Tigers, playing giant beaters, defeat White Sox 4-3

Detroit News
By Steve Kornacki |  Special to The Detroit News

Detroit — There was the hint of a challenge in the comment Tigers manager AJ Hinch made prior to Monday night’s game with the Chicago White Sox: “This team has handled us all year.”

The White Sox were 9-4 versus Detroit heading into this series.

But the Tigers turned the tide in this one and took down yet another first-place team, beating the American League Central Division leader with a 4-3 comeback win before 12,884 at Comerica Park.

Detroit has won three in a row, having taken the last two games at Tampa Bay against the AL East Division-leading Rays. They also swept a two-game series last week from the NL Central Division-leading Milwaukee Brewers.

“The rest of the year is for pride for us,” said Detroit starting pitcher Matt Manning. “We were (4-9) against the White Sox going into this game, and we want to win the rest.

“And we want to go above .500 or close to it. We want to win all these games and show what we’re about, and head into the offseason on a high note.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, White Sox 3

The Tigers are 73-78 with 11 games to play, and would have to go 8-3 to finish .500.

The odds are against them, but who can count out a team that keeps finding ways to win tough ballgames against tough competition?

Robbie Grossman was hit by a pitch from reliever Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the eighth inning, stole his 18th base of the season, and scored the winning run when Harold Castro hit a single in the hole into short right field.

Hinch said, “When he got to second, who do you want up to get a single? To me, it’s Harold Castro.”

Castro, who had a walk-off hit against Kimbrel earlier this season, said of Hinch’s praise: “That’s pretty cool. That gives you confidence in yourself.”

Alex Lange got the save by inducing three groundball outs in the top of the ninth, and Drew Hutchison got the win with two shutout innings preceding him.

It was quite a finish after quite a comeback.

Both teams scored three runs in the third inning for the only scoring until the bottom of the eighth.

Tigers cleanup hitter Miguel Cabrera tied the score in the third on a medium-depth fly to center that produced yet another milestone.

Cabrera, who got his 500th homer Aug. 22 at Toronto, collected RBI No. 1,800 on that sacrifice fly.

He became only the 22nd player to reach that number, and Frank Robinson (1,812) is the next Hall of Famer above him on the RBI rungs.

Cabrera has 71 RBI this season, and had not surpassed 60 RBI since knocking in 108 in 2016. He can break into the Top 10 on that list with two more seasons as productive as this one.

Jimmy Foxx is No. 10 with 1,922 RBI, and Detroit’s own Ty Cobb is No. 9 at 1,944.

“Miggy’s passing some really big thresholds,” said Hinch. “I think we’re watching an incredible player clearly still contributing, but still it’s unfathomable when you (put up) really big numbers.”

Cabrera remains 21 hits shy of 3,000, and five doubles away from 600.

The Tigers came back in that third inning against starter Carlos Rodon by mounting a rally from the bottom of the batting order. No. 8 hitter Isaac Paredes worked a walk and No. 9 hitter Willi Castro singled to center.

“Obviously, he’s a tough pitcher,” said Hinch. “He got some strikeouts. But we can score from any part of the order. Our guys had a good approach, and it’s what we needed … and off we go.”

Leadoff batter Victor Reyes kept the line moving with an RBI-single to center, and then set up the rest of the scoring with some clever base-running.

Jonathan Schoop followed him in the order and hit a grounder that had definite double play potential, and should’ve brought at least one out.

However, White Sox second baseman Cesar Hernandez didn’t appear to know what to do after fielding the ball with Reyes approaching him and opting to stop before falling backward.

Hernandez attempted unsuccessfully to tag him with a swipe of his glove, and then fired too late to get Schoop at first. Reyes got up after the throw to claim second. Hernandez was credited with an error and Schoop was safe on a fielder’s choice.

So, there were two on with nobody out.

Grossman’s deep fly to right allowed Reyes to tag up and reach third, where Cabrera brought him home.

Rodon, entering the game with a 12-5 record and 2.38 ERA, struck out Eric Haase to end the inning. But his night was over.

Rodon’s been dealing with shoulder fatigue and has not exceeded five innings in his last seven starts. He didn’t feel right after the third inning and was taken out.

He’d cruised through the first two innings with five strikeouts and only a walk allowed. But the Tigers got to him in the third inning to answer for Manning.

Manning had worked himself out of a jam in the second inning, but walked No. 9 hitter Brian Goodwin leading off the third. Tim Anderson lashed a single to center and Manning then hit Luis Robert with a pitch, loading the bases.

He was in a bad spot, and Tigers pitching coach Chris Fetter came to the mound to give him a breather and likely discuss pitching strategy about facing the heart of Chicago’s batting order.

Yoan Moncada knocked in the first run with a fielder’s choice grounder, putting runners on the corners.

Cleanup hitter Yasmani Grandal scored the second run with a sacrifice fly. Then Eloy Jimenez’s two-out double brought in another.

Manning got Leury Garcia to ground out to Cabrera at first, ending the inning.

The rookie right-hander then settled down, allowing a lead-off single in the fourth and a two-out double in the fifth – but no further scoring.

“I like Matt Manning’s outing even after the three runs,” said Hinch. “He kind of settled down and got us through the fifth inning. He’s learning, maturing and growing.

“He’s not perfect, but he doesn’t need to be. … He competes. He wants to be perfect, but I love how he battles back from the adversity.”

His teammates tied it for him in the bottom half of the third, and then won it for reliever Hutchison in the bottom of the eighth.

Detroit has lost most of its back-end relieving corps to injuries – including closer Gregory Soto – but now Kyle Funkhouser on Sunday and Lange have stepped up for their first career saves.

“His heart rate is starting to come down a bit in those moments,” Hinch said of Lange.

Players who never dreamed of such opportunities this season are getting them and coming through, and the Tigers are playing giant-beaters in September, playing as though the playoffs were still a strong possibility.

“It’s a mindset that I feel good about with this team,” said Hinch.

Steve Kornacki is a freelance writer.

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