via Texas Rangers
DETROIT — Cole Hamels took the mound Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park on baseball’s trading block, a candidate to be dealt by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. He left the mound with two outs in the opening inning, no outs on balls in play, seven runs in and the Tigers rolling.
“We didn’t hit a lot of balls hard early,” manager Ron Gardenhire said after Detroit’s 7-2 win over the Rangers. “We got the big break.”
The breaks were two balls off gloves — one a comebacker that Hamels redirected trying to grab, the other a liner to center that hit off Delino DeShields’ glove for a bases-clearing error. Either play would’ve ended the inning with less damage, had they been made. But when they weren’t, the Tigers took full advantage, setting up Mike Fiers for his first victory since June 4 and dooming Hamels to by far his worst outing in Detroit.
Less than a day after Jordan Zimmermann and Bartolo Colon dueled to a 3-1 Tigers victory in just over two hours, this one was neither that close nor as quick. After Hamels struck out Mikie Mahtook leading off the game, five consecutive Tigers reached base, beginning with Nicholas Castellanos’ 15th homer of the year.
Asked what he saw from Hamels, John Hicks — who hit an RBI single in the frame — shrugged.
“I saw two pitches,” Hicks said. “For me, he left a changeup over the plate. I can’t speak for anyone else, but they said his curveball was a little different than it had been in the past. We were aggressive, we got good pitches to hit, and it was a good first inning.”
Hicks’ ground ball through the middle drove in Niko Goodrum, who went 4-for-4 and reached base five times. Back-to-back walks after Hicks’ single loaded the bases, but Hamels fanned James McCann and induced what looked like an inning-ending bouncer from Jose Iglesias. The high hop forced Hamels to reach for it, which he couldn’t do in time.
“That’s what you have to do to win,” Goodrum said. “Grind out at-bats and grind out hits. Whether it’s a soft hit or a hard hit, it goes down as a hit.”
Jones’ deflected single again loaded the bases, and JaCoby Jones stepped to the plate. He sent a line drive to center field that sent DeShields — playing too far in — backpedaling before reaching up. The ball hit off the Texas center fielder’s glove for an error that allowed all three runners to score.
Mahtook’s RBI double in his second time up in the inning ended Hamels’ shortest outing since 2010 with seven runs (three earned) on five hits and two walks, with both of his outs on strikeouts. He had given up four earned runs over 20 innings in his previous three starts in Detroit. Matt Moore tossed 4 1/3 scoreless innings of long relief, despite walking four.
“A touchdown in the first inning — I’m sure the Lions would take that,” Gardenhire said. “And we will, too.”
Of the five hits off Hamels, Castellanos’ homer and Mahtook’s double were the only ones with a hit probability over 70 percent, according to Statcast™. The next-highest hit probability, ironically, was DeShields’ error.
Fiers (6-5) had some hard-hit outs, but kept challenging Texas’ aggressive hitters to try to slug their way back into the game. Aside from Rougned Odor’s sixth-inning solo homer, they couldn’t. Fiers finished with six innings of one-run ball, plus a walk and six strikeouts, earning his second win over the Rangers this season.
“I kind of got out of rhythm with the long first inning,” Fiers said. “[But] I’ll take that every time.”