DETROIT -- Casey Mize's third Major League start didn’t go as well as he would’ve hoped on Sunday, but his second assist as a big league pitcher was a memorable one. His deflection turned a Luis Arraez comebacker into a much-needed out at third base.
It’s a sign of the Tigers’ fortunes during a five-game winning streak that has propelled them back to .500 and into the thick of the American League playoff race. It was also a collective sigh of relief for the organization to see that Mize, their top pitching prospect, came away from the play unbothered.
“It’s actually good, surprisingly. I’m very fortunate, because it was hit really well,” Mize said after the Tigers’ 3-2 win to complete a series sweep over the Twins. “It got me right on the shin, but honestly there’s no pain or anything at all. I have full range of motion. It doesn’t hurt to touch or anything. Somehow it doesn’t hurt too bad.”
Mize struggled with his command against the Twins through three innings and 67 pitches on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park, allowing two runs on two hits with three hit batters. He hit two Twins in a three-batter span of the third inning, then Arraez -- batting with runners at first and second -- hit him with a comebacker that had a 96.2 mph exit velocity.
Mize tried to get his glove down but didn’t have enough time. His unintentional footwork did just as well. The ball hit off his left shin and careened to third base, where rookie Isaac Paredes fielded the ball near the line and stepped on the bag for the forceout.
“It’s crazy how it just went straight to him over there,” Mize said. “I kind of spun around a little bit, because I didn’t know where the ball was at first. And so I had to gather myself a little bit and try to figure out if I needed to go pick it up and try to make a play. But it bounced right over to Paredes and he stepped on third and we got a forceout. Very fortunate, very lucky that happened.”
Score it a 1-5 fielder’s choice and a valuable out for Mize. Instead of a bases-loaded, one-out jam with the game on the line, he had runners at first and second with two outs. He stayed in the game to strike out Marwin Gonzalez and end his outing with two runs on two hits over three innings.
“I felt like I battled with what I had, which was very little,” Mize said. “I really feel like I competed and battled, but it’s really tough to pitch when you can’t command the baseball. It’s not really something that I’m used to, because I feel like I’ve never really had issues with that. But these last two starts, I'm walking batters and I hit three. It’s really unlike me, but nothing I’m too worried about, because my whole life I’ve been able to command and control the baseball fairly well.”
Manager Ron Gardenhire said after the game that he pulled Mize for pitch count and performance, not because of an injury.
“I just know the pitch count was really high,” Gardenhire said, “and I enjoy my job and if I leave him out there for any more, [general manager] Al [Avila] won't be happy with me and I wouldn't be happy with myself.”