Detroit — Tyler Alexander will be the first to tell you, he gives up home runs. It’s part of the package with him. He doesn’t have an overpowering fastball but he attacks hitters as if he does. That fearlessness is part of what makes him effective, even if it occasionally comes back to bite him.
What he can’t abide, though, is walking hitters. So when he left the mound in the fourth inning Tuesday in his inaugural start for 2020, he wasn’t kicking himself for the two home runs he allowed as much as he was for the three walks.
“I usually have a lot better command than that,” he said. “I really struggled with whatever I was trying to throw arm side (away from right-handed hitters).”
Eloy Jimenez hit a three-run home run in the first, a wall-scraper to right, and Edwin Encarnacion nearly hit the giant scoreboard in left with a 410-foot solo shot as the White Sox halted the Tigers winning streak at four with an 8-4 win at Comerica Park.
“The guy has the heart of a frickin’ bulldog,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It was just one of those nights. He wants to go at them. I don’t think he was over-amped. I just think it didn’t work out tonight.”
Catcher Austin Romine, who hit a two-run home run and knocked in three runs, agreed that the lefty Alexander’s inability to command the outside edge against the all-right-handed White Sox lineup was an issue.
“He was getting it inside on righties pretty well, so we tried to stay in there,” he said. “But against a team that can swing the bat like that, you have to be able to get some stuff to the other side out the plate.
“He was fighting to get either the backdoor slider or change-up out there.”
The backdoor slider was his money pitch on Aug. 2 against the Reds, the day he struck out a club and American League-record nine straight hitters and earned a spot in the rotation.
“I threw one backdoor slider for a strike today and the guy hit it out,” Alexander said.
He walked Tim Anderson to start the game, fell behind both Yasmani Grandal (single) and Jose Abreu (RBI double) and then with two outs hung a first-pitch slider to Jimenez.
“After the (27-pitch) first inning I thought I settled in,” Alexander said. “I sort of realized what I had today, and the one thing I did have was fastballs on the glove side. And I went with that and started getting some early outs.”
But in the fourth he fell behind Encarnacion and tried to beat him with a cutter. It left the bat at 109 mph and might’ve reached Ford Field had the scoreboard girders not been in the way.
“It was an attempt at a cutter,” Alexander clarified. “I got him with it in his first at-bat. The purpose of it was to get on his hands, but he was too quick.”
Last season, Alexander walked seven hitters in 53 innings. So, the three walks in less than four was uncharacteristic. So too was his 24-34 ball-strike rate.
“Command is something I usually rely on,” he said. “I struggled with it tonight … But I have command. I normally have command. I’m not worried about not ever getting it back. I’ll go to work in my bullpens and get ready for my next start.”
Which Gardenhire said would be in five days.
“He’s a good pitcher,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve seen it. We saw it last year. It just didn’t work out for him today. But he’s accountable. He said, ‘I didn’t do my job.’ That’s good enough for me.”
The White Sox pushed a run across against Tigers’ Rule 5 rookie Rony Garcia (single by Jimenez, his fourth RBI) and two more off their former teammate Carson Fulmer.
“We didn’t know how that was going to go,” Gardenhire said.
Fulmer, whom the White Sox drafted with the eighth overall pick in 2015 and designated for assignment last month, drilled Adam Eaton in the left shoulder with his first pitch. He got a little unlucky when Anderson’s ground ball to shortstop went into left field.
Niko Goodrum went to cover second because Eaton was running on the pitch. Engel scored on a ground out and Anderson came home on a double by Jose Abreu.
If there was a glimmer of light in this one for the Tigers, it was Beau Burrows and Kyle Funkhouser, two little-used bullpen arms. They combined for six straight outs. Funkhouser’s fastball, previously 93-94 in earlier outings, was ringing 98 mph on the gun. He struck out Engel and Yoan Moncada.
“Those guys have been champing at the bit to get out there,” Gardenhire said. “We’ve been trying to find spots for them but we’ve played a lot of close games lately and haven’t had a lot of opportunity for those guys.
“But Burrows was sharp and Funky went in there flinging it. There’s a reason he’s on the roster. He’s got a good arm.”
The Tigers (9-6), in their first game without No. 4 hitter C.J. Cron (left knee sprain), were hitless from the sixth through the eighth.
They did manage to force a White Sox pitching change in the ninth. Right-handed reliever Ian Hamilton walked the first two hitters and gave up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Harold Castro.
Veteran Steve Cishek had to come on to get the final two outs.