CLEVELAND — The Detroit Tigers’ offense scored early runs. Right-hander Alex Faedo pitched into the sixth inning and earned his first MLB win. And the bullpen kept the Cleveland Guardians scoreless.
Those ingredients helped the Tigers snap a three-game losing streak.
The Tigers topped the Guardians, 4-2, in Sunday’s series finale at Progressive Field. The series was supposed to be three games between the American League Central rivals, but Saturday’s clash was postponed due to rain.
“It was a good game,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We played pretty well all the way around. … There was a lot to like today.”
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The Tigers (14-26) relied on their best bullpen arms down the stretch, and they were boosted by a solo home run from their best player, shortstop Javier Báez, in the eighth inning.
“The support from my teammates is really important,” Báez said. “We’ve been struggling as a team, and as a team, we got to get up and play better.”
The Báez blast — his first homer since April 26 — put the Tigers ahead, 4-2.
It was his first RBI since April 30, as well.
“We need him,” said Hinch.
Báez entered Sunday’s game hitting .176 with four doubles, three RBIs, three walks and 25 strikeouts since his April 26 home run. In that game, the Tigers lost to the Minnesota Twins on a throwing error by catcher Eric Haase in the ninth inning.
“I’m still working on it,” Báez said. “I’m not there yet. I’m just trying to see the ball pretty good. My timing is good, just approach-wise and mental-wise, I got to get right. I know it’s going to get there. I’ m not rushed, but I’m working pretty hard to keep my approach the same way.”
As for the bullpen, the Tigers utilized three relievers.
Left-hander Andrew Chafin took over for Faedo with one out in the sixth inning. He pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings, including one strikeout, before righty Alex Lange got the ball with two outs in the seventh.
Lange finished the seventh and worked around a two-out walk to Guardians slugger Jose Ramirez in the eighth. Left-hander Gregory Soto executed a scoreless ninth — despite plunking Josh Naylor near the elbow with a 99 mph fastball — to lock up his seventh save.
The Tigers scored the go-ahead run in the top of the fifth inning. One-out singles from Tucker Barnhart and Daz Cameron created an opportunity for Robbie Grossman.
Grossman hit a fastball past Naylor, the Guardians’ first baseman, and into right field, which plated Barnhart from second for a 3-2 lead. Naylor was charged with a fielding error on the play.
Cameron helped out Faedo in the bottom of the fifth and preserved the Tigers’ 3-2 advantage. Cameron, making his third appearance in center, robbed Amed Rosario of a two-run home run and started an 8-4-3 double play for the second and third outs.
“He smacked it pretty well,” Cameron said. “After I read the ball, I saw that I had a pretty good chance. Getting close to the wall, going up, and the ball was right there, I just grabbed it and threw it back in to double him off.”
Faedo, facing Cleveland for the first time in his career, gave up two runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts, throwing 56 of 86 pitches for strikes. He has a 3.00 ERA this season.
“That was an incredible play,” Faedo said. “My emotions were up and down as that ball was going because I could see his mannerisms. … He swung the bat well. He made those crazy plays. He had a great day.”
Finally, a first-inning run on the road
The Tigers scored in the first inning, marking their first run scored in the first inning on the road this season.
“Hopefully the second one is tomorrow,” said Hinch.
Miguel Cabrera smacked a double to left field, bringing in Grossman, who drew a leadoff walk, stole second base and advanced to third base on Willi Castro’s groundout. The Tigers stranded Cabrera at second base, though, as Báez and Jeimer Candelario had back-to-back strikeouts.
The double marked Cabrera’s 603rd double in his 20-year MLB career. He is tied with Cal Ripken Jr. for 16th place on the all-time doubles list. The 39-year-old, hitting .276 this season, finished 1-for-4 with one RBI and two strikeouts.
The Guardians matched the Tigers in the bottom of the first inning.
Owen Miller tied the game, 1-1, with an RBI single to center. An ensuing walk from Naylor loaded the bases, but Faedo escaped with consecutive outs. Franmil Reyes struck out swinging, and Andres Gimenez flied out to left field.
Guardians starter Shane Bieber allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with 10 strikeouts. He struck out five of the final eight batters he faced and tossed 71 of 106 pitches for strikes.
“His stuff is good,” said Hinch. “It cuts, it sinks, he throws high fastballs, and his stuff plays very well. He pitched us up in the zone where some of our weaknesses are. He’s a really good pitcher, and he’s going to find his way. We were able to capitalize on a couple of walks.”
Alex the great
Faedo, in his fourth start, needed 29 pitches in the first inning.
He settled in through the second and third frames.
“I needed to get back in the (strike) zone,” Faedo said. “I needed to get ahead (in counts) and execute.”
The 26-year-old worked around a leadoff single in the second, thanks to a double play from Candelario at third to second baseman Jonathan Schoop to first baseman Spencer Torkelson.
Then, Faedo pitched a perfect third by retiring Rosario, Ramirez and Miller.
“He’s got some weapons, and he’s got competitiveness,” Hinch said. “He’s not afraid, which is key. The moment never speeds up too fast for him. He’s always under control on the mound. There’s a lot to like with him.”
The Tigers supported Faedo with their second run, for a 2-1 advantage, in the second inning. Cameron secured his first RBI of the season — a two-out single to center — but was picked off at first to end the inning.
Again, the Guardians countered.
In the fourth inning, Faedo offered Naylor a 93.1 mph fastball in a 3-1 count. The pitch traveled down and away, hitting the corner of the strike zone, but Naylor hammered the ball 416 feet to center field.
The homer, Naylor’s sixth this year, tied the game, 2-2.
Faedo didn’t concede another run.
He pitched into the sixth inning, but Hinch avoided another Faedo-Naylor matchup. Chafin entered with one out and a runner on first base. Naylor struck out swinging on a fourth-pitch slider, and Reyes flied out to deep left-center for the third out in the sixth.
For his 86 pitches, Faedo used 38 four-seam fastballs (44%), 30 sliders (35%) and 18 changeups (31%). He recorded six swings and misses: four sliders and two changeups. He also logged 18 called strikes: 11 fastballs, six sliders and one changeup.
His fastball averaged 92.1 mph.
“He’s fearless,” said Hinch. “He’ll throw any pitch. He’s got three pitches. That helps you when one is off, or when maybe the game plan says to do one thing versus another with the variety of hitters you’re going to face.”
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