Detroit — The smile on Akil Baddoo’s face was priceless and it contrasted wonderfully with the look of utter dismay on Hunter Dozier’s face.
Baseball creates great moments just about every night. And before Miguel Cabrera’s three-hit, four-RBI performance propelled the Tigers to a 5-1 win over the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park Saturday, Baddoo exacted some personal, playful revenge on Dozier.
“I told him I owed him one,” Baddoo said.
Dozier robbed Baddoo of extra bases with an incredible running catch in the first inning on Friday night. Leading off the third inning Saturday, Dozier thought he had hit his 16th home run of the year, sending a 95-mph fastball rocketing toward the bullpen in left field.
Baddoo tracked the ball to the wall, timed his leap expertly and with his back to the infield, caught the ball with most of his right arm over the fence.
“Yeah, there you go, Dozier,” Baddoo said, laughing after the game. “To come up with that was crazy. I was smiling because I’d never done that before. I felt like Jordan out there. I got up pretty high. I think I got up pretty high. It looked good on camera, that’s all that matters.”
That catch helped Tigers rookie Tarik Skubal get through four scoreless, one-hit innings in his final home start of the season. But the Tigers still trailed 1-0 heading into the bottom of the sixth.
That’s when Cabrera decided to extend MiggyFest for another day.
After going 1 for 4 with a pair of double-play grounders on Friday, the day his 500th home run milestone was honored in a pregame ceremony, he delivered a two-out, two-run double in the sixth inning that flipped the score.
He followed that up by lashing a two-run, bases-loaded single in the ninth to pad the cushion.
“We needed that,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “It was a tough game to win, even though it looked like we won comfortably at the end. We pitched really well tonight to keep them off the board, but you do need that big, key hit to relax everybody in the dugout.
“Miggy provided that.”
With his three hits, Cabrera stands 17 shy of 3,000 and he’s just four doubles from 600. He would become only the third player to achieve 500 homers, 3,000 hits and 600 doubles, joining Hank Aaron and Albert Pujols in that exclusive club.
His 596th double tied him for 18th place all-time with former Tiger Luis Gonzalez.
It was a milestone game for Skubal, as well. His strikeout of Salvador Perez to end the first inning was the 200th of his career.
Reaching the plateau in 38 games makes him the fastest Tigers player ever to record 200 punch-outs, besting Michael Fulmer, who did it in 40 games.
“It’s a cool accomplishment,” Skubal said. “But just like the rookie strikeout record, it’s a cool thing to have but it’s not why I play the game. I play the game to win. Hopefully next year we’re in a playoff push and we’re doing these things. That’s why you play the game.”:
He’s also going to shatter Fulmer’s club rookie record for best strikeout-to-walk ratio.
With one start left, Skubal has already set a new Tigers strikeout mark (163) with just 46 walks. That 3.54 ratio will break Fulmer’s current rookie mark of 3.14 set in 2016. Skubal’s ratio is the best in the American League since Houston’s Collin McHugh posted a 3.83 strikeout-to-walks mark in 2014.
The Royals broke a scoreless tie against reliever Drew Hutchison in the fifth, without the benefit of a hit. Carlos Santana led off with a walk, went to second on a passed ball, to third on a sacrifice bunt and scored on a sacrifice fly by Dozier.
The passed ball by Dustin Garneau was the American League-worst 18th by Tigers catchers.
But Garneau more than redeemed himself, throwing out Olivares and Andrew Benintendi trying to steal second in the sixth and seventh innings. The Royals had a single, double and walk in the seventh but didn’t score.
Things got dicey for the Tigers in the seventh after Kyle Funkhouser gave up a walk and a double to Nicky Lopez with one out. That set up a confrontation with Perez, who stepped to the plate with 46 home runs on his ledger and the tying runs in scoring position.
Funkhouser got him to chase two sliders out of the zone, but Perez worked the count full. Funkhouser went back to the slider and locked Perez up, called strike three.
“That was key,” Hinch said. “We had an open base and you could be careful. But you can’t just load the bases for no reason. You aren’t going to double-up (next hitter) Benintendi. So we went after Perez and Funkhouser executed some really good pitches.”
Hinch then brought in Fulmer, who struck out Benintendi with a wicked curveball to end the inning.
“That’s a good lesson in sequencing and how you save a bullet when you have it and use it at the right time,” Hinch said. “What a key spot right there. He threw two really good sliders, then a changed pace with a fastball, and dropped the curveball in there.
“Michael is a complete pitcher and his sequencing was super key, especially when you have a calm heartbeat in that moment.”
On a night two of his rookie records were bested, Fulmer got the final four outs to earn his 12th save of the season.
There was some bad news, though.
One of the hottest hitters in the Tigers’ lineup, Victor Reyes, left the game in the fifth inning with tightness in right groin. With eight games left, it might spell a premature end to his season.
“I’m not greatly optimistic at this point in the season,” Hinch said. “These types of injuries usually take five to seven days at a minimum.”