Tigers play 'terrific style of baseball' in rout

September 4th, 2021

CINCINNATI -- The Tigers had done enough rallying from behind this week. They had played nine of 10 games within a margin of two runs or closer. They were ready for a runaway.

And yet, hard as it might be to believe as the Tigers strolled out of Great American Ball Park with a 15-5 win over the Reds on Friday night, Detroit was a hit away from playing from behind again in the fifth inning.

“It’s kind of weird to think of today’s game as a blowout game,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “It didn’t play that way for the longest time, but then we separated at the end and did a nice job.”

Kyle Funkhouser received a stern mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter following Jonathan India’s two-run homer and a Tyler Stephenson walk, which put the tying run on base. Nick Castellanos’ infield single put the go-ahead run on after him, and a Dustin Garneau passed ball on a pitch well off the plate put both of them in scoring position with one out and Joey Votto at bat.

“It’s the game-changing at-bats,” Hinch said. “If you overlook that, you’re doing a disservice to this game. He really needed to get to two dangerous hitters, especially Votto. You’re not expecting him to swing and miss.”

With the infield in, Votto fouled off a slider over the plate, evening the count. From there, Funkhouser threw the NL MVP candidate five consecutive fastballs at 96-97 mph, eventually fanning Votto on a 3-2 heater at the top of the strike zone.

With Votto potentially a fly ball away from tying the game, the Tigers beat him with a high fastball.

“Obviously, Funk’s sinkers down play really well,” Garneau said, “but his four-seam up plays extremely well at 97 [mph]. And it’s the biggest hole we can at least try to go to for [Votto], especially with a base open, instead of messing around down in the zone.”

Funkhouser’s job was half-done. Up came former Tiger Eugenio Suárez, who had homered in the second inning and battled starter Tyler Alexander for an 11-pitch walk in the fourth, fouling off five consecutive pitches and not chasing a slider.

Suárez swung and missed at back-to-back sliders for an 0-2 count, worked it back to even, then fanned on a well-placed slider on the outside corner.

Funkhouser whirled and pumped his fist. Then, the Tigers’ offense made sure their pitchers didn’t see another potential tying run the rest of the night.

“Our guys have been good with runners in scoring position,” Reds manager David Bell said. “Not going to get it done every time for sure, but not getting those guys in, and then the next inning, it just became a totally different game after that.”

Seven consecutive batters reached base safely against former Tigers closer Justin Wilson and Mychal Givens in the sixth, and they generally ran wild while the Reds’ defense threw the ball around looking for outs. The only out in the bunch came from when Willi Castro was retired trying to steal third.

“Some plays that worked in our favor,” Hinch said. “Even the plays that didn’t, I thought we played a terrific style of baseball.”

After five innings of relying primarily on the long ball, the sixth was an inning more fitting of spacious Comerica Park. Victor Reyes singled home Jeimer Candelario on a grounder through the left side, then took second base when Max Schrock tried to throw out Harold Castro. Then, Reyes took third base when Mike Moustakas tried to throw him out at second, with the ball going into the outfield instead, scoring Castro.

“Put pressure on the defense and keep getting into scoring position,” said Jonathan Schoop, whose four-hit, three-run game included his first home run since Aug. 4. “That’s what good teams do. They take the [extra] 90 feet. They take the base to score runs. That’s impressive how we took bases there.”

Eleven batters came to the plate in a six-run sixth inning. Six of the nine batters to reach base safely took an extra base on a hit or a throw. Candelario had two sixth-inning hits on his way to a four-hit game. Garneau hit a two-run homer, then added a solo shot an inning later for his first multi-homer game. With Schoop's four-hit game, it marked the first pair of four-hit Tigers in the same game since Harold Castro and Niko Goodrum did so on July 14, 2019, against the Royals.