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Tigers 5, Diamondbacks 1: Javy Báez’s grand slam powers Detroit in the desert

Rony Garcia put together another solid start, and the bullpen was strong.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Arizona Diamondbacks Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Javier Báez remained hot, and a good outing from Rony Garcia carried the Tigers to a 5-1 victory over Arizona on Friday night.

Diamondbacks’ starter Merrill Kelly had no issue with the Tigers in the first, getting them in order with the help of a sliding grab in left by David Peralta on a flare from Riley Greene. Rony Garcia had a little more trouble, hitting leadoff man Daulton Varsho in a two-strike count and issuing a walk to Ketel Marte. However, a soft double play ball off the bat of Christian Walker got him out of the inning without allowing a run.

In the second, Miguel Cabrera was called out on strike three just outside the zone to start things off after a nice bit of discussion of his greatness from the Apple TV broadcast crew. Robbie Grossman followed and drew a walk from Kelly. Spencer Torkelson’s return to his old college stomping grounds started well, as he rifled a one-hopper right through shortstop Geraldo Perdomo’s diving attempt for a single. Jeimer Candelario followed with a softly hit ground ball and beat out the turn from second to avoid a double play. That left things up to Jonathan Schoop, but he grounded out.

With one out in the bottom of the second, Miguel Rojas bounced a soft tapper toward first base. Spencer Torkelson slipped after charging way in to pick it up and Rojas was safe with an infield single. Allow me to take a moment to note that the very pale yellow unis worn by the Diamondbacks in this one made me think something was wrong with the contrast repeatedly. Just peculiar. Anyway, Carson Kelly grounded toward shortstop, but with a big shift to the left side, it was Schoop who picked it up. He couldn’t quite beat Rojas to second base, but did record the out at first, bringing second baseman Jake Hager to the dish with two outs. Garcia got ahead 1-2, but a developing theme was his struggle to finish hitters off as he couldn’t locate his curveball early on. However, he did eventually get Hager to ground out to end the inning.

The Tigers made a big push in the third, as Eric Haase, Victor Reyes, and Riley Greene started the inning with back-to-back-to-back singles, loading the bases for Javier Báez. Merrill Kelly got ahead 1-2 with a pair of fastballs and a curveball down and away for a whiff. The next pitch was a curveball right over the middle but down at the bottom edge. Báez crushed it to left-center for a grand slam, and it was glorious. One of the reasons he whiffs at so many breaking balls, is that he tends to do a fair bit of this as well. Good to see it.

Báez also had a little “y’all sit down and hush” gesture for a few fans who’d been giving him the business as he began his home run trot, and that was fun.

The Tigers went quietly from there, while Garcia came out looking sharper in the bottom half, and picked up a pair of strikeouts in a clean inning. The Tigers mounted a threat in the fourth as well, and had a moment where they could have really seized the momentum of the game. Jeimer Candelario singled to lead off, but both Schoop and Haase smoked drives to center field for outs. Haase in particularly crushed it to the warning track but center fielder Alek Thomas got there to haul it in. The sound of it screamed home run, but that wouldn’t be the first time that happened at spacious Chase Field.

In the bottom of the fourth, it was Arizona’s turn to apply some pressure. Garcia froze Marte for a strikeout to start the inning, but Christian Walker and David Peralta singled on sinkers, and Walker scored on a Josh Rojas fly ball. Carson Kelly lifted a pop-up into left center field, and Robbie Grossman and Jonathan Schoop nearly collided, but Grossman was decisive and fortunately just made the play to snuff any further trouble. 4-1 Tigers.

The Tigers went quietly in the top of the fifth, and Garcia held up his end, racking up three routine outs of his own. Considering we regarded Garcia as a long reliever at most coming into this season, he’s been a welcome source of stability in a decimated rotation.

Robbie Grossman flew out to start the sixth, while Spencer Torkelson was rung up on a curveball just in off the plate. Too close to take, considering his fortune as a rookie on the those borderline calls this year. Jeimer Candelario followed by lining a single the opposite way, pushing Kelly, who other than the flurry of hits capped by the grand slam, was pretty solid, up near 100 pitches. With his 99th offering of the night, he got Schoop swinging at a breaking ball to finish his night.

