CHICAGO -- Dixon Machado has a simple answer for hitting in cold weather."It's really hard," Machado said, "but you just have to play through it, put your hands in the warmer before you go out and hope the hands don't get cold that quick."It sounds pretty basic, but it's working
CHICAGO -- Dixon Machado has a simple answer for hitting in cold weather.
"It's really hard," Machado said, "but you just have to play through it, put your hands in the warmer before you go out and hope the hands don't get cold that quick."
It sounds pretty basic, but it's working for him so far. The way he's hitting, everything seems to be working. And the Tigers, who have won three of their last four games with Saturday's 6-1 victory over the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field, have a pretty good hitter in their ninth slot.
"He's doing very, very well," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He's on the ball, he's had quality at-bats, working counts. I've said it all along: He's a talented young man with a good head on his shoulders and works his tail off on his defense. He has a pretty good plan on what he's trying to be, and that's kind of fun to watch. I think you're going to enjoy this kid."
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Between eight walks and four hit-by-pitches from the White Sox pitching staff, the Tigers didn't need many hits to build their lead. Their offensive attack revolved around two players who have been hitting the ball hard so far this season. One, Jose Cabrera, is a familiar face who's expected to hit the ball hard as long as he's healthy.
Though Cabrera left Thursday's game with left hip flexor tightness, and said it was still difficult to stay loose in the cold weather Saturday, he still had enough to turn on a Lucas Giolito fastball and drive a two-run single to right-center. The ball was on the ground, but with an exit velocity of 114.4 mph, it was his hardest-hit ball since May 30, 2015, according to Statcast™.
"It's hard," Cabrera said, "because the same problem he has to grip the ball, you have the same problem hitting. You have to be patient and try to hit strikes."
That's nothing new for Cabrera, who ranks in the top 20 on the Statcast™ leaderboard for hard-hit balls (95+ mph) as a percentage of balls put in play. He was 11-for-18 in that category entering Saturday. Machado, however, was also up on that leaderboard, having topped 95 mph with 13 of his 22 balls put in play through Thursday.
After a fifth-inning leadoff single at 101.3 mph off a first-pitch fastball, Machado added to that when Giolito tried to beat him on offspeed pitches with runners at second and third and two outs in the sixth.
"He threw me something, I think a changeup, I was like, 'OK, maybe that was my pitch,'" Machado said. "And then he threw it again. I was like, 'You've gotta swing.'"
It was a slider that hung a bit, but Machado was all over it, ripping it into the left-field corner for his sixth double of the season. Only Boston's Xander Bogaerts (seven) had more as of Saturday evening.
"I'm just hitting it good this year more consistently," Machado said. "That's why you work during the offseason to try to get better. I'm just doing the same and I'm just having good results right now, thank God."
When the Tigers slotted Machado into second base following Ian Kinsler's trade to the Angels, the expectations were for good defense. The offense was more of a mystery for a hitter who had very few chances at regular at-bats last year and at times looked overpowered.
"He's a really confident young man, and he just handles him really well," Gardenhire said. "He's not panicking too much about anything. I like his calmness on the field. He's a very talented young man and that's a good start to developing a good young player."
Said Machado: "You have to believe in yourself the whole time, and I always believed that I can play. I'm just competing. I'm just trying to do my best every time, try to not give up at-bats and just play. I just have to keep working, keep doing my thing and hopefully I can do that the whole year."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Walks will haunt: Three of the five runs the Tigers scored on Giolito reached via walk or hit-by-pitch, but none hurt the White Sox starter more than back-to-back two-out walks to Leonys Martin and Jeimer Candelario, extending the third inning for Cabrera's two-run ground-ball single through the right side.
Martin runs one down: The White Sox had some hard-hit drives off Alex Wilson, but they stayed in the park on a frigid day in Chicago. That was all Martin needed. While Tim Anderson's one-out drive in the sixth traveled 382 feet, Martin covered 92 feet to grab it, turning a ball with a 78 percent hit probability according to Statcast™ into a run-saving out.
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The four Tigers hit by pitches mark their highest total in a game since April 30, 1995, when Kirk Gibson, John Flaherty, Rudy Pemberton and Chad Curtis were hit in a game at Seattle.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
A video replay challenge from the White Sox saved a run during a two-run sixth. Jose Iglesias reached safely on a grounder off Giolito's glove, beating his flip to Jose Abreu at first. But the 15-second challenge quickly overturned the safe call on Iglesias, giving the Tigers runners on second and third and two outs instead of the bases loaded and one out. Machado's ensuing double to left would have cleared the bases.
Earlier in the game, Gardenhire won a challenge that briefly extended the third inning. JaCoby Jones was originally called out trying to steal second base with two outs. A 2-minute, 10-second review showed that Jones got his hand on the bag ahead of the tag, giving the Tigers a runner in scoring position. Iglesias popped out on the next pitch.
Tigers:Mike Fiers will make his Tigers debut on Sunday as the series wraps up with a 2:10 p.m. ET start. Fiers signed a one-year deal in December to provide a veteran arm but opened the season on the DL with a lumbar strain.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.