Detroit — With three starting pitchers from the Opening Day roster on the injured list and a congested schedule the next couple weeks, the door was opened for one of the Tigers’ young arms to get his major league chance.
That opportunity came in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader and went to right-hander Alex Faedo, the 2017 first-round pick who made his long-awaited MLB debut against the Pirates. But when Faedo went to the manager’s office on Tuesday in Triple-A Toledo, he didn’t have an inkling that he was going to be called up.
“I wasn’t really expecting anything like that, so it was a complete surprise,” said Faedo, whose climb to Detroit was stalled by Tommy John surgery in 2020. “But I was happy it happened. It was nice to get a surprise and be up here with the guys.”
Faedo didn’t let the moment go to waste and largely did what he was asked to do in the spot start — throw strikes and give the Tigers a chance to win. He gave up two runs over five innings as the Tigers split the two-game set with a 7-2 loss.
Faedo, who wore No. 49, was greeted to the majors by Pittsburgh’s Ben Gamel, who ripped a 2-2 cutter down the line and into the right-field corner for a leadoff double. Faedo was able to pitch around the threat but it became a theme throughout his outing.
He gave up back-to-back singles to start the second, but he managed to escape by inducing a double-play ground ball and striking out Roberto Perez on an 85-mph slider for his first career punchout. Then in the third, Faedo once again gave up back-to-back singles as the Pirates put runners on the corners with no outs.
Faedo was able to limit the damage to a run, getting another double-play ball and getting Michael Chavis to foul out to third with runners on second and third. The Pirates tacked on another run in the fourth, when Perez unloaded on a 92-mph fastball, launching it 418 feet into the left-field seats for a 2-0 lead.
“They take advantage of some of missed pitches,” Faedo said, when asked what he’ll take away from his start. “Gotta keep executing, it’s the name of the game. Hitters are going to do more damage when you miss over the middle of the plate, so just got to be a little better at a staying on the corners.”
Faedo felt confident throwing his slider — he noted he got away with a couple that he left up in the zone — and was pleased he was able to mix in some changeups to lefties and righties.
“I thought he hung in there pretty well for his first time and being unexpected to be here and kind of a weird start time for him,” manager AJ Hinch said. “He didn’t really know when the game was going to start, the preparation is way different than it is for any game.
“He had some anxious moments in the beginning, really wanted the game to start, but that’s to be expected of a guy with his journey. I was proud of him. I think he threw the ball effectively. I know he gave up a few hits, but he hung in there.”
By the time his day was over, Faedo scattered eight hits with one walk and a strikeout. He threw 76 pitches, including 53 for strikes, and his fastball touched 93 mph.
“He’s pretty poised,” catcher Eric Haase said. “I think that he looked really good out there. He looked comfortable. I don’t think the games sped up on him at all. He stayed with his rhythm and he made pitches when he had to.
“He threw enough off-speed in the zone when he needed to and kept them off balance a little bit. Even though they had a couple hard-hit balls that were outs, they had a couple cheap hits as well, so it kind of balances out.”
The Tigers didn’t let Faedo get saddled with the loss in his debut with a two-run fifth. Jeimer Candelario blasted a leadoff double off the right-field wall and scored on a bloop single by Haase. Two batters later, Robbie Grossman tied it with an RBI double to left field that scored Derek Hill from first.
But the Tigers ultimately couldn’t send Faedo out in winning fashion as the bullpen hit a rough patch. In the seventh, Drew Hutchison gave up a walk and a double. Will Vest took over and threw a wild pitch, hit a batter, and gave up a sacrifice fly. That sequence allowed two runs to score.
Then in the ninth, Joe Jimenez was tagged for three runs on two hits and a walk, with the big blow coming on a two-run homer that Daniel Vogelbach sent into the right-field seats.
The Tigers had chance to pull even in the seventh but squandered it. After Miguel Cabrera knocked a two-out, seventh-inning single for his 3,005th career hit — moving him two hits away from tying Al Kaline on the MLB all-time hit list — and advanced to third on Austin Meadows’ double, Jonathan Schoop struck out swinging on three high fastballs.
In Game 1, the Tigers took advantage of a couple miscues from the Pirates in the decisive fifth inning to come away with a 3-2 win. Trailing 2-0, Candelario hit a leadoff double to right center and Willi Castro reached on a fielding error by Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker, who bungled a grounder.
After Akil Baddoo drew a walk to load the bases with one out, Grossman drove in a run and advanced all the runners with a sacrifice fly to deep center. Javier Baez followed with a high chopper to third, but Pirates’ Ke’Bryan Hayes whiffed on the ball and it trickled into left field, allowing Castro and Baddoo to score.
That proved to be enough offense for a Tigers’ attack that mustered just three hits. The bullpen dominated over the final four innings and retired Pittsburgh’s final 14 batters in order, and Baez turned in a pair of dazzling plays, highlighted by a sliding play where he knocked down Bryan Reynolds’ hard grounder up the middle and did a no-look, between-the-legs glove flip to get the force out at second.
“Leading up to the start was the hardest part,” Faedo said. “Once I got out in the field, I felt pretty good. … I feel like even in spring training you get nerves throwing on the backfield, so it’s nothing new.
“The first game was a pretty quick game, but for me, it felt like it was taking forever. I just wanted to get out there, but it was great once I got out there. It was a lot of fun.”
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