Baddoo sets table, Miggy cleans it up vs. A's

Cabrera swats home run No. 502, go-ahead RBI single

September 2nd, 2021

DETROIT -- Tigers manager A.J. Hinch had talked to about getting away from his plate discipline in recent days.

“I hope he settles back into commanding the strike zone the way that he did when he was at his best,” Hinch said before Wednesday’s 8-6 win over the A’s at Comerica Park. “That, to me, would be a small goal for him to finish what's been a spectacular performance.”

Five plate appearances and 30 pitches later, message received.

As encouraging as his fifth-inning homer, his first since July 27, proved to be in Wednesday’s Detroit comeback, his first walk since July 29 proved more important. While the Tigers slugged out of their offensive doldrums with three homers to stay close to the A’s, they finally pulled ahead with their more familiar brand of small-ball offense, with Baddoo scoring the go-ahead run on 's single.

Baddoo has been batting leadoff for much of the summer against right-handed pitching, a formidable responsibility for a 23-year-old rookie who hadn’t played above Class A ball until this year. He was a free-swinging phenom early in the season, but his ability to adapt to how pitchers were approaching him, trying to get him to chase outside the strike zone, was a bigger progression than his power.

The dog days of August were rough on him. An outfield collision with Derek Hill in Baltimore sidelined him with a concussion, and he slumped upon his return. He batted .200 (10-for-50) in 13 games for the month with no homers, two runs scored, four RBIs, no walks and 17 strikeouts.

“I think Akil has slightly shifted away from the discipline that he had shown during his better stretches of his season,” Hinch said Wednesday afternoon. “He's always going to be a powerful guy. He's always going to be a swing-first guy. He's not a guy who takes, but he is a guy who has shown immense confidence in knowing the margins of the strike zone. And so, I hope he can settle in, as he's playing in a month that he's never played in before, at a level that he's never played at before.

"Those scoreboard numbers are real, and you start to peek at them and look at them and look to hold onto them when you've made such an effort to get to this level.”

The message came in clear.

“It was definitely good to hear,” Baddoo said, “because it was something I need to work on as far as just letting go pitches. I kind of got a little too aggressive, in a sense.”

Baddoo’s first two at-bats saw him struggle with that balance. He took all six pitches he saw in his first at-bat against A’s starter James Kaprielian, working a 3-0 count before taking three pitches in the zone for a strikeout. He had a 2-0 count in his next at-bat, took one strike and fouled off another to run it even before striking out on a 3-2 slider.

Baddoo’s third at-bat was his finest, leading off the fifth and working another 2-0 count. Again, Kaprielian flipped a 2-0 slider over the plate and got Baddoo to foul off a 2-1 fastball to even the count. Again, Baddoo didn’t chase a fastball off the plate, running the count full.

Baddoo chased a 3-2 slider down and out of the zone, but fouled it off. He fouled off another slider on the inside edge before Kaprielian left a high fastball over the plate.

“That definitely helped, just as far as knowing what I was looking for in that particular at-bat,” Baddoo said. “I was fortunate enough to put a good swing on the 3-2 pitch that he elevated, just kind of stuck on my same approach and not losing sight of that.”

Baddoo’s solo shot, plus Harold Castro’s one inning later off Yusmeiro Petit, drew Detroit within a run. The tying run was on base with Hill’s leadoff infield single when Baddoo stepped back to the plate in the seventh.

Baddoo tried to bunt Hill to second but fouled it off. Instead, he stayed within his strike zone and declined to chase pitches from lefty A.J. Puk, putting two on with nobody out and the middle of the order up.

Jonathan Schoop sent a 2-2 pitch from Puk through the left side for a game-tying RBI single. Robbie Grossman’s flyout to deep right moved Baddoo to third and set up Cabrera, who hit his first pitch from Jake Diekman to center. Baddoo initially scrambled back to third but reversed course when the ball fell in front of center fielder Starling Marte.

Baddoo added an insurance run in the eighth, poking a ground ball through the left side for an opposite-field RBI single scoring Castro.

Not since Nick Castellanos saw 35 pitches on Sept. 19, 2014, had a Tigers rookie seen more pitches in a game with five plate appearances than Baddoo, whose 30 tied him with Travis Demeritte from two years ago.