Tigers’ defense flashy, but beaten by mistakes

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — Akil Baddoo made the leaping grab look almost effortless, his jump and reach over Comerica Park’s left-field fence smooth and easy in taking a home run away from Carlos Correa on Saturday. Baddoo’s reaction to the defensive gem was equally subdued.

Part of that stemmed from the three seventh-inning runs the Twins had scored before that, two of them on a Luis Arraez two-out single following a foul ball that Baddoo couldn’t run down. Part, too, was just a result of a difficult night for the Tigers’ defense overall in an 8-4 loss.

The Tigers’ defensive efforts in their first home game out of the All-Star break will be marked by highlight grabs by Baddoo and Riley Greene, the latter testing Comerica Park’s newly-resodded outfield with a diving catch in shallow center. The same club that produced those highlights also allowed four unearned runs on two untimely errors, including a rough seventh inning for third baseman Jeimer Candelario and a dropped eighth-inning throw home by Tucker Barnhart.

Beyond the individual errors, though, was an overall lack of crispness. The clean play that raised hope a week or two ago that the Tigers might be finally finding their stride was lacking on Saturday, despite the highlights. Maybe it wasn’t a surprise from a team that just flew to the West Coast and back for a doubleheader in Oakland. The slow pace from starter Michael Pineda as he tried to work through tightness in his right triceps likely didn’t help, either. It still didn’t sit well with manager A.J. Hinch.

“I don’t like the way the game went at all,” Hinch said. “I mean, obviously I’m glad we hung in there and made them go to their big boy at the end, and maybe that helps us tomorrow that he had to pitch tonight. [Jhoan] Duran, [Tyler] Duffey had to pitch so they had to use some ’pen. But yeah, we didn’t do great. …

“We were fortunate to be in the game at the beginning because of the way it started. Then it felt really good once we cut the lead to 2-1. And then things fell apart.”

The few sparks the Tigers had stemmed from Greene. Of all the plays he has made in his five weeks in the Majors, his sprint speed on the catch — 28.4 feet per second — was his top speed so far.

The catch kept the leadoff man off base in the fifth, and helped reliever Tyler Alexander cover three scoreless innings after the triceps tightness forced Pineda from the game after the third.

Greene put his speed to work on the basepaths in the sixth inning, on one of the Tigers’ few well-struck hits off Twins starter Joe Ryan. Greene almost ran too fast once his drive eluded center fielder Nick Gordon and hit the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center: He contorted his stride and nearly missed second base as he sprinted past the bag. The Twins appealed to no avail, giving Greene his second triple of the year and setting up Javier Báez for an RBI single and the Tigers’ first run off Ryan in 12-plus innings this season.

“The triple ignited us a little bit,” Hinch said.

The lift didn’t last once the Tigers went back out to the field for the seventh. Back-to-back ground balls hit to Candelario had expected batting averages of .060 and .050. José Miranda’s grounder glanced off a diving Candelario’s glove, which redirected the ball past Báez behind him. Kyle Garlick’s pinch-hit grounder got through Candelario for an error, loading the bases with nobody out against Andrew Chafin.

All three runs scored, two of them on a Luis Arraez two-out single to shallow left-center after Baddoo couldn’t track down the foul ball. Two more would’ve scored if not for Baddoo’s leap on Correa’s drive.

“It was just a matter of timing it,” Baddoo said, “and I timed it well. He hit it pretty well, too.”

Barnhart’s drop at the plate led to two more unearned runs off Will Vest.

While Jonathan Schoop leads all Major Leaguers with 20 Outs Above Average, other Tigers have been recovering from slow starts. Báez sits at 5 OAA at shortstop. Candelario, who has been at break-even or better each season at third base in Detroit, entered Saturday at -3. His defensive regression coincides with an offensive downturn after two strong seasons at the plate.

“I don’t know if it’s mental,” Hinch answered. “Obviously maybe the second or third one tonight, that kind of piles on. Once he tried to do a little bit too much, I think that you can attribute those a little bit more to the frustration from a few different plays tonight. But he’s had a hard time staying on his feet on some plays that normally he would, so I know he’s frustrated about that.”

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