First, let me pause for a moment to complain about FanGraphs. They are my first resource whenever I want to check some baseball stats. I like their website and the way things are organized. But their information about Jon Heasley completely left out his curveball. It’s a sensational pitch, or at least it was tonight. So I’m sorry I didn’t mention it in the gamethread preview.
As you might have guessed based on that preamble, Heasley was very good tonight. He ended up pitching 5.1 scoreless innings while striking out three and walking two. The lack of strikeouts, if it continues, will likely jeopardize his future as an effective major league starting pitcher but, for tonight, he was plenty good enough. He was helped out with a couple of double-play balls but you have to credit the pitcher for inducing those grounders, too.
He was relieved with one out in the sixth inning by Domingo Tapia. Tapia’s ERA coming into this game was under 2.00 and he had pitched very well. He continued to pitch pretty well but it just didn’t seem to matter. With a man at first, Tapia threw a pitch high and tight to Jonathan Schoop. It left his bat at a measly 67.1 MPH, but it was hit just hard enough to get over the head of Nicky Lopez into left field. Lopez made a head’s up play to throw to third and, after review, caught Akil Baddoo trying to take the extra base. Next up was Robbie Grossman who hit a changeup low in the zone at 65.6 MPH for another single into left.
Then came Miguel Cabrera, who has so many frustrating hits in his career against the Royals. He took a sinker low and out of the zone and hit it into right just out of the reach of the diving Hunter Dozier. If Dozier was a better defender that ball is caught and the inning is over - despite being hit more than 90 MPH it had only a .290 XBA, according to Baseball Savant. If Dozier made a better decision he hits the cutoff man and they gun down Grossman trying to score at home. Neither thing happened so the Tigers scored two. That would be all the Tigers needed but Tapia’s night ended one pitch later with a changeup off the plate outside to Jeimer Candelario that was somehow barreled off the bottom of the fence in left-center for an RBI double.
To close out the Royals’ pitching, Jake Brentz escaped the inning without anymore damage, Greg Holland worked around trouble in the seventh, Ervin Santana started the eighth and gave up a pair of runs without recording an out; another two-RBI single for Cabrera. Dylan Coleman made his second major league appearance and managed to escape the mess left to him by Santana without allowing any further damage.
For the Tigers, Tarik Skubal pitched four shutout innings. It’s unclear why he was pulled with only 45 pitches thrown before the fifth inning. His bullpen had a bit more luck than the Royals; Drew Hutchison, Kyle Funkhouser, and Michael Fulmer combined to allow no earned runs over the last five innings. They did allow eight baserunners between them, but kept escaping jams. Among those jams escaped was one in the top of the eighth with runners at second and third with one out where no runs scored thanks to nasty curveballs strikeouts by Funkhouser and Fulmer against Salvador Perez and Andrew Benintendi respectively.
The Royals’ only run of the night was scored without the benefit of a hit in the fifth inning. Carlos Santana walked to leadoff the inning and went to second on a passed ball. Adalberto Mondesi bunted him over (insert GIF of unadulterated rage here.) Santana then scored on a Hunter Dozier sacrifice fly.
- I saw a headline that Atlanta is using old friend Jorge Soler as their leadoff hitter. Baseball is weird.
- This game was aiming to be done in under two-and-a-half hours until the Tigers started batting in the eighth. Santana and Coleman not only allowed a ton of baserunners but also threw a lot of balls. Miguel Cabrera got nine pitches from Santana alone and at one point there were four straight full counts.
- Salvy is one for his last thirteen after breaking Johnny Bench’s home run record. He has eight games remaining to hit three more home runs if he’s going to break Soler’s franchise record.
- Hunter Dozier finished a home run shy of the cycle, but he was also robbed of a home run by Akil Baddoo in his first at-bat. What do you call it when a player is mere inches shy of the cycle? A cry-cycle. Yes, I did come up with that myself. No, I won’t promise to never do that again. Give me a better punchline in the comments.
- Those three hits mean that Dozier is now hitting better than 10% above league average in the second half of the season. His wRC+ is over 150 with six doubles, five home runs, and a triple for the month of September. The defense is absolutely atrocious, but the bat demands to be played somewhere.
The Royals will play their final scheduled road game of 2021, tomorrow; there is one more on Monday but it’s a rescheduled game from the rainout in Cleveland earlier this week. Kris Bubic (5-6, 4.80 ERA) will go for KC. Old friend Wily Peralta (4-3, 3.04 ERA) will go for the Tigers.