Today was weird. I don’t know if there’s any other way to describe it. Although the Mariners had what felt like a billion more opportunities over the course of the game, the Tigers took advantage of every chance they had, including a walk-off single on a Jose Iglesias grounder just out of Andrew Romine’s diving reach.
It felt like the Mariners offense had countless opportunities. In six of their nine turns at bat, at least one runner made their way into scoring position. Unfortunately, the Mariners had only four runs to show for it. As a team, the Ners had just two hits in 13 chances with runners in scoring position and left 11 teammates on base.
Aware of his teammates’ struggle to drive in runners in scoring position, Kyle Seager took it upon himself to put the first run on the board on his own. He punished Blaine Hardy (who made his first major league start today) for leaving a change up high in the zone and knocked it over the right field fence.
The Mariners were able to get one more run off of Hardy, when Dee Gordon squared up a high cutter and knocked Ryon Healy home.
The most observable instance of the Mariners’ difficulty to capitalize on scoring opportunities came in the top of the fifth inning. Hardy got pulled after allowing two of the first three batters to reach base. Warwick Saupold entered in relief and promptly walked Mitch Haniger to load the bases with just one out. Healy stepped in and knocked a slider on the ground up the middle. It looked for a second like it might get through, but instead was fielded cleanly by Dixon Machado. Machado flipped to Jose Iglesias at second and Iglesias fired to first to double off Healy and end the inning.
Meanwhile, the Tigers became the first team to score on James Paxton since April. In the third inning, three singles were enough to generate two runs against the tall lefty. Niko Goodrum added a third run for Detroit on an opposite field homer off a 95 MPH fastball over the outside corner of the plate from James Paxton.
Paxton finished his outing after six innings of work, allowing three runs on six hits with four strikeouts and no walks. The three hits in the third and the home run in the fifth all came off fastballs at the waist or higher. The Tigers took advantage of Paxton’s few high misses in the zone and capitalized on their one true scoring opportunity against the Mariners’ ace.
The Tigers were able to calitalize on another chance in the seventh inning. Jose Iglesias got on board after getting plunked by a Chasen Bradford single. He would later come aroudn to score on a Mikie Mahtook double in the gap in right-centerfield.
Down two runs, the Mariners staged a comeback in the eighth inning, but needed a little help. Healy got on after knocking a one out single. After a Mike Zunino fly out, Gritty Ben Gamel pinch hit for Guillermo Heredia and took a slider off the leg to put the tying run on first.
The inning appeared to be over when Dee Gordon chopped a grounder to first, but Joe Jiminez dropped the toss from John Hicks, loading the bases for Jean Segura. Staying true to the hit machine that he is, Segura rifled a grounder back up the middle and tied the game at four.
Segura would go on to steal second base and put two runners in scoring position with two out. Normally, Robinson Cano would have the bat in his hands for this situation; however, Hardy broke Cano’s hand with an errant two-seam fastball. So instead, Andrew Romine stepped into the batters box. He went onto swing through a 96 MPH fastball to end the inning with no more damage done.
Just as the Tigers staged their two-run rally in the third with three singles, they would go onto win the game with three consecutive singles in the bottom of the ninth inning. Just like how Paxton’s three singles surrendered in the third were all off fastballs, Juan Nicasio forfeited all three hits with his heater. The first base knock was a soft chopper between Segura and Seager. Both attemped to field the ball, collided, and came up empty handed. While that was definitely unlucky, Nicasio didn’t bring swing and miss stuff today. He only managed to generate one swing and miss on his fastball, while Tigers hitters were able to foul it off nine times and put it in play three more times. With bats hitting balls that frequently, it’s no surprise the Tigers were able to walk it off.
The Mariners had numerous opportunities to win this series. Instead, they will leave Detroit having lost two of the three baseball games they played in one 24-hour time-frame. The Mariners are back at it again tomorrow in Minnesota.