Baddoo (who else?) sparks Tigers' 5-HR feast

April 14th, 2021

HOUSTON -- apologized to Detroit manager A.J. Hinch on Monday night after going into a home run trot and slapping hands with first-base coach Ramon Santiago on what turned out to be a 403-foot double to the depths of Minute Maid Park. So when Baddoo lofted a pitch to cozier left field on Tuesday, he bolted out of the batter’s box just in case.

“I definitely put a good swing on it,” Baddoo said. “I was hoping it was enough, which it was, but I was just making sure I didn’t make the same mistake again. I’m running out everything. Lesson learned.”

He was able to trot the last part. The ball landed in the Crawford Boxes, just as two other home runs did off Jake Odorizzi in his Astros debut.

At the other end of the Tigers’ home run derby during an 8-2 onslaught of the Astros, knew his opposite-field line drive off Bryan Abreu was headed for the right-field seats. Ramos stood and watched it and smiled as he trotted around. The heckler who yelled at him for all three pitches was silenced.

Ramos found nearly the same spot in right for his ninth-inning solo shot off Nivaldo Rodriguez. It was Ramos’ MLB-leading sixth home run of the season, pushing him past J.D. Martinez and others.

“That’s like a dream come true,” Ramos said. “All my family, they called me, they texted me. I worked really hard during the offseason, and I feel that work paying off.”

While the legend of Baddoo’s rise from Rule 5 Draft pick to Tigers star continues, Ramos’ revival at age 33 is a quiet success story after searching for a Major League contract most of the offseason. The combined efforts have ignited Detroit in an unlikely place.

The Tigers, who scored six runs in a three-game series sweep in Cleveland to begin their trip and hit 11 home runs over their first nine games, have 14 runs and eight homers through two games in Houston -- two each from Baddoo and Ramos.

Baddoo is the first Tiger to homer four times within his first eight Major League games, according to Elias Sports Bureau. His 1.043 slugging percentage is the highest in American League history for a player in his first eight career games, according to STATS.

“I’m very happy for him,” Ramos said, “because in this job, when you get an opportunity to play at this level, you have to take advantage. And he’s doing it right now.”

Tuesday’s homer was the shortest of Baddoo’s bunch. The opposite-field drive completed a six-pitch duel in which Baddoo declined to chase fastballs out of the zone, running the count full before Odorizzi challenged him with a splitter.

The ball traveled just 348 feet according to Statcast, and Baddoo hit it in the only MLB park where it would be a home run. He rounded the bases in 19.3 seconds, the 13th-fastest trip out of 376 Major League homers this season.

“I know it’s short over there,” Odorizzi said, “but I didn’t get a feel for how short it was until that one.”

Odorizzi beat Detroit three times in 2019 while with the Twins, and he entered Tuesday with a 6-1 record and 3.09 ERA in 12 career starts against Detroit. Following Baddoo's lead, hit a similar oppo shot 363 feet to the same area in the fourth inning. , whose first home run as a Tiger hit the left-field pole Monday, lined a two-run homer there two batters later to cap a 10-pitch at-bat.

“Part of the story these first two games has been our discipline,” Hinch said. “We’ve made them come in the strike zone.”

The three home runs are one more than Odorizzi allowed in 67 previous innings against them.

Baddoo still had his teachable moments. He followed his fourth-inning single by falling victim to Abreu’s pickoff move, called out upon replay review. A called third strike in the sixth inning prompted Baddoo to jump in reaction and protest two strike calls he felt were out of the zone. Home-plate umpire Stu Scheurwater followed him halfway to the Tigers’ dugout before Hinch intervened.

“[Baddoo] was locked in the at-bat and felt like [Scheurwater] missed a pitch or two,” Hinch said. “He told the umpire that, and Stu’s a good guy and a good umpire. He told him right back. It wasn’t that confrontational. I think it looked a little bit more contentious than it was when I got out there.

“Akil was fighting for himself a little bit. It’s just competing.”

Through eight games, he’s winning the fight.