Tigers' Akil Baddoo playing himself into the Rookie of the Year conversation

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Minneapolis   Before the game Wednesday, it was brought to manager AJ Hinch’s attention that Akil Baddoo might be generating some American League Rookie of the Year consideration.

“When it starts to generate it will be too late,” Hinch said. “You can put Casey (Mize) and (Eric) Haase in there too. We’ve got three guys that are standing out amongst their peers as being viable for that type of award.”

Akil Baddoo continued to torture the Twins, his former organization.

Baddoo, though, has become a catalyst atop the Tigers’ batting order. He led off all three games against the Twins with a hit, two doubles and a single, as he continues to torture the team that didn’t protect from the 2021 Rule 5 draft.

He was 5 for 15 in the series, with three doubles, a home run, two RBIs and two runs scored. Against the Twins this season, he’s 16 for 48 with four doubles, two triples, three home runs and 14 RBIs.

“The one over-arching thing is how the game has slowed down for him,” Hinch said. “The word is, ‘smoothed out.’ He’s smoothed out his overall approach to baseball, whether that’s his approach on ground balls in the outfield, throwing to the right base, having the right tempo or whether it’s controlling his at-bats and having a calm demeanor about him at the plate.

“It’s having a true plan and going up and executing it.”

More: Tigers outslug Twins, 17-14, to win 'absolutely nuts' series

It’s the sum of all those parts that has given Hinch the confidence to play the left-handed hitting Baddoo every day and bat him at the top of the lineup. His two hits Wednesday came off left-hander J.A. Happ. The first was an eight-pitch battle. He fouled off four two-strike pitches before lashing a single.

His second hit, a double, came on a 1-2 pitch.

“It’s been a steady rise in performance across the board,” Hinch said. “His impact, that’s why he’s at the top of the lineup. Once I saw that and we felt comfortable with those advancements around the game, it wasn’t too much to handle for him to become a premier player for us.”

A crazy eight

The first seven hitters Happ faced in the fourth inning Wednesday reached base and scored. Before the third out was made, the Tigers had collected two walks, three singles, two doubles, a triple and a sacrifice fly — producing eight runs.

“We had good at-bats against Happ last week, too,” Hinch said. “We stayed disciplined. We had a couple of big swings and we just kept the line moving when we had him in trouble.”

The eight runs were the most in an inning since they scored nine in the bottom of the fifth against Seattle in 2017. The six hits matched the most in an inning from July 19 at Texas. The 11 batters in the inning matched the 11 who went to the plate in that same inning in Texas.  

Around the horn

… Jonathan Schoop was a late scratch. Hinch said he felt tightness in his back and was held out as a precaution.

… The Tigers drew nine walks Wednesday, six of them scored.

… Jeimer Candelario had two doubles and three RBIs. He’s delivered a hit in 11 of the 13 games since the All-Star break hitting .304 (14 for 46) with six doubles, two home runs, eight walks and a .973 OPS over that span.  

… Derek Hill, who had three hits Wednesday, has reached safely in eight of 10 games since coming up from Toledo. He drove in a run in the first inning with a perfectly executed push bunt past the mound, scoring Harold Castro from third with two outs.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

On deck: Orioles

►Series: Four games at Comerica Park

►First pitch: Thursday-Friday — 7:10 p.m.; Saturday — 6:10 p.m.; Sunday — 1:10 p.m.

►TV/radio: BSD, 97.1

►Probables: Thursday — LHP Alexander Wells (1-0, 4.35) vs. RHP Casey Mize (5-5, 3.63); Friday — RHP Matt Harvey (5-10, 6.65) vs. LHP Tarik Skubal (6-9, 4.42); Saturday — LHP John Means (4-3, 2.94) vs. RHP Matt Manning (2-3, 6.00); Sunday — RHP Spenser Watkins (2-1, 3.10) vs. LHP Tyler Alexander (1-1, 4.80).

►Wells, Orioles: It’s the second career start for the 24-year-old Aussie. He pitched into the sixth inning and allowed three runs to the Rays last time out. He’s a craftsman, throwing an 88-89 four-seamer 54% of the time with a .238 opponent average. His slider has a 33% whiff rate.  

►Mize, Tigers: A three-run homer by Salvador Perez spoiled his last outing and snapped a string of 14 straight starts where he’d allowed three runs or less. It will be his first outing against the Orioles.

— Chris McCosky