Alex Lange lit up for grand slam in Detroit Tigers’ walk-off 6-2 loss to Chicago White Sox

Detroit Free Press

CHICAGO — For the first time in the series, the Detroit Tigers collected a hit with a runner in scoring position when Spencer Torkelson launched a slider for a two-run home run in the fourth inning.

But Torkelson’s fifth homer of the year wasn’t enough.

The Tigers lost, 6-2, and were swept by the Chicago White Sox in the three-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Tigers (26-31) scored three runs and finished 1-for-21 with runners in scoring position over the weekend.

“We’re getting guys on (base), and we’re getting them in scoring position,” Torkelson said. “But I think we can simplify our approach to get those guys in. Not try to score two runs, just get one guy in, and the wheels will start turning and the momentum will start picking up.”

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In the bottom of the ninth , the White Sox broke the 2-2 tie and won the game with Jake Burger’s walk-off grand slam off right-handed reliever Alex Lange, the American League Reliever of the Month in May.

“Stuff felt great,” Lange said. “They were patient, just like they were yesterday, early (in counts). Once you get into count leverage, then they have to expand, but when you’re in 1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-1 (counts), it’s hard to get hitters to chase. You got to get ahead, and I was pretty bad at that today.”

Andrew Benintendi opened the inning with a leadoff single. He advanced to second base on an uncontested stolen base, as Lange’s curveball to Gavin Sheets got past catcher Jake Rogers.

Sheets struck out swinging for the first out. With a runner on second base, Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson regained momentum by drawing back-to-back six-pitch walks to load the bases.

“The two walks are what killed us,” Lange said.

Then, Burger ended the game with a walk-off grand slam. He deposited Lange’s second-pitch curveball — which stayed inside the strike zone — into the seats in left-center field to clear the bases.

“You fall behind with the fastball, and he’s probably just sitting (on the curveball),” Lange said. “Obviously, Jake is a really good hitter. I’ve played against him for a long time, and he’s seen a lot of me. These guys get paid to hit, too, so that’s a good swing by him.”

The White Sox scored their first two runs in the fourth and sixth innings against left-hander Matthew Boyd and right-hander Will Vest, respectively. In his 11th start, Boyd tossed five innings of one-run ball and struck out a season-high nine batters.

“This was the most difficult matchup he’s had in the last handful of starts,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I was going to make sure that he finished the game in a good place before the top of the order came in. … We need to do more offensively. You’re not going to win that game 2-1 very often in the middle part of the game.”

A pair of relievers — left-hander Tyler Holton and right-hander Jason Foley — kept the White Sox from scoring in the seventh and eighth innings. Foley worked out of a two-out jam in the seventh and retired all three batters in the eighth.

Cooking with Kopech

Before Torkelson’s homer, Akil Baddoo applied pressure to right-hander Michael Kopech.

Baddoo — who has been batting third in the lineup in Riley Greene’s absence — bunted an elevated slider for two-out single, then stole second base. He came around to score on Torkelson’s big fly.

Torkelson fell behind 0-2 in the count but smashed a down-and-in slider for a 400-foot homer to left field, putting the Tigers ahead 2-0. It was Torkelson’s first homer since May 20 and his first extra-base hit in June.

“We’re trying to take advantage of some situations that we can and create some run-scoring opportunities where a single will push across a run,” Hinch said of Baddoo’s bunt and stolen base. “We’re going to try to continue to stay aggressive. It’s not always going to be that way if teams are quick to the plate or if catchers throw great, or a combination of both.”

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The Tigers stranded Javier Báez in scoring position in the sixth inning after he drew a walk for the 10th time this season, then stole second base and third base in the span of three pitches.

Baddoo struck out swinging, and Torkelson grounded out.

Báez nearly hit a go-ahead home run in the eighth inning, but the ball to left-center traveled 383 feet for a flyout.

Battling with Boyd

More often than not, Boyd struggles when facing a lineup for the third time through the batting order. He didn’t get the opportunity — despite throwing 82 pitches and racking up nine strikeouts — in the series finale against the White Sox.

The Tigers chose not to test Boyd, but when he was on the mound for his five innings, he was electric. The 32-year-old allowed one run on three hits without conceding a walk, throwing 56 of 82 pitches for strikes.

“I wouldn’t say I knew it was coming, but I trust A.J.,” Boyd said. “There’s always a reason behind the method. Our bullpen is so solid. It makes complete sense why he did it. As a starter, and as a competitor, you always want to stay in the game, but I don’t question A.J. I always fight to stay in, but I don’t ever question him. He puts our team in the best position to win.”

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He used 40% four-seam fastballs, 22% sliders, 18% changeups, 11% curveballs and 9% sinkers. He generated 15 whiffs with eight fastballs, two sliders, four changeups and one curveball.

The effectiveness of his fastball helped his slider and changeup baffle the opposing hitters.

“All four (pitches) were working,” Boyd said. “We established the fastball, and when we establish the fastball up, it really opens up the bottom of the zone for whatever pitch you want to throw. We got ahead and continued to keep them off balance.”

The White Sox scored, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 2-1, on back-to-back hits by Luis Robert (double) and Eloy Jimenez (single) with one out in the fourth inning. Boyd responded by striking out Andrew Vaughn and getting Yasmani Grandal to hit into an inning-ending forceout.

Boyd struck out two batters in every inning besides the second inning.

“I feel like we continue to get better and better with each start,” said Boyd, who has a 5.57 ERA this season. “I’m feeling more and more comfortable doing what I want to do. It’s been really good.”

The Tigers lost the lead in the sixth inning after Vest replaced Boyd. Although Vest retired the first two batters, the next four batters reached safely: Robert (single), Jimenez (single), Vaughn (walk) and Grandal (single).

Grandal tied the game, 2-2, by driving in Robert when he drilled Vest’s elevated two-strike fastball into left field.

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

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