ll give you the innings, and quality innings, and go out there and battle for you.”
Gardenhire isn’t thinking about the trade deadline but wouldn’t mind seeing Fiers with the Tigers.
“It’s something I can’t control, I can’t worry about it,” Gardenhire said. “He did another nice job for us. We’ll go with the guys we have. Hopefully he’ll be here but if he’s not, he’s going to a contender. He’s been there before, which is a great thing for him.”
The way Fiers has pitched — that’s three runs or less allowed in 10 of his last 11 starts — he could help any contender’s staff and will likely attract interest in the next few days.
But there’s a sense of loyalty from Fiers’ end of things.
“I’m playing for the Tigers and this is the team that gave me a chance, an opportunity, to play this year and I’m giving everything I have to pitch for this team,” Fiers said. “Whatever happens in the future happens, but right now I’m 100 percent with these guys.
“The Tigers are still my team and they want me to pitch here and that’s what I’m doing.”
The difference in Fiers, as Gardenhire sees it, all comes down to health.
Fiers was bothered by back problems in spring training and struggled.
Now that’s he’s healthy, Fiers has looked like an effective, consistent pitcher.
“Health, it all goes to that,” Gardenhire said. “Spring training, he was having some issues with his back. But he hasn’t had that in a long time and he can prepare better for his starts.
“In this game, it all goes back to health and he’s healthy, and that’s a big thing for him. When he’s healthy he can pitch. He’s healthy now and throwing the ball well.”
Hardy to start
Gardenhire said after the game the Tigers will start Blaine Hardy on Saturday instead of Francisco Liriano.
Liriano had an allergic reaction Friday and spent most of the day in the hospital.
“He’ll (Liriano) be here tomorrow, but we’ll not start him after what he’s gone through today,” Gardenhire said. “This is something that kind of knocked him back today, so we’ll definitely not start him.”
Hardy has done some spot starting this season, and should be good for upward of 70 pitches.
“I kind of come into the clubhouse ready for everything,” Hardy said. “If something happens to come up, like today, I’ve built up hopefully enough to where I can give us a quality start.”