The latest edition of the Tigers Show features fallout from the trade deadline and the Hall of Fame ceremony. The Detroit News
Oakland, Calif. — It’s not like Blaine Hardy had never thrown 100 pitches in a game before his seven-inning 106-pitch scoreless effort in the Detroit Tigers’ 13-inning 1-0 loss to the Oakland A’s Friday.
It just seemed like it.
He hadn’t reached triple digits in a game since May 25, 2014, when he did it for Toledo. Mostly a reliever since then, the left-hander began the 2018 season in and out of the Mud Hens’ rotation, and when he came up to the Tigers mid-May he was the long man in the Detroit bullpen.
Then injuries forced a switch, and he was starting.
Even though he’d been a part-time starter for the Mud Hens, it’s taken a while to build up arm strength. He’s built up now, and for that he could blame the A’s Matt Olson.
The Oakland first baseman, the only lefty the left-handed Hardy had to face, came up in the second inning, saw 13 pitches and walked. He came up in the leading off the fifth, saw another eight pitches and walked again.
“Olson really got the pitch count up. It seemed like half my pitches were to him,” Hardy said.
It wasn’t half. Through five innings, it was a third. By the time he left after the seventh, having gotten Olson to ground into an inning-ending double play on — gasp — the second pitch, 21.7 percent of the pitches Hardy had thrown went to just the one guy.
“I was on a pitch count, and (the possibility of a complete game) goes straight out the door,” Hardy said.
He had a no-hitter going into the seventh when Jed Lowrie singled to break it up.
“As soon as that ball was hit by Lowrie, I don’t want to say I was happy, but I can’t tell you if I would have been able to go another inning," Hardy said. “It was the most pitches this year. I was in the high 80s and now I’m throwing like 105, 106. I haven’t thrown over 100 pitches in a long time. It’s the pitcher’s goal, but it’s a lot.”
Olson came closest to possibly making Friday a nine-inning game.
During his first at-bat, he almost hit a Hardy pitch down the right-field line. The ball carried above the foul pole for what the A’s — and Hardy, too — thought was a home run. Umpire Gerry Davis called it foul, however, and an umpire’s review didn’t change anything.
“I was really impressed by the way Hardy threw,” Olson said. “I was up there just trying to get something, and he made it tough. The long at-bats are me hoping I could get something to handle. I never did. So I took the walk.”
Hardy said he wasn’t going to give Olson the pitch he was looking for.
“The only pitch I didn’t throw him was a change-up,” the lefty said. “And I wasn’t going to throw that because there was a chance that it would have been a repeat of that foul ball, but it would have been fair.”
Around the horn
Joe Jimenez was up in the eighth inning Friday and would have pitched then if the Tigers had taken the lead, manager Ron Gardenhire said Saturday. Jimenez sat down when Detroit didn’t score, but was the next pitcher up if eventual loser Buck Farmer had extended the game.
... Gardenhire said he wanted to stay away from Drew VerHagen Friday, but said he was good to go Saturday and was the club’s long man should one be needed.
... Shortstop Jose Iglesias was thrown out at third base in the 13th inning Friday after stealing second and seeing the throw from catcher Jonathan Lucroy fly into center field. During the sprint from second to third he took the time to look to center fielder Ramon Laureano, which is a no-no, and Gardenhire said he’d have a talk with him before the game. That being said, Iglesias beat the throw and was called out on appeal by the A’s when his front foot came off the base before his back foot made contact. Gardenhire said he watched the video but doesn’t believe coming off the base by a fraction should penalize a runner. “You slide over the bag and, yeah, maybe you come off the bag an inch,” he said. “They can prove that? We didn’t see that.”
... In addition to the near-miss homer by Olson, the A’s Jed Lowrie crushed a ball to right in the ninth inning that seemed headed out only to die in the chill of the Coliseum evening. “He did it twice,” Gardenhire said. “They live with it every day, so they know it. We come in and can get a little frustrated with it. It’s kind of like Comerica. You hit balls to center field, guys crush them and it’s like `what do I have to do to hit a home run?’”
John Hickey is a freelance writer.
Tigers vs. Athletics
First pitch: 4:05 p.m., Sunday, Oakland Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
■ LHP Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.41 ERA), Tigers: He makes his first start since July 23 in the series finale. Liriano last pitched Sunday when he threw two scoreless innings of relief against Kansas City.
■ RHP Trevor Cahill (3-2, 3.39) pitches for Oakland and has two wins in four starts since coming off the disabled list.