Detroit — The Tigers did not win this baseball game Friday night.
The Central Division-leading White Sox took a round-house punch in the bottom of the ninth, but didn’t fall. They pushed across a run in the top of the 10th to beat the Tigers 5-4 before a season-high crowd of 14,163 on Pride Night at Comerica Park.
But the Tigers, specifically rookie Daz Cameron, with an assist from Mother Nature, supplied the drama.
They came to bat in the bottom of the ninth trailing 4-2. And with White Sox closer Liam Hendriks on the mound, it looked pretty much over.
It had been raining for several innings, but the heavens really opened, forcing the grounds crew to bring the tarp out after one pitch to Miguel Cabrera.
And it was like the first 8.5 innings were washed away.
“It got to the point where it was somewhat ridiculous to even try to play,” said Tigers manager AJ Hinch. “He threw one pitch and he wasn’t going to throw a strike. It wasn’t going to be good playing conditions.
“But I did love the effort coming back.”
Forty-nine minutes later, Hendriks gave up a single to Cabrera. Then with one out, Cameron, who had made a brilliant diving catch in right in the top of the ninth, strode to the plate to the same walk-up music slugger J.D. Martinez used when he played in Detroit.
“Every day I’m hustling,” goes the lyric.
Cameron ambushed a first-pitch, 97-mph fastball and drove it 397-feet into the right-center field seats — very Martinez-like — to tie the game and send it to the 10th.
“Yeah, I know that was J.D. Martinez’s song,” Cameron said. “I’ve been hearing it all over. That one right there, Every Day I’m Hustling, that just puts me in the mode of wanting to go out there and compete. I love that song. It inspires me.”
It was his first big-league home run and, after all the injuries and setbacks he’s endured the last few years, he was cherishing the moment. The fan who got the home run ball traded it back to him for another signed ball and Cameron was holding it during the Zoom interview.
“I’ll probably sleep with it tonight,” he said. “It’s really special. It’s something I worked hard for, for a long time. I’m just enjoying the moment with this. It’s something I will never forget. It’s special, special for me.”
The celebration was short, though.
Danny Mendick, the free runner in the 10th, scored on a sacrifice fly by Yoan Moncada, sliding across the plate just ahead of the throw from left fielder Robbie Grossman and the lunging tag by catcher Jake Rogers.
Lefty reliever Aaron Bummer struck out Grossman and Harold Castro, and then with the tying run on second, Mendick made a superb play behind the bag at second and threw out Jonathan Schoop to end the game.
In other circumstances, Hinch would not have subjected left-handed hitting Castro to that match-up against Bummer. But, carrying two extra relievers, his bench was empty.
“We needed every pitcher we had yesterday, so you can’t have it both ways,” Hinch said. “It was a tough match-up. That’s why I didn’t have Robbie bunt. Then it was lefty-lefty for Castro and they could pitch around Schoop.
“There are days you really love this roster construction because of the pitchers that I have. I not going to complain about it now.”
It was all White Sox up until the rain delay, though.
He didn’t come right out and say it, but Hinch had a feeling the Tigers would see a different-looking Lucas Giolito Friday night than the one they beat twice earlier this season.
“We know he’s going to make an adjustment,” Hinch said before the game. “He probably wasn’t happy the way he pitched against us this year…I’m always interested in seeing who makes the adjustment first, the guy with the ball in his hand or the guy who has the bat in his hand.”
The guy with the ball.
Giolito, whom the Tigers beat last Saturday in Chicago, gave up two solo home runs and very little else in six strong innings, and had the White Sox in position to win.
His adjustment might have been just sticking with what he does best — throw the living fire out of the change-up. He flummoxed Tigers hitters with it Friday. He threw 44 of them (out of 105 total pitches), the Tigers swung at 22, missed nine and took nine for called strikes.
Interestingly, one of the two home runs came off a change-up. Hinch gave rookie Isaac Paredes his first big-league start at shortstop, partly because he wanted another right-handed bat in the lineup to neutralize the change-up, which traditionally is more effective against left-handed hitters.
Sure enough, Paredes got a 3-2 change-up leading off the fifth and lined it into the Tigers bullpen in left field.
Paredes handled his two chances at shortstop without issue. He had a chance to make an elite play on a ball hit in the hole by Jose Abreu, but it hit off the heel of his glove, and was scored a single.
“He’s going to field the balls he’s supposed to,” Hinch said. “He’s very instinctual and he has a sneaky-good arm that he doesn’t show off a ton at the other positions…I have no fear putting him at shortstop, no reservations.”
Nomar Mazara, a left-handed hitter, lined a fastball near the same spot in the second. But that was all the damage the Tigers did against Giolito, who left after six innings with a 4-2 lead.
The game did feature some oddities.
Like, for example, when’s the last time you saw a catcher tag out a runner trying to steal second base? It hasn’t happened in the big leagues since 2017. But after Tigers starter Tarik Skubal picked off Mendick at first base, Rogers hustled up the first base line and got involved in the rundown, which ended with him chasing down and tagging Mendick.
Padres catcher Luis Torrens was the last to do it, running down Denard Span in 2017.
Or, how about a play where seven of the nine defenders touched the ball? That happened in the sixth inning, and the play cost the Tigers a run.
The White Sox had Vaughn at second and Engel at first. Rogers threw behind Engel at first and appeared to have him picked off. But the ball bounced by Miguel Cabrera, allowing Vaughn to score. Engel, though, got greedy and wound up in a rundown between second and third.
He was eventually tagged out in a routine 9-3-5-6-1-4 putout.