Javier Báez took a turn.
On a 2-2 fastball from Boston Red Sox reliever Ryan Brasier, the Detroit Tigers’ new shortstop put the ball in the stands beyond the wall in the left field and beyond the bullpen in the eighth inning.
“It’s Javy Báez,” said Tigers veteran Miguel Cabrera. “He got it.”
The two-race homerun from Báez, who signed a $ 140 million six-year contract this offseason, traveled 396 feet and secured a 3-1 victory for the Tigers in Monday’s series opener against the Red Sox at Comerica Park.
“I was focused,” Báez said. “It’s the biggest key for me, to be focused and try to see the ball as much as I can … For me, the key is to slow everything down. I can be really focused or I can swing for the balls out of the ball. Zone “Just being focused and patient with my plan is key.”
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The left-handed closer Gregory Soto hit the ninth inning and got his first save of the season.
The Báez explosion – No. 150 in his career – got a 1-all draw.
“He got $ 140 million for a reason,” said Tiger third baseman Jeimer Candelario. “He’s done it all his career: hit the ball hard and see what happens. It’s Javy.”
“I think if you’ve seen Javy the last couple of years, his whole career, he’ll be Javy, and we’ll take it and run with it,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “Big moment, little moment, you throw somewhere near, he’s going to swing at it, and when he does such damage, it’s pretty electric.”
The Tigers stormed out for an early lead, but Red Sox slugger JD Martinez, a 2014-17 Tiger, crushed a matching solo homerun in the fifth inning after right-hander Matt Manning.
Martinez ‘home run marked Manning’s lone flaw in his season debut. The 24-year-old was brilliant in the 19th start of his MLB career, holding the Red Sox to a run across six innings. He produced two strikeouts without submitting a walk.
“Super aggressive in the attacking zone and really impressive that he was so effective early in the match,” Hinch said. “They came out swinging and he was not scared out of the strike zone. He kept knocking away. He was very much in control. Had it been another part of the season, he would probably go back to seventh. (Lap).”
Light rain was even throughout the first 4½ laps, but the weather did not force a delay.
Red Sox starter Michael Wacha countered Manning with 4⅓ innings of one-run ball, allowing two hits and three walks with four strikeouts. The Tigers filled the bases against Wacha in the first inning, thanks to Austin Meadows’ single, Báez’s walk and Candelario’s walk.
“He went too,” Hinch said of Báez, who had a 5.1% pace last season. “Write it in your notes.”
Miguel Cabrera’s sacrifice flight put the Tigers ahead 1-0.
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In the sixth, Cabrera recorded the 2,990. hit in his 20-year MLB career with a double to right field from Red Sox righty reliever Matt Barnes. He also has 598 doubles.
Cabrera increased his overall career hit to 2,991 by a single in eighth.
“I do not want to put pressure on myself,” Cabrera said. “I just want to go out there and play good baseball. That’s it. I want to do what it takes to win games. That’s my focus right now.”
Best start to Manning’s career
The secrets behind Manning’s dominance: first-pitch attack and fast-ball command.
He threw eight pitches (for eight strokes) in the first inning to set the tone, recording his first strikeout as Rafael Devers went down and swung with an elevated 96 mph fastball with four stitches.
Manning got his second and final strikeout in the fourth inning and knocked out Xander Bogaerts with an elevated 96.3 mph fastball. The sophomore, who had an ERA of 5.80 in 18 starts last season, finished his start with seven pitches (for seven strikes) in the sixth inning.
“Just challenging in the strike zone,” said Tiger catcher Tucker Barnhart. “We talked a lot about it, about him being aggressive across the plate and trusting his stuff … Tonight he was obviously trying to go out there and just hit guys. It was great. He was super locked inside.”
Manning threw 13 first-pitch attacks to the 19 batters he faced, only twice behind with 2-0 in the count: Jackie Bradley Jr. (groundout) in third inning and Alex Verdugo (groundout) in fifth.
Verdugo, in the fifth, followed Martinez’s solo homerun by taking Manning to 3-0. But the Tigers’ pitcher responded with three quick balls in a row in the strike zone, the last of which produced a groundout.
“I think it was a good track,” Manning said of Martinez’s home run. “I got (my fastball) inside where I wanted, it’s just he was able to turn and burn. He’s a good batsman and he got the best of it … I do a better job with to get locked back right away. “
For his 68 pitches (47 strikes), Manning used 41 four-stitch fastballs (60%), 10 sliders (15%), eight curveballs (12%), six sinkers (9%) and three changeups (4%). He earned six swings and misses – five with his four-seamer – and 12 called strikes, including three with his shooter and two with his curveball.
His fastball averaged 93.7 mph and maxed out at 97.3 mph.
“They swung right from the start,” Manning said. “I came in front of them and I wanted them to swing. Such games don’t really get to your secondary stuff. If they keep swinging, I will keep feeding (fastballs) in there.”
Right-hander Alex Lange took over from Manning to start the seventh inning and did not miss a beat.
Lange, who threw 10 out of 14 spots for strikes, worked around a leadoff single from Devers by beating Bogaerts (swinging, 87.6 mph shooter) and Martinez (looking, 87.1 mph shooter). Verdugo flew out to deep right field for third out.
“He has a lot of ‘FU’ (mindset) in his stuff,” Barnhart said. “I love it about him. All pitchers have to have some of it in their own way. I think that’s it, along with things that make him good. He has the ability to throw all his pitches in the strike zone when He wants. “
Righty Michael Fulmer hit a pointless eighth place and fired 10 of 16 lanes for strikes. Vazquez hit a leadoff single, but Fulmer responded with three outs in a row, including a swinging strikeout by Travis Shaw with a switch in the mid-80s.
Soto hit the ninth and allowed a two-out double for the Devers.
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