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Tigers stay perfect against Mariners as Marco Gonzales struggles

UPDATED: Tue., June 8, 2021

Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, left, greets Eric Haase after Haase's two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Detroit.   (Associated Press)
Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera, left, greets Eric Haase after Haase's two-run home run during the first inning of a baseball game against the Seattle Mariners, Tuesday, June 8, 2021, in Detroit.  (Associated Press)
By Ryan Divish Seattle Times

The Detroit Tigers have now won 25 games this season, which surprisingly isn’t even among the lowest in baseball or in the American League Central.

And a quick glance at their results reveals the team they’ve beaten more than any other this season is Seattle Mariners, which is impressive since the two teams have played a total of four games – all Detroit wins.

The Tigers got a solid start from former Eastside Catholic standout Matthew Boyd and the Mariners late-inning effort to rally fell short in a 5-3 loss Tuesday night at Comerica Park.

“For whatever reason, the Tigers have had our number so far this year,” manager Scott Servais said with a level of restraint. “I can’t really explain it. We haven’t swung the bat that well against them.”

Well, Servais sort of gave the reason.

The Mariners’ offense, which has been abysmal all season, ranking near the bottom of Major League Baseball in multiple statistical categories, seems even worse when playing the Tigers, whose pitching staff is below league average in multiple categories, including ERA (4.38), runs allowed per game (4.66), hits per nine innings (8.3) and walks per nine innings (3.8).

Detroit swept Seattle in a three-game series on May 17-19, which included Spencer Turnbull’s no-hitter. The Tigers outscored the Mariners 15-3 in those games.

Scoring a total of six runs in four games is suboptimal for any team.

But it gets worse.

The Mariners had just nine hits in the three losses in Seattle. They at least got eight hits in the fourth game. But still the Mariners are batting just .140 (17 for 121) with three doubles, two homers, 11 walks and 36 strikeouts vs. the Tigers this season.

With an additional four walks and two hit by pitches, the Mariners weren’t short on baserunners Tuesday. But for the team that came into the game with the best batting average with runners in scoring in the ALwent 2-for-12 in those situations and left nine runners on base.

Boyd pitched six innings, allowing one unearned run on a walk with three strikeouts. He allowed at least one baserunner in the first five innings of his start. But with the help of the spacious outfield of his home park and the speed of outfielders Akil Baddoo and Derek Hill, he limited damage.

The best example came in the second inning after his teammates gave him a 3-0 lead. Boyd gave up a double to Shed Long Jr. in his first at-bat with the Mariners this season. Long later scored when second baseman Jonathan Schoop booted a routine groundball at second base. J.P. Crawford followed with a single, putting runners on first and second for Mitch Haniger

The Mariners’ best hitter smoked a line drive to left field that seemed like a certain double that would score both runners. Instead, Baddoo made a lunging catch while running at full speed to end the inning.

“It really does change the whole complexion of the game,” Servais said. “The game is probably tied at that point and has a different feel about it. Off the bat, I certainly thought it was a hit. It was kind of weird. Normally that ball from a right-handed hitter down the left-field line is going to hook some. That ball did not hook much. It just kind of hung up there.”

In the fourth inning, again with two runners on base, Haniger had another line drive – this one to the right-center gap – that was tracked down by Hill.

“There is a big outfield here,” Servais said. “Those balls seem like they hang up there forever, and they’ve got the athletes to run them down.”

Seattle got an abbreviated and atypical outing from starter Marco Gonzales, who was making his second start after a monthlong stint on the injured list with a forearm strain.

After pitching four surprisingly crisp innings a week ago in his first start back despite not making any rehab starts, Gonzales looked and felt more like this was his first outing back from a long hiatus. He pitched four innings, allowing four runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts. He threw 71 pitches with 43 strikes with a 11 first-pitch strikes to the 17 batters he faced.

His command was off, missing locations on critical pitches, with many thrown in the middle of the plate and staying up in the strike zone.

Gonzales gave up three runs in the first inning, including a two-run homer to Eric Haase on a misplaced fastball.

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