Outfielder Akil Baddoo bookended the second inning of the Tigers' game vs. the Mariners on Tuesday night at Comerica Park with a pair of defensive plays, one far better than the other. After seemingly losing a Shed Long Jr. drive in the sun for a leadoff double, Baddoo stranded two runners with a lunging catch in the left-field corner to rob Mitch Haniger of what would likely have been a two-run double.
The catch set the tone for a night of outstanding defense in Detroit in a 5-3 win over the Mariners.
“We have this version of us in us,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “and it’s nice when it all comes together, and we put a good game together and get rewarded with a win.”
Baddoo hesitated before retreating on Long’s line drive, hit right as the sun was setting behind the first-base stands. That run eventually scored on a two-out error by second baseman Jonathan Schoop, pulling the Mariners within 3-1, but Baddoo prevented further damage by denying Haniger of a hit.
“I didn’t think Haniger would get to that, honestly,” starter Matthew Boyd said. “It was down and in and he got his barrel to it and somehow put a bat on the ball. And then looking down and seeing Akil in mid-stride running it down, that was awesome.”
Baddoo covered 72 feet in 3.8 seconds, reaching a sprint speed of 27.6 feet per second. According to Statcast, the ball had just a 5 percent catch probability.
“It changed the whole complexion of the game,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “The game is probably tied at that point. ... Off the bat, I certainly thought it did [have a chance to land]. It was kind of weird. Normally, that ball from a right-handed hitter down the left-field line is going to hook some. That ball did not hook much. It just kind of hung up there. He squared it. He hit it really good. And obviously, Baddoo is probably one of their faster guys.”
Haniger could’ve easily had two doubles and four RBIs. His next at-bat ended with another line drive, this one to right-center. Center fielder Derek Hill covered 72 feet across the outfield to cut it off, ending the fourth inning with two more runners stranded.
“Honestly, we had pretty good control on where he was going to hit the ball with our positioning card and everything like that,” Hill said, “so I tip my cap to the analytics people, because they put me in the right spot.”
Baddoo got a rare start against a lefty in Mariners starter Marco Gonzales. He flew out in his first at-bat, but worked the count full before hitting a fly ball deep enough to center to allow Niko Goodrum to tag up from first. Goodrum stole third before scoring on Hill’s single for his first Major League RBI. Hill, who entered the game 2-for-20 at the plate in his brief big league career, singled, stole second and scored in the fifth for a critical add-on run.