Cabrera's 504th career homer, Vest's first career save highlight Tigers' win
Detroit — Tuna? Somebody threw tuna on him?
The celebratory beer shower has taken on a new twist, apparently.
"I'm still inhaling baby power," said reliever Will Vest, who struck out Ramon Urias and Rylan Bannon with the bases loaded in the ninth inning to earn his first big-league save and preserve a much-needed 4-2 victory for the Tigers over the Baltimore Orioles at Comerica Park Friday night.
"That's why I used my inhaler before talking to you guys, from inhaling all the baby powder," Vest said. "Somebody threw tuna on me, too. Awesome."
Vest, who has now pitched 12.1 straight scoreless innings, was an emergency call for manager AJ Hinch after closer Gregory Soto hit the first two batters he faced in the ninth and then walked the bases loaded with one out.
"My thought was, Gregory Soto is really effective in the strike zone, but he's had a hard time," Hinch said. "With the way the inning started and where it was going, and the amount of pitches he had thrown — to get to the finish line against right-handed hitters, we were going to have to rely on things correcting themselves pretty quickly. And Will Vest has pitched as well as anybody we have in the pen.
"I didn't love putting him in a tough situation he'd never been in before, but he's not going to have experience until he gets in those situations. Incredible job by him."
Vest, who the Tigers lost to Seattle in the Rule 5 draft in 2021, threw eight pitches, six sliders and two four-seam fastballs and got four misses on five swings.
"Honestly, I felt like the emotions were relatively the same as my other outings," Vest said. "Maybe it was pumping a little more, but I try to keep it the same. My biggest focus was trying to stay in the strike zone."
He got help from catcher Tucker Barnhart, who made a superb block on a slider in the dirt to save a run.
"The block is something I take a lot of pride in," Barnhart said. "It doesn't matter who is on the mound or what the situation of the game is, I'll take my chances getting in front of something every time."
Vest and Barnhart both pumped their fists after the final out.
"Those situations, there's nothing better," Barnhart said. "I'm an emotional guy. I play with emotion and when you see that same emotion out there from him, it's really cool. I'm really happy for him. Your firsts in the big leagues, you never forget them."
For the first seven innings, it looked like it was going to be a cruise for the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera provided the offensive spark with an RBI double in the third inning and a solo home run to left field that ignited a three-run sixth.
"That was huge for our team," Vest said. "We made a comment in the bullpen that it felt like we were up by 10. Hopefully we can continue that feeling moving forward."
The double was No. 602 for Cabrera, pushing him past Barry Bonds and into 17th on the all-time list. The homer, reaching down and hoisting a slider from Orioles starter Jordan Lyles over the fence in left, was No. 504, tying him with former Orioles great Eddie Murray for 27th all-time.
"We've been trying to get some momentum offensively and he sparked us," Hinch said. "It came at the perfect time."
The other part of the story was the Tigers' new left-handed ace.
By now, it’s an old and tired bit for Orioles fans. Yes, the club traded a left-handed pitching prospect named Eduardo Rodriguez to get Andrew Miller for their playoff run in 2014. And hey, Miller made good, pitching in 23 games down the stretch and throwing 7.1 scoreless innings in the playoffs.
But, just like John Smoltz will forever remind Tigers’ fans of the Doyle Alexander trade in 1987, Rodriguez keeps rubbing the Orioles’ noses in it.
"I try to do my best every time," said Rodriguez, who recorded his first win as a Tiger.
Rodriguez came into his start Friday night with a 9-0 record and a 1.81 ERA against Baltimore and then proceeded to shut them out for 6.2 innings. He was masterful, cleverly mixing cutters, four-seam fastballs and sinkers, moving them around the strike zone and keeping the baseball off the barrel of the bat.
He gave up five hits, all singles and the average exit velocity on the 20 balls the Orioles put in play was a mild 78.6 mph. Rodriguez has allowed three earned runs or less in six of his seven starts.
His outing ended at a season-high 104 pitches after he walked two hitters with two outs in the seventh.
"He didn't want to come out of the game," Hinch said. "We were just talking about the situation where he's dealing and all of a sudden I come out to get him. He says he's going to push me back one of these days like he sees other guys do on TV.
"I told him I hope it comes after six or seven scoreless. Sure enough, here it was."
Lefty reliever Andrew Chafin cleaned up the mess. After Cedric Mullins’ infield single loaded the bases – excellent stop by first baseman Spencer Torkelson to keep a run from scoring – Chafin struck out Jorge Mateo.
Things got a little dicey in the eighth, too.
Jacob Barnes had allowed one run in 12 innings this year, but the Orioles hit his first two pitches out of the yard. Trey Mancini hit his first pitch on a line into the Tigers’ bullpen in left. Anthony Santander hit his second pitch deep into the seats in right field.
Barnes walked Tyler Nevin before departing. Alex Lange got quickly into the soup, too. An error at third base by Jeimer Candelario and a two-out walk to No. 9 hitter Chris Owings loaded the bases, bringing Mullins to the plate again.
Lange fell behind 3-1, but got Mullins to pop out to Schoop behind first base.
In the bottom of the seventh, the Tigers missed tacking on another run by a few feet. Javier Báez launched a high, hooking drive toward the foul pole in left. He stood at home plate long after third base umpire Mark Wegner signaled fair ball, as if he knew it was foul.
The umpires huddled and changed the call to foul. The Tigers challenged the call but it was confirmed by video review. Báez struck out on the next pitch.
"I'm not going to sit here and criticize how we won when we've gotten to the finish line and won so few lately," Hinch said. "That drive home to Birmingham I have, I haven't had a happy drive in a long time, it really feels that way.
"Absolutely this is a nice win for us."
It was just their fourth win in their last 20 games.
We're running a new-subscriber special. Support local journalism, and subscribe here.