Kerry Carpenter’s blast lifts Tigers to third straight walk-off win

Detroit News

Detroit — “Kerry’s clutch.”

That was how Matthew Boyd summed it up after Kerry Carpenter launched a two-out, walk-off home run to right field in the bottom of the ninth, sending the Tigers to a dramatic 4-3 win over the Cleveland Guardians in the first of two games Tuesday at a near empty and frigid Comerica Park.

It was the fourth straight win for the Tigers and the third straight walk-off,

“It’s pretty cool the momentum we’re riding right now,” Boyd said.

Carpenter, a good fastball hitter, was locked in a dual with a pretty good fastball pitcher in Cleveland right-hander James Kareinchak.

“He’s a stud,” Carpenter said. “He has a good heater and a good curve, but it’s just two pitches. I was trying to see it deep and trust myself to get to the heater up. I knew that’s where he likes to go with it.”

The at-bat went nine pitches. The last four, with the count full, were 95-mph four-seamers at the top of the strike zone. Carpenter fouled off the first three and then squared up the fourth. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 102 mph and cleared the right field wall.

“I’ve faced him before and he got me a couple of times,” Carpenter said. “So it was fun getting battle with him again.”

Of course, Carpenter might not have had that moment without some clutch relief work by rookie right-hander Mason Englert in the top of the seventh inning.

The game was tied at 3 and the Guardians had runners at the corners with one out. Cleveland manager Terry Francona sent left-handed hitting Josh Naylor up as a pinch-hitter against Tigers rookie right-hander Mason Englert.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Guardians 3

Pitching coach Chris Fetter came to the mound to set up manager AJ Hinch’s strategy. The defense was going to play for a double play.

“Obviously, he has a lot of power,” said catcher Eric Haase, who had four hits in the game. “But not a lot of speed like the rest of their lineup has. He’s going to hit something hard, hopefully we can get it on the ground.”

Naylor over his career has hit the ball on the ground on 50% of the balls he’s put in play.

Englert was tasked with pitching him soft and away, get him to roll over. And that’s exactly he did. Curveball, changeup, slider and then, on 1-2, a changeup down and out of the strike zone. Naylor reached out and rolled it to second base — 4-6-3 double play.

“Mason executed a perfect changeup,” Haase said.

Englert worked three clutch, scoreless innings in relief of Boyd, keeping the game tied through the eighth inning.

“We just need him to go out and pitch confidently, like he is,” Haase said. “We don’t need him to do anything more than he is or anything less. He’s here for a reason and hopefully that is enough for him to believe in that.”

Before the game, Hinch talked about the Guardians’ approach to hitting.

“There’s a difference between being patient and being passive,” he said. “They are not passive. There isn’t a free strike right down the middle to these guys. These guys swing at strikes and they swing at the right pitches that they can put in play aggressively.”

Boyd felt the force of that approach in the fourth inning.

He didn’t allow a hit through the first three innings. But the Guardians scored three runs in a span of eight pitches in the fourth.

With one out, Jose Ramirez singled to left and took second when left fielder Akil Baddoo couldn’t play the ball cleanly. Jose Bell followed hitting a 2-2 fastball down the right-field line for an RBI double.

On the next pitch, Oscar Gonzalez tattooed a slider that was up and in and off the plate, sending it 424 feet into the seats in left.

That was the only damage Boyd allowed. He went five innings and struck out four.

“I just got around it,” Boyd said of the slider Gonzalez hit. “I didn’t throw it where I wanted to. But the guys picked me up and got those runs right back. It was awesome.”

The Tigers tied it up in the bottom of the fifth.

That was the only damage Boyd allowed. He went five innings and struck out four.The Tigers rallied and tied the game in the bottom of the fifth.

Javier Báez, whose sacrifice fly put the Tigers on the board in the first inning, lined an RBI single in the fifth. Carpenter followed with an RBI double.

Riley Greene singled in both the first and fifth, setting up runs. Haase had singled to start the rally in the fifth.

“We will take these wins any way we can get them,” Haase said. “But I definitely feel like our at-bats are getting better as we go forward here. I don’t know if it’s overall better focus or just cleaner baseball in general…But that’s why it’s so hard to panic to start the season.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

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