The Detroit Tigers last saw the Chicago White Sox just five days ago at Comerica Park. The White Sox were surging under interim manager Miguel Cairo and gaining ground in the American League Central. They took two of three games from the Tigers, ending with a blowout on Sunday afternoon.
The two teams met again Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. The White Sox, swept by the first-place Cleveland Guardians, have stumbled; the Tigers just took two of three against the Baltimore Orioles.
On Friday, the Tigers scored early and the White Sox answered late, but those runs from the White Sox weren’t too much to overcome. The Tigers won, 5-3, in the first of three games in the series, thanks to a pair of key stolen bases from Akil Baddoo and Willi Castro in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.
“We know where everybody is in the standings,” manager A.J. Hinch told reporters in Chicago. “We know what they’ve gone through to get here. We want to try to win as many series as we can to end the year. But we’re aware that they’re on their heels a little bit coming off that series. We wanted to be aggressive. We wanted to take the lead early. Both were to our advantage.”
The Tigers (58-92), winners in three of their past four, took the lead — and refused to give it up — on Riley Greene’s sacrifice fly in the seventh off right-handed reliever Reynaldo Lopez. Before Greene flied out to center, Baddoo singled, stole second base and advanced to third base on a throwing error by catcher Yasmani Grandal.
“Any time Akil gets on, there’s going to be the opportunity to put some pressure on somebody,” Hinch said. “He did. He kept his head up and was able to get to third base.”
Facing left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, the White Sox had minimal activity on the bases until scoring their first run in the third inning on three singles. They tied the score, 3-3, with two runs in the sixth and ended Rodriguez’s outing.
Rodriguez allowed three runs on eight hits and one walk with three strikeouts across six innings.
To get to the finish line, after going ahead 4-3 in the seventh, the Tigers needed scoreless efforts from three relief pitchers, and that’s exactly what right-hander Alex Lange, righty Jose Cisnero, left-hander Andrew Chafin and lefty closer Gregory Soto delivered.
Cisnero loaded the bases on two walks and one hit-by-pitch with two outs in the eighth inning. Chafin entered and struck out pinch-hitter Romy Gonzalez, a right-handed hitter, on four pitches.
“Obviously a big spot in the game where a single ties the game and creates a lot of momentum,” Hinch said. “I’m really proud of our guys. We came back from the tough blow with the homer and answered back. There’s a lot to like about tonight’s win.”
Soto notched his 27th save in the ninth.
The Tigers added an insurance run in the top of the eighth on Spencer Torkelson’s clutch two-out double on a 3-0 fastball inside the strike zone. Miguel Cabrera walked and was replaced by pinch-runner Willi Castro, who swiped second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on Torkelson’s double. The next two batters were retired, but Torkelson salvaged the inning.
“I love the green light there,” Hinch said.
Starting off early
Right-hander Lucas Giolito adjusted and went six innings, but the Tigers attacked him for three runs in the first and second innings. The success, of course, started with a superb eight-pitch walk from leadoff hitter Riley Greene.
He fell behind 0-2 in the count, fouled off the third pitch, then took four of the next five pitches to work the free pass. He only swung at pitches inside the strike zone. He then moved to third base on Javier Báez’s 27th double and crossed home on Cabrera’s groundout for a 1-0 lead.
A two-out RBI single from Eric Haase extended the margin to 2-0.
“We were patient early,” Hinch said. “At least Riley being able to work that really good walk to start the game. … We won the big moments when we needed to, but it started with Riley putting a really good at-bat and controlling the strike zone.”
Jonathan Schoop opened the second inning by crushing a fastball, the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, for a solo home run. He has 11 homers this season, behind only Báez (14), Jeimer Candelario (13) and Haase (12).
From that point, Giolito locked in and limited the Tigers to a leadoff single in the third inning, a leadoff hit-by-pitch in the fifth and a leadoff single in the sixth. He finished the sixth with an inning-ending double play.
Three ChiSox singles were capped by Jose Abreu’s RBI single with two outs in the third inning for Chicago’s first run. Adam Engel singled on a 1-2 sinker; Elvis Andrus on a 1-0 changeup; and Abreu on a 2-0 sinker.
To end the fifth, third baseman Ryan Kreidler picked a tough hopper and started an inning-ending double play. He fired a bullet to Schoop at second base, and Schoop used his elite arm strength to throw down to an outstretched Torkelson with his foot on first base.
The White Sox challenged Rodriguez in the sixth, when Eloy Jimenez hit a single that Rodriguez tried to knock down with his foot. Rodriguez, checked on by athletic trainer Doug Teter, was tagged on a game-changing swing three pitches later.
AJ Pollock launched a two-run home run, his 14th of the year, to tie it, 3-3. Grandal kept his foot on the gas with a one-out double, but Rodriguez escaped further damage when former Tiger Josh Harrison grounded out and Adam Engel flied out.
For his 85 pitches (55 strikes), Rodriguez used 26 four-seam fastballs (31%), 26 sinkers (31%), 19 cutters (22%) and 13 changeups (15%) and one slider (1%). He recorded five swings and misses: one fastball, two cutters and two changeups.