The Detroit Tigers didn’t need fireworks from the home-run ball.
Not when they had singles, doubles, walks and Akil Baddoo’s leadoff presence (along with his flying helmet) leading them to a 6-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox in Sunday’s series finale at Comerica Park.
The Tigers (38-46) won two of three games in the series and own a 29-22 record since May 8. Detroit logged its first series win against the White Sox since Sept. 3-5, 2018, in Chicago.
Entering Saturday, the Tigers had lost 18 of their past 20 games to the American League Central-leading White Sox. In their back-to-back wins over the weekend, they put up 17 runs, 21 hits and 10 walks combined.
“We have to stand up and defend ourselves against our division,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “These are teams that have had their way with us over the course of a few seasons, but we can put pressure on any team. When we take the lead, we feel really good about our guys (in the bullpen).”
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After starting pitcher Matt Manning was pulled in the third inning, the Tigers picked up 5⅔ scoreless innings from the bullpen, lasting until one out in the ninth inning, from Tyler Alexander (2⅓ innings), Kyle Funkhouser (1⅔ innings) and Daniel Norris (final out in seventh inning).
Right-hander Joe Jimenez, who is evolving into a high-leverage reliever again, fired a scoreless eighth inning. He struck out two, logged four swings and misses and reached 96.4 mph with his fastball.
Lefty Gregory Soto, after the umpires forced him to change his glove, pitched the ninth inning. Using his backup glove, he allowed a three-run homer to Jose Abreu — cutting the Tigers’ lead to 6-5 — with one out.
“It’s a red glove, which is legal,” Hinch said. “As they inspected it, it had darkened up in some areas, I think just from usage. When you throw a ball and pound up against it, it’s going to darken up on the palm. It wasn’t sticky. There was no issue with it. Rather than have any sort of concern whatsoever, they removed the glove. There was no wrongdoing, other than the umpiring crew decided they wanted as close to a brand new glove as they could get.”
After Soto got his second out, he walked Leury Garcia to put the game-tying run on first base. Hinch then went to Jose Cisnero, who finished the game with one pitch.
The offense helped out the relievers by chipping in two runs in the fifth inning, thanks to a pair of two-out RBI hits from Jeimer Candelario and Eric Haase for a 6-2 lead. Candelario finished 3-for-4, while Baddoo, Haase and Harold Castro tossed in two-hit performances.
Attacking Giolito early
The Tigers made White Sox starter Lucas Giolito work through two innings. He needed 47 of his 102 pitches to earn his first six outs. The first of six runs he allowed had an old-fashioned feel: Baddoo opened the first inning with an infield single, stole second base (his 13th of the year), advanced to third base on a groundout and scored on Robbie Grossman’s groundout to shortstop.
But the Tigers didn’t need small ball to score three in the second inning. They simply piled on singles and doubles — along with Daz Cameron’s seven-pitch walk to load the bases — for a 4-0 lead.
With the bases full, Castro singled to center to score a run. Baddoo then cranked a two-strike changeup from Giolito to the right-field corner, lost his helmet upon rounding first base and cruised into second for a two-RBI double.
It was Baddoo’s 14th double this season, and his helmet popping off his head is becoming a trademark of his speed, aggressiveness on the bases and all-around athleticism.
“We’re riding high right now,” Baddoo said. “It’s just how we’ve been playing lately. We talked about it early before the game, just continue to bring pressure and try to win each series. That’s what we’ve been doing lately, and we’re going to continue to play baseball the way we know how to play.”
Hinch kept Manning on a short leash in his fourth MLB start. That meant walking out to the mound with two outs in the third inning and calling on Alexander.
Manning had only thrown 60 pitches (38 strikes) and allowed two runs, but Hinch wasn’t going to squander the chance of winning a series against the White Sox. With runners on the corners, Alexander ended the inning with two pitches.
“What I told Manning was, don’t let me taking him out in the third inning, or some of the little soft hits, characterize this as a negative start,” Hinch said. “He showed progress. I thought his slider was really good. He mixed in the slower breaking ball today.
“I went to the bullpen because of the matchup that we had, and I liked that the left side of our bullpen was pretty fresh. I wanted to go aggressively after this win to try to win the series against that team. We haven’t beat them in some of the close games.”
Manning finished with two runs on seven hits and one walk in 2⅔ innings. He has a 7.94 ERA wiht the Tigers, though that’s elevated by his nine runs allowed over 3⅔ innings in his previous outing against Cleveland at Progressive Field.
Between starts, pitching coach Chris Fetter focused on helping Manning with his fastball command and a new slider. The Tigers have asked Manning to throw fewer four-seam fastballs and mix in his breaking balls (slider, curveball) more often.
This time, he made slight improvements.
Manning’s mix over 60 pitches was 62% fastballs, 17% sliders, 12% curveballs and 10% changeups.
In the first inning, Manning conceded back-to-back singles to Tim Anderson and Gavin Sheets, but a 6-4-3 double play left a runner at third with two outs. The next batter, Brian Goodwin, flied out to left field.
Two more batters reached in the second — each with two outs — before Manning induced a ground out to third base. Once again, he pitched out of a jam to keep the White Sox from scoring.
Four singles hurt Manning in the third, though, with Abreu (single) and Garcia (sacrifice fly) picking up one RBI each. Following Andrew Vaughn’s two-out single, Hinch pulled Manning from the game.
“It wasn’t all Manning being ineffective,” Hinch said. “In a normal start, he’s got to power through that. He had plenty of pitches left. I want him to take the positives out of it.”
All seven hits allowed by Manning on Sunday were singles.
Another big day for Haase
In the third inning, Haase crushed a fastball from Giolito to the deepest part of the ballpark in right field. Right fielder Adam Eaton darted to the warning track and made a leaping catch against the wall.
Haase wasn’t technically robbed of a home run, but his flyout was measured at 395 feet. He was robbed of extra bases, though, and Eaton doubled up Candelario at first base. This came after Saturday’s showcase, in which Haase went 3-for-4 with two home runs — one traditional and one inside-the-park — and six RBIs.
The 28-year-old has 11 home runs in 37 games this season.
On Sunday, Haase finished 2-for-4 with one RBI.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.