The interest headed into the bottom half was whether A.J. Hinch would push Garcia another inning. Because he’s been getting stretched out on the fly, they’ve worked to limit his innings, but as he’d only thrown 75 pitches, Hinch gave him a chance to help the bullpen out with another frame.

Alek Thomas lined out to Torkelson, but Garcia walked Marte on four pitches, and Hinch had Alex Lange prepped to take over. He made the move, and Rony Garcia finished with 5.1 IP, 1 ER, 3 H, 1 BB, 3 SO, throwing 51 of 81 pitches for strikes. He didn’t really spot the curveball well for most of his outing, but he did collect seven whiffs on his fourseamer, and racked up a lot of soft contact with good location.

Lange did not get off to a good start, walking Christian Walker on four pitches. That brought veteran David Peralta to the plate with one out and two on. The left-handed hitter took a pair of breaking balls down and in, and Lange was in a real sticky position.

Chris Fetter decided to come out mid at-bat to have a chat. Lange located a 96 mph fastball on the outer edge to get back in the AB, and then spotted another one down and in that just surprised Peralta. Presumably Fetter said something like, “hey, stop spamming the breaking ball,” as Lange came back with a third straight heater down and in, and Peralta tipped it into Haase’s glove for strike three. Another fourseamer got Rojas to ground out, and the Tigers had slipped the trap.

The Diamondbacks turned to Kyle Nelson in the seventh. He punched out Eric Haase, and then came back to get Victor Reyes on a loud flyout that seemed to die in left center field. Riley Greene grounded out to second to end the inning.

Michael Fulmer allowed a one out walk to Hager, but came back to strike out Geraldo Perdomo with a nasty swingback fastball that froze him solid. Varsho lifted a fly ball to Greene in center and we were on to the eighth inning with Báez at the dish, and Diamondbacks’ right-hander Sean Poppen on the mound.

Báez foul-tipped a fastball into the glove for strike three to start the inning, but Miguel Cabrera followed with a sharp single to left. Hinch inserted Willi Castro to run for him, and it paid off big. Robbie Grossman lifted a double just fair down the left field line, and Castro roared around to score from first for a nice insurance run. 5-1 Tigers.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t get any more, as Torkelson grounded out and Candelario struck out to strand Grossman at second.

Andrew Chafin got the eighth, which was interesting. Working briskly as always, he got Thomas and Marte on routine grounders to Schoop. That left it up to Walker, but Chafin got him to lift a lazy fly ball to right, and we were on to the ninth.

The Tigers went quickly on a Schoop fly out and Haase ground out against J.B. Wendelken. Victor Reyes battled through a seven pitch AB before striking out, and it was Gregory Soto time.

Soto mixed in both slider and changeup to the first hitter, Buddy Kennedy, which was good to see. Kennedy fouled off a good fastball to make it a 2-2 count, and Soto painted a 100 mph middle down, and got the call despite it being a touch low. Former Cleveland pest Jordan Luplow saw 101 on Soto’s first pitch for a strike, then took ball two. Soto landed a slider on the corner for strike two, and Luplow then lined a fastball right to Reyes in right. That left it up to catcher Carson Kelly, and Soto carved him up with a slider to put this one to bed.

Alex Faedo will take on right-hander Zach Davies on Saturday night at 10:10 p.m. EDT.


Javy Báez has an eight game hitting streak going, with four home runs and nine RBIs. Our own Peter Kwasniak wrote about his red hot stretch over the past two weeks just this afternoon.

The Diamondbacks’ City Connect jerseys are a peculiarly pale yellow color. Almost discolored rather than yellow. Distinctive at least, and the script Serpientes is pretty cool. But they’re billed as gold, and I’m not quite buying it. They’re a bit off-putting in my book.

Old friend Quintin Berry showed us some real gold tonight. Quintin Berry is Milwaukee’s first base coach, by the way, which only makes this more special.

Soon, Miguel Cabrera will have mad hits like he was Rod Carew. Beastie Boys fans have been waiting for this a long time.