Chicago — They were giving Eric Haase the business from the left field seats Saturday afternoon, as fans will, especially those here at Guaranteed Rate Field.
There were the obligatory “Dee-troit Sucks” chants, of course. But there was some loud jeering directly focused on Haase, the Tigers’ left fielder.
“Oh yeah, all game,” Haase said with a smile. “It was nothing crazy, so I thought I’d give them a couple of souvenirs.”
Souvenirs in the form of two well-struck home runs that he hit off White Sox starter Lucas Giolito that helped the Tigers to a 4-3 win over the White Sox.
“Yesterday left a bad taste in our mouths,” Haase said, referencing the walk-off loss on Friday night. “We worked our butts off and came up just a little short.”
Not on Saturday. From a career-high 11-strikeout performance by rookie starter Tarik Skubal, to Haase’s third multi-homer game in less than three weeks and a pivotal solo shot by Miguel Cabrera, to four gritty innings of work by the bullpen — this was a satisfying and hard-earned win.
“When Haase hit the one homer, he might as well stay around for the rest of the game — he might hit a second one,” manager AJ Hinch joked. “It’s becoming a trend for him. It’s not normal but we’ll take it.”
Talk about seizing his moment. Haase started the season as a non-roster, fourth catcher at Triple-A Toledo. His contract was purchased on May 12 and all he’s done in 18 games is slug seven home runs and knock in 11 runs. Friday was his third multi-homer game in 19 days.
“He’s a dangerous hitter,” Hinch said. “He’s in swing mode from the very beginning and that makes him dangerous. He’s hard to pitch to. He’s going to make you earn the three strikes by throwing him pitches he can’t hit.
“I love his grit and his grind. You keep hitting home runs, you get to play, and that production opens up eyes that he can be a productive player on a good team.”
Both his home runs Saturday came against off-speed pitches. Haase hit a 1-2 change-up 427 feet deep into the seats in left field in the second. He hit a slider down the line and out to left field leading off the fourth.
Just handing out souvenirs. Haase is the second Tigers rookie since 1947 with three multi-homer games, joining Matt Nokes, who did it in 1987.
Haase was also one of the first to greet Cabrera, after he drove a 93-mph fastball 410 feet into the seats in right center — his 492nd career homer.
“It’s just so surreal,” said Haase, who grew up in Westland and helped Dearborn Divine Child to a state baseball championship. “When I was getting ready on deck in Kansas City, I looked up and I see I’m hitting behind Miguel Cabrera. That’s when it kind of sets in.
“I grew up my whole life watching him and idolizing him and now to be sharing the field and the locker room with him, it’s like, ‘What the hell is going on here?'”
The rest of the story belongs to Skubal and a very taxed Tigers bullpen.
The lefty Skubal bullied his way through a right-handed heavy White Sox lineup, posting a career-high 11 strikeouts in just five innings. He induced 20 swings and misses on 54 swings and got 17 called strikes.
And he did a lot of the work with a heavy four-seam fastball that ranged in velocity from 92-98 mph.
“I did a good job of getting the fastball not only up but in,” he said. “It’s a tough pitch to handle up and in. Those guys are really good, especially against lefties. To be able to keep them honest up and in and then kind of expand off of that was huge for me.”
The 11 strikeouts ties the franchise record for most in a game for a rookie since 1969. Skubal joins Michael Fulmer (2016), Pat Underwood (1979) and Jack Morris (1977).
He came in with the third-most strikeouts among rookie American League pitchers. It was his fourth straight game with at least eight strikeouts and he’s punched out 37 in his last 21 innings over three starts.
“The strikeouts are really great,” Hinch said. “We love the punch-outs. But it also drives the pitch-count up. We talked afterward and he felt he could go deeper into the outing. Then he looked up and he’s at 103 pitches.”
In Tigers’ history, Skubal joins Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, Morris, Hal Newhouser, Mickey Lolich, Denny McLain, Matthew Boyd, Anibal Sanchez and Les Cain to post at least eight strikeouts in four straight starts.
“That’s pretty cool to be mentioned with those guys,” Skubal said. “That’s a lot of really elite pitchers and guys I grew up watching. But at the same time, I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on trying to get better with every start.”
Things immediately got dicey for the Tigers after Skubal left in the fifth.
The White Sox jumped on lefty Derek Holland in the sixth, scoring two fast runs on a single and back-to-back doubles by Andrew Vaughn and Jake Lamb.
The White Sox did him and the Tigers a favor, though. After a walk put runners at first and second, manager White Sox Tony La Russa had Danny Medick try to sacrifice. First baseman Jonathan Scoop fielded the bunt and threw a dart to third base to get the lead runner.
Kyle Funkhouser, who gave up five runs (two earned) Friday night, came on and got Tim Anderson and Nick Madrigal to end the inning and preserve the 4-3 lead.
Hinch did not have right-hander Michael Fulmer (arm fatigue) available again.
“Funk is also one of our best options,” Hinch said. “I have a lot of belief in him. He’s developing confidence on his own. You ride the roller coaster too much and you’re going to make a lot of bad decisions along the way.
“If you stick with your beliefs the player will come through.”
Funkhouser struck out Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal in a scoreless seventh, with catcher Jake Rogers throwing out Yoan Moncada trying to steal for the final out.
Lefty Gregory Soto pitched a clean eighth inning, striking out two and then winning a nine-pitch battle with pinch-hitter Yermin Mercedes, who delivered the walk-off hit Friday night. After five straight foul balls, Soto got him to fly out to the track in left.
That left the ninth to right-hander Jose Cisnero, who threw 23 pitches Friday night and gave up the walk-off single to Mercedes.
Cisnero didn’t falter this time. He dispatched pinch-hitter Adam Eaton (strikeout), Anderson (ground out) and Madrigal (line out to second) to earn his first career save.
Short sent down
After the game, the Tigers optioned shortstop Zack Short back to Triple-A Toledo. They are expected to activate right-handed pitcher Jose Urena off the injured list Sunday.
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