Rookie Hill roughed up early, White Sox end Tigers’ streak

Detroit News

Chicago — Garrett Hill got an object lesson in what can happen if you nitpick around the edges of the strike zone and fall into hitter’s counts against big-league hitters.

Bad things.

Hill, the rookie right-hander, gave up six runs in the first two innings, all with two outs, and the White Sox brought the Tigers’ six-game winning streak to a sudden end with an 8-0 romp Saturday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“I just think in his first start (against Cleveland), it seemed like he pitched to contact,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “Today it seemed like he tried to pitch away from contact a little bit.”

After a double and a walk in the first inning, Hill got Jose Abreu to pop up for the second out. But he fell behind Gavin Sheets 3-0.

“We didn’t want to walk the bases loaded there,” Barnhart said. “So you’ve got to be aggressive in the zone.”

Sheets blasted a 2-2 fastball 408 feet over the wall in center field.

Hill got the first two batters in the second inning and then in rapid succession gave up a double to Tim Anderson, hit Andrew Vaughn, gave up an RBI single to Luis Robert and a ringing two-run double to Abreu.

Abreu’s drive, which extended his hitting streak to 14 games, left his bat at 110 mph and sailed over the head of right fielder Willi Castro, who might’ve taken a too-direct path to the ball.

“It’s just about executing pitches,” Hill said. “Just a little blip in the game plan and execution. I’ll learn from it.”

BOX SCORE: White Sox 8, Tigers 0

As bad as an 8-0 loss is, it could’ve been worse. Because Hill was able to stay on his feet and pitch through the fifth inning, the Tigers only had to use two relievers plus utility man Kody Clemens who, with his array of sub-55 mph pitches and one 78-mph dart, pitched a clean eighth inning (go figure).

“I told him, obviously the outcome wasn’t what we wanted it to be,” Barnhart said of Hill. “But to get through five innings after the way it started, it showed a lot about his resiliency. He saved our pen today for sure.”

Several of his teammates expressed the same sentiment to him afterward.

“Our day tomorrow is different if Garrett doesn’t get through five innings,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “I like how he made adjustments and started to be a little more aggressive in the zone.”

The double by Abreu was the last hit Hill allowed working through the fifth inning. He was at 80 pitches through three innings and needed just 17 pitches to get through the fourth and fifth.

“Just work ahead,” Hill said. “That’s what (pitching coach Chris) Fetter was telling me. As soon as I did that it turned around and I started getting results I wanted.”

Hill got the White Sox hitters to beat balls into the ground, inducing seven ground ball outs in his final 3 1/3 innings, setting down the last nine batters he faced.

“Just try not to be too fine,” Hill said. “I don’t need to make the perfect pitch to get these guys out. Just throw my stuff in the zone.”

The early damage was fatal, though, because the Tigers couldn’t solve the riddle of 15-year veteran right-hander Johnny Cueto. The 36-year-old was shimmying and shaking, changing his cadence, quick-pitching, slide-stepping — the full Cueto.

No egos, no entitlement, just results: Tigers’ bullpen continues to flourish

“It’s a lot of fun,” said Barnhart, who was Cueto’s teammate with the Reds. “It’s tough. It’s fun because it’s a challenge. He’s got all kinds of arms and legs coming at you. I’ve known Johnny for a long time. He’s fun to face and a helluva teammate. Also a huge challenge.”

Cueto blanked the Tigers on five hits over eight innings. Spencer Torkelson’s double with two outs in the eighth was the only extra-base hit he allowed.

“Just the quality of his career, the pitcher he still is,” Barnhart said. “I was with him in Cincy in 2014 when he won 20 games. It seems like other than the velocity being down just a tick, it seems like he’s the same guy.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

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