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'Poor performance': Casey Mize's home debut goes off rails, Tigers fall to hot-hitting Cubs 9-3

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Casey Mize’s first start at Comerica Park started off great.

Got off the rails a little bit in the second inning.

And it didn’t get much better on a hot, humid evening.

Mize failed to finish the fourth inning Monday as the Tigers lost to the opener of their series against the Chicago Cubs 9-3.

BOX SCORE: Cubs 9, Tigers 3

Mize went 3⅓ innings, allowing five hits and four runs (three earned) while walking two and striking out two.

In all, Mize threw 76 pitches — 44 for strikes and 32 balls, while allowing a home run and hitting a batter. 

Tigers pitcher Casey Mize after a walk in the second inning.

“Pretty poor performance,” Mize said. “Hate that I couldn’t go longer than 3.1 and not put our team in position to win. It’s just something to learn from for the next time out.

“I was tensing up (when) I should have been more calm and try to slow the game down, instead of allowing it to speed on me.

“We kind of executed the game plan real well in the first and the plan was to continue. But I just didn’t execute.”

Mize enjoyed pitching at Comerica Park, regardless if there were no fans.

“I was excited to pitch here, I love this park,” Mize said. “It’s our home park. It’s just a real cool atmosphere. I was real excited to pitch in this park.

“It’s just unfortunate it didn’t go the way I wanted.”

More:For Tigers' Isaac Paredes, it's 'just another game' facing Cubs

The Tigers, on the flip side, could muster little against Cubs starter Alec Mills.

The young right-hander went seven innings and allowed seven hits and three runs while walking one and striking out seven. Mills retired 10 straight Tigers at one point.

Christin Stewart supplied the big hit off Mills, hitting a two-run home run — Stewart’s second of the season — after JaCoby Jones led off the seventh inning with a single.

But Mills settled down and got out of the inning without further damage.

“We played a lot of defense early in that game and that’s tough, it takes your offense out of whack,” manager Ron Gardenhire said.

Cruising through the first inning, Mize sent the Cubs down in order. Mize struck out Anthony Rizzo and Javier Baez to end the inning, with both veterans giving Mize a long look after each strikeout.

The splitter Mize threw to Rizzo was particularly effective, inducing Rizzo into an uncomfortable, awkward swing.

More:Recap: Tigers handed 9-3 defeat in Casey Mize's Comerica Park debut

But things got squirrely for Mize in the second inning.

“That was a long inning, deep counts on almost every hitter and fouling off pitches,” Gardenhire said. “He needed to attack a little more. He’ll get there, it takes time.

“He didn’t command his fastball for whatever reason. Maybe because making adjustments against their good hitters. He just didn’t command the ball in the zone, which is one of his fortes.”

With one out Cubs catcher Willson Contreras reached on an infield hit and moved to second on a groundout.

After Mize hit Victor Caratini putting two Cubs aboard, David Bote singled bringing home Contreras.

Nico Hoerner then made it 2-0, following Bote with another single, this one to center field, scoring Caratini.

Mize walked Ian Happ to load the bases — the first walk Mize allowed in two games — but squirmed out of further trouble when Rizzo popped the first pitch to catcher Austin Romine in foul territory.

It didn’t get easier to open the third inning.

Mize allowed a single to Baez and saw Kyle Schwarber reach on a Jeimer Candelario error to open the inning.

But Contreras bounced into a fielder's choice double play, Baez’s sloppy baserunning getting him tagged in a rundown between third and home.

After walking Jason Heyward, Mize got Caratini on a grounder to end the inning.

But it was more work ahead in the fourth inning.

Bote opened the inning with a home-run into the left-field grandstand, after the Tigers had sliced the Cubs’ lead to 2-1 in the bottom of the third.

Hoerner reached base on a Willi Castro throwing error, stole second, and moved to third base on Ian Happ’s fly to center field.

At that point, Gardenhire had seen enough, replacing Mize with Tyler Alexander.

“I threw a lot of stressful pitches tonight and the more I was in that situation, I was really tensing up and trying to do a lot,” Mize said. “I have to settle down in those situations. In those situations, less is more. I didn’t do a good job of that tonight.”

Rizzo greeted Alexander with a run-scoring single up the middle. Baez then made it 6-1 with a two-run home run to right-center field.

Baez added his second homer of the evening, and fifth of the season, with a solo shot off reliever John Schreiber in the ninth inning. Bote added a two-run single off reliever Rony Garcia.

All the Tigers could muster offensively, other than Stewart’s home run, was a run in the third inning against Mills.

ted.kulfan@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @tkulfan