Akil Baddoo, Riley Greene drag Detroit Tigers to 6-5 win over Chicago White Sox in 10

Detroit Free Press

Four players from the Detroit Tigers bounced through the dugout in the bottom of the third inning on Sunday afternoon. Zach McKinstry went first, receiving high-fives along his route from one end to the other end, followed by Akil Baddoo, Nick Maton and Riley Greene.

A hockey helmet landed on Baddoo’s head, provided by Spencer Torkelson, as he walked down the steps and into the dugout. At the end of the dugout, Baddoo used a hockey stick to slap a puck into the back of the net in celebration of a grand slam off right-hander Dylan Cease.

The vibes were immaculate in the third inning, and the vibes were even better at the end of the game. A ninth-inning comeback led to a 6-5 victory in the 10th inning against the Chicago White Sox in the series finale at Comerica Park. Eric Haase delivered a walk-off sacrifice fly to end the game with two outs.

“This is probably the most fun we’ve had, at least at the big-league level, in a long time,” said Haase, a catcher for the Tigers since 2020. “Definitely not taking it for granted. We’re just trying to keep it rolling.”

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The Tigers (25-26) entered Sunday’s series finale at two games under a .500 record for the 11th time this season. After a win, the Tigers improved to 2-9 in those 11 games and moved within one game of a .500 record for the first time since April 4.

The victory also tightened the gap in the American League Central, as the first-place Minnesota Twins (27-26) lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-0, on Sunday afternoon. The Tigers trail the Twins by just one game (albeit two in the win column).

Detroit is 15-9 in May and 23-17 in 40 games since April 13.

“It means we have the opportunity to go to the postseason,” said left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who started Sunday for the Tigers. “If you’re winning games, that’s what it means to everybody. We know it. We feel it. We love the way it is right now. We just have to keep winning more games.”

Next, the Tigers will host the AL West-leading Texas Rangers for three games (Monday-Wednesday), while the Twins face the defending World Series champion Astros for three games in Houston.

“I just want to beat the Rangers tomorrow,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I like the way we’re playing. I realize that people keep standings for a reason. Our fans, our players, our organization should really want me focused on (Marcus) Semien and (Corey) Seager, over our place in the standings in May.”

Baddoo has been one of the Tigers’ best players in May, hitting .304 with an .882 OPS in 20 games this month. Only Greene and McKinstry have been more productive in the season’s second month.

No seventh heaven

But the Tigers ran into trouble in the top of the seventh inning. Right-handed reliever Will Vest loaded the bases with one out on two singles and one walk, forcing the Tigers to turn to righty Jose Cisnero for a matchup with Eloy Jimenez.

Jimenez, just returned from the injured list, hit Cisnero’s third-pitch sinker for a bloop double into left field and drove in two runs, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 4-3 and putting runners on second and third. Luis Robert, the next batter, hit a weak grounder to McKinstry at third, but Tim Anderson beat the throw home. McKinstry is known for his strong throwing arm, but the speed from Anderson evened the score, 4-4.

Then, Andrew Vaughn put the White Sox ahead, 5-4, with a sacrifice fly.

Greene day

In the eighth inning, Greene robbed Jake Burger of a home run with a leaping catch in center field while colliding into the wall. He received a standing ovation from the fans at Comerica Park.

“That’s just Riley being Riley,” Baddoo said. “He’s Superman.”

Greene provided a boost on offense, too, in the bottom of the ninth.

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With one out, Greene drilled right-handed reliever Joe Kelly’s two-strike slider into right-center.

Robert attempted to cut the ball off with a slide, but it got past him, and Greene wound up on third base standing up. Javier Báez followed with a weak grounder to Anderson at shortstop, but Anderson bobbled the ball while trying to throw home, and Greene scored to tie the game, 5-5.

Right-handed reliever Alex Lange then retired all three batters in top of the 10th inning. In the bottom of the inning, Jonathan Schoop advanced the free extra-inning runner to third base with a deep flyout against righty reliever Reynaldo López.

The White Sox intentionally walked Baddoo, and Haase provided the sacrifice fly for a 6-5 victory.

“Just something to the middle of the field,” Haase said. “I’m trying to give us every opportunity to score a run. Obviously, they’re coming home with it, so I’m trying to keep something off the ground. I got a slider over the plate that I could get up in the air.”

E-Rod plugs back in

Rodriguez pitched another gem in his 11th start of the season.

The 30-year-old allowed one run on five hits and two walks with six strikeouts, throwing 65 of 100 pitches for strikes. Anderson opened the game with a leadoff double, but Rodriguez retired the next seven batters.

“I felt like my pitches were right where I wanted them,” Rodriguez said.

That’s when Romy Gonzalez put the White Sox ahead, 1-0, with a solo home run off Rodriguez’s first-pitch fastball. He turned on an inside heater and sent the ball over the left-field wall.

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Rodriguez cruised the rest of the way.

He allowed back-to-back hitters to reach safely with one out in the sixth inning: Vaughn (single) and Yasmani Grandal (walk). But that was followed by an inning-ending double play from Burger after a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter.

“I feel like every time you have a starting pitcher or a reliever doing a really good job out there, that puts a lot of good vibes on the hitters to go up there and hit,” Rodriguez said. “We love that, and I know they love it, too.”

Rodriguez threw 36% four-seam fastballs, 28% changeups, 25% cutters, 6% sinkers and 5% sliders on Sunday. He recorded 12 whiffs and 16 called strikes, with his fastball averaging 92.4 mph.

Cease and desist

The Tigers finished 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and stranded nine runners.

That included Zack Short leaving the bases loaded with a flyout in the second inning, Greene stranding Short on second with a strikeout in the fourth inning, Haase stranding two runners with a popout in the fifth inning and Báez stranding two runners with a groundout in the sixth inning.

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Cease, who has dominated the Tigers throughout his career, allowed four runs on four hits and four walks with eight strikeouts.

The Tigers allowed him to complete four innings, throwing 64 of 102 pitches for strikes, because they didn’t capitalize on their scoring chances. Left-handed reliever Garrett Crochet walked three batters across the fifth and sixth innings combined.

“We’re going to get another look at him in five days, so we have to temper our bragging on how good our at-bats were until we see him again,” Hinch said of Cease. “All of us have watched this kind of be a roller coaster in that setting, where we’ve left a lot of guys on base in the last couple of weeks.

“But if you give yourself enough chances, you get a big swing like Akil. That was the benefit of him tiring towards the end and having him throw that many pitches in that short period of time.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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