Detroit — The ball really did hit him. Jonathan Schoop will show you the scratch on his leg if you need proof.
“Yeah, he told me, ‘It actually did hit me,'” Akil Baddoo said. “I said, ‘Well be glad they didn’t call it. You got a grand slam.”
In a night of unique feats and wild plot twists, Schoop’s at-bat in the seventh inning provided the fulcrum for the Tigers’ rousing 10-4 win over the American League East-leading Tampa Bay Rays Friday night at Comerica Park.
“It was a bad call that turned out to be a good call,” Schoop said with a smile.
Schoop came up in the seventh with the bases loaded and one out and facing right-hander Andrew Kittredge. The second pitch seemed to graze Schoop’s leg. Schoop immediately started peeling off his shin and arm guards, thinking he’d just tied the game.
“I didn’t even wait for the phone,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Jonathan was so emphatic about it. He started taking his stuff off.”
Home plate umpire Jordan Baker called the pitch a ball and none of the video replay angles were conclusive enough to overturn the call.
“In between innings I talked to Jordan,” Hinch said. “He was very uncertain, but his instinct was that it didn’t hit anything. And video would have been hard to get unless it moves the pant leg or clearly hit something.
“But I’ve been never happier with that outcome.”
Two pitches later, Schoop put a one-arm swing on an elevated slider and knocked into the Tigers bullpen — his fifth career grand slam and 20th homer on the season.
“That never gets old,” Schoop said. “That was good. I thought I got hit but they didn’t call it and then I hit it out and put the team ahead and get us the win.”
Victor Reyes extended that lead with a three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth, a career-long 429-foot bomb to right field, which erased all drama and intrigue from a game that was previously thick with it.
“This game had a lot of twists and turns, but we had a lot of mature play tonight at the plate,” Hinch said. “It was a big night for us because of the way we went about it and the way we had to win.”
Go back to the top of the seventh. The Tigers had just broken a 1-1 tie on a clutch two-out, two-run double by Jeimer Candelario in the sixth inning.
Right-hander Jose Cisnero, the first of three late-inning stoppers who were rested and ready to close this game out, got the first two hitters in the top of the seventh and induced a fly ball into left-center by Nelson Cruz that should have ended the inning.
But the ghost of the horrific collision with center fielder Derek Hill back on Aug. 10 must’ve flashed through left-fielder Akil Baddoo’s mind. After tracking the ball and seemingly in position to finish the play, he backed off and the ball dropped for a single.
“I asked Derek about it in the dugout and he was yelling for Baddoo to take it,” Hinch said. “Derek was set up on the oppo side of second base. He was far away from it, and it was eerily similar to that (other) ball, perfectly placed between them.
“I’m sure, just human nature, he had to have a little bit of deja vu there.”
Baddoo, who hit his American League-leading seventh triple and worked a walk ahead of Schoop’s slam, said it was just a miscommunication.
“We’re going to have that squared away,” he said. “We’ll be ready tomorrow.”
Cisnero walked the next two hitters to load the bases, setting the table for pinch-hitter Ji-Man Choi, who emptied the bases with a double — putting the Rays back on top, 4-3.
“Thankfully, we got away with it,” Hinch said. “We didn’t have a collision. We didn’t make the play but we still came out on top. Both of them were upset in the dugout about the way it played out.
“But all’s well that ends well.”
Candelario’s two-run double in the bottom of the sixth, was remarkable for a couple of reasons. It was his Major League-leading 40th, for one. And he managed to hit it over the head of one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball, Kevin Kiermaier.
“What a mature at-bat,” Hinch said. “This ballpark, you have to respect how deep center field is. If Kiermaier can’t get it, nobody in the league can get it. That’s how I look at it.”
Candelario went down and golfed a 3-2 change-up from reliever J.P. Feyereisen. The ball must’ve had some serious top spin on it. It left his bat with an exit velocity of 107.7 mph and flew 427 feet to the wall.
The only other big-league ballpark that would’ve held that ball was Coors’ Field in Denver.
Almost lost in the noise was yet another impressive feat by Miguel Cabrera. With singles off Michael Wacha in the second and fourth innings, Cabrera became just the first player in the modern era of Major League Baseball (since 1961) age 38 or older to get a hit in nine straight plate appearances.
Haase, who just missed a homer on a foul ball down the left field line in the second, obliterated a changeup from Wacha to lead off the fifth inning. It left his bat with an exit velocity of 109 mph and sailed 416 feet deep into the seats in left. Haase’s 21st home run tied the game 1-1.
The Rays lost dynamic rookie Wander Franco in the first inning. He singled and went to third on a double by Nelson Cruz. The single extended his on-base streak to 39 games. But he was in pain as he got to third base and left the game.
Initial diagnosis was right hamstring tightness.