Javier Báez’s grand slam gives Tigers 5-1 win over Diamondbacks

Detroit News

Phoenix – A hefty segment of the 22,064 people who came to Chase Field Friday night to welcome Spencer Torkelson back to Arizona where he starred at Arizona State, but Javier Báez gave them a bonus treat.

He blasted a grand slam home run in the third inning, sending the Tigers to a 5-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first of three games.

It was Báez’s third homer in three games and it was majestic. He had just chased and swung wildly at a 1-1 curve ball from D-backs starter Merritt Kelly. Kelly came right back with the same pitch, only he left it over the plate.

Báez sent it 459 feet, nearly reaching the second deck in left-center. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 111 mph. It was the farthest ball hit by a Tiger since Jeimer Candelario hit one 467 feet in July of 2019.

Báez put his fingers to his lips as he started his home run trot, as if to hush the critics — some of whom might’ve been giving him the business from the expensive seats near the Tigers’ dugout.

The Tigers tacked on another run in the eighth on an RBI double by Robbie Grossman.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 5, Diamondbacks 1

Right-hander Rony Garcia, for the third time this month, gave the Tigers a strong outing. He went 5.1 innings allowing a run and just three singles.

Impressively, he did that seemingly without a good feel for his best pitch – his breaking ball. Instead, he battered the Diamondbacks with fastballs, four-seamers and two-seamers, moving them up and down, in and out.

Of his 81 pitches, he threw 35 four-seamers and 20 two-seam sinkers, both ringing the gun between 92 and 94 mph.

Manager AJ Hinch came to get him after he walked Ketel Marte with one out in the sixth, summoning Alex Lange.

Lange added some drama to the proceedings, throwing six straight balls. That earned him a visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter. Whatever Fetter said worked. After falling behind Christian Walker, he struck him out with three straight fastballs, then got Josh Rojas to ground the first pitch to first base.

Four pitches, inning over.

Michael Fulmer continues to put up zeros, working a scoreless seventh. He hasn’t given up an earned run in 11 straight outings, striking out 16 in 10.2 innings.

Andrew Chafin, who spent his first six seasons with the Diamondbacks, pitched a clean eighth and closer Gregory Soto finished it.

More: Michael Pineda’s return solves only part of Tigers’ rotation concerns

As for Torkelson, who broke Barry Bonds freshman home run record at Arizona State and finished three short of Bob Horner’s school mark, hasn’t been back here since he left for mini-camp in early February.

“It was funny,” Hinch said before the game. “He came into my office the other day and sheepishly asked if he could stay in his own bed and in his own house. He’s thrilled to be home. He’s going to have a lot of family and friends coming.

“We hope it sparks him and he plays good this weekend. He’s played well in this city for a long time in college.”

Not so much. He got a hit in four at-bats.

“It’s special,” he said of being back. “I kind of came on the national scene at ASU here. To be able to play in this ballpark – a came to games here – it’s really cool.”


Twitter: @cmccosky

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