Casey Mize's flirt with no-no is reminder how good Detroit Tigers' future can be

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

Casey Mize's opponent had already thrown a no-hitter this season. It happened 18 days earlier, actually.

On Friday, it was Mize's turn to deal for the Detroit Tigers in a battle with revived right-hander Lucas Giolito, who is turning heads in his fifth big-league season.

Mize didn't flinch. He didn't lose control. He didn't even smile.

"You'll see some positive emotion in the future if there's a big moment that I work out of, or if we have a lead late in the game and I'm still pitching," Mize said. "Tonight, that never really happened."

The 23-year-old took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in his fifth MLB start, this time against the Chicago White Sox — a stout AL Central opponent with one of the best offensive lineups in the majors. He showed exactly what the Tigers have expected from him since selecting him No. 1 overall in the 2018 draft.

"That's kind of the guy that we think is going to be here for a long time," manager Ron Gardenhire said.

[ Why Detroit Tigers rookie Casey Mize doesn't feel pressure of playoff push ]

Starting pitcher Casey Mize #12 of the Detroit Tigers delivers the ball against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field on September 11, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.

The Tigers waited 23 years for their sixth no-hitter in franchise history, when Justin Verlander did so in 2007, and again in 2011.

But it didn't happen for the eighth time in franchise history Friday night, at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Tigers (20-24) weren't even able to get the  victory — and Mize's first big-league win — in the 4-3 loss. And they dropped to 3½ games back of the AL's eighth and final spot in the playoffs.

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Mize waited 28 minutes in the dugout as the Tigers exploded for three runs in the top of the sixth to chase Giolito. When he returned, he walked Nomar Mazara on a borderline pitch and left a splitter up in the zone for Yolmer Sanchez to smack for a double. He then got Nick Madrigal to ground out, but Chicago's first run scored.

That's when Gardenhire pulled him after 76 pitches and one hit. Two batters later, Jose Cisnero allowed a three-run homer for what proved to be the final score.

"That was a great performance," Gardenhire told Mize.

"I appreciate it," Mize said, handing him the baseball. "Thank you."

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize (12) heads to the dugout after manager Ron Gardenhire relieved him during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Chicago White Sox, Friday, Sept. 11, 2020, in Chicago.

Gardenhire said the 28-minute wait, along with a 75-80 pitch limit, was his reason for not allowing Mize to take a shot at working out of a big moment in what felt like a must-win game with postseason implications on the line. 

"His pitch count gets way up there, I'm not gonna screw around with something like that," Gardenhire said. "I'll take all the heat, and I'll take the heat for this because he pitched really, really well. I'm disappointed that it ended up the way it did."

Mize, however, didn't have much to say.

Despite the best outing of his rookie year, he didn't speak with vigor. He is tough on himself, more than he probably should be at this stage in his career. He expects greatness and desires to pitch deep, reaching those high-intensity moments. He wants to win baseball games.

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All good things, but none of them have happened yet.

"I think we had a chance to win the game, and I didn't do a good enough job of coming out there and really attacking the zone," Mize said. "I was not happy with how I walked that first guy. ... Just wish I could take that at-bat back, and the one following."

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Casey Mize (12) delivers a pitch during the first inning against the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

And yet, there's no denying Mize took a step forward Friday. Making it into the sixth inning for the first time and giving up two earned runs is progress; he now has a 5.95 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 20 innings. 

Mize improved from his last two starts, in which he was chased early while struggling with his command. He was sharp Friday, using an even mix of his sinker, four-steam fastball, cutter, splitter and a few curveballs.

[ Detroit Tigers' Casey Mize knows why he's struggling. But he's still figuring out a fix ]

He walked two batters and had five strikeouts.

"I just felt really in control of all of my stuff," Mize said, "but definitely made some pitches I still yanked, wasn't really happy with. Just from an overview of everything, I felt like the command was much better, just felt more like myself."

The outcome of Friday's game — with Mize leaving because of a pitch count, Cisnero's downfall and a tough loss when the Tigers needed to win — has left Gardenhire "as mad as I've been through" the 60-game season.

[ Detroit Tigers carry 'never give up' mentality. Next up: Tough test vs. White Sox ]

The White Sox have taken seven of eight against the Tigers this year, as they've done against most teams en route to a 28-16 record.

But for five innings, Mize shut them down.

And it could be a glimpse of what's to come.

"He's one of those guys that he wants to be tough to hit, and I think that's gonna take us a long way into what we're trying to do," rookie outfielder Daz Cameron said. "As far as accomplishing what we want to do as far as winning."

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model. Here's how you can gain access to our most exclusive Detroit Tigers content