Tigers keep moving forward, ‘escape tough moments’ to beat Guardians

Detroit News

Cleveland — The games don’t stop.

Whether that’s comforting or confounding is up for individual interpretation.

The Tigers on Saturday were still processing the news that catcher Eric Haase had been designated for assignment. He’d caught the second game of the doubleheader Friday and less than 12 hours later he was flying back home, his baseball future thrust in sudden uncertainty.

“We’re not just teammates, we were friends,” fellow catcher Jake Rogers said. “It sucks, you know? It sucks. But that’s the way of the game.”

Rogers shrugged. Haase will move forward, he said, and we will move forward.

The Tigers moved forward, beating the Cleveland Guardians, 4-3, at Progressive Field.

“That was a baseball game,” Rogers said after he guided five different pitchers through an always-pesky Guardians lineup. “There were lots of big moments and we came out on top in a lot of those moments.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Guardians 3

Kerry Carpenter got them off and running, blasting his 17th home run, a three-run liner that bounced off the top of the right-field wall and into the seats in the first inning. Shortstop Javier Báez hit a solo shot in the seventh.

That was all the scoring they mustered. And it was, against all odds, all they needed.

“Anytime you get to the finish line, it’s the right path,” manager AJ Hinch said. “It was a fun win and we needed a lot of guys to escape a lot of tough moments.”

The games don’t stop.

You don’t have to explain that to Báez. On Friday morning, he said goodbye to his family in Puerto Rico and flew to Cleveland having spent the week attending his grandfather Isaias’ funeral and wake.

With all his heart, he wanted to stay on the island.

“My grandfather for me and my family was a big inspiration,” Báez said. “Nobody prepares to say goodbye, you know, in death. It was tough. It was hard. Especially seeing my mom the way she was.”

Báez learned of his grandfather’s death on Aug. 5. That’s how long he’s been dealing with this. He helped arrange for his entire family to fly from various regions of the United States to Puerto Rico. It took nearly a week to work everything out, a week Báez spent with his mind half on his obligations to the Tigers and half on his obligations to his family.

“That was hard but at the same time, I haven’t had my family all together in a very long time,” he said. “My grandpa was our leader. That’s what I remember. He was a leader, so it was pretty painful for us. At least he is at peace now. “

Báez took solace in the fact that he could be there, in person, to offer hugs and support for his mother and for the rest of his family. A part of him wanted to stay with them longer. But the games don’t stop and he’d missed five already.

“I had my excuses to stay home and to stay close to my family,” he said. “But obviously, we have things to do and I have to do them so I can take care of my family. And that’s to be with my teammates and try to finish strong.

“It’s just another person I’m going to play for.”

Báez got two hits in the nightcap Friday and, on the night they celebrated Manny Ramirez at Progressive Field, he blasted his eighth homer of the season, which put the Tigers up 4-2.

“That was Manny style,” Hinch said. “He looked just like him with that oppo homer. It’s good to get him back and good to get him back with a clear mind. At the time, that tack-on run felt good. In the end it proved to be the difference.”

Right-hander Matt Manning kept the Guardians’ offense quiet for six innings, producing his second straight strong outing.

He put a 92-mph fastball in the heart of the plate to lefty-swinging Kole Calhoun in the first inning and that ball ended up deep in the right-field stands.

“I kind of fought myself for the first couple of innings,” Manning said. “Once I had that quick third inning I got into a little bit of a rhythm and got my legs back in my delivery. After that I was able to step on the gas and was in attack mode.”

The second run came in the fifth and it was unearned. The Tigers, who otherwise played a strong game defensively, made two errors on a double to the wall in center by Bo Naylor. Riley Greene’s throw to Báez was high. Báez, though, recovered and threw a seed to the plate that beat the runner, Gabriel Arias.

Rogers, though, didn’t handle the throw cleanly and the run scored.

Manning bowed his neck and got the next three hitters to ground out — Myles Straw, Steven Kwan and Jose Ramirez — stranding Naylor at third.

“It was a close game and it didn’t matter if I walked a guy,” he said. “I was going to attack on the edges. I threw three changeups to Kwan. I was just trying to keep that run from scoring. That was all I was thinking about. If they drew a walk, then they walked. The double play was in order.”

Just as they did in Game 2 Friday, the Guardians chipped away at the Tigers’ bullpen. This time, the bullpen held.

They tagged right-hander Will Vest for three straight hits and a run in the seventh. But Alex Lange rescued the inning and preserved the one-run lead.

With runners on first and second and one out, Lange dispatched Ramirez and, after he walked the bases loaded, Oscar Gonzalez.

“He’s regained every bit of the opportunity in those big moments,” Hinch said. “We can talk closer all you want, but that was a critical out that counted just as much as the 27th out.”

The Guardians put the first two runners on again in the eighth against lefty Andrew Vasquez, but, after he threw just two strikes in 11 pitches on Friday, he calmly set down the next three hitters without a ball leaving the infield.

That left it to Jason Foley to lock it down, as he did in Game 1 on Friday. He had to face the top of the Guardians order in the ninth, which he got through cleanly for his seventh save.

The games aren’t going to stop, might as well win them.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky   

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