DETROIT — The list of players from Curaçao to reach the Major Leagues is 16 players long, according to Baseball Reference. Just two, Andruw Jones and Andrelton Simmons, had recorded 1,000 hits in the big leagues — until Monday.
Jonathan Schoop joined the club with his three-hit performance in the Tigers’ 7-5 win over the Twins. But as he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning needing a home run for the cycle, he admittedly had his thoughts on becoming part of that exclusive club as well.
“Of course,” Schoop said. “I was trying. I was trying to score runs so we could get more runs, but I was aware of it. I was trying to go for it.”
Schoop struck out, but considering the way the game unfolded, it was arguably fitting that the 30-year-old — known for homers for nearly his entire 10-year Major League career — fell a homer shy. On a day when the Twins slugged three home runs off rookie starter Beau Brieske, the Tigers outscored them in large part on the basepaths.
Detroit’s only home run Monday came from an unexpected source. Derek Hill’s 355-foot drive over the left-field fence bounced off Kyle Garlick’s glove and into the bullpen for the club’s first hit off Twins starter Dylan Bundy with one out in the third inning.
The Tigers have not been the most efficient baserunners this season. That includes Schoop, who did not take off from second base on Javier Báez’s two-out popup to short on Saturday. On Monday, they dialed up the pressure.
“You don’t have to be the fastest guy to be a good baserunner,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “In fact, it’s probably even more important for the average to below-average guys to be smart baserunners.”
After his third-inning single brought him within one, Schoop’s one-out double down the left-field line in the fifth — his eighth double of the year — was his 1,000th Major League hit. It also put him in position to take off on Jeimer Candelario’s two-out flare into shallow left-center field. Schoop was rounding third by the time the ball hit the ground, scoring easily. It was one of five occasions where the Tigers took the extra base, whether first to third, second to home, or first to home — as Candelario did on Spencer Torkelson’s fourth-inning double.
Schoop is no stranger to doubles, having hit 30 last year. Monday’s seventh-inning triple, however, was just the seventh of his career. Even in what was then a 4-4 game, he admittedly wasn’t thinking about it. Once the ball passed right fielder Trevor Larnach and rolled to the wall in right-center, Schoop sped up around second.
“I was thinking two [bases], but when I see the ball hit the wall over there, I said I’m going,” Schoop said. “I’m trying to get to third base so they can drive me in.”
That didn’t happen; sidearmer Joe Smith induced three consecutive ground balls, including a Candelario grounder to second that caught Schoop taking off on contact. But in the ensuing rundown, Schoop set up the go-ahead run, drawing catcher Gary Sánchez to chase him down the third-base line as Candelario took second.
“My mind was to score,” Schoop said, “but when I knew I couldn’t make it, I had to try to get in the rundown and see if Candy can get to second or third base.”
The difference was a runner in scoring position for Torkelson, whose ground ball to the right side sent first baseman Jose Miranda far from the bag as Torkelson sped down the line. Miranda tried to throw across his body to Smith, who was racing for the bag, but his wide throw allowed Candelario to round third and put Detroit in front. Willi Castro’s ensuing single scored Torkelson from second before Hill walked and scored an insurance run on a Gio Urshela throwing error in the eighth.
It’s not the typical impact from Schoop, whose recovery from a slow start at the plate last year came primarily through power and lifted the Tigers with him. That led Detroit to sign him to a two-year contract extension late last season. But with Hinch emphasizing the value of balls in play and action on the bases, it’s a contribution that makes a difference.
“We’ve seen him get really super hot, and it generally revolves around getting some good pitches to hit and getting some confidence going,” Hinch said. “Usually when he gets one, he gets two. When he gets two, he gets three. He can get it rolling because he gains confidence with taking pitches he can’t handle. Very productive day.”