'The best feeling': Rookie Akil Baddoo delivers again, Tigers down Twins in extras
Detroit — With two outs in the bottom of the 10th inning and the potential winning run on third, Akil Baddoo walked out of the Tigers' dugout Tuesday afternoon and headed to the on-deck circle.
Robbie Grossman, who had two hits and a pair of RBIs already, was stepping into the batter’s box against Minnesota’s Hansel Robles, a veteran reliever who’s appeared in more then 300 games throughout his career.
The play for Twins manager Rocco Baldelli seemed simple — put Grossman on and pitch to the rookie, who before last week had never played above Class-A ball. That’s just what happened. Grossman took two balls then the Twins gave him first base.
Just before that, though, Tigers manager AJ Hinch suspected the same thing. The rookie, who merely homered on his first major league pitch Sunday against Cleveland then hit a grand slam on Monday against the Twins, was about to get his shot in a much bigger moment.
“They might walk Grossie, so be ready for your moment,” Hinch told Baddoo.
Baddoo heeded the advice, and on a 2-1 pitch, he lined the ball into right field, scoring Harold Castro for the 4-3 victory and setting off a wild celebration in front of 7,306 boisterous fans at Comerica Park.
“This is crazy,” Baddoo said soon after the game, still trying to dry off from all the water, soda and shaving cream dumped on him by his teammates in the clubhouse. “I'm glad we got 'W.' That was a great effort and we put a lot into that one.”
That they did.
The Tigers (3-2) were far from perfect, striking out 15 times and leaving 11 runners on as they failed to hang on to a two-run lead in the late innings. But there were plenty of things to like, from Niko Goodrum’s three hits out of the leadoff spot, to Grossman’s production, to a gutsy at-bat from Jeimer Candelario in the 10th, to some huge pitches from Gregory Soto and flawless defense to give the Tigers the chance to win it.
“A lot of things had to happen to set (Baddoo) up for that moment,” Hinch said. “Candy’s at-bat, the battle that got (Castro) to third base. They decide to intentionally walk Grossman. Our defense the previous inning, Soto going two innings.
“So, he gets the final punch but there were a lot of a lot of good blows that we that we delivered today.”
But really, this was another day to celebrate the growing stardom of Baddoo, the Rule-5 pick from the same Minnesota team he helped beat on Tuesday. He pinch ran the inning before and stayed in the game, leading to his moment in the sun, something that is starting to feel normal.
Of course, it’s his third game and the fifth for the team, so who knows where this all goes for the 22-year-old. For now, though, everyone is enjoying the ride.
“Heck of a way to start a career, eh?” Grossman said. “It’s been an amazing start and he just needs to take it day by day. But wow, that’s special and I'm happy for him, happy for his family, because that's a big thing.
“He’s put up good at-bats. He's put good swings on baseballs and he's gotten results. That’s all you can ask for in this game, and it's been fun to watch.”
The 10th-inning heroics helped erase the fact the Twins (3-2) got a seventh-inning homer from Nelson Cruz then one in the eighth from Byron Buxton to tie the game at 3. That came after Casey Mize made his first start of the season, cruising through the first three innings before laboring in the fourth.
Max Kepler led off with a double, and after Mize was able to get Brent Rooker swinging, Jake Cave drew a walk to put runners on first and second. Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop made a diving play up the middle on a sharp ground ball from Miguel Sano to get Cave out at second, but Willians Astudillo drilled the first pitch he saw from Mize up the middle to score Kepler and give the Twins a 1-0 lead.
“Definitely a good start to the game,” said Mize, who was pulled after going four innings. “Liked my stuff early. …We really executed the game plan and I was super happy with the execution there, for sure.”
The Tigers evened it up the bottom of the fourth as Candelario walked to open the inning then scored on a double from Grossman. They went ahead in the fifth when Goodrum led the inning off with a single, Miguel Cabrera walked on four pitches and Candelario drilled a double into right-center, scoring Goodrum and advancing Cabrera to third. Wilson Ramos struck out but Grossman picked him up with a single to right to score Cabrera, putting the Tigers up 3-1 and giving Grossman his second RBI of the game.
Cruz got his third home run against the Tigers in the seventh off Michael Fulmer to pull the Twins within 3-2 before Buxton blasted a 451-foot homer off Jose Cisnero to lead off the eighth, tying the game at 3.
Soto worked a scoreless ninth, then got out of a jam in the top of the 10th to lead to the heroics from Baddoo.
“That feeling right there is the best feeling,” Baddoo said. “We won, so I want that feeling every time. I’ll hit a single over a home run so we can win every day.”