Seattle – Casey Mize just keeps getting better and better.
On Monday, he threw his fourth straight quality start, allowing just three hits and a run over 7.2 innings in the Tigers’ 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners in the first of three at T-Mobile Park.
“He’s been a big starter for us in this last stretch,” said manager AJ Hinch. “But, if you want to be a premium guy at this level and you want to be seen as an anchor of the staff, which we hope he is at some point, you’ve got to do these types of things.”
Eric Haase, making his first start in left field, led the offense with a pair of 429-foot home runs, one to each gap.
“That guy is the ultimate pro,” said Mize. “He’s a grinder. He’s always doing whatever is asked of him, which is not sometimes the most glamorous things, whether it’s at spring training or at the alternate site.
“For him to go out and hit two homers, just really happy for him.”
Mize was as efficient as he was dominant, blanking the Mariners on two singles through seven innings and needing just 85 pitches to do so.
“He used all his pitches, I thought his fastball was good and he was in attack mode,” Hinch said. “I thought his tempo was really good, but a lot of that comes with early action. He knew they were up there swinging and he didn’t spend a lot of time trying to set them up as much as he was just executing pitch-by-pitch.”
Tom Murphy, the Mariners catcher, jumped on a 2-0 fastball leading off the eighth and lined it into the left field seats. That was all the damage Mize allowed. He struck out the next two hitters, giving him seven on the night, before Hinch lifted him for lefty Gregory Soto, who ended the inning getting lefty Jarred Kelenic.
Mize was not too pleased at coming out of the game, and he expressed his displeasure in the dugout.
“I love it,” Hinch said. “Casey was mad from the minute I stepped onto the field. He was never going to face Kelenic. He had three hitters to get three outs and he gave up the homer. But I will never be mad when a pitcher is frustrated coming out of a game.”
The dugout conversation turned humorous.
“He was telling me he could’ve gotten (Kelenic) and I said, ‘Well you should’ve gotten Murphy,'” Hinch said. “That’s what we were laughing about. We have a great relationship and we have a great banter.
“And we were both happy Soto got Kelenic out.”
Michael Fulmer pitched the ninth to earn his third save.
The Mariners loaded their lineup with five left-handed hitters, hoping to exploit Mize’s early-career struggles. Lefties slashed .281/.385/.554 against him compared to .207/.301/.326.
But Mize, pushing them off the plate with fastballs and getting them to reach at his knuckle-curve, limited the Mariners lefties to two hits in 16 at-bats.
“We just executed the plan,” Mize said. “The plan was to go sinker-slider to the right-handed hitters and four-seam-curveball to the lefties. We were able to execute it.”
One of those lefties was Kelenic, who was the sixth overall pick in the 2018 draft, the same draft that Mize went first overall. Kelenic got a broken bat single in the first, but Mize struck him out in the third and got him to pop out in the sixth.
And you know he wanted him again in the eighth.
“I told AJ that I could’ve gotten him and he told me we have a guy that literally gets paid to get lefties out and be in that position,” Mize said, chuckling. “And honestly, he said it was my fault for giving up the leadoff home run. He said if I got him out we wouldn’t be in that position, which is true.
“That changed my perspective and I said, ‘Yes sir, I get it.'”
Mize got plenty of defensive support, too. Jonathan Schoop was a Gold Glove finalist at second base last season. He reminded folks of that Monday night.
The Tigers have had difficulty converting double-play opportunities this season, but most of that was with Schoop playing first base, where he’s started 21 games. Monday, in his first start at second since April 15 and just his 10th on the season, was two-for-two on double-play chances.
He turned one with third baseman Jeimer Candelario to end the first inning and then with Mize to end the second.
Schoop, who had six assists and two putouts in the game, also made a spectacular diving play to take a hit from J.P. Crawford in the fourth inning. He had to go so far to his left that first baseman Miguel Cabrera initially gave up on the play.
But Schoop snagged it on a dive, Cabrera scrambled to the bag and Schoop got up and threw Crawford out by a step.
The Tigers scored three times on two swings in the second inning against Mariners left-handed starter Yusei Kikuchi.
First, Haase hit his first homer as Tiger. And it was no cheapie. He hit a 91-mph cutter 429 feet into the center field seats. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 109 mph.
With two outs and Robbie Grossman (walked) on first, Schoop stayed on a fastball on the outer edge of the plate and served it just over the right-field wall. It was his third home run of the year.
Haase’s second homer came in the ninth and it, too, traveled 429 feet.
“It’s fantasic,” said Haase, who got mobbed in the clubhouse and was awarded the WWE Championship belt for offensive player of the game by his teammates. “Anytime I get to put this uniform on, I don’t take it for granted. I feel blessed to even be part of this team.
“Anytime I can be up here, let alone be starting the game, and be part of winning at the big-league level, it’s awesome. I’m just going to keep riding it out as long as it lasts.”
Our special thanks to:detroitnews.com