DETROIT (WOOD) — With a great turnout from the crowd at Comerica Park Friday, the Detroit Tigers kicked off the 2022 season with plenty of energy building up to the first pitch of a season with high expectations.
They gave the fans everything they could as for.
With some ninth-inning heroics from Eric Haase on a game-tying solo home run to deep left field and a walk-off single from Javier Baez, Detroit sent the fans home happy with a 5-4 comeback victory.
“Welcome to Detroit, Javy Baez,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “You could beat them with a single, you don’t have to hit the ball 20 rows deep like Haase did. It was just slowing down the moment to where you’re in control of the moment.”
After nearly giving the game away by surrendering a run in the top of the ninth, Gregory Soto (1-0) earned the win for Detroit. Liam Hendricks was dealt the loss for Chicago.
Despite all of the anticipation, the first start in a Tigers uniform for Eduardo Rodriguez didn’t go quite to plan. The White Sox forced him to throw 50 pitches before he could get through two innings and that would shorten his day. The former Boston Red Sox’s starter went four innings, allowing three runs on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts.
Chicago’s starter Lucas Giolito also had a short start due to injury, but was much more effective and efficient with his work. He struck out six batters in four innings, allowing no runs on just one hit.
The Tigers couldn’t muster up any kind of offense early other than a lead-off walk to Robbie Grossman and a double from Jonathan Schoop in the fourth inning. The White Sox would carry that 3-0 lead into the 6th inning.
The Tigers finally showed some offense in the bottom of the sixth, when Grossman was hit by a pitch and Austin Meadows followed with a walk. Following a deep drive from Javier Baez to the warning track in left field for a loud first out, Jeimer Candelario singled and scored Grossman for the Tigers’ first run.
With a sold-out crowd of 43,480 on its feet, the largest Opening Day attendance since 2017 for Detroit, Miguel Cabrera came to the plate. He hit a ground ball to shortstop and when Chicago’s second baseman Josh Harrison attempted to turn the double play, he was interfered with by Candelario. Both runners were called out ending the Tigers threat.
With the Tigers running out of chances, Cabrera again walked to the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth, facing one of the best relievers in baseball Liam Hendricks.
He flipped his bat out and slapped a single to right field, driving in two runs to tie the game at 3 all. A vintage look for the Tigers veteran. The crowd erupted. Akil Baddoo would ground out to third on the next pitch but the Tigers had new life.
Andrew Vaughn would quickly kill the momentum and give the lead back to Chicago. He sent a solo shot to deep left field, giving the White Sox a 4-3 lead. The Tigers were down to their last three outs.
They made the most of them.
With one out, Haase sent a ball well over the bullpen in left. He flipped the bat, knowing he tied the game on Opening Day in his hometown of Detroit.
Baez followed by sending a ball to the wall, where Chicago left fielder A.J. Pollock jumped against the wall to try and catch the ball, but the ball hit the wall first, going off his glove. He would catch the ball before it hit the grass, but replay proved it to be a hit for Baez.
Baez went up there thinking he could win the game.
“I’m going to hit the ball hard,” Baez said. “I’m going out there and doing me, I knew he dropped it, not exactly when.
“It was cold and rainy and the fans still showed up, I’m glad we got the win for them.”
The Tigers bullpen pitched five innings and only allowed one run. Cabrera led the team with two RBIs.
Haase said he was dying to get called into the game.
“I almost came in earlier in the game but when I was going up against Bummer in the sixth as a pinch hitter it’s what I was expecting,” Haase said. “Javy plays with flare and that’s what we want on this team. To be yourself, that’s what this coaching staff is all about. I’m glad I helped with this one today.”