Tigers show their grit with late comeback but fall in 10th to Blue Jays
Detroit — For six innings, Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Alek Manoah, the hulking 6-foot-6, 260-pound rookie, was as oppressive and defeating as the heavy, 90-degree air at Comerica Park Saturday night.
"He's a big, physical dude," Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch said.
"It just almost felt like he was inventing pitches out there," Tigers catcher Eric Haase said.
Manoah allowed one single through six innings, piling up seven strikeouts, and the 2-0 lead he took into the seventh inning seemed commanding.
But these aren’t your 2019 Tigers. They scratched out two runs in the seventh inning to tie it and eventually get it to extra innings.
"These guys play hard, man," Hinch said. "They never give up. We weren't doing anything throughout the game but in the dugout, the spirit is good, the vibe is good, and the fight back."
It ended on the negative, though. The Blue Jays, who are still battling for a wild-card spot in the American League, scored their free runner in the top of the 10th inning and staved off the Tigers 3-2 to even the series.
A bloop single to left field by Corey Dickerson off right-hander Kyle Funkhouser, plated Vlad Guerrero Jr., who started the 10th at second base. Left fielder Akil Baddoo charged the ball and made a strong throw to the plate, but Guerrero slid across ahead of the tag.
"That was tough," Haase said. "The ball stalled out coming to Akil, so it wasn't one he could work through and get his momentum going. It took him toward the line. He had to stop, set his feet and make a perfect throw.
"I don't think he could've done anything better on that ball. (Guerrero) just beat it by a step."
The Tigers got their free runner thrown out at third base in the bottom of the 10th. Zack Short, inserted as a pinch-runner, was thrown out at third on a strong play by shortstop Bo Bichette, who fielded Harold Castro's ground ball nearly directly behind Short.
"Trying to advance is the read," Hinch said. "I think he was a tick delayed in going to third as he read the bounce and read where it was. It created a window of opportunity for Bichette to make a play."
They didn't get another runner into scoring position against Jays closer Jordan Romano.
It was the Tigers' fourth extra-inning game in their last seven. They are 2-2 in those games.
Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman started the seventh with singles. For Grossman, it was the first time he faced a traditional three-man outfield alignment in the game. The Jays played four outfielders against him with the bases empty in his first two at-bats.
After Manoah struck out Miguel Cabrera with a well-located, 95-mph fastball (his eighth strikeout), Jeimer Candelario lined an RBI single to center. Manoah had gotten called third strikes on Candelario the first two times up.
Trevor Richards replaced Manoah and gave up a run-scoring fielder’s-choice grounder to Haase. Haase hustled down the line and just avoided the double play. Tie score.
"We play hard," Hinch said. "That's a play that represents us."
Haase had just missed two fastballs in that at-bat, fouling them off.
"I fouled off too many pitches to hit," he said. "That's kind of the end of the story right there."
The Blue Jays broke a scoreless tie in the sixth on a solo homer by catcher Alejandro Kirk. He hit a cutter thrown by Tigers’ lefty Tyler Alexander. The cutter had helped Alexander dispatch the first five hitters he faced.
The one he threw to Kirk cut to the inside part of the plate like it was supposed to but Kirk was able to turn on it and bash it 412 feet over the bullpens in left.
The Blue Jays added a run to Alexander’s ledger in the seventh — though he didn’t much deserve it. Randal Grichuk led off the inning with a routine pop-up behind second base. Willi Castro misjudged it off the bat and the ball fell a couple of feet in front of him.
Grichuk scored with two outs on a single by Bichette off reliever Jason Foley.
It was an encouraging return for veteran right-hander Jose Urena. Making his first start since July 17, he pitched three scoreless innings, allowing three hits. He faced 11 hitters in 49 pitches. Very efficient.
"I think that was the best I ever seen him, period," Haase said. "I know how long he was pitching with that (groin) injury, whether it was nagging him or whatnot. But that was a real good sign that he's back to healthy.
"He was throwing his four-seamer (95 mph) up and that really opened up his sinker after that."
The Tigers opted to activate Urena now, even though he’s not fully built up. Thus, he was used as an opener Saturday.
"He worked his tail off to rehab and get back," Hinch said. "We weren't sure he was going to make it, just given the timeline and what he had to do to get himself right. We stole an outing from his rehab process because we needed innings in the big leagues.
"He came up and delivered."
After the game, Hinch announced that outfielder Daz Cameron was optioned to Triple-A Toledo to clear a spot for lefty Matthew Boyd, who will start in the series finale Sunday.
"We're sending Daz down for at least a 10-day period here to get his rhythm and timing and get his swing going in the right direction," Hinch said. "He needs to play every day, something he's not doing right now.
"Hopefully between now and the end of the season he can get more time up here in the big leagues."
Cameron was 2 for 21 since coming off the injured list.