Detroit Tigers eliminated from playoff chase with 7-6 loss to Minnesota Twins

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers rookie right-hander Casey Mize trotted out to the mound for the fifth inning. He had already given up four runs, but interim manager Lloyd McClendon figured he deserved a chance to finish his first season in the majors on a high note.

The 23-year-old was chased by Eddie Rosario's two-out, two-run home run — the second two-run blast allowed by Mize in as many innings.

The Tigers (22-32) have lost nine of their last 11 games, including a 7-6 defeat to the Minnesota Twins on Wednesday at Target Field.

They were mathematically eliminated from postseason contention when the Toronto Blue Jays earned a 14-1 win over the New York Yankees on Wednesday night.

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Casey Mize of the Detroit Tigers delivers a pitch against the Minnesota Twins during the first inning of the game at Target Field on Sept. 23, 2020 in Minneapolis.

Detroit wraps up its currently scheduled 60-game season with a four-game road series with the Kansas City Royals. The Tigers start Michael Fulmer on Thursday, followed by Spencer Turnbull, Matthew Boyd and Tarik Skubal.

The Tigers could make up a postponed doubleheader against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday, but it will only happen if the Cardinals need one or both games to make the postseason.

Mize's start

In his seventh start, Mize only used eight splitters. The pitch allowed him to dominate the minor leagues, but he hasn't been able to control it in the majors. Still, the pitch produced three swinging strikes Wednesday.

Of his 89 pitches, Mize used 27% sinkers, 26% cutters, 26% four-seam fastballs, 12% curveballs and 9% splitters. He ended with 11 swinging strikes. His fastball maxed out at 96 mph but averaged 93.9 mph.

Mize gave up six runs on five hits and four walks in 4⅔ innings. He had four strikeouts.

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Minnesota Twins' Jorge Polanco, right, is greeted by Ryan Jeffers after Polanco scored on a single by Marwin Gonzalez off Detroit Tigers pitcher Casey Mize during the third inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Minneapolis.

He allowed two runs in the third inning, a two-run homer to Jake Cave in the fourth and that two-run blast to Rosario in the fifth. Cave was 2-for-4 with two home runs and three RBIs.

Mize would be in line to start on Monday in that doubleheader with the Cardinals. If it isn't made up, Mize will finish his first season with a 6.99 ERA. He allowed 25 runs (22 earned) on 29 hits, 126 strikeouts, 3 walks and five hit-by-pitches across 28⅓ innings.

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Too little, too late

Twins starter Kenta Maeda cruised through five innings, sending down 15 of 16 Tigers after a leadoff single by Victor Reyes. Then, in the sixth, he ran into trouble with singles from Isaac Paredes and Willi Castro. 

Designated hitter Miguel Cabrera put the Tigers on the board by crushing a 438-foot three-run homer over the left-center wall with one out. His eighth homer of the season had a 110.3 mph exit velocity.

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Maeda finished the sixth with back-to-back strikeouts of Jeimer Candelario and Niko Goodrum but, at 94 pitches, did not return for the seventh inning. He finished with three runs on four hits with nine strikeouts. He didn't concede a walk. 

In the top of the ninth, the Twins brought in Sergio Romo to battle Cabrera with two runners on, but the two-time MVP got the better of his 77.1 mph slider. Cabrera hit his second three-run homer of the night to pull the Tigers within one run, but Jeimer Candelario followed him with a groundout to end the game.

Cabrera's second home run was No. 486 of his career, putting him seven away from Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff for 20th in MLB history. His six RBIs pushed him to 1,203 in his Tigers career, making him one of seven players in franchise history with at least 1,200.

Minnesota Twins pitcher Kenta Maeda throws to a Detroit Tigers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Minneapolis.

Paredes' glove

In addition to extending his hitting streak to nine games, Paredes was sharp at third base in the third inning. The Twins had already scored two runs, and Mize needed help getting out of a jam. 

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With Byron Buxton on third base, Josh Donaldson hit a slow roller down the line toward Paredes, who charged the ball and bare-handed it in stride. His throw to Candelario got Donaldson by two steps for the final out.

This isn't the first time Paredes has made a highlight play on defense. He had two errors in 66 chances at third base entering Wednesday's game. His continued growth hasn't surprised the organization.

"The reports on him were that he was an above-average defender with a good arm," McClendon said Wednesday. "Glove smooth, hands soft. For the most part, he hasn't disappointed."

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