As someone who also covers the Tigers, I honestly don’t know what to tell everyone.
I barely recognized the Tigers this series. Their offense was present, their defense was functional. No one is more surprised than I am. Going in I predicted they would luck their way into a single game win. Thankfully, I was right, but it got uncomfortably close for the past two games.
So what happened today?
Well for starters, aside from an unlucky first inning for both starters, it wasn’t until the seventh that things started to get ugly. Trevor Richards, making his Rays debut, looked pretty solid all things considered (he and catcher Mike Zunino didn’t even meet for the first time until right before the game). He gave up eight hits, but the two-run homer to Harold Castro was the only red in his ledger for the day. He also managed to strike out six. And that was in only 3.1 innings of work.
Tigers starter Matthew Boyd — who many were hoping would continue his recent slump — gave up an RBI hit to Travis d’Arnaud, but very little else after that first inning. He ultimately went seven innings, gave up a single run on two hits, and struck out nine.
Rays relievers had mixed results. Colin Poche had a nice 1.2 innings of work with no hits and to strikeouts. He gave way to Andrew Kittredge, who gave up two more runs to the Tigers: a Reyes RBI double and a Castro sac fly.
Also weird to note that the Tigers and Rays both had two catchers in their lineups today. The Tigers opted to put John Hicks behind the dish and use new arrival Jake “Don’t Let His Slash Line Fool You” Rogers as the DH. Yeah, not too often you see a guy who is under the Mendoza Line DHing, but Rogers is good. Meanwhile the Rays opted to pair Zunino with Richards and use d’Arnaud at first.
In the eighth, luck tipped in the Rays direction, with a pitching change from Boyd to Buck Farmer. A double play was turned into a fielder’s choice on review, meaning a pinch-hitting Eric Sogard was able to stay on base, then advance to scoring position one run later. A wild pitch in front of Pham advanced Sogard to third and then BAM, a two-run homer from Tommy Pham suddenly had the game at a one run deficit.
d’Arnaud, who moved to catch after Choi and Sogard entered the game, took a pretty brutal hop in the dirt from Alvarado right under the mask and seemed to hit him right in the throat. He rebounded quickly, but it looked pretty brutal. After Alvardo walked Rogers, another ball hit d’Arnaud again. Bet he was wishing he was still on first base. None of it slowed him down any, as he managed to throw out Rogers who was too far of the base trying to advance to second. The Tigers only baserunner was now erased.
A Willy Adames catching error kept the inning alive, as he tried to scoop up a ball and ended up sending it flying into the air, leaving two runners on as the Rays tried to escape the inning. They closed it down on a strikeout and headed to the bottom of the ninth.
Joe Jimenez came on to close things out for the Tigers. d’Arnaud was able to get safely to first when Beckham was pulled off the base. The Tigers had it reviewed, but he remained safe on first. Adames was walked, and Kiermaier came in to hit for Aguilar. With no outs, Kiermaier attempted a bunt, which popped foul. He repeated the move and this time it was caught in foul territory. Not exactly the best move.
A foul tip into Hicks meant both catchers had been hit hard in this game. I feel for catchers, that’s a tough job.
A Brosseau single hit in just the right place that Dawel Lugo had nowhere to throw it and all three runners were safe.
Choi walked it off! Rays won 5-4 on a perfectly placed hit by Choi.