Hometown kid making mark with Tigers

June 5th, 2021

CHICAGO -- The White Sox had City Connect jerseys on Saturday to celebrate their local heritage. The Tigers had .

Haase grew up in the Detroit area watching the Tigers and White Sox battle as division rivals. He was 7 years old when they cleared the benches in Chicago in 2000. He was 9 when his current bench coach, George Lombard, hit his first homer as a Tiger here when Detroit and Chicago combined for 12 home runs in a game.

Fitting, then, that with seemingly every big swing, Haase is slugging himself into a place in Tigers lore here.

While White Sox fans in the outfield seats at Guaranteed Rate Field continue to chant less than complimentary things about Detroit, the Motown native continues to pepper them with home runs. After three home runs in the past two games -- including two off Lucas Giolito in Saturday’s 4-3 Tigers win -- Haase joined a long list of Detroit athletes to be heckled in the Windy City.

“Oh yeah, all game,” Haase said. “It’s nothing crazy, so I thought I’d give them a couple souvenirs.”

As loud as White Sox fans have been all series, quieted them with a career-high 11 strikeouts over five innings of one-run ball, continuing the pitching-dominant script the Tigers have used for competitive baseball against formidable opponents for more than a month. But Haase’s tear since his call-up three weeks ago has provided a power surge to a Tigers lineup that had been churning out runs with smaller hits.

“[Haase is] a dangerous hitter,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s in swing mode from the very beginning, and that makes him dangerous. He’s a little hard to pitch to. He’s going to make you earn the three strikes by throwing pitches that [they] can’t hit.

“I love his grit, his grind. He’s intense enough. And he’s just a guy that you root for because of the story and the local product and somebody that’s really trying to make his mark here in the big leagues.”

Haase has taken it in stride, focusing on each opponent rather than his boyhood fandom. Still, the sight of him batting behind in the batting order gave him pause.

“It’s surreal,” he admitted. “I grew up my whole life watching him and kind of idolized him growing up. And now, just sharing the field with him, sharing the locker room to be hitting him in, it’s just like, ‘What the hell is going on here?’”

Haase drove in Cabrera Saturday and powered Detroit in front with a drive to left that traveled a Statcast-projected 427 feet, the same distance as his go-ahead homer to center on Friday night. It was off Giolito’s normally devastating changeup. Haase rarely hits offspeed pitches, but he was ready when Giolito elevated one on the inner half of the plate on a 1-2 count.

Two innings later, Haase hit a slider out for a 3-1 lead. He was on deck to watch Cabrera’s 492nd career home run, a 410-foot drive to center off a fastball that provided the eventual deciding run.

Giolito allowed just four homers in his first nine career outings against Detroit from 2017-20. He has surrendered five homers in two meetings this year, both Detroit victories. Haase became the second Tiger to post a multi-homer game against him, joining Nick Castellanos.

“We haven’t missed his mistakes,” Hinch said. “I think I can comfortably say that knowing he’s going to go back to the drawing board if he sees us [next weekend at Comerica Park].”

Haase couldn’t torment Chicago fans any more if he carried a Detroit-style pizza out to the field with him. He had three home runs and a walk in a stretch of four plate appearances from Friday night into Saturday.

What he’s doing, though, goes beyond one pitcher or opponent. Saturday marked Haase’s fifth home run in five days and his second two-homer game this week. Add in a pair of solo homers May 17 at Seattle, and the former backup catcher is the first Tiger to post three multi-homer games in his rookie season since Matt Nokes in 1987, according to Tigers media relations. No other Detroit rookie had done it since at least 1947.

“When he hits one homer, you might as well stick around for the rest of the game, because he might hit a second one,” Hinch joked. “I mean, it’s becoming a trend for him. It’s not normal, but we’ll take it.”