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Another day, another dramatic HR for Tigers

@beckjason
July 26, 2020

The Tigers had their issues with Reds pitching throughout their opening series. When they connected, though, they took advantage -- and even sometimes when they didn’t connect. “I think that's probably going to be the best three pitchers we face in succession all year long,” C.J. Cron said of the

The Tigers had their issues with Reds pitching throughout their opening series. When they connected, though, they took advantage -- and even sometimes when they didn’t connect.

“I think that's probably going to be the best three pitchers we face in succession all year long,” C.J. Cron said of the Reds’ starting staff after his two-run homer in the ninth inning pulled out a 3-2 win and a season-opening series victory. “They had our number when it came to strikeouts, but at the end of the day, we took two of three against arguably the best staff we're going to face all year, and I think that's a big confidence boost for us going back home and knowing we can play with anyone.”

Box score

No team in Tigers history has struck out as often in its first three games as the 46 posted by Detroit hitters this weekend. But few Tigers teams in recent years have had to open a season against a rotation trio the likes of Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo and Trevor Bauer, who posted 205, 226 and 268 strikeouts last year, respectively.

After losing 7-1 to Gray on Opening Day, the Tigers stayed close enough in the latter two games to capitalize on Cincinnati’s similarly hard-throwing bullpen with late go-ahead home runs. Miguel Cabrera hit one Saturday, then set up the deciding drive Sunday.

One day after Cabrera took Michael Lorenzen deep in the seventh inning, he fouled off five fastballs at 99 mph or harder from the power reliever Sunday, including back-to-back full-count pitches. He couldn’t put any of them in play, but he could give Cron a look from the on-deck circle.

“It seemed like he took or fouled off every pitch that Lorenzen had,” Cron said. “And when you're on deck and you can see what the pitcher's working with, it helps a lot.

On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Lorenzen went to the high fastball, the same pitch Cabrera drove out off him Saturday. Lorenzen tried to get this one higher, but it wasn’t close enough to coax Cabrera to swing.

“Probably the best at-bat of the game,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire. “The guy’s throwing 100 mph, and he fought it off. That was a huge at-bat and a big power lift inside the dugout. It got us going a little bit.”

Cron had also seen Lorenzen on Saturday, albeit briefly.

“He blew me away with three heaters yesterday,” Cron said, “so I wanted to be a little bit more ready for that pitch and just try to adjust to the offspeed.

Reds pitchers had pounded the outside corner on Cron for most of the weekend after his tape-measure home run on Opening Day punished Gray for pitching him inside. Lorenzen got another swing-and-miss from Cron on the first pitch, but he left his 0-1 fastball on the outer half of the plate.

“I was just looking for something outside over the plate,” Cron said, “and thankfully he threw a little bit more over the middle than he would've liked.

For the first half of the afternoon, starter Spencer Turnbull went strikeout for strikeout with longtime American League Central nemesis Bauer, who fanned Cron twice. Seventeen of the game’s first 27 outs were by strikeout, seven of them from Turnbull, whose frenetic arsenal frustrated Detroit’s own hitters throughout Summer Camp.

Aside from Niko Goodrum’s third-inning solo homer -- his third off Bauer since the start of last season -- Bauer’s strikeouts continued the trend. By contrast, they were a welcome development for Tigers starters and Turnbull, who paired a high fastball at the top of the zone with a darting slider to coax 17 swings and misses.

Turnbull’s lone run allowed came from a Travis Jankowski walk and back-to-back bloop singles, the latter from Joey Votto to tie the game at 1. With the bases loaded and a chance for the Reds to break the game open, however, Turnbull got former teammate Nick Castellanos to chase three sliders off the plate for his eighth and final strikeout

“I think he’s growing up as a pitcher, knows he’s got good stuff,” Gardenhire said. “We all know he’s a little nuts. You have to be to play baseball. And when he’s out on the mound, he’s quirky and all those good things. It’s fun to watch him with the stuff that he has, and now he’s figuring out how to use that stuff.

Turnbull, along with two dominant innings from Gregory Soto and another from José Cisnero, kept the Tigers close enough for one big swing, the kind of swing the Tigers rarely had last year

Joe Jiménez gave up a run on back-to-back doubles in the ninth, but he escaped a jam for his second save in as many days by inducing a game-ending double play from Votto.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.