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Tigers stymied by Sale in finale loss

July 22, 2018

DETROIT -- A quick glance at the lineup card Sunday afternoon could have been enough to foretell what was on the horizon for the Tigers in their series finale against the Red Sox at Comerica Park. Boston ace Chris Sale hurling to a group of relatively young hitters? The Tigers

DETROIT -- A quick glance at the lineup card Sunday afternoon could have been enough to foretell what was on the horizon for the Tigers in their series finale against the Red Sox at Comerica Park. Boston ace Chris Sale hurling to a group of relatively young hitters? The Tigers needing a spot start from reliever Blaine Hardy? Detroit would need to be on its game to come away with a W.
The Tigers dropped the finale to the Red Sox, 9-1. In a game that was delayed at the start for one hour and 35 minutes, Sale (11-4) was impeccable on the mound against a Detroit lineup that had not seen much of him. Of the Tigers' nine starters, only four had faced the left-hander, and Jose Iglesias was the only one with a batting average better than .152. This was against a pitcher who dials it up to 98 mph and throws from a unique arm slot.

James McCann summed up the challenge of facing a pitcher as good and unique as Sale.
"No one else in the league has that arm slot," McCann said. "So you take plus-velocity and an arm slot and release point that you're not used to, and then you throw in the fact that he has two plus-offspeed pitches -- a slider that, from his arm angle to a right-handed hitter, starts in the other batter's box, and sometimes it manages to get all the way to your back foot. I can't imagine what it looks like to a left-handed hitter. I'm sure it looks like it's going to hit you every time. And then he's got a changeup. When you throw all of that together, and the fact that he comes right at you with every single bit of it, it's a tough matchup."

Sale went six innings, striking out nine and walking none. He hit Iglesias in the fifth inning. The Tigers' two hits off Sale were from Victor Reyes, in his first career at-bat against the seven-time All-Star, and Nicholas Castellanos. Granted, the Tigers would have had to string together hits and runs in bunches if they were going to keep pace with the Red Sox. Boston had the luxury of facing a spot starter in Hardy, who was limited to a pitch count of around 50. He lasted three innings, plus three batters in the fourth, and was tagged with four runs. Drew VerHagen tossed three innings of relief, but he yielded two runs in the fourth. The Red Sox added three runs in the seventh off Daniel Stumpf and Louis Coleman.
"I was happy with how I attacked the hitters," Hardy said. "I got through the top of the lineup fairly well. Apparently, it's the middle of the lineup that I should have been worried about."
Steve Pearce and Xander Bogaerts batted fourth and fifth in the Red Sox's lineup, respectively, and they combined to go 4-for-4 with four runs scored against Hardy. Jeimer Candelario scored the Tigers' only run of the game with a homer in the seventh inning off Brandon Workman. It was his 14th homer of the season. Although he went 0-for-2 against Sale, Candelario's at-bats were better than most.

"We put some good swings out there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Candelario, as I said a couple days ago, I can see he's starting to swing it. First day back after the All-Star break, I saw him in [batting practice], and the ball was starting to jump off his bat. So if he can keep swinging like that, that's going to be a lot of fun to watch in the second half."
This game marked the fifth time this month that the Tigers scored fewer than two runs.

With no outs in the fourth, Hardy was dealing with runners on second and third. In a similar situation in the second, the Red Sox had gotten two runs across with groundouts. But this time, the Tigers seemed to be guaranteed an out without the cost of run when Rafael Devers hit a chopper to John Hicks at first base. Instead of stepping on first for the out, though, Hicks threw home to get Pearce, who stayed at third. Hardy was pulled with the bases loaded, and Jackie Bradley Jr. went on to hit a three-run home run off VerHagen to give the Red Sox a 6-0 lead.

"We know what he is," Gardenhire said after the game. "He's our backup catcher playing first base, and you knew you were going to get some of those things. He's played well over there for us. Today, that was just a rough play."
Castellanos finished 1-for-3 against Sale, taking his career mark against the lefty to 6-for-36. That's an anomaly when it comes to left-handed pitchers, though, because Castellanos leads the Majors with a .410 batting average against southpaws.

"It [stinks] when you get pulled. I get it. I haven't thrown over 30 pitches in about a month. They're trying to watch out for me and keep my pitch count at 50. But at the same time, when you come out of the game with the bases loaded and no outs, you're really just wishing they would've left you in so you can try to get out of your own mess." -- Hardy, on being pulled in the fourth inning
The Tigers hit the road for a three-game series against the Royals, starting with an 8:15 p.m. ET first pitch on Monday. Tigers starter Francisco Liriano (3-5, 4.67 ERA) will be auditioning for the Deadline market as he continues to be a popular subject of trade rumors. The Royals will counter with Heath Fillmyer (0-1, 4.35 ERA), who joined the starting rotation before the All-Star break and will be making his second career start.

Tyler Fenwick is a reporter for