'The whole package': Schoop leads with slam

August 26th, 2020

DETROIT -- The Tigers’ team leader in home runs last year hit 15 in a full season. is nearly halfway there, just shy of the midpoint in a shortened schedule.

That mark wasn’t on Schoop's mind as he watched his sixth-inning line drive clear the bullpen dugout and land in the left-field seats.

“Every time you see me stand up [at the plate], it’s going to go out,” Schoop said of his grand slam in the Tigers’ 7-1 win over the Cubs on Tuesday night.

Schoop's seventh home run of the season broke open what had been a pitchers’ duel and provided much-needed insurance for the Tigers to even the series. It was also the immediate offense Detroit continues to use to its advantage, no matter where the 28-year-old slugger is hitting in the lineup.

With out for the season following left knee surgery, Schoop is now the Tigers’ primary source of power. Whether he stays that way depends on what general manager Al Avila decides to do at Monday’s Trade Deadline. Schoop’s manager, not surprisingly, likes having him around.

“He’s been huge, in the clubhouse, the whole package,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He’s a quiet guy. He loves it around here from what he says. He says he’s enjoying playing here with these guys and likes the staff.

“We’ve got a good player. We knew that going in. We knew it in Spring Training. He’s one of those pleasant guys. And he can hit. He can really hit it a long way, as he did again tonight.”

The last time Schoop hit a grand slam, he was with the Brewers in the middle of a playoff chase, and he connected on a pitch from then-Giant Madison Bumgarner. The Tigers aren’t quite in that situation, their hot start having been tempered by the White Sox last week. Still, Schoop said, they have maintained a good mentality.

Schoop homered in three consecutive games at the end of July, then went nearly two weeks before homering again. He has found a steady pace since but hadn’t hit one this year as big as what Tuesday’s slam meant for a team trying to stay within sight of .500, if not the fringe of the eight-team American League playoff bracket.

“We’ve been through a rough stretch, but we’re still in it,” Schoop said. “Everybody’s going to go through a bad stretch, but now that’s out of the way, so let’s get a good stretch and make a push for it. The buy-in in the clubhouse is really high. Go out there and try to win the series.”

Until Schoop’s fourth career grand slam punctuated a five-run sixth inning, the Tigers were still protecting a slim lead built off a two-run, 37-pitch inning against Cubs starter Tyler Chatwood. They left the bases loaded in the second inning on back-to-back strikeouts after Chatwood walked three of his final four batters, then former White Sox All-Star José Quintana shut down his old division rivals for three innings in his first appearance of the season.

Cameron Maybin’s RBI double and Andrew Romine’s walk chased Quintana in the sixth. Former Cubs prospect greeted Casey Sadler with his second walk of the game, this time a nine-pitch battle.

Schoop, who drew a four-pitch walk off Chatwood in the second inning, had a 2-0 count with no open base for Sadler to give him. Schoop fouled off a 2-0 sinker over the plate, but got another one in nearly the same spot.

“I didn’t hit it good,” Schoop said of the 400-foot drive with a 104.6 mph exit velocity, “but I hit it enough that I knew the ball was going to go out.”

The big inning all but ensured his third win of the season, matching his total from last year. Five days after Turnbull (3-2) threw 60 pitches over two ineffective innings, he was in control for much of the evening, finishing with 5 2/3 scoreless innings and five strikeouts.

Jones, whose leadoff single sparked the sixth-inning outburst, left the game with right calf tightness after grounding out in the seventh, though Gardenhire said he’s expected to be fine.