‘Everything … was better’: Faedo takes step in right direction

Detroit Tigers

DETROIT — The exasperation on Alex Faedo’s face after watching Jarred Kelenic’s home run clear Comerica Park’s right-field fence provided the snapshot of Faedo’s Saturday afternoon. The Tigers right-hander had spotted a fastball up and in, an area where Kelenic traditionally doesn’t do damage, only to watch the Mariners slugger turn on it anyway. No wonder Faedo was talking to himself as Kelenic rounded the bases.

“We beat him with some fastballs away — that’s why I wanted to go in there,” Faedo said of Kelenic’s eighth home run of the year. “He must have just cheated for it. He put a good swing on it. I didn’t think it was going to go out. Just hit it to the right part of the park.”

Statcast gave it an expected batting average of .180, but also said it would’ve been a home run in 25 of 30 Major League parks. 

“He made a good pitch, and [Kelenic] kept it fair,” catcher Eric Haase said. “If you’re going to get beat, that’s how you want to get beat.”

An inning later, when Teoscar Hernández sent his 0-2 slider –the workhorse pitch of his arsenal — deep to left, the quickness with which Faedo whipped around on the mound suggested more frustration than surprise.

“Really bad miss by me,” Faedo said. “Got him 0-2. If you’re going to miss, miss in the dirt.”

That was the extent of the damage off Faedo, who retired his final seven batters from there for a six-inning quality start. That was also more than enough for the Mariners behind Bryce Miller’s seven shutout innings, powering a 5-0 Detroit defeat that saddled the Tigers with back-to-back losses for the first time since the end of April.

Considering Faedo hadn’t completed five innings at any level this year, it was a big step in the right direction for a hurler whom the Tigers need to figure where he fits into their long-term plans. His seven strikeouts matched his career high as a Major Leaguer, and followed his one-strikeout performance over 4 2/3 innings last Sunday at St. Louis.

Eventually, Faedo’s fastball-slider combination could put him into a prominent role in Detroit’s bullpen. Right now, with Spencer Turnbull on the injured list with a neck issue that requires rest to heal, Faedo is getting an extended chance to make the case that he can stick as a starter — if he can just keep the ball in the park a little more often.

Faedo has given up seven hits over 10 2/3 innings in his two starts for Detroit this year. Four of those hits have been homers, accounting for all five earned runs he has allowed. Two have come on 0-2 sliders in the zone. The other two have come on fastballs.

“I feel like I’ve always given up a lot of homers,” said Faedo, who allowed seven home runs over 53 2/3  innings in his 12 starts for Detroit last year. “I’m trying to throw a lot of strikes, and that can happen. Guys are good, and I’m attacking the zone. I’d say other than the 0-2 ones, you can live with the other two. The 0-2 ones, I just have to be a little better. …

“My game is to stay on the attack, try to get into count leverage, 0-2, 1-2. If you miss over the heart of the plate with those pitches, they’ll do damage.”

The matchup between Faedo and Miller was defined as a battle of adjustments. Miller allowed only one hit off his fastball in his first two Major League starts, but the Tigers had two in the first inning before Miller adjusted to throw more secondary pitches. Though Faedo has long been known for his slider, the Mariners were hunting Faedo’s fastball, swinging at 19 of the 28 he threw over his first three innings, before he mixed things up more.

Kelenic homered, but also struck out twice on Faedo sliders, accounting for two of the eight whiffs he got on that pitch. Julio Rodríguez also fanned on it in Faedo’s final inning. Cal Raleigh and Kolten Wong struck out on changeups, a pitch that did not get any swings and misses for him in St. Louis.

“He missed bats today with multiple pitches,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He threw behind in the count, offspeed. His fastball was a tick better. Everything, I thought, was better.”

Faedo agreed with Hinch’s assessment, believing that his process was greatly improved from his last start. “More often than not, I’ll take that game, keep us in the game.”

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