Detroit Tigers finish 2021 season with 5-2 win against Chicago White Sox

Detroit Free Press

CHICAGO — The Detroit Tigers completed their 2021 season on a high note.

While sitting four regulars — Miguel Cabrera, Jeimer Candelario, Jonathan Schoop and Robbie Grossman — the Tigers received six innings of one-run ball from starter Tyler Alexander.

The crafty left-hander didn’t get much run support, but Daz Cameron came to the rescue in the top of the ninth inning. As the late afternoon rainfall intensified, the rookie drilled a go-ahead solo home run over the right-field wall, helping the Tigers to a 5-2 win over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“This was my first year in the big leagues that I got a taste of winning,” Alexander said. “Winning is awesome. It was fun watching our team struggle a little bit in the first month and to watch us grow and develop into a team that I think next year can definitely compete.”

The Tigers finish with a 77-85 record and possession of third place in the American League Central. Right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer notched his 14th save to complete the win in the season finale.

“I’m proud of our guys,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “What a way to finish our season with a nice win, albeit in miserable conditions at the end. That was a lot of rain. … To come out and finish with a win, everybody goes home happy. Happy flight, no matter where you’re going.”

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Playing his final game as a rookie, 23-year-old Akil Baddoo helped break a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning. He singled off reliever Michael Kopech, who replaced starter Dylan Cease, and picked up his 18th stolen base.

Baddoo then advanced to third on Isaac Paredes’ flyout to left. An ensuing sacrifice fly from Harold Castro, a solid situational hitter, gave the speedy Baddoo enough time to dash home for a 2-1 lead.

Facing reliever Drew Hutchison in the seventh, the White Sox needed just two batters — Adam Engel and Andrew Vaughn — to even the score. Engel opened the bottom of the seventh with a double, followed by Vaughn’s RBI single to right.

Hutchison loaded the bases before escaping with an inning-ending double play. Right-hander Joe Jimenez walked one and struck out two to complete a scoreless eighth inning.

“I was really happy that he ended on a high note,” Hinch said of Jimenez. “He finished in the strike zone and was very aggressive in a tight game, really good environment. This weekend was really cool to play here when they’re getting ready for the playoffs. The crowd was really good.

“Joe came in and responded with a little bit more adrenaline, a little more life in his body and his delivery and the success followed him. We wanted to win to finish the season, and we don’t do that without Joe’s inning.”

Cameron’s home run off White Sox reliever Reynaldo Lopez gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead, and Dustin Garneau added an RBI double for protection.

Baddoo’s sacrifice fly made it 5-2.

Trading runs

The Tigers and White Sox went back and forth in the first inning, with both teams scoring one run.

In the top of the first, the Tigers scored on a Harold Castro two-out triple, followed by Eric Haase’s power stroke.

On the first pitch he saw, Haase doubled to right for a 1-0 lead.

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The White Sox countered in the bottom half, as Luis Robert smashed an 2-0 sinker for a 430-foot home run. The ball traveled with an insane 117.7 mph exit velocity. (The second highest exit velocity Sunday — 107.5 mph — came from Willi Castro on a fourth-inning groundout.)

It was Robert’s 13th home run in 68 games.

“I like that he didn’t shy away from the strike zone after Robert hit that ball to left field for the homer,” Hinch said of Alexander. “He’s never afraid. He’s not going to back down. He’s always challenged the strike zone with various pitches.”

Cease finished Sunday’s start with a 1.17 ERA in four outings against the Tigers this season. In the final matchup, he allowed one run on four hits and two walks over four innings. He struck out five, throwing 44 of 69 pitches for strikes. 

Alexander strong

The White Sox had their best chance to chase Alexander in the fifth inning.

The ex-reliever allowed singles to Engel, Cesar Hernandez and Tim Anderson. But between the singles from Engel and Hernandez, Vaughn grounded into a double play. Although the next two batters reached, Alexander wiggled out of the jam — with help from pitching coach Chris Fetter’s mound visit — by retiring Robert.

“He gave us even more than I expected,” Hinch said. “I was hoping to get five (innings) out of him. We got six, arguably could have sent him out for the seventh if it wasn’t the last day of the season. Tyler showed a lot of guts this year.”

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Alexander allowed one run on four hits and two walks over six innings, adding four strikeouts. He tossed 58 of 85 pitches for strikes and concluded his season with a 3.81 ERA in 106⅓ innings. This year, the 27-year-old split time between the starting rotation and bullpen.

For his 85 pitches, Alexander mixed in 22 sinkers (26%), 18 cutters (21%), 18 changeups (21%), 16 sliders (19%) and 11 four-seam fastballs (13%). He got eight swings and misses, including four with his slider.

Since the beginning of September, Alexander recorded a 2.56 ERA, 11 walks and 26 strikeouts over 31⅔ innings in seven games (six starts).

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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