Tigers decide to play, hang on to beat Cubs, win second straight series
Detroit – On a night where some sports stopped across the country, the Tigers and Cubs decided to finish up their three-game series Wednesday at Comerica Park. But they did so with their hearts heavy and sense of justice impugned.
"Things have to change in this world and in this country," Tigers shortstop Niko Goodrum said after the Tigers held on to beat the Cubs 7-6 and win their second straight series. "This has to stop. There's right and there's wrong and what is going on is wrong."
In Kenosha, Wis., police shot a 29-year-old, unarmed black man named Jacob Blake, sparking outrage and protest across the country. The NBA, WNBA and MLS canceled their schedules Wednesday. Also, Brewers-Reds, Mariners-Padres and Dodgers-Giants games were canceled on the MLB slate.
“Given the pain in the communities of Wisconsin and beyond following the shooting of Jacob Blake, we respect the decisions of a number of players not to play tonight,” read a statement from commissioner Rob Manfred’s office. “Major League Baseball remains united for change in our society and we will be allies in the fight to end racism and injustice.”
Both the Tigers and Cubs players discussed the possibility of not playing. Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward opted to not to play in the game, but he encouraged his teammates to play.
"We had some conversation with (the Cubs), our players did, and our players decided we were going to play, together, as a unit," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We are all understanding of what's going on in the world and in this country and we've got to fix these things.
"We are all a part of it. We all have each others' backs in here. It was a tough day, but the decision was made by our guys to play."
Goodrum said he made the decision to play because he wasn't sure that not playing would have had any impact on the situation, but he supported others who opted not to play.
"It’s bigger than sports," he said. "This is a game we play. What’s going on is much bigger than a baseball game or any sport that’s going on. These are lives that are being lost, day in and day out, of the same thing. It’s a shame that it’s going on the way it is.
"People who look like me are getting shot by the police. It's messed up. Every day you turn the TV on, and you're seeing the same thing. Something has to change."
With "Equality Now" blazing on the giant scoreboard at Comerica Park, the game went on. And it did not lack for action.
The Tigers erased a two-run deficit with a five-run sixth inning and took a 7-3 lead into the ninth. Before we go on to the wild finish, though, best to explain why Buck Farmer was pitching in the ninth with a four-run lead.
Joe Jimenez, who has faltered in his last couple of outings, is no longer the closer.
"We made a change," Gardenhire said. "(Jimenez) is a little out of whack, a little frustrated and we wanted to try, as best as we can in a Major League game, to get him situations that are a little easier on him right now."
Jimenez worked the sixth inning and gave up a solo home run to Kyle Schwarber that put the Cubs up 3-1.
"Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) talked to him, and Jimenez agreed, he needs to find it before we put him back in the closer role," Gardenhire said. "We'll give him a little time here."
Gardenhire said he was going to use the combination of Bryan Garcia, Jose Cisnero, Gregory Soto and Farmer — based on lineups and matchups — to close out games going forward. Farmer was pitching in the ninth because those other pitchers were used to get through situations in the seventh and eighth innings.
Funny how fast a four-run lead can get away. A double by David Bote, RBI single by Nico Hoerner and RBI double by Albert Almora Jr. — boom, it's 7-5 with nobody out.
"Contrary to popular belief, guys aren't perfect every night and it was one of those night for me," Farmer said. "I had to battle to get my ball down in the zone and I wasn't getting ahead in the count. I was creating some bad situations for myself and I take full responsibility for that."
After Ian Happ singled, Anthony Rizzo hit a ball to the wall in center field that looked like might reverse the fortunes of this game. But center fielder Victor Reyes tracked it and caught it as he ran into the wall.
"He made a heck of a catch," Farmer said. "It brought me back in the zone, back to trusting my defense. It was grind time after Reyes made that catch and got me my first out. I was going to bunker down and get those last two outs, and fortunately, I did."
It was an 18-hit night for the Tigers' offense.
Cameron Maybin and Austin Romine each had three hits and ignited the pivotal sixth with back-to-back doubles. Romine’s came after Cubs catcher Willson Contreras misplayed his foul pop up in front of the Chicago dugout.
Reliever Rowan Wick was replaced by Ryan Tepera and the Tigers responded with five straight two-out hits – an RBI single by Jonathan Schoop, single by Miguel Cabrera, RBI single by Jeimer Candelario, two-run double by Niko Goodrum and an infield single by Jorge Bonifacio.
"We got some good baseball going on now," Goodrum said. "Guys are playing the game the way it's supposed to be played. We need to find a way to keep it going."
Cabrera, who had three hits and a walk, singled home Reyes with what ended up being a vital add-on run in the seventh. Schoop got his third hit of the game in that inning, as well.
"That ninth inning might take a few years off the end of my life," Gardenhire said. "It was one of those deals where we really had nowhere else to go. We had Rony Garcia and John Schreiber, that's all we left available in the bullpen.
"Buck was going to have to hang in there and get that one."
The Tigers, climbing back toward .500 (13-16), open up a four-game series with the Central Division-leading Twins Thursday.