Mize goes 6 innings, Cabrera makes history as Tigers beat Royals, 4-2
Detroit – Casey Mize had just induced a clutch 5-4-3 double-play ball from Royals slugger Jorge Soler and he was one out away from completing the sixth inning and holding a two-run lead. He noticed lefty Daniel Norris was warm and ready for left-handed hitting Andrew Benintendi, who was strolling up to the plate.
Then he turned and saw manager AJ Hinch walking to the mound and let out an expletive.
"I just let out a little frustration," Mize said. "A lot of frustration, but I won't say what I said. I didn't see him signal (to the bullpen) so I just had my eyes on him."
Usually when Hinch comes to the mound, there's no negotiating. His decision is typically made before he leaves the dugout. This time was different.
"He asked me how I felt and I told him I want it," Mize said. "He said, 'I want you to have it, but you better go right at him. Don't dance around it. This is your guy and I believe you can get him.
"'But you better go right at him.'"
One pitch later, after Benintendi flew out to left, Mize walked back to the dugout with the 4-2 lead intact — a lead that relievers Daniel Norris, Michael Fulmer and Gregory Soto defended in the final three innings to secure the Tigers' third straight win and their first series win against the Royals since early in 2019.
It also extended the Royals losing streak to 10 games.
"I like the fact that he wanted to stay in the game," Hinch said. "And I went out there to tell him this is your inning to finish. But you have to let it go right now. I think both of us were frustrated by how many batters he was falling behind the entire night.
"But he picked a really good time to throw a first pitch strike to get an out."
It was Mize's third straight quality start and, in his sixth attempt, his first win at Comerica Park. He gave up just three hits and struck out four. And he did it, for the most part, without his splitter.
"I was messaging back and forth with Derek Holland after the game," Mize said. "I told him that was a grind. I didn't like my stuff as a whole."
Holland told him what starting pitchers have said for decades: If you make 30 starts in a season, you will have your best stuff for 10 of them and dominate, you will have OK stuff in 10 and have to grind, and in the other 10 you won't have anything.
"Tonight I didn't have much at all," he said. "I'm just happy I was able to compete through that."
That's the key right there. He competed. He mixed speeds on his two fastballs — 39 four-seam fastballs, with a velocity range of 90-97 mph, and 23 two-seamers (90-96) — and mixed his slider off of those two fastballs. He only threw six splitters and seven knuckle-curves.
And the Royals fought him hard. He went to eight full counts in the game and he won the battle seven times.
“It was a mature outing for him," Hinch said. "Just the way it started: he nicked Whit Merrifield and walked Santana after a 10-pitch battle and he gave up two runs (in the first inning). But he took a step back and competed with less than his best stuff.
"I told him after his outing, you can win without your best stuff in a night where you stay in the fight and keep pitching and keep winning battles."
Mize also neutralized the five left-handed hitters in the Royals lineup. Over his young career, lefties have hit .295 against him with a .986 OPS. But Wednesday, Mize limited them to one hit in 11 at-bats.
Afterward though, Mize wanted to talk about something else. History was made on the field Wednesday night. With two RBI singles, Miguel Cabrera passed Omar Vizquel to become the all-time hits leader for Venezuelan-born players.
"What an honor it is to share the field with the greatness that is Miguel Cabrera," Mize said. "It's just a remarkable feat what he was able to do tonight. It's something I will be able to look back on and just be amazed by. That I was here for this game, that I started and got to share the field with him."
His first hit tied the game at 2-2 and his second one gave him 2,878 for his career — more than any other Major League player from Venezuela.
"Right now I'm relieved because so many people have been talking to me all season and this past year about when am I going to pass that record," Cabrera said. "It was in my head. So right now, I am relieved. I don't have to worry about that. I just hope I can keep hitting and get hot because there has been a lot of frustration this season."
Cabrera, whose average just a week ago had fallen below .100, has had multiple hits in three of his last four games.
"I've really struggled this season with runners in scoring position," he said. "I don't get on base too much. I've been working on that, trying to get on base, try to make contact and just make something happen to help my team.
"I'm feeling better. More confident at home plate. I'm not chasing (pitches) like before."
And now he's the Ty Cobb of Venezuelan baseball, if Ty Cobb had 489 career home runs.
"This is really a big deal for him personally and for his country," Hinch said. "So many great Venezuelans have played this game. The pride that Venezuelan players play with, the energy, the spirit and Miggy is at the top for most hits. That's a big deal.
"Miggy needs to really enjoy this one."