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Pair of home runs highlight Candelario's value

@beckjason
July 7, 2019

DETROIT -- The last time the Tigers waited through a four-hour rain delay to start a game, they ended up playing extra innings until 3:30 in the morning to beat the Yankees on an August night in 2007. Their wait Saturday afternoon -- Saturday evening, by the time their 10-6

DETROIT -- The last time the Tigers waited through a four-hour rain delay to start a game, they ended up playing extra innings until 3:30 in the morning to beat the Yankees on an August night in 2007. Their wait Saturday afternoon -- Saturday evening, by the time their 10-6 loss to the Red Sox at Comerica Park started -- wasn’t nearly as rewarding, but ended with some suspense.

Box score

The Tigers rewarded fans for their wait with a free ticket for another game this season. The team gave them a ballgame by the end of the night.

As Jeimer Candelario’s sixth-inning drive carried into the right-field seats for his second home run of the game, the remaining crowd of the 28,114 paid attendance roared as Detroit whittled into what was at one point a touchdown-sized lead for Boston starter and former Tiger Rick Porcello. By the end of the inning, the Tigers had the tying run on third base, Porcello chased from the game, and Nicholas Castellanos battling reliever Colten Brewer for nine pitches.

Castellanos fouled off a 95 mph cutter and a curveball near his ankles, shrugged off another cutter off the plate and fouled off a slider on the outside corner before finally missing another curveball for an inning-ending strikeout. But the Tigers showed some badly-needed fight in what was shaping up to be an eerily familiar lopsided loss, and some desperately-needed production from Candelario.

“We competed,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Our offense got going and got back in the game, and it got fun in the dugout. We put some good swings out there, and then we lost the game. It was a long night.”

On a night when starter Jordan Zimmermann became the first Tiger in 106 years to give up 13 hits in less than four innings, Christin Stewart lost a fly ball against a sunset sky and Buck Farmer threw away a potential inning-ending double play with the bases loaded for an add-on run, Detroit was twice within a hit of the lead. Candelario, whose two-run homer off the right-field foul pole started the rally in the fourth inning, was the catalyst.

This is what the Tigers need from Candelario, who was sent to Triple-A Toledo with a .192 batting average in mid-May and didn’t lift it back over .200 until last Saturday. His two-homer game against the Red Sox improved him to 14-for-37 with four homers and seven RBIs since his recall from the Mud Hens just under two weeks ago.

“He’s concentrating,” Gardenhire said. “He says he’s feeling really good and seeing the ball. He can hit home runs; we saw him do it last year. The ball jumped a couple times [tonight].”

Candelario will need to carry the momentum through the All-Star break. But by simplifying his swing and improving his plate discipline, the 25-year-old switch-hitter is showing the promise the Tigers saw when they acquired him from the Cubs at the Trade Deadline two years ago, and when he started off last season with a .276 average and .901 OPS over his first 47 games. He’s also extending the production of a lineup that has struggled mightily to produce runs beyond their top third since moving Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera up in the order.

“When you put in good work, it’s not going to pay off all the time,” Candelario said upon his return. “But you can see the success in the moment. I think at the end you’re going to see it. When you put in the work, a lot of good things are going to happen.”

“He’s put some good swings in there,” Gardenhire said. “He’s got a good feel for it right now, and hopefully he’ll continue.”

Candelario actually chased a curveball down and out of the zone for his second homer after pouncing on a hanging slider from Porcello and lifting it out at a 35-degree launch angle for his first. Though Candelario didn’t get nearly as much lift on the second homer, the line drive had enough velocity to carry 350 feet, just over the fence. He entered the night just 4-for-35 with no homers off breaking balls this season, according to Statcast

Candelario came back up in the seventh with the tying run on base and nobody out before Josh Taylor struck him out on a cutter. The Tigers loaded the bases in the inning before Matt Barnes fanned Gordon Beckham on a pitch in front of home plate to end the threat.

In the end, the Tigers reduced but never erased a deficit created by Boston’s lineup off Zimmermann, who became the first Tigers pitcher to yield 13 hits in less than four innings since Ralph Comstock on Sept. 12, 1913. While the 13 hits marked a career high for Zimmermann, the seven runs allowed raised his ERA to 6.29.

"Giving up 13 hits in three innings is tough to do, even if you're trying to do it," Zimmermann said. "I really don't have any answers."

Though Porcello finished with six runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings, he became the second former Tigers starter in seven days to win at his old home park, joining ex-teammate Max Scherzer.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.