CHICAGO -- The Tigers are gaining a reputation as a team that will take chances on the basepaths to create something. John Hicks might soon have to be included among them."I'm getting a little upset about people thinking I'm slow," the backup catcher-turned starting first baseman joked after scoring the
CHICAGO -- The Tigers are gaining a reputation as a team that will take chances on the basepaths to create something. John Hicks might soon have to be included among them.
"I'm getting a little upset about people thinking I'm slow," the backup catcher-turned starting first baseman joked after scoring the deciding run in Detroit's 4-3 win over the White Sox on Friday night.
As Hicks pointed out, he hit a leadoff triple to ignite Detroit's go-ahead rally Thursday against Minnesota. He also laid down a game-winning squeeze bunt last month. On Friday, he used a little bit of everything -- his bat, his legs and his glove -- to help the Tigers improve to 3-0 since Jose Cabrera's season-ending biceps injury and open an eight-game, three-city road trip on a positive note.
Hicks' second-inning solo homer opened the scoring as the Tigers jumped ahead early on White Sox starter Reynaldo Lopez. After Omar Narvaez tied it with a three-run homer off Mike Fiers in the sixth, Hicks led off the deciding rally again, this time with a single to open the eighth. But it was his trek around the bases that was more noteworthy.
Hicks' line drive into right field greeted White Sox reliever Juan Minaya (0-1), whose ensuing walk to Niko Goodrum moved Hicks into scoring position. James McCann chased a high fastball from Minaya and lifted a fly ball to medium-range right field, deep enough for Hicks to challenge Daniel Palka's arm and tag up for third without a play at the bag.
Up came Rule 5 Draft pick Victor Reyes, whose two-out single in the eighth inning two days earlier drove in the go-ahead run against Minnesota. With Minaya throwing hard and ninth hitter Dixon Machado on deck, the Tigers had Hicks ready to break for home on a ball in play.
"We were going on contact," Hicks said. "I saw the ball down and took off."
At first glance, Reyes' grounder to first looked easy for the White Sox to get the out at home. But as Jose Abreu readied to throw, he lost his grip on the ball and had to get it back. That extra split-second became critical.
"I might have been in trouble if he didn't," Hicks said.
Hicks could see Abreu out of the corner of his eye as he lumbered down the line, recognizing he could have to try to slide around a tag. As it turned out, he had enough of a break with the bobble to slide past.
"Really nice tap-slide," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We had to go there. We had to force the issue there."
Hicks, who batted .304 (31-for-102) with three homers, 14 RBIs, 13 runs and a .796 OPS while filling in for an injured Cabrera in May, is now 13-for-33 in June. Nearly as impressive is how comfortable he's getting with repeated starts at first base, a factor that became big once the White Sox threatened to tie it again in the bottom of the eighth.
Though the White Sox were testing Alex Wilson's previously injured left foot when they used Narvaez to bunt runners to second and third with one out, they were also putting pressure on the defense. An intentional walk to Tim Anderson put runners at every base, led by speedy Trayce Thompson, and a mound visit from Gardenhire put the responsibilities clear.
"If it's hit soft, you're going to come home and try to get the force," Gardenhire said. "And I told Willie: You have to get the hitter out."
Charlie Tilson hit the second pitch to Hicks. With Tilson speeding down the line, Hicks went for home.
"I think Hicksy threw it with all thumbs to home plate," Wilson said, "but it worked, and I'm thankful that it did."
Said Hicks: "I didn't have the best grip on it. Thankfully, it got there."
What it didn't have was nerves. After a month of playing first base, he looks more comfortable.
"The more reps you have, the more comfortable you feel, especially in a big situation like that," Hicks said. "You can't have any panic."
Jose Iglesias, who was out of the starting lineup after staying back in Detroit to receive his U.S. citizenship, pinch-hit in the eighth, but made a bigger play on defense in the bottom of the inning to throw out speedy Adam Engel on a grounder to short and strand the bases loaded for Wilson.
Shane Greene worked the ninth for his 18th save of the year, and his third in as many days.
Victor Martinez's two-run single Friday earned him his 512th RBI as a Tiger, third-most by a switch-hitter in club history.
HE SAID IT
"Very strange. I don't think he meant anything about it. There might have been some joke he was trying to get across, I don't know. But there was no harm involved." -- Fiers on Tim Anderson's reaction to being hit by a curveball, one pitch after Narvaez homered
Jordan Zimmermann (2-0, 4.88 ERA) returns from the disabled list for his first Tigers start in six weeks as the three-game series continues Saturday with a 2:10 p.m. ET game at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago. Zimmermann tossed 12 scoreless innings on four hits over back-to-back starts before a right shoulder impingement shut him down. Lucas Giolito (4-7, 7.09) starts for the White Sox.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.