Andy Ibáñez thinks ‘something good’ is coming for Detroit Tigers after ending losing skid

Detroit Free Press

Spencer Torkelson and Zack Short stepped up with clutch hits in the final two innings, but Andy Ibáñez — a waiver claim from president of baseball operations Scott Harris in the offseason — helped the Detroit Tigers snap a nine-game losing streak Monday with his offense and defense.

“This is going to be the beginning,” Ibáñez said. “This is going to be the beginning for something good.”

The Tigers beat the Atlanta Braves, 6-5, in Monday’s series opener at Comerica Park, and for that to happen, the Tigers (27-37) needed to keep the Braves from scoring in the top of the 10th inning.

Ibáñez, playing left field, threw out Sam Hilliard at home plate to end the inning.

“We need these guys to do something positive,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Andy has had a great attitude through it all. No one likes to look up at the scoreboard and see the numbers dwindling down.”

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Facing right-handed reliever Alex Lange, the Braves had a runner on third base with one out in the bottom of the 10th inning.

Hilliard, the free runner in extra innings, ranks in the 92nd percentile for his sprint speed, and he decided to test the strength of Ibáñez’s arm on a 238-foot fly ball to left field from Eddie Rosario.

Ibáñez caught the fly ball for the second out and fired a bullet to catcher Jake Rogers for the third out. The inning-ending double play allowed the Tigers to avoid their 10th loss in a row with Torkelson’s walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning.

“Honestly, I don’t know how I made it, but I made it,” Ibáñez said, with Tigers bilingual media coordinator Carlos Guillen interpreting. “My biggest goal was to make the out, and that was the result at the plate. … This is a privilege to be here. I’m very thankful and grateful from my teammates, my coaching staff and everybody.”

Ibáñez produced on offense, too.

The 30-year-old, hitting .202 in 36 games this season, finished 3-for-4 with one single, one double, one home run and one walk. He needed a triple to complete the cycle but struck out swinging to strand two runners in scoring position in the bottom of the ninth inning, which sent the game to extra innings.

“I wasn’t aware that I was a triple shy of the cycle, but I was evaluating all the pitches in the at-bats before me,” Ibáñez said. “I was watching what they were throwing, and I was realizing what I thought they were going to throw me, they were throwing me. I was evaluating them beforehand.”

In the seventh inning, Ibáñez put the Tigers on the scoreboard with a 403-foot solo home run. He hammered a fourth-pitch sweeper from righty reliever Colin McHugh in a 2-1 count with a 105.4 mph exit velocity.

The homer cut the Tigers’ deficit to 4-1.

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Before his plate appearances, Ibáñez — known for his ability to put the ball in play and limit strikeouts — watched closely from the dugout and the on-deck circle to study the opposing pitcher.

Taking mental notes before stepping to the plate is part of his in-game routine.

“It’s something I’ve been doing since I was playing in Cuba,” Ibáñez said. “I’ve always done that.”

Not too long ago, Ibáñez escaped a nasty 0-for-32 slump with a single May 27 against the Chicago White Sox. Since May 30, he is hitting .350 (7-for-20) with five extra-base hits (two home runs), two walks and five strikeouts in nine games.

The Tigers believed in him the entire time.

“With a lot of guys, I think we believe in track records,” Hinch said. “His track record has been really good in the minor leagues. It has not been tested thoroughly in the big leagues. The only way it’s going to be tested is by playing. When guys get opportunity, I wish you knew how badly they want to stick. … We’re going to believe before we’re going to doubt, and that’s a calling card for how I’ve managed for as long as I have.”

Rehab updates

Three pitchers have upcoming rehab assignment outings in Triple-A Toledo: Right-hander Beau Brieske (Tuesday), left-hander Tarik Skubal (Thursday) and righty Matt Manning (Friday).

Skubal has completed two rehab starts with High-A West Michigan, while Manning has completed one rehab start with Toledo. Brieske also pitched in two games with West Michigan before being transferred to Toledo.

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Brieske is scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen for the Mud Hens.

Right-handed reliever Trey Wingenter started Tuesday for Low-A Lakeland in the second outing of his rehab assignment. He allowed one run on two walks with two strikeouts in ⅔ innings, throwing 10 of 24 pitches for strikes.

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

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