Milwaukee – The Tigers haven’t played much long ball in recent weeks. But that doesn’t mean it’s not part of their offensive package.
Eric Haase and Jonathan Schoop each hit a pair of home runs Tuesday night and the Tigers rode a six-run second inning to a 10-7 win and a series split with the Milwaukee Brewers at American Family Field.
“The ball was flying out of the park tonight,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We put up some really good swings. Haase and Schoop had big nights and we needed every one of them.”
Hinch, though, wanted it known, the home runs were a by-product of sustained good at-bats, which the Tigers have been putting up with much more consistency over the last month.
“We just need quality at-bats,” he said. “I am just as proud of (Schoop’s) single off Corbin Burnes yesterday as I am of his two home runs tonight. I know they don’t always change the scoreboard as much, but we just need quality at-bat after quality at-bat and the results will be what they are.”
Part of the Tigers’ struggles early on came from chasing home runs, which drove down the contact rate and drove up the strikeout rate.
“The quality of our at-bats picked up and the results have followed,” Hinch said. “Not vice versa.”
The Tigers jumped all over Brewers lefty Eric Lauer in the second inning. The six spot was the most they’ve scored in an inning this season. Haase hit a solo home run to start it and Schoop hit a two-run shot to cap it. In the middle, Miguel Cabrera obliterated a 0-for-19 skid with a three-run double.
It was his 400th double as a Tiger and he tied former Brewers great Robin Yount for 21st all-time with 583 doubles.
But, he had to leave the game in the sixth inning with tightness in his left groin. The Tigers said the move was precautionary.
“I took him out because I’ve asked a lot out of him the last couple of days,” Hinch said. “He’s been on his feet playing first base and running the bases hard. I saw it as an opportunity to put (Zack) Short at shortstop and move our infield over and get him off his feet.”
Haase homered to lead off the third inning, too, also off Lauer. His first dinger was a line drive over the wall in left. The second had an exit velocity of 101 mph and flew 407 feet over the center field wall into the batter’s eye.
“Anywhere away from Comerica Park and it seems to fly a little better for me,” Haase joked.”
He’s got four homers on the year, hitting two in two separate games. And, he became the third Tigers hitter since 1961 (in the modern era) to lead off consecutive innings with a home run. He joins Chad Curtis (1995) and Willie Horton (1968).
“I feel good for him,” Hinch said. “This is the offensive profile he’s had his whole career and he just never got the at-bats at the the big-league level to see if it translates. He’s always hit homers. He’s got a hitter-ish look to him in the box.
“Eric is the type of guy you root for. I know he’s got some deep, embedded Tiger love from growing up here (Westland)… We’re all pulling for him to keep it up.”
It was the fourth straight multi-hit game for Schoop. His second homer, his seventh on the year, gave the Tigers a three-run cushion going into the final three innings.
The Tigers tacked on two more runs in the ninth, taking advantage of two of the seven walks allowed by the Brewers pitchers. Willi Castro, who got the start at shortstop and had two hits, plated one with a sacrifice fly and Nomar Mazara had a run-scoring double.
And then it was a matter of holding off the Brewers, who bashed five home runs themselves, four of them solo shots.
“What’s the saying, you don’t get beat by the solo homer?” Hinch said. “That stayed true tonight.”
It was a strange outing for Tigers starter Matthew Boyd. He’d gotten two runs or less run support in six of his first 10 starts this season. This time he was staked to 6-1 and then a 7-1 lead and couldn’t get out of the fifth inning.
“I think he tried to do a little too much,” Hinch said. “He gave up a couple of home runs, but in the end, I just thought he tried to do too much and stopped executing.”
Boyd had allowed just three home runs in his previous 57.2 innings, but he gave up three in the first three innings Tuesday. Brewers leadoff hitter Kolten Wong hit two of them, both off sliders – a solo homer in the first and a two-run home in the third.
Rookie Tyrone Taylor, just recalled from Triple-A to replace injured Lorenzo Cain, hit a solo shot in the third. He added another solo shot in the eighth off reliever Tyler Alexander.
It was two-for-one homer night in Milwaukee. It was the seventh time in Major League history that four different players hit multiple homers in the same game.
Boyd got the first two outs in the fifth, but he was late covering first on a ground ball by Christian Yelich that should have got him out of the inning. The infield single kept the inning alive and former Tiger Avisail Garcia then ended Boyd’s night with an RBI double.
The Tigers bullpen picked him up, though. After Joe Jimenez got through the fifth, left-hander Derek Holland dispatched all six hitters he faced, striking out four of them. His two-seam fastball was sitting 95 mph and touching 96, with good movement.
He threw 16 of them and got seven swings and misses and six called strikes.
Alexander, another lefty, struck out three in the eighth, around the Taylor home run.
Gregory Soto, the fourth lefty to pitch for the Tigers in this one, gave up a solo homer to Luis Urias — the fifth home run by the Brewers, ninth of the game — before closing it out.
Hinch went to the lefties partly out of necessity and partly because the Brewers bench was loaded with left-handed hitters. But he also had an eye on the White Sox series this weekend.
“We wanted to stay away from our right-handers as best we could for two reasons,” he said. “The Yankees series took a lot of pitches out of our right-handed relief pen. That and the way yesterday went (six relievers were used).
“And we have the White Sox for four games this weekend and they have a heavy right-handed lineup.”