Detroit — You figured the dam would break sooner or later for the Chicago Cubs. They weren’t going to score one run a game for the rest of the year. Their lineup is too potent. If you were the Tigers, you just hoped they’d break out after they leave town.
Didn’t work that way. In fact, the dam broke Wednesday night, punctured in the fifth and blown open in the ninth.
A line-drive, two-run home run by David Bote in the fifth got things started, then a three-run home run by Javier Baez, followed by solo shot by Anthony Rizzo in the ninth finished off the Cubs' 8-2 romp.
"It was a good ballgame," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had some opportunities to get back in it, but they put some balls in the seats and that's what they can do."
The Cubs came in having scored one run in each of their last five games, a solo home run providing the run in each. And after Tigers starter Francisco Liriano limited them to one hit over four strong and efficient (51 pitches) innings, it looked like the drought might continue.
But Albert Almora Jr. opened the fifth with a single. Then Bote, who had been hitless in 18 straight at-bats, got an 83-mph slider on a 2-2 count and lashed it, 110.5-mph exit velocity, just over the left-field fence.
The Cubs ended up getting five hits that inning and scoring one more time, on a shift-busting, RBI single by newly acquired Daniel Murphy, who had two singles in his Chicago debut.
There might have been more carnage that inning had Cubs catcher Willson Contreras not tried to go from first to third on a shallow single to right field. Nick Castellanos threw him out easily — his ninth outfield assist this season, which is second among American League right fielders (Seattle's Mitch Haniger has 10).
It was a 4-2 game in the ninth when Victor Alcantara took the mound for the Tigers. He had been scored on just once in 17.2 innings. But with two one, Baez first fouled one hard off his leg. Then Alcantara threw one up and in on him that he didn't seem to appreciate.
The next pitch, Baez belted a pitch way out into the seats in left field — and he took his sweet time rounding the bases.
Rizzo followed with a line-drive homer into the Tigers bullpen in left.
"His ball wasn't sinking tonight," Gardenhire said of Alcantara. "It was flat. He was pretty excited and he was overthrowing everything. Talking to Mac (catcher James McCann) out there on the mound, he threw one that was supposed to be a sinker and it came out like a slider, spinning sideways.
"It was a big moment. The Cubs were in town, lots of fans and it was the first time he's gotten out of whack. I told him that on the mound. 'You're fine son. You've been throwing great.' It just wasn't sinking."
Before the home runs, though, the Tigers kept themselves in the fight. They made Cubs veteran lefty Jon Lester throw a lot of pitches (100 in 5.2 innings), but they didn’t do much actual damage.
They managed to scratch out one run in the second inning — a single by still-hot Victor Martinez, walk to Mikie Mahtook and a single by Ronny Rodriguez.
Mahtook, though, was thrown out at third by left fielder Ian Happ on Rodriguez’s single. Castellanos, who had three hits, had run successfully on Happ in the first inning, easily stretching a single into a double.
This time, Happ came up firing and nailed Mahtook.
The Tigers chased Lester in the sixth inning and he did not leave happy.
The last hitter he faced was Martinez, who was up with one out after singles by Jose Iglesias and Niko Goodrum. Lester thought he had Martinez struck out on a 2-2 pitch that replays showed to be in the strike zone.
He fumed at home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. Then, after getting Martinez to foul out to first, he glared at Marquez again.
Had Cubs manager Joe Maddon not removed him from the game at that point, Marquez might have.
Side-arming right-hander Steve Cishek was summoned, and more drama ensued.
Mahtook hit a ground ball to first and appeared to beat Cishek to first base, which would have meant a bases-loaded opportunity for McCann.
But he was called out by first base umpire James Hoye. And, despite the video board and press box replays showing the Mahtook’s foot hit the bag before Cishek, the call was upheld after review.
"It's pretty disappointing," Gardenhire said of the review. "We had view of it. I don't know. Obviously they said there wasn't enough to overturn it. What are you going to do? Everybody else saw it on the big screen. It sure looked like he Mikie beat him.
"Maybe their guy's spikes were a little longer than Mikie's."
The Tigers made one final push, loading the bases with one out in the eighth when trailing 4-1. They would only get one run — an unearned run.
Against reliever Carl Edwards Jr., Jeimer Candelario walked and with one out, Castellanos rapped his third hit.
That brought former Tiger Justin Wilson into the game and he got Goodrum to hit a soft, checked-swing roller to Rizzo at first. Rizzo didn’t field it cleanly and the Tigers had the bases loaded.
Maddon brought in right-hander Pedro Strop to face Martinez and got him to fly out to shallow center. Candelario bluffed but didn’t come home and Castellanos was nearly thrown out trying to get back to second.
Strop, though, walked pinch-hitter Jim Adduci to force in a run.
McCann hit a ground ball up the middle, but shortstop Baez made a smooth play going to his left and threw him out. A lot of shortstops don't make that play, while Baez made it look routine.
"He can cover some ground," Gardenhire said. "He can do some things. I've seen him play all over, and he's really good. He's got great range. He made it look easy, but it wasn't easy at all.
"I like the way we played. I'm not going to say we match up with them individually or anything like that. But we get after it ourselves and we stayed in the game...They just outplayed us."