January 30, 2023

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'It got ugly fast': Detroit on wrong side of big night

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NEW YORK — The Tigers were simply overmatched Friday night at Yankee Stadium. Not only did New York pound Detroit at the plate during a 13-0 win, right-hander Gerrit Cole was dominant and almost held Detroit hitless. 

Cole was well on his way to a perfect-game bid, having retired the first 20 hitters he faced and struck out eight. But Jonathan Schoop prevented Cole from making history with a single to center field.

“I was trying to put a good swing [on it]. We faced one of the best pitchers in the game,” Schoop said. “… He was really on his A-game. He executed all of his pitches. He got us off-balance. I was trying to go in there to see the ball, and I was trying to break it up. As a team, nobody wanted [to lose].” 

Cole was not happy about losing the perfecto, but he had to lock it in for the next hitter, who was Miguel Cabrera.  

“After I saw [Schoop’s] swing,” Cole said, “I had a pretty good feeling that if it was anywhere close, he was going to put a swing on it. Maybe if it wasn’t a strike, he wouldn’t have gotten some contact. He was on it.”

Cabrera followed Schoop with a single to put runners on first and second, but Javier Báez struck out to end the threat. Cole was done after seven innings.

“It was pretty exciting,” Cole said. “The fans were in it. I heard them chanting my name, which was pretty magical. It just means so much to us when we have them behind us. It can be such a force and almost will us to do better. We banged, we played great ‘D.’”

Cole was able to hit his spots throughout the game. His cutter and slider were unhittable. He wasn’t striking out many hitters to start the game, but from the third inning on, Cole was missing bats.

Tigers manager A.J. Hinch is familiar with Cole’s dominance. They worked together on the Astros in 2018 and ‘19.

“[Cole] had everything from what I could see from our side,” said Cole’s former skipper. “He was in complete control of virtually every at-bat. I’ve seen a lot of his games when he is calm and under control, no emotions. He is not sweating near misses. He is a different pitcher. He is one of the best in the league when he is like that, and we saw it first hand.”

Tigers right-hander Elvin Rodriguez wasn’t so lucky. He was making his third Major League start and managed to shut down New York in the first two innings, but things got ugly starting with the third. By the time he left the game, Rodriguez had allowed 10 runs in 4 1/3 innings. He had serious problems keeping the ball down, allowing four home runs.

But look for Rodriguez to make his start in another five days. According to Hinch, his young pitcher has to mature and grow. Execution and delivery are always key. Rodriguez was going to start the season in Double-A, but he ended up making the Major League roster.

“We are asking a lot out of him to take the ball every five days, six days,” Hinch said. “He has weapons. He has pitches. He has a bright future. When he doesn’t execute, nights like this can happen. It can happen for any number of Major League pitchers.”

Hinch said he felt for Rodriguez when he took him out of the game.

“I said, ‘You are going to be out there again, and don’t let this shake you.’ It got ugly fast,” Hinch said. “They were hitting the ball out of the ballpark. They were piecing together at-bats. … Any pitch he didn’t execute, such as the second time through, third time through, [the Yankees] had their way with him. I hate for it to end that way for him, but sometimes it’s necessary the way we used our bullpen.”

It got so bad for Detroit that outfielder Harold Castro, who started the game in left field, pitched the eighth. Hinch simply wanted to save the arms in the bullpen. The skipper hopes that’s the last time he sees Castro on the mound.

“I hate using him. It’s not fair to him. It’s not really good for the game,” Hinch said. “I wouldn’t have used him had it been a no-hitter or a perfect game to protect the integrity of the game. Once we got the hit, Harold did us a service. It’s not the first time he has done it, but I hope it’s the last time this year.”

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