DETROIT -- Eric Haase grew up in Michigan watching Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer as Tigers. If anyone in Detroit’s current clubhouse knows the significance of their return as visitors with the Mets, it’s Haase. But before Detroit’s last Cy Young Award-winners got to take the mound again, Haase took his turn as a hometown hero.
Not since July 3, 2021, the height of Haase’s summer surge to become a Tigers mainstay, had he driven in five runs in a game. He’d driven in just five all season until Wednesday. But after his first home run of the year powered the Tigers in front in the first inning, his two-run single in the eighth inning completed a comeback, sending Detroit to a 6-5 win to open Wednesday’s doubleheader at Comerica Park.
Haase is the first Tiger with a five-RBI game since Harold Castro did it against the Rangers last Aug. 22. He added a solo homer off Scherzer in an 8-1 win in the nightcap. After an opening month in which the Tigers struggled mightily with runners in scoring position, it was the type of rally they needed, converted by a hitter who had seemingly gone overlooked amid Jake Rogers’ strong return behind the plate.
“We’ve been having our opportunities, having guys on base,” Haase said. “Haven’t been able to capitalize on those opportunities. Thankfully today, I had some pitches over the plate where I was able to. We’ll keep it rolling.”
Haase’s two run-scoring hits provided the bookends to a game that went back and forth like the Michigan weather. His three-run drive hit off the bottom of the railing and into the greenery over the lowered right-field fence. It’s just the sixth opposite-field drive among the 38 homers Haase has hit in his Major League career, but with an exit velocity of 106.3 mph, it seemed headed out even without the gusty winds blowing out as the game began.
It was Haase’s first homer of any kind since last Oct. 2 against the Twins, but Haase said he wasn’t sweating it. He didn’t try to hit it any harder, he said, just got it a little higher.
“If we start trying to change those things and dictate where the ball goes and things like that, you kind of feel like a dog chasing your tail a little bit,” Haase said.
Once Javier Báez tacked on to the lead with a third-inning solo homer midway up the left-field seats, the Tigers seemed headed for a slugfest. But just like the weather changed, shifting from sunshine at first pitch to eventually more rain, so did the game. A sudden downpour hit just before Francisco Lindor’s two-run homer off Joey Wentz punctuated a three-run fifth to move New York in front.
Meanwhile, Joey Lucchesi and two Mets relievers retired 16 consecutive Tigers, just three of whom got the ball out of the infield. Haase struck out twice in that stretch, including three pitches on a sixth-inning sweeper from Jimmy Yacabonis as part of his three perfect innings.
The Tigers couldn’t count on the long ball to save them. A bit of small ball did the trick and set the table for Haase to strike again.
Matt Vierling stayed alive in his at-bat against Adam Ottavino long enough to send a blooper into short right field, just out of Starling Marte’s reach. Ottavino’s 1-2 pitch hit Báez to put the go-ahead run on base for the middle of the Tigers order.
Riley Greene admittedly was trying for a hard-hit line drive, but swung over Ottavino’s 1-0 changeup. The groundout to first was still enough to advance both runners.
“I wanted to hit the ball to the right side,” Greene said. “I hit it as close to the right-field line as possible.”
All Haase needed was a single. Ottavino tried to jam him inside but left his first-pitch sinker over the plate.
“I’m just watching how he attacked the guys ahead of me,” Haase said. “It seemed like his sinker was working really good today, so I kind of made up my mind that if I got a sinker I thought I could handle, I was going to try to be aggressive. That’s ultimately what happened.”
If Haase can build on that, the Tigers will find at-bats for him, even as Rogers gains starts at catcher.
“[Haase] won a game on a single,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “So you have to remind yourself it’s not always about numbers.”