Tigers pounce early but can't hold on vs. Crew
Detroit falls to Yelich's second HR of game, third of series
MILWAUKEE -- Don't let the folksy humor of Ron Gardenhire fool you. As Christian Yelich's go-ahead home run soared into the right-field second deck at Miller Park on Saturday night, the Tigers manager felt it as much as lefty Daniel Stumpf, who gave it up.
"We had a perfect view of it. NASA called," Gardenhire said to try to lighten the mood after Detroit's second consecutive 6-5 loss to the Brewers. "I'll get on [Stumpf] tomorrow about that. He's not in the mood tonight."
That was a correct observation on the manager's part. But Stumpf, who hadn't allowed an earned run since his return from Triple-A Toledo in mid-August, tried to put a good face on it.
"Yelich is in my book, and now I'm in his," Stumpf said.
Gardenhire wants his players to be into this series in Milwaukee. He wants his young team to embrace the atmosphere that surrounded them Saturday, a sellout crowd roaring for a home team playing for a potential National League Central title. The Tigers are going home for the offseason after Sunday no matter what, but they have a chance to play spoiler, and they're serious about it. Milwaukee will enter the regular-season finale in a tie for first place with the Cubs.
"This is a playoff team in a playoff atmosphere with a completely stacked lineup over there," Stumpf said, "and we're coming in here and we're competing every game. And I think that shows a lot about our team. I think a lot of people have discredited us from the start, and we're in here competing against another team that's in the playoff hunt. We're just a hit or an out away from winning the game."
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Detroit's two losses to start the series at Miller Park have been eerily similar, both decided by late-inning home runs to right field -- one off Nicholas Castellanos' glove Friday, and the other hit so far that Castellanos didn't take a step.
Again, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead early, this time on a pair of RBI hits from Niko Goodrum. Again, the Brewers rallied quickly to erase the gap, starting again with a Yelich two-run homer before an Erik Kratz two-run single pulled them ahead, 5-3, in the fourth.
"It was awesome," starter Daniel Norris said of the atmosphere. "Any pitcher will attest to it: When you're in the zone, you don't really hear it. But after the Yelich home run, I heard it. It was pretty fun."
Again, Detroit rallied to tie the game with a big hit from rookie Dawel Lugo, this time a triple leading off the sixth inning that set up a Pete Kozma sacrifice fly. Stumpf held the deadlock in the bottom of the frame with back-to-back strikeouts, including Lorenzo Cain, to strand the go-ahead run on second and leave Yelich on deck.
The emphatic fist pump Stumpf displayed on his way off the mound after the sixth inning reflected the Tigers' embrace of their role in a game that means little to nothing in their own standing.
"They're really into it, I can tell you that," Gardenhire said. "They're all really into it. That's one of the things you need to see. You need to see what it's like. It makes you hungry to get back. You'd love to see us having that at home, having our fans like that."
The way Yelich has been hitting lately, however, he doesn't need runners on base to change a game. Once Stumpf returned for the seventh to set up a lefty-lefty matchup, he started off Yelich with back-to-back sliders. Yelich crushed the second one a projected 425 feet, according to Statcast™, to right field as Castellanos turned and watched.
"I threw good ones all night," Stumpf said of his slider. "I punched out two guys on the exact same pitch that did exactly what I wanted to out of the hand. This one, I just didn't get on top of it enough. I got on the side and it spun out."
Yelich's 36th home run and 109th RBI of the year left him two RBIs shy of leading all three Triple Crown categories in the NL. He'll get a chance Sunday to become the Majors' first Triple Crown winner since the Tigers' Jose Cabrera in 2012.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Though Yelich's first home run was the highlight of the Brewers' damage off Norris, the go-ahead runs were scored on a Kratz grounder past Tigers third baseman Jeimer Candelario on an 0-2 slider that Norris said he didn't bury enough. Candelario was playing in with runners at second and third with one out, but he nearly stopped the ball.
"That's a catchable ball," Gardenhire said. "If you're playing in there, that's a play that we need him to make. That ball's right there and he just didn't move well."
Norris' no-decision made him the first Tiger to go winless in a season with at least eight starts since Scott Aldred, who went 0-4 with eight starts for the Tigers in 1996 before going to the Twins on waivers. Norris allowed five runs on six hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings and struck out eight.
HE SAID IT
"My last start is the best I've felt. That's a good sign for me. I feel like it's coming back. Slider's getting sharp. Changeup's pretty good. Curveball was good today. Fastball is going to start coming back. Yeah, I'm taking the positives from this for sure." -- Norris, on his September stretch after returning from groin surgery
Spencer Turnbull gets the ball for his third start of the season on Sunday as the Tigers take one more chance at playing spoiler, closing their regular season campaign with a 3:10 p.m. ET finale against the Brewers at Miller Park. Turnbull tossed six innings of one-run ball Tuesday at Minnesota in a no-decision. Left-hander Giovany Gonzalez will start for Milwaukee.