Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo isn’t his best against left-handed pitching, but the rookie hopes to change that moving forward.
Manager AJ Hinch gave Baddoo, a lefty hitter, his latest challenge with 11 games remaining: Chicago White Sox left-hander Dallas Keuchel, the 2015 American League Cy Young, 2017 World Series champion and two-time All-Star over his 10-year career.
Baddoo recorded RBI singles in the third and fourth innings, increasing his batting average to .233 (20-for-86) against left-handers, but the Tigers didn’t produce runs from other sources until scoring three in the seventh inning of Tuesday’s 5-3 victory — providing a four-game winning streak — in front of a scarce crowd at Comerica Park.
First pitch occurred at 1:10 p.m. — instead of the originally scheduled 6:40 p.m. — due to heavy rain expected in the evening.
WINDSOR: Tigers shrugged off gut-punch vs. AL’s best. Here’s why this is hardly a fluke
DEVELOPMENT: Why Tigers rookie Alex Lange is becoming a high-leverage reliever
The Tigers (74-78) finished with 16 hits, three walks and four strikeouts, getting six multihit performances: Baddoo (2-for-5, two RBIs), Robbie Grossman (2-for-5, one walk), Jeimer Candelario (2-for-4), Niko Goodrum (2-for-4, one RBI), Daz Cameron (3-for-3, one walk) and Victor Reyes (4-for-4, two RBIs).
In the seventh inning, Goodrum broke the 2-2 tie with a two-out single off lefty reliever Jace Fry. Singles from Grossman and Candelario started the inning with momentum, but Eric Haase into a double play as Grossman reached third base.
Ensuing walks drawn by Cameron and Isaac Paredes loaded the bases, and Reyes capitalized by producing a two-run single off Aaron Bummer for a 5-2 lead.
Detroit is 65-54 since May 8 and 34-27 since the All-Star break, winning nine of its past 12 contests.
Plays at the plate
In the first inning, Jonathan Schoop hit a one-out single and tried to score from first base on Grossman’s double to right field. Third base coach Ramon Santiago waved him home once he saw right fielder Adam Engel throw the ball to shortstop Tim Anderson near second base.
But Anderson made a smart play.
His throw to catcher Yasmani Grandal beat Schoop to the plate.
HOLLAND TALKS TIGERS: What AJ Hinch said on Day 1 stands out, plus more from Q&A with veteran
INJURY REPORT: Gregory Soto out for rest of season; Matthew Boyd seeks second opinion
Keuchel allowed two runs on 11 hits and one walk over five innings. He struck out two, tossed 59 of 95 pitches for strikes and generated four swings and misses. For the Tigers, lefty starter Tyler Alexander conceded two runs on eight hits and two walks over five innings. He punched out two and threw 57 of 91 pitches for strikes.
Once Keuchel exited, Reyes took advantage of some crucial mistakes in the sixth inning. He hit a grounder to shortstop and should have been out at first base, but Anderson overthrew Jose Abreu. Anderson was charged with a throwing error. Reyes then stole third base, giving the Tigers a key opportunity to break the 2-2 tie with nobody out.
Anderson countered by avenging his mistake.
On a bouncer from Baddoo, Anderson dashed across the infield and made an off-balanced throw to Grandal at home. A replay review from the umpires deemed Reyes out at the plate.
Tyler Alexander starts, bullpen takes over
Keeping the Tigers in the game, Alexander willed his way through five innings.
The White Sox were active on the bases in every inning but the second, forcing Alexander to use 14 pitches in the first inning, 20 in a perfect second, 21 in a two-run third, 14 in the fourth and 22 in the fifth to complete his outing.
All the damage, though, was done in the third fame.
FIRST TIME: Kyle Funkhouser wasn’t supposed to pitch Sunday, then got first MLB save
ANOTHER FIRST: Alex Lange on first MLB save: ‘Always wanted to be a closer’
Cesar Hernandez’s single and Anderson’s double with one out put two runners in scoring position. Luis Robert followed with a single to left field, which plated both runners for a 2-0 White Sox lead. Chicago then loaded the bases, thanks to Jose Abreu (single) and Yasmani Grandal (walk), but Eloy Jimenez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Alexander worked around doubles from Robert in the first inning, Moncada in the fourth and Abreu in the fifth. In the fourth, Moncada rounded second base on a line drive to Reyes in center field, hoping to extend his double into a triple.
Reyes relayed the ball to Goodrum at shortstop, who fired over to Candelario at third base. All three players were perfect in their execution, concluding with a strong tag from Candelario for the first out of the inning.
The Tigers received enough from their relievers — Ian Krol, Bryan Garcia, Jason Foley and Michael Fulmer — to limit the White Sox to one run the rest of the way. Foley was charged with the run in the eighth inning. He put runners on first and second base with two outs, forcing Hinch to bring in Fulmer to face Anderson.
Anderson hit an RBI single to center, but Fulmer retired Robert for the third out. He pitched a scoreless ninth inning to notch his 11th save.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.