With win over White Sox, Tigers take another series from a division leader
Detroit — If you wanted a blueprint for the brand of baseball manager AJ Hinch has been preaching and the Tigers have been playing, for much of the last five months the Tigers have been playing, rewind and watch the Tigers' 5-3 win over the Central Division-leading Chicago White Sox on Tuesday.
"It's a good sign we're able to beat those guys," said right fielder Daz Cameron, who contributed three hits, two runs and a stolen base to the cause. "I guess it's a good look for us."
A four-game winning streak and now four straight series with either a win (Tampa Bay, Milwaukee and Chicago) or a tie (at Tampa Bay) against first-place teams is a good look, for sure.
"It feels pretty good," said center fielder Victor Reyes, through interpreter Carlos Guillen.
Reyes had four hits including a key two-run single in the three-run seventh.
"We just feel all together right now," he said. "We feel we are all rowing in the same direction. Every day we go out thinking we are going to win, regardless of who we are playing."
It is a high risk-high reward brand of baseball this team is playing. It can exasperate and exhilarate by turns throughout a game.
They had two runners thrown out at the plate, yet they continued to press, forcing the White Sox into giving up five free bases, three on uncontested steals, two at third base.
The Tigers also executed a textbook relay to cut down a runner at third base, that in addition to some clutch pitching, including a four-out save by Michael Fulmer, and timely hitting.
"I think our team finds ways to win and we put pressure on the opponent," Hinch said. "We hung in there. This was a really weird game. Both teams left double-digit guys on base (13 by the White Sox). Both teams found a lot of hits (16 by the Tigers) and had a hard time pushing runs across until the end.
"We came up with the big hit."
First Akil Baddoo, the Tigers left-handed hitting rookie, slapped a pair of two-out, RBI singles off White Sox veteran lefty starter Dallas Keuchel to reset the game at 2-2.
Then, after both teams squandered scoring chances, Niko Goodrum ripped a two-out, RBI single in the bottom of the seventh which triggered a three-run uprising keyed by the Tigers aggression.
"To be able to do that, you can't just turn it on and off daily," Hinch said. "You have to be prepared every day for when the opportunity comes up. I love that about our team. We keep staying in there and the days we can apply pressure, when those opportunities come up, we've practiced it, we're prepared for it.
"And we have no fear."
After Goodrum's RBI hit in the seventh, which came after a deflating double-play ball from Eric Haase, Cameron walked. He and Goodrum then executed a double-steal against reliever Jace Fry, each advancing without a throw.
Reyes cashed in both runners with a single to right field.
"We may make a mistake or two, but it's OK because we're going to keep coming at you," Hinch said. "To me, that's a proud feeling as a manager, to have a team that buys in like that."
The two outs at home certainly didn't dampen the aggression. Jonathan Schoop was thrown out at the plate in the first inning trying to score from first on a double by Robbie Grossman.
In the sixth, with the game still tied, Reyes singled, went to second on a throwing error by shortstop Tim Anderson and stole third uncontested. With no outs, though, he was thrown out at the plate on a close play, and by an elite play by Anderson.
Reyes came on contact on a grounder up the middle by Baddoo. Anderson fielded the ball on the second base side of the infield and made a strong, accurate throw across his body. Catcher Yasmani Grandal blocked the plate and made the tag.
Reyes was initially called safe at the plate, but it was overturned by replay.
"I felt I put my hand down first," Reyes said. "Obviously, he blocked the plate, but I felt, honestly, I made contact first with the plate. Unfortunately, their view saw the opposite. But it's not what I felt."
Still, Reyes forced the White Sox to make a perfect play — throw and tag.
"If it goes to replay, if it's a fraction of an inch one way or another, you tip your cap to TA and Yasmani," Hinch said. "Victor was just a tick short."
The weather conditions added a strange dynamic to this game — which was moved up six hours, to 1:10 p.m. because of a daunting forecast. The game started in a wet mist thick enough to obscure the Renaissance Center building that usually towers proudly beyond the stadium confines.
The combination of the weather and time change served to keep the crowd down to a scattering of diehards — a large, vocal percentage rooting for the visitors..
It seemed early on like the Tigers and White Sox might’ve been trying harder to beat the rain than each other. Then it became a race to break to the tie — first one to three, with the rain supposedly coming, wins.
"To be honest, I didn't feel good about falling behind early," Hinch said. "Because I didn't know if the rain was coming. It was ugly at the beginning of the game. When we started in that mess, I didn't know if we were going to come out of it. It gives you a little bit of a pause."
Fittingly, given the kind of day it was for the Tigers, the sun came out just before the seventh inning and the rains stayed away.
"We beat a good team," Cameron said. "Those guys over there are good. We showed people we're a good team, too."