After turning heads with a road trip that culminating in them take 2 of 3 from the Toronto Blue Jays, the Cleveland Guardians have returned home and lost 2 of 3 to the last-place Detroit Tigers. Tuesday night’s 4-3 loss drops the Guardians’ season record against the Tigers to 9-9, with a chance to split this four-game set and win the season series on Wednesday.
This game was doomed from the start.
Cleveland starter Zach Plesac pitched a scoreless first inning until the replay crew in New York decided he didn’t. With two outs and Javier Baez on second, Tyler Freeman went to field a soft grounder up the middle from Harold Castro but it hit the bag at second and bounced over his glove. Baez broke for home but Freeman was able to corral the ball in time to make an accurate throw to Austin Hedges, who tagged out Baez at home to end the inning.
But Detroit manager A.J. Hinch, well versed in the power of video from his days in Houston, made the uncharacteristic decision to challenge something he thought was wrong. He challenged the play at home, believing Hedges was in violation of the plate-blocking rule and that his left leg obstructed Baez’s path to the plate. The replay crew agreed, so the Tigers were awarded the run — and a 1-0 lead — and Castro was awarded second base.
Plesac imploded from there, surrendering a two-run homer to Kerry Carpenter the very next at-bat to make it a 3-0 lead for Detroit. To his credit, he lasted 5.1 innings, but the Tigers were barreling him up left and right. Plesac exited after giving up nine hits, three walks, and four earned runs.
You would think that a 3-0 deficit in the first inning would not be insurmountable, but it required a herculean effort from the Guardians to close the gap. They simply had no answer for Detroit starting pitcher Garrett Hill. There is nothing overpowering about Hill’s pitches, but Cleveland couldn’t put a barrel to any of them. They only managed four hits, two walks, and one run against him, scoring on a Jose Ramirez fielder’s choice in the first inning.
Once Hill was out of the game, the Guardians went to work trying to cut into the Tigers’ 4-1 lead. Tyler Freeman was able to reach base and advance to second on an error in the seventh inning, scoring on an RBI groundout from Myles Straw to make it a 4-2 deficit. They may have had the opportunity to score more, as Steven Kwan singled with two outs. He tried to steal second but was called out. Replays show that he beat the tag and Cleveland challenged the call, but the replay crew decided there wasn’t enough video evidence to overturn it.
The next inning, Amed Rosario hit a leadoff triple and scored on a Jose Ramirez RBI single.
In the ninth inning, Tyler Freeman hit a leadoff double before advancing to third on a sac bunt by Hedges. Myles Straw proceeded to strike out on a foul tip, but home plate umpire Lance Barksdale initially ruled that the ball hit the dirt. Hinch whined to Barksdale, who convened his crew for a conference on the field before changing his call. In response, Terry Francona unleashed a game’s worth of pent up frustration on Barksdale, who ejected Francona.
With two outs and Freeman at third, Steven Kwan came to the plate and took a first-pitch ball. Unfortunately, the third base umpire wasn’t paying attention when the pitch was delivered and was busy ejecting Straw, who was jawing at the umpire from the dugout. So Barksdale ruled that the first pitch did not count. Kwan grounded out to the pitcher to end the game.