Detroit — It was a good day for a couple of Tigers rookies. Less than for the Tigers as a whole.
The Cleveland Indians scored four times off reliever Daniel Norris in the top of the seventh inning and salvaged the third game of the season-opening series with an 9-3 romp Sunday at Comerica Park.
Norris had gotten the Tigers out of the sixth with a one-run lead intact. But the Indians jumped him in the seventh. Single by Amed Rosario, double by Josh Naylor, two-run single by Yu Chang and with one out, a two-run home run by Jordan Luplow flipped the script.
The Indians padded their lead first with a two-run homer by Franmil Reyes, who had just one hit in his first 10 at-bats in the series, off Buck Farmer, then with a solo home run by Austin Hedges off Tyler Alexander.
The original script, the one where a couple of rookies led the team to a series sweep, looked a lot better for the home team.
Just when you think the bubble might burst on the dream sequence that Akil Baddoo is living right now, he pulls another rabbit out of his hat.
The Rule 5 rookie, who until Sunday hadn’t seen a pitch above High-A, who hadn’t played a competitive game in almost two years, who absolutely stole the show and a roster spot in spring training, added this to his growing resume:
The first pitch he saw in his first major league at-bat — an 89-mph fastball from Aaron Civale — he bashed over the left field fence and into the Tigers bullpen. He punctuated it with a bat flip and a celebratory gesture as he was rounding third.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Baddoo’s blast was the last hit Civale allowed. He dispatched 13 of 14 hitters and erased the other (a walk to Robbie Grossman) with a double play.
The only other hit Civale allowed in his seven innings was a two-run homer in the first inning by Nomar Mazara. He hit one home run with the White Sox last year in 149 plate appearances. He hit his first as a Tiger in nine plate appearances.
That Indians’ late barrage spoiled a productive season debut rookie left-hander Tarik Skubal, too. He pitched a strong 5⅓ innings, allowing two runs on just four hits.
His throwing error on an errant pickoff attempt led to the first run. He had Jose Ramirez picked off with two outs, but the wild throw sent him to third and he scored on a single by Eddie Rosario.
The second run was set up by a Ramirez double in the sixth, the last batter Skubal faced.
Skubal threw 60% fastballs, but that’s deceiving. He had a speed variance of 90 to 97 mph on his four-seamer, and he was moving it to all quadrants of the plate. It rarely looked like the same pitch twice. He got six swings-and-misses with it.
The Tigers will host the Twins for three games beginning Monday.
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