With new leadership on board, Joey Wentz impresses as Tigers top Orioles again
Baltimore — Tigers manager AJ Hinch called his new boss Monday night.
“I told him, ‘Your first night on the job and you already fixed us,’” Hinch said, joking about the 11-0 win over the Orioles on Monday. “Already off to a good start.”
The coaching staff and players watched the live stream of new president of baseball operations Scott Harris’ press conference in the clubhouse before the game Tuesday.
“It's an important day," Hinch said. "You got a very good sense that he has extremely high standards and he’s going to have high expectations of the people that work in this organization.
“And that should be enough for me and anybody else to be the best version of ourselves.”
Day 2 of the new Harris administration went well. He won the press conference and the Tigers beat the Baltimore Orioles for the second straight night, this time 3-2 at Oriole Park.
After lefty Andrew Chafin got four outs, including a clutch strikeout of Adley Rutschman with two on to end the seventh, closer Gregory Soto locked it down for his 26th save.
“All of us should just focus on doing our jobs well and the rest will fall into place,” Hinch said. “I know there is going to be a lot of nervousness to this. But the best way to make the best first impression on a new boss is to do your job well.
“If you are a coach, coach your butt off. If you are a player, play well…that’s what’s going to resonate.”
Rookie lefty Joey Wentz certainly made a good impression. After Harris talked about prioritizing owning the strike zone on both sides of the ball, Wentz started the game by throwing seven straight strikes on his way to 5⅔ innings of scoreless baseball.
"Yeah, we heard him say that, we watched the press conference," Wentz said. "If that's being reiterated at the top of the organization, we probably should be better at it."
Mixing cutters and changeups off a well-spotted four-seam fastball, Wentz allowed just two infield hits along with a pair of walks. He admitted he took a few pages out of Tyler Alexander's playbook from the night before.
"Yeah, obviously watching the game yesterday and in our meeting today, they definitely reiterated some stuff that Todd (Alexander) did very well," Wentz said. "I thought if I could do some of the same things I'd have a chance to do well."
Catcher Eric Haase said the difference was that where Alexander was spotting his fastball on the outside part of the plate to right-handed hitters, Wentz was busting it inside.
"We wanted to keep the outer half open," Haase said. "We were even able to use Joey's misses to our advantage. His high, arm-side misses played really well into the back-door cutter. That was a really good pitch for him.
"And then once they started leaning over the plate, we went to changeups and heaters. He just did a great job of pitching."
After needing 91 pitches to go four innings in his previous start, he was much more efficient in this one — 86 pitches and 53 strikes. His night ended after he gave up a two-out infield hit to Rutschman in the sixth.
"I had made up my mind that (Jesus) Aguilar wasn't going to face Joey again," Hinch said of his decision to pull Wentz. "I hated taking him out like that after he'd made a pitch. But he'd done his part.
"His composure continues to be noticeable."
After reliever Alex Lange struck out Ramon Urias with a filthy 91-mph changeup, the Tigers had kept the Orioles off the board for 15 straight innings.
But with a runner on in the seventh, Joe Jimenez put a 95-mph fastball into the wheelhouse of Orioles rookie Gunnar Henderson and he did not miss it. His 409-foot rocket landed on the concourse, clearing the bleachers in right field, and very suddenly it was a one-run game.
"It felt like we were on our heels the rest of the game," Hinch said. "But Chafin was able to give us one-plus and Soto got through the ninth. We were just trying to get to the finish line and we had to use a lot of guys to do it."
The Tigers scored 11 runs Monday without a homer. All three runs came off long balls Tuesday.
Akil Baddoo, who had been stuck on one home run since April 13, slammed a 92-mph fastball from Orioles starter Austin Voth 448 feet into the bleachers in right-center field — a two-run home run.
Rookie Kerry Carpenter hit a solo home run to left-center in the seventh, a 406-footer off reliever Joey Krehbiel.
"I felt good the whole night," said Carpenter, who has hit five homers in 27 games. "I was always on the heater and trusting I could pick up the off-speed if he threw it. He threw the heater up and away and I went with it.
"It's nice to be able to do that for the team and the bullpen came through."
The Tigers had another run cut down at the plate in the fifth inning. Jeimer Candelario, who had four hits including a pair of doubles, singled and tried to score on a double to right by Baddoo.
Candelario seemed to be leaking oil around third base and was thrown out by a strong relay throw by second baseman Urias.
"That one was tough because there were no outs," Hinch said. "With no outs, you have to be sure. The play developed a little slower that all of us anticipated. Candy ran really hard but maybe he's not the fastest guy on the back end of a three-base run."
The Tigers players understand the situation they are in with new leadership and possibly a very different direction forthcoming once Harris gets his bearings. But, as has been drilled into them since they first got into pro ball — all you can do is control the things you can control.
"I just want to play well and show well," Wentz said. "If I can do that it well help me out for next year. I view this as an opportunity to play well and hopefully keep improving. All you can ask for is an opportunity and this is what I'm getting."