‘That was a fun win’: Tigers’ Báez backs brilliant outing by Brieske against White Sox

Detroit News

Chicago — Don’t let the low score fool you. There was a lot going on Thursday night as the Tigers extended their winning streak to five games with an exhilarating and tense 2-1 win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“That was a fun win,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “It was kind of a grinder of a game. A lot of good things happened.”

Rookie right-hander Beau Brieske took a no-hitter into the sixth inning. Javier Báez, in his first game back in the city of Chicago since the Cubs traded him last year, homered off right-hander Dylan Cease. Scuffling rookie Spencer Torkelson came off the bench in the ninth inning and ripped a two-out RBI single to provide what ended up being the winning run.

And closer Gregory Soto, after giving up an RBI double to Luis Robert in the bottom of the ninth, struck out the dangerous Jose Abreu with the tying run at third and the winning run at second with one out before getting Eloy Jimenez to ground out to secure his 17th save.

“We trust Greg in every ninth inning,” Barnhart said. “And we will continue to trust Greg.”

After Robert’s double, there were a couple of mound visits as the Tigers worked out whether to intentionally walk Abreu to set up the double-play. Soto, though, had already walked a batter in the inning and fell behind Robert.

“I didn’t feel comfortable walking guys because of the erratic nature of maybe a base on balls after the intentional walk,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Soto kept looking in the dugout. I know he saw that I got Michael Fulmer up (in the bullpen).

“But he made pitches in the end.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 2, White Sox 1

This night, though, belonged to Brieske. He outdueled the reigning American League pitcher of the month, Cease, who came in a perfect 10-0 against the Tigers in his career.

“These are the most fun games to pitch in,” Brieske said. “You know you have to be at your best in order to give your team a chance to win. Pitchers’ duels are the most fun games to pitch in, especially when you come out on top.”

Here’s all you need to know about Brieske’s brilliance on this night:

With the tying run at third base and two outs in the sixth inning, Brieske fell behind right-handed hitter AJ Pollock 3-1. Normally, right-handed pitchers won’t throw changeups to right-handed hitters. The typical fading action on the pitch tends to run into the happy zone of most right-handers, not away like it does against lefties.

Brieske, though, in just his 14th career start, threw a changeup for strike two and then had the temerity to come back with another changeup and got a soft liner to shortstop to end the inning.

And that was after Brieske lost his no-hit bid to start that inning.

“That was just getting back to the game plan,” he said. “Tucker called them so I threw them. That’s basically what it comes down to. I shook him maybe once. Tuck called a great game. That was the right pitch in that situation.”

Brieske’s changeup is elite. It’s helped him climb quickly through the Tigers’ system. But to throw it back-to-back, behind in the count, to a right-handed hitter with the tying run at third — gutsy.

“I throw a higher percentage of them to lefties, but when it’s the right situation, I feel like it’s a great pitch,” Brieske said. “Maybe it’s a little harder to execute just because you can have it run off in to righties. There’s not as much margin.

“But if you can execute it, it’s a tough pitch to hit.”

More: Javier Báez happy to be a Tiger, but part of his heart still remains in Chicago

It was clear Brieske had his good stuff right from the start. His four-seam fastball was lively, and he was commanding his two-seamer and slider against the five right-handed hitters White Sox manager Tony La Russa stacked at the top of his batting order.

Brieske was throwing his four-seamer up in the zone at 95 mph. He was cutting his two-seamer in on the hands of those right-handed hitters. Then he’d work his slider to the outside part of the plate.

“He pitched his butt off,” Barnhart said. “His two-seamer was special. That’s a lineup where you have to command the inner part of the plate, especially to those right-handers who are so good out over the plate.”

Brieske agreed that his two-seamer was the difference-maker. Those first five right-handed hitters — Tim Anderson, Pollock, Robert, Abreu and Jimenez — were 1-for-14 against him.

“I felt I executed that pitch better than I had all year,” Brieske said. “I was getting it in. I was able to throw it for strikes and throw it strike to ball (moving outside the zone) and getting it on guys’ hands and getting weak contact.”

Through five innings, the only blemish was a one-out walk to former Tiger Josh Harrison in the third. He got some superb defensive plays behind him, as well.

Third baseman Jeimer Candelario made a diving catch of a ball ripped by Jimenez. Second baseman Jonathan Schoop took a base hit from Tim Anderson with a well-timed leap to end the third inning.

Brieske entered the sixth inning at 74 pitches and without a hit on his ledger.

Harrison ended the intrigue in two pitches, lashing a 1-0 changeup on a line into left field.

More: Tigers prospects Dillon Dingler, Wilmer Flores earn spots in Futures Game

The Tigers then executed one of their best video challenges of the season. After Harrison was bunted to second base, Anderson hit a hard ground ball to Baez at short. He babied his throw to first. Rookie Kody Clemens, who hasn’t played a lot at that position, made the scoop, but there was a lot of ball showing out of his glove and Anderson was called safe.

That would have put two on and one out but the Tigers challenged and the call was overturned. Harrison was on second with two outs.

“Kody was pretty emphatic,” Hinch said. “Right away he pointed at the base. And we got a quick look at it. I didn’t love that it took forever to make the call. When it takes that long to review it, it doesn’t usually go your way.”

Brieske ended up allowing two singles and a walk with four strikeouts in 6.1 innings.

“It’s a good step, that’s how I’m going to look at it,” he said.

Before the drama in the ninth, there was some levity in the seventh.

Abreu got himself hung up between first and second on a ball that Barnhart blocked in the dirt. Barnhart, seeing Abreu was frozen, ran right at him until Abreu just surrendered – the rare two-unassisted putout.

“That was a cool play,” Barnhart said. “(Reliever) Alex Lange said, ‘Go get him, I got first base.’ That kind of fired me up. He’s like, ‘Go get him!'”

Barnhart didn’t just tag Abreu, he circled him. It looked like he might tackle him.

“Last year I got deked on a play at the plate,” Barnhart said, laughing. “Ever since then, all bets are off. I’m getting the out. Besides, I couldn’t stop my momentum, like a bowling ball going down the lane.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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