/Detroit Tigers dominate Milwaukee Brewers in 4-1 win to complete series sweep – Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers dominate Milwaukee Brewers in 4-1 win to complete series sweep – Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers applied pressure to Milwaukee Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff in the fifth inning, beginning with Harold Castro’s leadoff single. On the next pitch, Willi Castro dropped a surprising bunt and legged out a single.

A shocked Kolten Wong — playing second for the Brewers — rushed his attempt to eliminate Willi Castro and was charged with a throwing error. His mistake put runners on the corners for Dustin Garneau, who executed a sacrifice fly to left field for a 2-1 lead.

The Tigers didn’t look back, surging to a 4-1 victory the National League Central-leading Brewers in Wednesday’s series finale at Comerica Park. The Tigers (70-76) swept the series against MLB’s fourth-best team, improving to 61-52 since May 8 and 30-25 since the All-Star break.

Detroit has won five of its past six games.

“Every win matters at this level,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “They’re not easy. You got to play well and do a lot of things right. … I don’t really distinguish opponents. I think you got to try to win today’s game and see where it takes you.

“But I am proud of our group. We’ve obviously played pretty well this week and answered some challenges that are tough. It’s a really good pitching staff across the way and back-to-back games where we had to scratch and claw to get our runs, so a couple wins are nice to have.”

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Detroit Tigers second baseman Harold Castro (30) slides in safe at home ahead of the tag by Milwaukee Brewers catcher Manny Pina (9) in the fifth inning at Comerica Park on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Taking the lead gave the Tigers momentum, but they weren’t done in the fifth. Derek Hill — who delivered a walk-off double in Tuesday’s 1-0 victory in extra innings — tripled to the left-center gap on a 3-1 fastball, plating Willi Castro for a 3-1 advantage.

Right-hander Matt Manning eased the Tigers through six innings in the best outing of his 15-start MLB career. He allowed one run on two hits and three walks. He struck out six and fired 62 of 98 pitches for strikes.

“He had pretty good command today,” Hinch said. “I also think he responded pretty well to a messy second inning. He didn’t try to be too perfect after that. He just tried to make pitches and get his outs, and he got pretty deep into the game. He’s starting to mature within his outings, which is key.” 

From that point forward, the contest turned into a bullpen battle.

And just as in Tuesday’s win, the Tigers didn’t crumble.

Hinch stole Round 1, as Alex Lange confused the Brewers with his elite curveball for a perfect seventh frame. In the bottom half, Milwaukee called on Jake Cousins. With two outs, Garneau smacked a solo home run to left field for a 4-1 lead.

“That’s a big outing for him,” Hinch said about Lange. “When he’s inside the strike zone, it doesn’t matter who’s up to bat or who we’re playing. He’s got really good stuff, and then he can get some chase when he establishes the ball in the zone.”

For the eighth, Michael Fulmer tossed a perfect eighth. The Brewers countered with ex-Tiger Daniel Norris, who was shipped away at this year’s trade deadline for a pitching prospect. He recorded one out before Jandel Gustave entered to face Miguel Cabrera with two runners on. Cabrera grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Fulmer returned for the ninth and completed the win.

Miggy ties the game

After Woodruff retired the first 11 batters he faced, Robbie Grossman snapped his streak with a two-out walk in the fourth inning. Cabrera followed by smacking a two-strike fastball to left-center for a double.

Already in motion, Grossman turned on his speed after a strong jump to score from first base. Third base coach Ramon Santiago got aggressive and didn’t hesitate, waving the veteran around the hot corner and toward home plate.

Grossman barely beat the throw from center fielder Lorenzo Cain to tie the game, 1-1, in the fourth.

“Santi does a great job in the third base box,” Hinch said. “He knows our personnel, he knows their personnel, and he’s not afraid to make a mistake. It really is symbolic of what we’re trying to do as a group: coaches, players, anybody around this club. You can’t be afraid to make a mistake.”

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Detroit Tigers left fielder Robbie Grossman (8) slides in safe at home ahead of the throw to Milwaukee Brewers catcher Manny Pina (9) in the fourth inning at Comerica Park on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Woodruff entered Wednesday’s game with a 2.48 ERA, 41 walks and 191 strikeouts over 163⅓ innings this season. The Tigers attacked the All-Star right-hander in his 28th start of the year for three runs on four hits and one walk over six innings. He struck out seven, throwing 59 of 90 pitches for strikes. 

Across his six innings, Woodruff racked up 16 swings and misses and 11 called strikes. Although he only used 13 changeups, the offering registered four whiffs. 

“He’s nasty,” Hinch said. “Woodruff throws a lot of strikes, attacks the zone and has really good stuff. It’s pretty electric, especially when it’s up. He’s able to throw some pretty good secondary pitches. He comes right at you with strikes. He was throwing the ball by us, above the barrel.

“Robbie drawing the walk really broke the ice.”

Manning gets going

The Brewers seemed ready to chase Manning from his start early.

The 23-year-old rookie picked up two quick outs in the second inning but started to fall apart. The next four batters tallied one single, two walks and one double — giving the Brewers a 1-0 lead on Cain’s RBI double and the bases loaded for Wong.

“Those are the points in games where it can either go bad or it can go good,” Manning said. “It’s just how we respond those situations. That’s the experience I need in this environment to get used to it, because it’s not the last time it’s going to happen. I have to be able to fight out of those situations so I can go five, six and seven innings.”

Manning escaped the jam, getting Wong to groundout to second base. He then shook off the 30-pitch inning and improved the rest of the way: 12 pitches in the third, nine in the fourth, 12 in the fifth and 20 in the sixth. (He needed 15 pitches for a perfect first inning.)

“He showed a lot of maturity today,” said Garneau, Manning’s catcher. “The big inning that he minimized for just one run was the breaking point of the game for us. The kid has unbelievable stuff. Once he started believing in himself, and then confidence, when you see it after that inning, that got us going and got him going.”

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Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Manning (25) pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Comerica Park on Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2021.

Manning retired 13 batters in a row and 14 of his final 15 opponents to complete his start. He ended the fifth inning by striking out Eduardo Escobar with a 97 mph fastball. To conclude the sixth, he punched out Jace Peterson with a slider.

Throwing 98 pitches, Manning picked up 12 swings and misses: four with his four-seam fastball, one with his two-seam fastball, three with his curveball and four with his slider. He also mixed his pitches well, using his four-seamer (40%), two-seamer (31%), curveball (13%), slider (12%) and changeup (4%).

“When my curveball is working, I have a good feel for everything,” Manning said. “I thought I was a five-pitch pitcher with my sinker, so I thought I could throw anything whenever I wanted to. That’s probably when I’m at my best.”

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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