'So much fun': Haase rakes in, outside park

July 4th, 2021

DETROIT -- The way ’s storybook season with his hometown team has played out, maybe it figured his line drive to shallow center would bounce past one of the fastest players in baseball and roll all the way to one of the deepest center-field walls in the Majors.

For a catcher-turned-left fielder, the 15.6 seconds Haase needed to round the bases according to Statcast must have seemed like an eternity. For many Tigers fans at Comerica Park for Saturday’s 11-5 win over the White Sox, they’ll be etched in memory.

“So much fun,” said Haase, the first Tigers rookie since 1947 with four multi-homer games in a season.

Haase has produced some amazing days for the team he grew up following while living in nearby Dearborn. But nobody could have expected a two-homer, six-RBI game quite like this.

“I don’t think anyone had the inside-the-parker going into the day,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “But we’ll take it.”

It wasn’t just the mad dash around the bases, but the impact it had. The 295-foot drive was just two feet longer than JaCoby Jones’ inside-the-park homer last year for the shortest home run at Comerica Park since Statcast began in 2015. Yet it crushed White Sox starter Dallas Keuchel and the spell he seemingly had on Tigers hitters before that.

The Tigers had two ground-ball singles, five groundouts and one ball hit out of the infield in the air off Keuchel through three innings. By the time Willi Castro grounded out to end the fifth, Detroit had put up seven runs on seven hits off the White Sox workhorse, and weren’t done scoring.

“It felt like we were down 4-0 or 5-0 the way the game was going,” Hinch said.

Haase’s inside-the-park homer was the only extra-base hit off Keuchel, and was about as likely as Haase’s move from catching depth to slugging left fielder. Hamilton has always had the speed to handle Comerica Park’s vast outfield, and believed he could run down Haase’s sinking liner. Not only did he come up short, but with his glove at his shoestrings, he didn’t knock down the ball after it hopped in front of him.

“If he plays it on one bounce, it’s going to be a single,” Hinch said.

With Jonathan Schoop and Miguel Cabrera both on base via walks, third-base coach Chip Hale just kept waving.

“I didn’t exactly get out of the box too quickly,” Haase said. “I hit it hard, just right at him. Miggy and Schoop both had to wait and see if it was going to get down just to advance. And then when it got by him, I knew it was time to turn it on. Until Chip was going to stop me, I was just going to keep going.”

In the end, it wasn’t close. Haase scored without a slide as Hamilton sailed a throw home. Haase’s 10th homer of the year turned a 2-0 Detroit deficit into a 3-2 lead.

As best as Haase can recall, it was his first inside-the-park home run since his days at Divine Child High School in Dearborn. Yet his 11th homer of the year, while not quite as rare, was still a feat for him -- just his second opposite-field shot this season.

Haase came up in the seventh against lefty reliever Jace Fry, who walked Jeimer Candelario to lead off the inning and gave up a Cabrera infield single up the middle. Fry tried to catch the outside corner on a 1-1 breaking ball, but Haase hammered it to right for his 11th homer of the season.

“I’ve basically been studying how they’ve been pitching Miggy ahead of me,” Haase said. “The last couple weeks, I’ve really been trying to stay up the middle, go the opposite way. I’ve been pulling off a little bit, not using the whole field, but Miggy does that every AB.”

Fittingly, Haase is the first Tiger to hit a pair of three-run homers in a game since Cabrera, who did it last Sept. 23, 2020, against the Twins at Target Field.

The Tigers rally made a winner of starter Tarik Skubal, who yielded five runs in as many innings on eight hits but struck out six to improve to 4-0 over his last seven starts.