CHICAGO — Javier Báez stood in the batter’s box and watched the ball fly over the wall in left-center field.
On the second pitch of his at-bat, Báez unloaded on a fastball from Chicago White Sox starter Michael Kopech. He celebrated his home run by tossing his bat and interacting with fans that booed him. More importantly, he put the Detroit Tigers on the scoreboard in the first inning.
The Tigers failed to score again.
The teams split the four-game series, with the Tigers losing 4-2 in Sunday’s finale at Guaranteed Rate Field because of a costly eighth-inning error by left fielder Robbie Grossman.
“We missed some opportunities offensively,” manager AJ Hinch said, “and then gave them an extra out at a really bad time of the game, where they’re in the middle of their order. … Credit to them, of course , but we opened the door for them and made some mistakes.”
The Tigers (36-49) extended their winning streak to six with victories Thursday and Friday but have since dropped back-to-back games, with eight contests remaining until the All-Star break.
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With two outs in the eighth, Luis Robert hits a weak fly ball into shallow left-center off right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer. Grossman tracked it down, reached across his body and turned his wrist toward the sky in an attempt to make the catch, but the ball bounced off his glove and landed on the grass.
Just like that, the White Sox had a runner on second.
“It was a pop-up, and I missed it,” Grossman said. “That’s what it comes down to. That’s a terrible play. It’s a play that has to be made, and I’ll make it the next time it comes to me.”
Grossman’s error was his first since June 13, 2018, ending a 440-game streak without one, the longest by a position player in MLB history. To go with the defensive blunder, Grossman finished 0-for-3 with one strikeout and is batting .202 in 68 games this season.
“He just missed it,” Hinch said. “We’re playing deep — no doubles — to try to keep Robert off second base. He had to come a little bit of a long way, and he looked like the wind knocked it down a little bit, and then he just missed it .”
Hinch intentionally walked Jose Abreu, then replaced Fulmer with left-handed closer Gregory Soto. Once that happened, White Sox manager Tony La Russa brought right-handed hitter AJ Pollock off the bench to pinch-hit for lefty Gavin Sheets.
“I wanted Sheets out of the game,” Hinch said.
Pollock hit Soto’s first-pitch sinker for an RBI single, giving the White Sox a 3-2 lead.
Eloy Jimenez made it 4-2 with his ensuing RBI single.
“The pitch that was called was an inside sinker,” Soto said of Pollock’s single. “I made the pitch. I executed the pitch. He hit it.”
Before the late drama
The first-inning home run from Báez, which traveled 360 feet and was hit with a 107.4 mph exit velocity, was his ninth of the season, his sixth since June 18 and his second of the series.
Baez has a two-homer advantage over Eric Haase for the team lead.
Before the two-run blast, rookie leadoff hitter Riley Greene drew a four-pitch walk as Kopech dealt with early command troubles. Greene went 1-for-3 with one walk and one strikeout.
“Javy had the big swing,” Hinch said. “I’m not even sure if it was a strike, but he hit the homer, which was a great way to start the game. And then Kopech did settle in. He’s got really good stuff and obviously got them to the middle part of the game.”
While the Tigers’ offense went to sleep, the White Sox perked up with runs in the fifth and sixth innings on unexecuted pitches from right-hander starter Drew Hutchison to tie the game.
“We got the lead early, so that let him settle in a little bit,” Hinch said. “He just couldn’t finish off hitters at a couple critical times. He’ll be disappointed in the outing as how we got there, but two runs and six innings you take every time.”
The Tigers missed out on a key opportunity in top of the sixth against right-handed reliever Jimmy Lambert, who replaced Kopech following Harold Castro’s one-out walk. Facing Lambert, Jonathan Schoop singled and Robbie Grossman was hit by a pitch with two outs.
That set up a bases-loaded chance for rookie Spencer Torkelson, who had a clutch pinch-hit RBI single in Thursday’s win. This time, he struck out swinging on a slider outside the zone to strand all three teammates on the bases.
Torkelson, batting .198 in 77 games, finished 1-for-4 with two strikeouts. Kopech allowed two runs on four hits and three walks with four strikeouts, throwing 47 of 82 pitches for strikes.
Cruisin’ for a Drew-sin’
Hutchison, in his second start since signing another minor-league deal with the Tigers, cruised through the first four innings, limiting the White Sox to two hits.
But the opposition finally got to him in the fifth.
Leury Garcia opened the frame with a single, and he came around to score on a two-out single from Yoan Moncada, who drilled a slider that hung over the middle of the plate.
“I didn’t finish that pitch,” Hutchison said.
With two outs in the sixth, Sheets blasted a 442-foot solo home run to right-center on Hutchison’s full-count fastball. Once again, the pitch was in the middle of the strike zone.
“I missed a little bit on the last pitch, and he got me,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison gave up two runs on five hits and one walk with three strikeouts. He threw 59 of 87 pitches for strikes, using 36 sliders (41%), 32 four-seam fastballs (37%), 10 changeups (11%) and nine two-seam fastballs (10%).
He recorded 10 swings and misses and nine called strikes.
“Sometimes you don’t execute them and things work out, and you don’t even think about it,” Hutchison said. “You just try to execute every pitch, and I executed a lot of them today.”
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