DETROIT -- Blaine Hardy was never in the conversation when Tigers officials talked about the need for starting pitching depth during the offseason and Spring Training. After seven innings of three-hit ball in Detroit's 3-2 win over the White Sox to clinch the three-game series on Sunday, he was the
DETROIT -- Blaine Hardy was never in the conversation when Tigers officials talked about the need for starting pitching depth during the offseason and Spring Training. After seven innings of three-hit ball in Detroit's 3-2 win over the White Sox to clinch the three-game series on Sunday, he was the talk of Comerica Park.
None of Hardy's 85 pitches topped 90 mph, according to Statcast™. The White Sox put just three of those pitches in play with an exit velocity over 101 mph. Chicago managed no hits after Yolmer Sanchez's third-inning RBI triple.
"Not everybody's blessed with a 98-mph fastball," Tigers catcher Grayson Greiner said. "There are guys that can pitch in this league a long time throwing in the upper 80s, low 90s. They just know how to pitch. And Blaine's one of those guys."
Hardy doesn't shut down a lineup so much as he can flummox it, but he retired the final 14 batters he faced Sunday. He drove a young free-swinging White Sox lineup to madness with a grab bag of changeups, cutters and breaking balls, with a fastball mixed in every so often that looked faster than it actually travels.
"It kind of brought me back to old times," Hardy said. "I've always relied on my changeup, and I kept getting myself into counts where the changeup's the only pitch to go with. Until it gets hit hard, I'm going to keep going with it."
Said Greiner: "You don't want to fall in love with one pitch, but he was throwing it well. Our theory was we were going to keep throwing his best pitches until they prove they're going to do a lot of damage on them."
This is how Hardy found the success to get back to the big leagues in the first place. He was a starter through four turns of the Triple-A Toledo rotation in April before Detroit called him up on May 4 in its pressing need for lefty relief help.
When Jordan Zimmermann went on the disabled list with a shoulder impingement a few weeks ago, the Tigers were running out of starting options to call, so they turned to the bullpen and found Hardy.
"You're talking to the ace of the staff," fellow lefty Daniel Stumpf jokingly said as he walked by the media huddled around Hardy's locker.
Nobody is suggesting Hardy will stay in the rotation long-term. He'll get at least one more start while Zimmermann makes at least two rehab starts in Toledo. The Tigers could arguably use Hardy's outs just as well in the bullpen. Still, with five runs allowed and 13 strikeouts over 16 1/3 innings as a starter, he at least fills the swing role Daniel Norris was performing before he landed on the 60-day DL a month or so ago.
"You need stockpiling, you need extra arms, and boy, this is a shot in the arm for us," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Sanchez's triple evened a game that Detroit led following Greiner's second-inning RBI double. Dixon Machado, back in the Tigers lineup after two games off to retool his swing, put Detroit in front for good with an RBI single off White Sox starter James Shields in the fifth, which was followed by another run-scoring hit from Nicholas Castellanos on his bobblehead day.
Hardy, meanwhile, went from feeling exhausted by the summer-like heat in the first inning to rejuvenated in the sixth. He gave way to Joe Jimenez, who followed Hardy's offspeed arsenal with 95-plus-mph fastballs to strike out the side in order in the eighth.
"I told myself, 'Get us through five, maybe six, and let the bullpen do the work,'" Hardy said. "But I got through the fifth and I was like, 'I've got one more in me.' Then I got through the sixth and was like, 'Yeah, I can do one more.'"
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Greene picks up save:Jose Rondon's two-out homer and Daniel Palka's ensuing single put the tying run on base against Tigers closer Shane Greene, who regrouped to strike out Yoan Moncada and finish off his 13th save of the season. Moncada has fanned all three times he has faced Greene in his brief big league career.
Jeimer Candelario's fifth-inning walk stretched his streak of reaching base safely to 21 games, the longest active streak in the Majors according to MLB Network research.
Lefty Matthew Boyd, who exited his last start with a left oblique spasm, has a challenge on his hands when Michael Trout and the Angels come to town for a 1:10 p.m. ET Memorial Day matinee to start a four-game series at Comerica Park. Tyler Skaggs is set to start for the Angels.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.