Tigers Defang Diamondbacks on Baez Slam, Strong Pitching

Tigers Diamondbacks

Tigers 5, Diamondbacks 1

PHOENIX, Jun 24 — Detroit shortstop Javier Baez hit a third-inning grand slam, paving the way for his Detroit Tigers to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5–1, Friday night. Tigers pitchers combined to hold the Diamondbacks to one run on three hits, ensuring that the grand slam was more than enough to prevail on the scoreboard.

The Diamondbacks had a promising chance to score in the bottom of the first off Tigers starter Rony Garcia. A leadoff hit-by-pitch by right fielder Daulton Varsho and one-out walk by Ketel Marte set the table for first baseman Christian Walker. He uncharacteristically hit a soft bouncer up the middle. Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop gobbled it up, stepped on the bag at second, and whipped the ball to first for an inning-ending double play.

The Tigers broke through against Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly in the top of the third. Consecutive singles by catcher Eric Haase, right fielder Victor Reyes, and center fielder Riley Greene led off the inning. This loaded the bases for Baez, who smashed a 1–2 curveball 459 feet for the grand slam.

Diamondbacks Have No Answer for Tigers Pitching

The Diamondbacks got one back in the bottom half. Walker lined a sharp one-out single to center and advanced to third on a follow-up single by left fielder David Peralta. With runners now on the corners, third baseman Josh Rojas flied to center. It was, however, deep enough for Walker to tag and score from third, making the score 4–1 as Rojas notched an RBI on the sacrifice fly. That was all they managed, however. Catcher Carson Kelly, up next, saw a fastball right down the pipe but popped it into shallow left for a harmless third out.

This was the last inning where the Diamondbacks notched a hit. In fact, beyond this inning, the Diamondbacks only managed three baserunners, all via the walk. Two came in the bottom of the sixth, putting runners on first and second with one out. But Peralta struck out, and when Rojas rolled over on the first pitch to hit a soft grounder to first, their final scoring threat of the night went up in smoke.

The Tigers extended their lead in the top of the eighth. With one out, designated hitter and future Hall of Famer Miguel Cabrera smacked career hit number 3,052 — a sharp single to left. His pinch-runner, Willi Castro, scored from first on a follow-up double to the left-field corner by left fielder Robbie Grossman.

Postgame Reflections

Manager Torey Lovullo said the game “wasn’t anything close to what we expected to do today. With Merrill on the mound, you feel like you’re going to get a well-pitched game. I thought he threw well enough. He just made an in-zone mistake to a very good hitter.” Kelly confirmed that sentiment. “It was supposed to be out of the zone. He chased the one before that pretty badly. So I would imagine, in his mind, he was gonna try not to get beat like that again. It wasn’t a bad pitch at the bottom of the zone, but two strikes in, it’s got to be a chase pitch. I left it up, and he didn’t miss it.” Kelly would have taken either a bounced curve or one farther outside — “anywhere out of the zone, I feel like he swings over it, just like he did the one before.”

Lovullo said about Garcia, “You expect to score some runs off a pitcher that that hasn’t necessarily proven himself. He’s got good stuff, but there were some vulnerabilities there that we could have taken advantage of.” These opportunities included the promising first inning that came up empty and the third inning that only brought across one run.

Second baseman Jake Hager explained what made Garcia so tough. “The ball was moving. His sinker was on. He had control of it, was busting the righties in. Just had full control of that pitch. And it was tough to pick up, honestly. He was commanding the zone, made his pitches, and we just couldn’t get him today.”

Positive Attitude

This was the fourth consecutive loss for the Diamondbacks, a stretch that has seen them score eight runs over 38 innings. Kelly said that, despite the frustrating results, the team has avoided negativity. “Everybody’s coming in with a good attitude when we get here. I haven’t really noticed any negativity. Haven’t really noticed any people feeling sorry for themselves. I think we’re good. We gotta go out there and try to win some games and get some momentum going.”

Hager added, “We show up every day and put our work in. (The team has) a good energy. We have a great team. And all it takes is one person to get on base, and another hit, another hit. Once we do that, we’re gonna start rolling. It just takes a couple of at-bats, a couple of good, key hits to get going. I think we’ll be alright. Our whole team can hit, so I think that’s all we need. A single spark. That’s all.”

Looking Ahead

Garcia (2–2) earned the win for the Tigers, while Kelly (6–5) took the loss. The Tigers (27–43) and Diamondbacks (32–40) play the second game of their three-game interleague series Saturday evening. Alex Faedo (1–4, 4.67 ERA) and Zach Davies (2–4, 3.96 ERA) will start for the Tigers and Diamondbacks, respectively, in a battle of righties. First pitch is set for 7:10 pm Arizona Time.

Main Photo Credits:

PHOENIX, Jun 24 — Detroit Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop bats against Merrill Kelly (not pictured) of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the top of the sixth inning at Chase Field. Carson Kelly is the catcher, and Jeremy Riggs is the plate umpire. (Photo by Evan Thompson)

Players/managers mentioned:

Javier Baez, Rony Garcia, Daulton Varsho, Ketel Marte, Christian Walker, Jonathan Schoop, Merrill Kelly, Eric Haase, Victor Reyes, Riley Greene, David Peralta, Josh Rojas, Carson Kelly, Miguel Cabrera, Willi Castro, Robbie Grossman, Torey Lovullo, Jake Hager, Alex Faedo, Zach Davies