Detroit Tigers sweep Royals to tie six-game season-long winning streak

Detroit – AJ Hinch has been thinking about moving Akil Baddoo to the front row for a while. But he wanted him to earn the privilege, which he certainly did by hitting .300 with a base average of .400 over the past two weeks.

Baddoo then validated the strategy on Thursday afternoon, sparking a four-run fifth inning that helped the Tigers match a season-long six-game winning streak and sweep the Royals, 10-3, at Comerica Park. .

This victory also allowed the club not to lose 100 games.

“We never talked about it, but it was an obvious possibility,” said catcher Tucker Barnhart, who had a three-hit and two RBI day. “Unfortunately that’s the reality of where we are. I’ve joked with a few guys I’ve played on bad teams before but I’ve never lost 100 games. And I don’t want to start now.

“Fortunately, that won’t happen. We just have to keep playing well and send this team and this organization into the offseason on a high note.”

BOX SCORE: Tigers 10, Royals 3

It was a 1-0 game when left-handed hitters Baddoo and Riley Greene came in the fifth inning, their third time in the order against right-handed Royals starter Jonathan Heasley.

Baddoo has been hitting the No. 9 hole since returning from Triple-A Toledo. Often, by the time his turn comes a third time, the opposing team has gone to the bullpen for a left-handed pitcher, which Hinch has usually countered by retiring Baddoo for a right-handed hitter.

But by piling Baddoo and Greene, who hit in the front row, ahead of Javier Báez, Hinch has a chance to control the clash later in the game.

Royals receiver MJ Melendez tags in the Tigers' Akil Baddoo at home, but Baddoo beats the tag in the fifth inning to make it 3-0.

“It’s about trying to get as many players at bat against the right-handed pitcher as possible,” Hinch said. “Maybe we can get a third at bat for Akil. We wanted Akil to start having better drummers and deserve it. Then putting Riley right behind him gives me a lot of options and a lot of speed, which we missed.

“It just sets up our lineup to get as much peloton advantage as we can.”

That’s what happened in the fifth inning.

Kansas City manager Mike Matheny might have been hesitant to go see one of his southpaws in the bullpen — one, because Heasley was throwing well, only allowing a solo homer from Willi Castro ; and two, he knew the southpaw would have to face right-handed hitter Báez, who hits .519 with an .850 OPS against southpaws.

So, with an on and an on, Baddoo hit a rocket (98 mph) off Heasley through first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino, scoring Barnhart from second base. Greene followed with a brace to the center right, scoring Baddoo, who was running downfield from the first base.

At that point, Matheny let Heasley face Báez, straight to right, and Báez bombed an overhanging breakout ball, knocking it into the Tigers bullpen for his 16th home run.

Boom, boom, turn off the lights.

“Akil’s presence in the box earned him the right to go up (in order),” Hinch said. “And then against a right-handed pitcher who has pretty extreme spreads (better results against right-handers than left-handers), it’s good to have the pressure on their dugout to make a move or not the third time around.”

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Even though Matheny would have gone for a southpaw, Hinch would have felt in control in the clashes with right-handed slugger Eric Haase available on the bench to pinch Baddoo if he wanted to, then with Greene, who hits lefties better than righties and Báez. .

It was a strategy to win the game on Thursday, of course, but it’s also a strategy that Hinch may have to use more regularly in the future if the Tigers end up using more platoons in various positions around the diamond the next season.

“As we move forward with some guys, we’re going to have to be pretty creative with who we expose them to and who they have to deal with,” Hinch said. “We try to line up and give each other as many advantages as possible.”

Tigers starter Eduardo Rodriguez was certainly winning most of his matchups against a predominantly right-handed Royals formation. He went through the first six innings, allowing just five wide-spaced singles. He masterfully worked his change on his four-seam fastball and sinker.

The switch, which he was throwing harder and with an extra inch of vertical break than his season average, induced seven misses out of 15 swings and the five that came into play were soft contacts (average exit speed of 72mph).

His four-seam machine was snappier, too, with three inches more vertical breakage than his norm for the season.

“My fastball control has been really good and that’s what makes the switch work that way,” Rodriguez said. “I mix my lands much better. When I first came back, I threw too many cutters. Now I mix a lot of lands and it gives me good results.”

He ran out of steam in the seventh, however. He walked three in the set, although one was erased in a double play. Rodriguez walked away to hearty applause with two blocks and two blocks.

“It’s the best way to end the season,” Rodriguez said. “Keep winning games and keep that good chemistry for next year. There’s nothing better than winning like this, no better way to end the season.”

Castro, who homered in the second inning, had to leave the game after doubling in the fourth. He strained his left hamstring and will miss the rest of the season. The Tigers will make a roster change on Friday.

“I feel for him,” Hinch said. “But with hamstring strain, it’s not an injury that bounces back in a week.”

With the sweep, the Tigers win the season series against the Royals, 10-9, and climb out of the Central Division basement.

“We’re professionals and we get paid to play this game,” Barnhart said. “We owe it to ourselves, to the organization to not just cash in and go with the flow. We all respect each other, we respect the organization and AJ and the coaches to keep playing hard for all 162 games.”

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Twitter: @cmccosky

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