Detroit Tigers rookie Akil Baddoo lost his helmet while rounding first base.
He never looked back.
Baddoo’s flying helmet often signifies a stolen base, infield single, double or triple. In this situation, he was determined to reach third. Even a small stumble after touching second base didn’t stop him from a stand-up triple with two outs in the second inning.
The 22-year-old outfielder cleared the bases for three RBIs early in Saturday’s Game 2, but 38-year-old veteran Miguel Cabrera played hero for the Tigers (42-51) with a walk-off bloop single into center field. He scored a hustling Jonathan Schoop — displaying his best Baddoo impression — from first base, giving his team a 5-4 win and a sweep of the doubleheader at Comerica Park.
“I knew they were playing deep,” Schoop said. “They wanted to catch the ball, even if it was hit into the gaps. I thought, ‘I’m going to run as fast as I can. If it drops, I’m going to score.’ That’s what I did. I showed them I have some wheels when I need to.”
There were 31,624 fans at the nightcap.
“Thanks to the fans for coming out and creating a great night,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “It was the first time that it really felt like kind of an Opening Day atmosphere, a buzz in the crowd from the very beginning.”
Hinch later added: “We get more brand of baseball like this, we’re going to earn their respect to come back to the ballpark and fill this place up. … It’s a step in the right direction for the entire organization to have this environment and deliver while the people are here.”
In the top of the eighth — an extra inning after the scheduled seven innings under MLB’s doubleheader rules — Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez threw a wild pitch past catcher Jake Rogers. Nick Gordon started the inning at second base because of MLB’s extra innings rule, advanced to third and crossed home plate on Jimenez’s misfire.
But Detroit bounced back.
Derek Hill started at second base, stole third with one out and then scored on a single from Schoop to tie the game. Twins left-hander Taylor Rogers struck out Robbie Grossman, but Cabrera delivered the winning hit.
Detroit took Game 1 of the doubleheader, 1-0, behind Grossman’s first-inning leadoff homer. After losing four games in a row to the Twins to end the first half of the season, the Tigers returned to action by sweeping the doubleheader as part of a now-three-game series. (A planned fourth game was rained out Friday and will be made up in August.)
After Baddoo’s triple in the second inning, Twins starter Kenta Maeda retired 10 straight batters. He finished with three runs allowed on three hits, one walk and eight strikeouts over five innings.
“For me, he’s not a Rule 5 (draft pick)anymore,” Schoop said about Baddoo. “He’s not a rookie anymore. He is mature. I saw it when he got a really good start, got into a little bit of a slump and then got out (of the slump). For a first year, it’s tough.”
Tyler Alexander isn’t a true starting pitcher right now, but the left-hander can start bullpen-only games when Hinch needs him. Of his 27 appearances this season, Alexander has started three.
Alexander carried the Tigers through 3⅓ innings in Game 2. He allowed two runs on four hits, without a walk. He struck out one batter and threw 35 of 48 pitches for strikes. After the Game 1 injury to right-hander Jose Urena, Hinch needs another starting pitcher. Alexander could help fill the void if the Tigers decide to stretch him out.
“Barring any change, he’s likely to be the starter that last day (Thursday) against Texas,” Hinch said. “We may change our mind between now and then, but that was the thought in extending him into the fourth inning.”
The Twins opened the scoring in the first: Nelson Cruz (who had doubled) scored on Josh Donaldson’s single to center. Donaldson added a solo home run in the fourth inning, cutting the Tigers’ lead to one run.
Alexander used 22 pitches in the first inning, 13 pitches in the second, six in the third and seven for one out in the fourth inning. After Donaldson’s 413-foot homer, Alexander retired the ensuing batter and was removed from the game.
“Job well done by Tyler,” Hinch said. “We’ll see if he’s the answer here in the next couple of days.”
The rest of the bullpen
The Tigers went to righty Erasmo Ramirez, who completed the fourth but allowed the game-tying run in the fifth inning. He gave up back-to-back singles, forcing Hinch to call on one of his best relievers — righty Jose Cisnero — to escape the jam.
Cisnero walked the first batter he faced to load the bases.
Cruz, 41, then followed with an infield single up the middle, knotting the game at three. Second baseman Harold Castro gloved the ball with a sharp play, but he fumbled the ball while trying to start the double play. (The run was charged to Ramirez.)
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Left-hander Derek Holland used 11 pitches in a perfect sixth inning. Jimenez kept the game tied with a scoreless seventh. He returned for the eighth — the first extra inning — and allowed a run to score with his wild pitch.
The Tigers made many strong defensive plays, highlighted by Hill’s catch in center field. He tracked a line drive from Cruz to the warning track in center field. The ball traveled 396 feet and came off the bat at 104.4 mph — providing a .680 expected batting average.
But Hill made a diving catch to steal extra bases from Cruz and complete the third inning.
Castro got his opportunity to flash his leather in the second inning. A ground ball from Andrelton Simmons ricocheted off the mound and continued to accelerate up the middle. Castro made a sliding back-handed grab; his throw to Schoop at first base beat Simmons to end the inning. (Castro caught a low line drive in the fourth inning, as well.)
To start the third, Schoop made a running over-the-head catch in foul territory.
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.