Detroit — The heroics for the Tigers were contained to one inning and it was enough to beat the defending Central Division-champion Chicago White Sox, 5-4, in front of a sold-out Opening Day crowd at Comerica Park.
Javier Báez drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning after Eric Haase tied the game with a one-out home run.
In the top of the ninth inning, Andrew Vaughn hit a first-pitch slider from closer Gregory Soto inside the foul pole in left field.
Miguel Cabrera’s 2,988th hit of his career in the bottom of the eighth had tied the game.
Cabrera stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs against White Sox closer Liam Hendriks who he was 5 for 12 against in his career. He drove the first pitch he saw into left center, a two-run single the Tigers finally gave broke loose.
BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, White Sox 4
The Tigers had a run taken off the board in the sixth.
Down 3-0 in the six and with just one hit up to that point, Robbie Grossman (hit by pitch) and Austin Meadows (walk) got on base to start the inning against reliever Kyle Crick. With one out, Candelario, facing right-handed reliever Kendall Graveman, slapped an RBI single to right on a 3-2 pitch.
With runners on the corners, Miguel Cabrera hit a high chopper to short, Candelario was out at second but Cabrera was safe at first as the throw from second baseman Josh Harrison was errant. Second base umpire John Tumpane, however, ruled that Candelario had interfered with Harrison at the bag and called both runners out, wiping the second run off the board.
Replays showed that Candelario went into the base hard and was unable to stop his momentum. He ended up rolling past the bag and making contact with Harrison. Manager AJ Hinch asked for a review and the call was confirmed.
Eduardo Rodriguez, the Tigers’ new $77 million ace, did not sneak up on the White Sox. They did their homework. Knowing Rodriguez likes to live on the margins of the strike zone, they were extremely patient, especially the first two innings.
Working in their favor, home plate umpire Marvin Hudson was calling a consistently tight strike zone.
The combination led to Rodriguez needing 58 pitches to get through the first two innings. He got the first two outs in both innings before damage was done.
In the first, he ended up walking Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal, both laying off borderline pitches. Eloy Jimenez, in a two-strike count, rolled a ground ball up the middle to score the first run.
In the second, after Báez made a sensational backhanded play to retire Vaughn for the second out, Rodriguez gave up a two-strike double to No. 9 hitter Jake Burger, another two-strike RBI hit to A.J. Pollock and a run-scoring double to Luis Robert.
The last thing Hinch wanted to do was dip into his bullpen that early in the first game, knowing it’s the first of 10 straight games to start the season. Fortunately, Rodriguez settled in, dispatching seven straight hitters and working through four innings.
Veteran Drew Hutchison, who finished last season in the rotation, put up zeros in the fifth and sixth, but he had to work out of deep trouble in the fifth inning.
Pollock greeted him with a double and Robert followed with an infield single, moving Pollock to third. But Hutchison got Abreu (ground out), Grandal (pop out to second) and Jimenez (ground out) to escape without damage.
The Tigers did serious damage against Giolito last year, beating him three times, tagging him for 17 runs in 29.2 innings and hitting seven homers in five starts.
Giolito pitched four, one-hit shutout innings, striking out six, before he had to leave the game with oblique tightness.
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