Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo isn’t his best against left-handed pitching, but the rookie hopes to change that moving forward.
Manager AJ Hinch gave Baddoo, a lefty hitter, his latest challenge with 11 games remaining: Chicago White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young, 2017 World Series champion and two-time All-Star over his 10-year career.
“He can handle the pressure and responsibility of doing that,” Hinch said. “He’s better against righties. We know that. But we want to try to build a player who can influence a lineup every day. When he gets his opportunities, he’s shown some pretty good at-bats against some lefties. … From a competitive standpoint, Akil never backs down.”
Baddoo recorded RBI singles in the third and fourth innings, increasing his batting average to .233 (20-for-86) against left-handers, but the Tigers didn’t produce more runs until scoring three in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s 5-3 victory — providing a four-game winning streak — in front of a scarce crowd at Comerica Park.
First pitch occurred at 1:10 p.m., instead of the originally scheduled 6:40 p.m., due to heavy rain expected in the evening.
The Tigers (74-78) finished with 16 hits and three walks, getting six multihit performances: Baddoo (2-for-5, two RBIs), Robbie Grossman (2-for-5, one walk), Jeimer Candelario (2-for-4), Niko Goodrum (2-for-4, one RBI), Daz Cameron (3-for-3, one walk) and Victor Reyes (4-for-4, two RBIs).
Detroit is 65-54 since May 8 and 34-27 since the All-Star break, winning nine of its past 12 games.
“Our team finds ways to win,” Hinch said. “We put pressure on the opponent and hung in there. Both teams left double-digit guys on base, both teams found a lot of hits but had a hard time pushing runs across until the end. We came out with the big hit.
“In order to do that, you can’t just turn it on and off. You have to be prepared for when the opportunities come up. I love that about our team, that we keep saying in there. The days that we can apply pressure because the opportunity comes up, we’ve practiced it, we’ve prepared for it. We have no fear. We may make a mistake or two, but it’s OK because we’re going to keep coming at you. That’s a proud feeling as a manager.”
In the seventh inning, Goodrum broke the 2-2 tie with a two-out single off lefty reliever Jace Fry. Singles from Grossman and Candelario started the inning, but Eric Haase grounded into a double play as Grossman reached third base.
After Goodrum’s RBI single, walks drawn by Cameron and Isaac Paredes loaded the bases. This time, Reyes capitalized with a two-run single off Aaron Bummer for a 5-2 lead.
“It feels pretty good,” Reyes said. “Every time we go out on the field, we go out to win, regardless of who we are facing. … Today we won. Tomorrow we’re going to get the win to get the sweep and just get ready for the next series to finish the homestand.”
Plays at the plate
In the first inning, Jonathan Schoop tried to score from first base on Grossman’s double to right field. Third base coach Ramon Santiago waved him home once he saw right fielder Adam Engel throw the ball to shortstop Tim Anderson near second base.
But Anderson made a smart play.
His throw to catcher Yasmani Grandal beat Schoop to the plate.
“The play was a little off at the beginning because Robbie’s ball may or may not be caught, may or may not be fair,” Hinch said. “I think Jonathan delayed just a little bit of his takeoff from first (base) and then continued to run. Santi was aggressive because they threw the ball to the middle of the field. I love the aggressive send, and Jonathan did everything he could to get around (the tag). It’s just that delay at the beginning of the play ultimately hurt him at the end of the play.”
Keuchel allowed two runs on 11 hits and one walk and struck out two over five innings. For the Tigers, lefty starter Tyler Alexander conceded two runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings. He struck out two and threw 57 of 91 pitches for strikes.
Once Keuchel exited, Reyes took advantage of some crucial mistakes in the sixth inning. He hit a grounder to shortstop and should have been out at first base, but Anderson overthrew Jose Abreu. Reyes then stole third base, giving the Tigers a key opportunity to break the 2-2 tie with nobody out.
Anderson countered by avenging his mistake.
On a bouncer from Baddoo, Anderson dashed across the infield and made an off-balanced throw to Grandal at home. A replay review from the umpires deemed Reyes out at the plate.
“He broke right away, and then Tim Anderson made an athletic play and a nice tag by Grandal,” Hinch said. “When it’s got to go to replay and it’s a fraction of an inch one way or the other, I think you tip your cap to TA and Yasmani. Victor came up just a tick short.”
Tyler Alexander starts, bullpen takes over
Keeping the Tigers in the game, Tyler Alexander (two runs allowed on eight hits and two walks) willed his way through five innings.
The White Sox were active on the bases in every inning but the second, forcing Alexander to use 14 pitches in the first inning, 20 in a perfect second, 21 in a two-run third, 14 in the fourth and 22 in the fifth to complete his outing.
All the damage, though, was done in the third fame.
“Him getting out of these innings that base runners were everywhere kept us in the game until we bounced back and scored a few runs,” Hinch said. “Tyler’s never going to back down. He’s always going to throw strikes for the most part. You got to be a little careful left-on-right with some of these guys, and I think he navigated it well.”
Cesar Hernandez’s single and Anderson’s double with one out put two runners in scoring position. Luis Robert followed with a single to left field, which plated both runners for a 2-0 White Sox lead. Chicago then loaded the bases, thanks to Abreu (single) and Grandal (walk), but Eloy Jimenez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Alexander worked around doubles from Robert in the first inning, Yoan Moncada in the fourth and Abreu in the fifth.
The Tigers received just enough from their relievers — Ian Krol, Bryan Garcia, Jason Foley and Michael Fulmer — to limit the White Sox to one run the rest of the way. Foley was charged with the run in the eighth inning. He put runners on first and second base with two outs, forcing Hinch to bring in Fulmer to face Anderson.
Anderson hit an RBI single to center, but Fulmer retired Robert for the third out. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning to notch his 11th save.
“We went out there and beat a good team,” said Cameron, who scored two runs. “Those guys are good. We showed people around that we’re a good team too. We executed a lot of things out there today in the game.”
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