Offense perks up, Tigers give Indians a taste of their own medicine in 9-4 romp

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland – The Tigers offense and bullpen picked up struggling starter Jose Urena big-time Wednesday night, off-setting four solo home runs and beating the Cleveland Indians 9-4 in the first of two rain-delayed seven-inning games at Progressive Field. 

Ignited by Harold Castro, the Tigers scored twice in the second, fourth, sixth and seventh innings, pounding out 15 hits and winning for the second time in the last 10 games against the Indians.

Castro drew a bases-loaded walk in the second inning, which was followed by an RBI single by Jake Rogers. In the fourth, Castro doubled home Zack Short and scored on a sacrifice fly by Jonathan Schoop.

Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera watches his sacrifice fly in the sixth inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Cleveland Indians, Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in Cleveland. Jonathan Schoop scored on the play.

With two outs in the top of the fifth, Nomar Mazara doubled and Castro singled him home, breaking a 4-4 tie. He ended up with three hits on the night. 

Schoop ended up with two hits and three RBIs. Miguel Cabrera, who hit his 493rd career home run here Monday, had two singles and a sacrifice fly. Jeimer Candelario had a double, single and RBI. And Akil Baddoo had three hits from the leadoff spot and his 10th stolen base of the season.  

The bullpen handled the rest. Right-hander Kyle Funkhouser entered with runners on second and third and one out with the game tied in the fourth, He stuck out Austin Hedges and got Oscar Mercado to fly out.

"The coaching staff is trusting me more and more and putting me in some big spots and I love that," said Funkhouser, who dispatched all five hitters he faced. "As a competitor, you want to be in those moments when the game is on the line. It's a competitor's dream."

The last out he got was Indians' slugger Jose Ramirez, who fouled a 96-mph fastball from Funkhouser off his face.

"He was really aggressive to a pitch that was inside," Funkhouser said. "I originally thought it hit his eye. I expected to see some blood. Really glad there wasn't. Hopefully he's fine." 

Ramirez went down hard and seemed dazed, but he stayed in the at-bat, grounding out to shortstop. Ramirez played another inning in the field but came out of the game in the top of the sixth inning. 

He was not in the lineup for Game 2. He was taken to hospital for x-rays and observation. 

"He's a really good player and a really tough guy," Funkhouser said. "We have a lot of respect for him."

Lefty Gregory Soto entered in the sixth to face lefties Eddie Rosario and Bobby Bradley, who had already homered twice. Soto, firing 98-mph bullets, struck them both out and got Harold Ramirez to tap one back to him. 

Bryan Garcia closed it out in the seventh. Bradley Zimmer, who walked to lead off the seventh, was the only runner that reached against the Tigers relievers. 

"The solo homers didn't beat us tonight," Funkhouser said. 

This game was supposed to happen on Tuesday night. Urena had warmed up and was ready to attack the Indians lineup. But about 15 minutes before first pitch, the rains came and didn’t stop and the game was pushed to 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, part of a straight, seven-inning doubleheader.

“Maybe that’s a good thing,” manager AJ Hinch joked. “He’s a sinkerball pitcher and they say sinkerballers are better when they are a little tired.”

It wasn’t a good thing. Not on any level. The rains delayed the Game 1 start time two hours and 29 minutes. Urena’s outing lasted half that long. He was tagged for four solo home runs in 3.1 innings.

It was Urena’s fourth straight short outing and continued a trend where the velocity on his sinker and four-seam fastball were down (from 94-95 mph earlier in the season to 92-93 Wednesday) and the spin rate on his slider was significantly down (389 rpms).

He left a 92-mph sinker up to Jose Ramirez in the first inning. He put a change-up into Cesar Hernandez’s wheelhouse in the third. And Bradley hit a slider and a sinker out of the park. It ended up being 1,575 feet of home runs. Bradley accounted for 830 feet himself.

After allowing just three home runs in his first 11 starts (59 innings), he’s now been tagged with eight in his last 13.2 innings.

"Jose looked pretty good, just a couple of mistakes that they really took advantage of," Funkhouser said. "No one likes giving up home runs, no one likes giving up runs. But he limited the damage, getting the guys before and the guys after the homers, and giving us a chance to win."

Hinch said on Tuesday that Urena, whom the Tigers signed for $3.25 million last winter, would remain in the rotation until the All-Star break.