Chicago — The Tigers’ starting pitchers in the three games against the White Sox in this series gave up four runs. Their hitters mustered three runs in 28 innings.
Dissect it, break it down, analyze it any way you want, but the calculus for why the Tigers were swept out of Guaranteed Rate Field this weekend, and why they went from sniffing the .500 mark to 26-31, is pretty simple.
“We need to do more offensively,” manager AJ Hinch said, putting it in a nutshell.
The White Sox, whom the Tigers beat three out of four games in Detroit the previous weekend, enjoyed their second straight walk-off celebration Sunday. Jake Burger’s one-out grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth off reliever Alex Lange broke the tie and secured the Southsiders’ 6-2 win.
“I fell behind with a fastball so he was probably sitting on (a curveball),” said Lange, who hadn’t allowed a homer all season, hadn’t allowed one in 38 appearance dating to Aug. 31 last season and covering 36.2 innings. “Jake’s a good hitter. I’ve played against him a long time. He’s seen a lot of me and he put a good swing on the baseball.”
Lange was more upset with his two walks in the inning, including a 3-2 walk to Tim Anderson. The 3-2 pitch, according to the Statcast K box, caught the lower, outside edge of the plate. Lange didn’t get the call from home-plate ump Ron Kulpa.
“He called it a ball, so it’s a ball,” Lange said. “If you execute and are around the zone more, you might get the call. You have to earn those close ones. Those guys are human. If you miss, miss, miss and then paint, it’s hard to get that call. I would’ve loved to get it, but I didn’t.”
But again, the Tigers scored three runs in entire series. Only two were driven in with a hit, and that was Spencer Torkelson’s two-run home run in the fourth inning Sunday off White Sox starter Michael Kopech.
“The whole series our pitchers have been unbelievable,” Torkelson said. “They were making their hitters look like they had holes in their bats. Our starters kept us in ballgames and gave us a lot of opportunities to win. It’s our turn now to return the favor and start putting them on our backs a little bit.”
Kopech set down the first 11 hitters. Akil Baddoo decided if the bats weren’t working, he’d use his legs.
He dropped a perfect bunt down the third base line and beat it without a throw. Then he stole second base on the next pitch. Then he bothered Kopech enough to draw a pickoff throw at second base.
Whether he had one eye on Baddoo or not, Kopech left an 0-2 slider down and in to Torkelson and it got smoked. Torkelson’s fifth homer of the year traveled 400 feet over the wall in left.
“Akil got that rolling,” Torkelson said. “Kopech hadn’t given up a hit and he lays one down. Free hit for him. He stole second and put pressure on him and I got a mistake out of him. Akil gets more than half the credit for that one.”
As rookie Reese Olson did for five innings on Friday and Michael Lorenzen for seven Saturday, lefty starter Matthew Boyd had the White Sox hitters on lockdown for the first five innings, setting a season high with nine strikeouts. So was he surprised that Hinch took the ball from him and went to the bullpen in the sixth?
“I wouldn’t say I knew it was coming, but I trust AJ,” said Boyd, who got 15 swinging strikes, eight with his four-seam fastball. “AJ always has a move. There’s always a reason behind his methods and our bullpen has been so solid. It makes complete sense. As a starter and a competitor, you always want to stay in the game.
“You always want to fight to stay in, but I don’t question AJ. He puts our team in the best position to win day in and day out.”
His motivation for pulling Boyd was unassailable.
He’s had a hard time navigating his way the third time through a lineup. Hitters are 10 for 39 with three home runs and nine runs total facing Boyd a third time in the game. And the Tigers were clinging to a 2-1 lead with Tim Anderson and the top of the White Sox order coming around for the third time.
“That was the most difficult matchup he’s had in the last handful of starts,” Hinch said. “And we’ve seen it go both ways. I was going to make sure Matthew was going to finish the game in a good place.”
The plan was solid, the execution proved less so.
The White Sox scored a two-out run against Will Vest in the sixth — RBI single by Yasmani Grandal — to tie the game 2-2. And the Tigers managed just one hit after Kopech left and the closest they came to scoring was Javier Báez’s 383-foot blast to the wall in right-center that was run down by center fielder Luis Robert, Jr., in the eighth.
The Tigers have scored six runs total in the four games since Riley Greene and Matt Vierling went on the injured list. Hinch was asked if some of the hitters are pressing, trying too hard to pick up the slack.
“That’s usually the case,” he said. “These guys (White Sox pitchers) have good arms, their record notwithstanding. They can really pitch. It’s velo. It’s spin. And they have a lot of guys who have been at this level for a long time. There’s been maybe a little expansion (of the strike zone). There’s been some tough matchups for some guys.
“But it’s the big leagues. We have to find a way to scratch and claw a couple more across.”
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