How Detroit Tigers’ supporting cast allowed Akil Baddoo to play hero
Detroit Tigers outfielder Akil Baddoo showed up at the jubilant Comerica Park clubhouse and got “drenched” in a variety of things: cold water, powder, shaving cream, soda, and probably much more.
“They just told me to keep my eyes closed,” Baddoo said, “and you’ll be fine.”
He had just been hunted and bullied between the first and second bases, where his teammates – none as young as he was 22 years old – wanted to celebrate. Baddoo roped a walk-off field to the right in the 10th inning and gave the Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park.
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In his third MLB game, Baddoo added another accolade to his already formidable résumé in the big league: two homers and now a walk-off hit. But without the help of his teammates, he would not have been able to play a hero on Tuesday.
“We’re pretty proud of him,” said Tiger’s manager AJ Hinch. “You know, a lot of things had to prepare him for this moment. He’s getting the last blow, but there were a lot of good punches that we delivered today.”
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There were so many moments.
To name a handful: Casey Mizes four innings of a one-run ball; a pair of key RBIs from Robbie Grossman in the fourth and fifth innings; Gregory Soto’s goalless ninth and tenth innings; and defensive gems from Jonathan Schoop and Jeimer Candelario to reduce runners trying to score.
“We played a quality game all around,” said Grossman. “I made some big chunks when it was needed … I felt as good as this year on the plate today. I’m just looking forward to coming here tomorrow and moving on.”
Let’s start in the 10th inning, with Harold Castro – who is the game-winning run – on the second base. For the second consecutive year, a runner must start on the second base for each additional inning after the ninth frame.
The first batsman, Candelario, fought for nine places against the right-hander Hansel Robles. This was one of the main bats in the game as the Tigers needed their third baseman each day to advance the runner.
Candelario was eliminated, but it was just enough to put Castro on third base. Then the twins decided to purposely accompany Grossman with two outs; He advanced in first place to Baddoo to second base.
“When I saw the first two spaces and the intent behind them, I said ‘OK’,” said Grossman. “I heard him yell at Kerwin (Danley, umpire) (deliberate walk) and the rest is all Akil Baddoo.”
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Let’s go back to the 10th inning, with runners on the corners and one for Twins outfielder Byron Buxton. He hit a helicopter against Candelario who immediately threw from third base onto home plate to get Jorge Polanco to score. It would have been the starting signal.
But the throw was perfect.
Wilson Ramos’ day – even better.
These instincts kept the game tied to two outs. Back in the fifth inning, second baseman Jonathan Schoop cut off a run the same way, except that Grayson Greiner applied the tag.
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“The guys responded with perfect timing and perfect execution,” said Hinch. “There’s a very small margin of error when they run on contact. You have to make a good throw and secure the game at home. Both catchers have held their own on hard slides. You get big outs.”
“There is a reason you are playing there and that is to put pressure on the other side and also prevent runs. And that way we gave ourselves the chance to win the game.”
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Let’s not forget about Soto.
After Candelario’s bang-bang game in third place, prepared by Soto and triggering a ground ball, it took the Tigers another one to complete the top of the 10th inning.
The twins decided to use Andrelton Simmons as a prize hitter.
The tigers were determined to ride it out on the hill with their closer view of the future. He has already survived the ninth inning unscathed.
Soto and Simmons fought seven pitches and got a 3-2 score. The final offer, an 88.8 mph slider, got Simmons swinging and missing out. Soto celebrated by dancing and screaming on the way back to the dugout.
The threat was over.
“He has a resilient arm,” said Hinch. “I thought he did very well in the strike zone. First and third to collect himself, take a good shot and keep the ball on the ground. There is a lot to like today. His stuff is really electrifying. “
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There were other key moments too, like JaCoby Jones’ fourth inning catch against the midfield wall with the bases loaded. And Niko Goodrum’s three-hit performance from the lead-off spot. And Michael Fulmer’s strong two innings as a reliever. The Tigers worked deeply against twin starter JA Happ and increased his pitch count to pursue him despite his success after four innings.
Without first-class grassroots running, outfield positioning, defense and ingenuity every moment the ball was in play, the Tigers would not have won the game. Especially not against a Twins squad who is expected to end up at the top of the division.
“We did all of that today,” said Hinch.
When the supporting cast delivered, Baddoo also delivered.
“I’m glad we have the W,” said Baddoo. “It was a great effort. We put a lot into this. … We didn’t stop fighting and everyone was prepared for their moment.”
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.