The Detroit Tigers took advantage of mistakes.
Then, they built on an early lead.
An important four-run second inning was fueled by a hit batter and a pair of fielding errors, but the Tigers wouldn’t have scored without timely hits, and without those big hits, they might not have won their the third game in a row against the Cleveland Guardians.
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The Tigers kept their foot on the gas and smoked the Guardians, 11-4, as the offense attacked right-hander Cal Quantrill on Tuesday for six runs across his four innings and battered the bullpen for a handful of insurance runs.
“We got some key hits at the right time,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “There were some big hits after a number of good at-bats where we made him work. … That’s the kind of offense we have to be, where we are a little bit of a quick strike against a pitcher that’s been pretty decent.”
On Wednesday, the Tigers (33-47) will attempt to sweep the four-game series ahead of a 12-game road trip against three American League Central teams: the Chicago White Sox (four games), Kansas City Royals (four games) and Guardians (four games).
“We know we need wins desperately,” catcher Eric Haase said. “To do it in the division, especially with these guys being notorious for giving us fits int he past, it’s definitely huge. We’re just playing a better brand of baseball overall, so it’s good to see and I hope it continues.”
Detroit scored its 11 runs on 13 hits and five walks, with seven strikeouts. All nine starters reached base safely. Seven of nine starters — except Spencer Torkelson and Robbie Grossman — recorded hits.
Rookie Riley Greene finished 2-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs. The 21-year-old is batting .274 with a .787 OPS through 16 games in his MLB career. For his doubles, he produced exit velocities of 109.8 mph and 101.4 mph.
“I’m going to stay it 100 times: Momentum is key,” Greene said. “If one person swings it, the next person is going to swing it and the next person is going to swing it. It’s just passing it down the line.”
Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-3 with three singles and one walk. The 38-year-old is hitting .308 in 69 games. Victor Reyes had three hits and three RBIs, and Haase posted two hits and drove in two.
The Tigers scored more than 10 runs for the third time this season. Position player Harold Castro pitched the ninth inning and allowed a sacrifice fly for Cleveland’s fourth and final run.
“I hate it,” Hinch said of putting Castro on the mound in a win. “I think you’re going to see a little more of this. I think that might be the first time I’ve ever done it in my career on the positive side. It’s lose, lose for me. … We’re trying to save as much pitching as we can.”
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After Castro grounded out, the next three batters reached safely in the second inning: Jonathan Schoop (hit-by-pitch), Jeimer Candelario (fielding error) and Torkelson (walk).
With the bases loaded, Reyes sprayed a two-strike changeup — well outside the strike zone — into left field for a two-run single and a 2-1 advantage. On the play, though, Torkelson was thrown out trying to advance to third base.
Greene, on his RBI double into the right-field corner for a 3-1 lead, became the first Tigers player to reach base in 15 of his first 16 games since Quintin Berry in 2012.
“He left the cutter down and in a little bit,” Greene said. “I got my hands through it and kept it fair enough.”
Cabrera’s ensuing RBI single made it 4-1.
In the second inning, Quantrill threw 33 pitches and his defense was responsible for two errors. He also tossed 14 pitches in the first inning, 19 pitches in the third and 18 pitches in the fourth.
Quantrill, who entered with a 3.72 ERA, had the shortest start of his season.
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The Tigers got to Quantrill for two more runs in the fourth, courtesy of Haase’s two-run home run on a cutter in a 2-0 count. He has seven homers, including four in his past seven games (five starts), and is tied with Javier Báez for the team lead.
“I was not picking up the ball,” Haase said. “As soon as the sun went down, in the next at-bat, I spit on a couple of pitches and got one to hit, and I ended up hitting it out. It couldn’t have been more different from how I felt, from the first couple ABs to the third and fourth. Overall, it’s just good to walk away with a couple hits after how it started.”
After Quantrill’s exit, the Tigers added two runs in the fifth inning against right-hander reliever Nick Sandlin and three runs in the sixth inning against left-hander Sam Hentges.
For the two runs in the fifth, Greene smacked a two-run double to the left-center gap with two outs. He drove in Candelario (infield single) and Reyes (infield single) for an 8-2 margin.
“Just passing the bat down the line,” Greene said. “They gave me an opportunity, and I took advantage of it.”
In the sixth, Candelario drew a bases-loaded walk for the team’s ninth run, Torkelson grounded into a force out for the 10th run and Reyes singled to left field for the 11th run.
The best part of Drew Hutchison’s first of three starts leading up to the All-Star break was the fifth inning, when answered a leadoff single from Luke Maile by retiring three batters in a row.
He completed his outing before Jose Ramirez stepped to the plate. The Tigers had right-handed reliever Jason Foley warming just in case, but because of Hutchison’s three outs, Hinch didn’t need to use him until the sixth.
“I had a good game plan,” Hutchison said. “I did a good job of attacking. That offense is going to put the ball in play. Haase did a great job, and the guys did a great job putting some runs up. I tried to stay aggressive, and I think I did a good job of doing that.”
Hutchison allowed two runs (one earned run) on five hits. The 31-year-old entered with a 14.6% walk rate but didn’t issue a free pass to the Guardians. He struck out two batters.
The Guardians scored against him once in the first inning and again in the fourth inning.
Amed Rosario got to first base on a one-out fielding error by Castro, filling in at shortstop for Báez, and later scored on Franmil Reyes’ sacrifice fly. With the run, Cleveland took a 1-0 lead. In the fourth, with the Guardians trailing by three runs, Owen Miller hit an RBI single through the vacated right-side of the infield.
For his 85 pitches (59 strikes), Hutchison fired 33 four-seam fastballs (39%), 31 sliders (36%), 11 sinkers (13%) and 10 changeups (12%). He recorded seven swings and misses, including four with his slider.
“Look, I’m going to go out there and do the best I can,” Hutchison said. “I believe in myself. I believe in the pitcher that I am. I’m here to help us win. Every time I get the opportunity, I’m going to do what I can.”
The Tigers’ bullpen took over for the final four innings: Foley in the sixth, right-hander Wily Peralta in the seventh, Peralta and righty Joe Jiménez in the eighth and Castro in the ninth.
Peralta exited with one out in the eighth due to a left hamstring spasm. His replacement — Jimenez — allowed Cleveland’s third run.
“I don’t see how he avoids the injured list,” Hinch said.
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