Another good performance from the top of the lineup and a well played game overall saw the Tigers take their second in a row over the White Sox by a score of 7-2 on Saturday night.
The Tigers offense once again got out to a quick start in this one against White Sox’ rookie Davis Martin. The 25-year-old right-hander showed a pretty good fastball and a solid pair of breaking balls, but his command failed him a few times and quality AB’s from the Tigers allowed them to take advantage.
Riley Greene singled to lead off the game, and was replaced at first by Báez, who grounded into a force at second. Harold Castro followed in the three-hole, and delivered with his seventh long ball of the season to stake Hutchison and his club to an early lead. Castro, Báez, and Greene would all go on to post three-hit games in this one.
Martin did a good job keeping the Tigers in check from there, with a two out double by Jeimer Candelario in the fourth marking the only baserunner to get beyond first base until the fifth.
We’re not going to oversell Drew Hutchison, as he’s still decidedly in fifth starter territory at his best. However, despite a lack of overpowering stuff, he continues to show a veteran’s composure in staying calm and getting a strikeout or ground ball to escape trouble. After a quick first inning with just a walk allowed, Hutchison got in a bit of trouble when AJ Pollock singled with one out in the second inning. Yasmani Grandal flew out routinely to center, but Mark Payton drew a walk to move Pollock into scoring position, and once again, Hutchison induced a routine ground ball to Javier Báez to escape.
If there was a key to his start, it was that Hutchison only allowed the leadoff man to reach in the fourth inning, when Eloy Jimenez blasted a solo home run to get the White Sox on the board. Gavin Sheets followed by hammering a first pitch slider for another home run, as the Sox dialed in against Hutchison’s first pitch slider, which he was using pretty often to keep pressure off the fastball and steal early strikes.
After Hutchison allowed the two home runs to open the bottom of the fourth, he had to dig deep. Pollock followed Sheets’ blast with a double to left. A Grandal ground out moved Pollock to third, and AJ Hinch brought the infield in against Mark Payton. It worked out perfectly, as Payton slapped a sharp grounder to Harold Castro at second. Harold fired home and Barnhart ran down Pollock with ease for the second out. More drama was required, so Hutch then nicked Josh Harrison with a fastball, but Elvis Andrus grounded out to end the inning.
With an adjustment made, Hutchison tossed a quick 1-2-3 fifth inning to end his night with 2 ER, 4 H, 2 BB, SO allowed. Not particularly good, but his ability to avoid rallies continues to serve him in good stead.
The Tigers’ offense continues to show real signs of life down the stretch, and they quickly recaptured the lead in the top of the fifth. Greene and Báez each drilled fly balls to right field for singles, though Báez was gunned down by Gavin Sheets after his drive was played perfectly off the wall by the White Sox right fielder. Harold Castro dumped a single into left to score Greene, and it was 3-2, all runs courtesy of Harold RBI’s.
Both clubs went quickly in the sixth, as Alex Lange spun a quick bottom half for the Tigers. Then it was time to blow this game open.
Veteran lefty Jake Diekman took over from Martin in the top of the seventh, and it did not go well for him. Barnhart led off with a single, and then Akil Baddoo reached on a bunt toward first base. Riley Greene drilled a hard ground ball single back up the middle to score Barnhart, and Javier Báez, enjoying the lavish attention from White Sox’ fans as usual, launched a drive to right field for his 15th home run on the season. 7-2 Tigers.
Also, lmao. Javy vs. the South Side is its own thing.
It’s been a rough start to his Tigers’ career, but after the thumb injury in April lead into an absolutely disastrous May for the shortstop, Báez has looked very much like his old self. Up and down, but putting together some extremely dynamic stretches where he looks in prime form. He now holds a 110 wRC+ since the All-Star break. Not ideal, but combined with continued quality defense, it will have to do. We might just wish that Al Avila had gotten a better price, or a shorter term. New President of Baseball Operations, Scott Harris, knows Báez well from their time with the Cubs, so hopefully he and AJ can get the best out of him going forward.
Will Vest handled the bottom of the seventh against the now somewhat deflated White Sox. Garrett Hill spun a pretty snappy eighth, and it was last call.
Báez led off the top of the ninth with a line drive single to left for his third knock of the night, but the Tigers couldn’t score him. That left it to Hill and his newfound velocity out of the pen (hitting 96 mph) to close this one out with a five-run lead. He did so with relative ease other than a walk to Payton, and the Tigers had a series victory.
It’s good they won this one, as LHP Tyler Alexander will take on AL Cy Young contender Dylan Cease at 2:05 p.m. EDT on Sunday.
Erie SeaWolves take Game 1 of the Eastern League championships
Starter Wilmer Flores didn’t have his best outing, surrendering a pair of early runs across four innings of work, but the SeaWolves’ offense battled back from multiple deficits to win 6-5. They need one more victory to win it all. The series will now move to Somerset starting on Monday night.
The heroes were Gage Workman, who came through with a pair of clutch knocks for a four RBI night including a two-run homer, and Parker Meadows, who posted a three-hit game including a sixth inning double that started a furious rally, and the SeaWolves bullpen. Lefty Brant Hurter struggled in middle relief of Flores, but the late innings relief corps came up huge as Elvis Alvarado, Andrew Magno, and Gerson Moreno dominated the final three innings to make the slim lead hold up.
Gage Workman folks. Strikes out a ton, but seems to do huge damage every time his bat finds the ball.