Detroit – Welcome home, Tigers.
Jonathan Schoop belted his team-leading 14th home run and Jake Rogers doubled, tripled and drove in three runs as the Tigers started a six-game homestand with a resounding 8-2 interleague win over the St. Louis Cardinals Tuesday night before an announced crowd of 13,492 at Comerica Park.
“Happy to be home,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We had a nice bounce-back win in Anaheim Sunday, then a day off yesterday and that seemed to give us some momentum coming into today.”
The Tigers went 4-3 on the two-city trip to Kansas City and Anaheim and are 13-12 since May 26.
Rookie Akil Baddoo, who came into the game slashing .350/.487/.500 in 25 games since May 14, contributed a double, a single and two runs.
All three played key roles in the unraveling of Cardinals rookie starter Johan Oviedo in a six-run fourth inning.
Oviedo’s implosion started with a harmless comebacker. Baddoo singled with one out and was on second after a wild pitch. Nomar Mazara bounced one back to Oviedo who had Baddoo hung up between second and third.
His throw, though, sailed over the head of third baseman Nolan Arenado. Baddoo scored and Mazara scampered all the way to third base.
“A lot of what Akil does isn’t necessarily measurable,” Hinch said. “There are other things he brings. He was super aggressive coming off second. If the ball gets by (the pitcher) we’re happy he went.
“But the fact that he continued running and stayed in the play, that’s what put pressure on him to make that throw.”
Flustered, Oviedo walked the next two hitters to load the bases. He blew two straight fastballs by Rogers, who was tardy on both. Then, inexplicably, he threw a slider. The slider hung up and Rogers hooked it into the left field corner, a two-run double.
“I was just trying to see the pitch,” Rogers said. “He spun one in there and left it up. I was able to put a good swing on it.”
The slider has been a good pitch for Oviedo. He came with a 38% swing-and-miss rate on it. But it failed him in this inning. He hung another to red-hot Schoop, who cleared the bases with a 418-foot blast to left.
“Schoop has just been incredible,” Rogers said.
It was Schoop’s ninth homer this month and his American League-leading 40th hit since May 22. He added another single in the sixth inning.
“That’s exactly what we do when we’re good,” Hinch said of the big inning. “We stay within ourselves and take what the game gives us. It was good tonight.”
Baddoo triggered a two-run fifth inning with a lead-off double. He went to third on a fly out to right field and scored on a deftly-executed safety squeeze bunt by Harold Castro. Rogers finished the inning with an RBI stand-up triple.
Rookie lefty Tarik Skubal started for the Tigers and couldn’t finish the fifth inning. He struggled to put Cardinals hitters away, which subsequently pushed his pitch-count up. He got two strikes on 14 hitters, but only posted four strikeouts.
He came in leading American League rookies with 81 strikeouts.
“He struggled with his secondary pitches a little tonight,” Rogers said. “He was struggling to find the zone at times. But there were glimpses. He didn’t have his best stuff he did what he could with what he had and he battled.
“That’s all you can ask.”
Still, Skubal went into the top of the fifth with a six-run lead and he’d allowed just one hit and two walks. But he hit the lead-off hitter Edmundo Sosa in the fifth, gave up singles to Paul DeJong and Tommy Edman, a sacrifice fly to Lars Nootbaar (who made his big-league debut) and an RBI double to Paul Goldschmidt.
“He did a lot of good things,” Hinch said. “He had a real long layoff (during the six-run fourth) and I that contributed to the fifth. They foul off a lot of pitches (18) and they don’t chase.
“He was one out away from a solid outing. He’s going to leave tonight frustrated he didn’t get through his inning. But there were still bright spots.”
Right-hander Kyle Funkhouser finished the fifth and pitched a scoreless sixth, effectively restoring order. Bryan Garcia, Buck Farmer and Daniel Norris kept the Cardinals off the board the rest of the way.
Home plate umpire and crew chief Joe West dutifully inspected every pitcher in the game for foreign substances without incident or ejection. The only player who seemed even remotely peeved was Cardinals reliever and former Tiger Andrew Miller.
“It’s just where our game is,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said before the game. “We’re trying to get rid of this stuff and we have to publicly show that we are making an effort as an industry to get it out of our game. Yesterday went better that I expected because it was handled with grace.”
As it was Tuesday.
“Joe was very consistent,” Hinch said. “I think everybody’s on board with doing this. It was non-confrontational. I didn’t think the umpires were hunting and then interrogating guys. They’re just looking for guys who stepped out of bounds.”
Miguel Cabrera, who started at first base, came out of the game after he grounded out to end the fourth. He had slid awkwardly into second base in the first inning, but stayed in the game. There was no injury report from the Tigers.
Hinch said his right calf muscle tightened up. He will be evaluated Wednesday.