Cleveland – Before the game, manager AJ Hinch, still fighting off an illness, his voice still weakened, would not accept any offering of sympathy – for him or his scuffling, injury-wracked baseball team.
“We have to take all the bad mojo, the bad luck and bad vibes and get it out of the way and just try to beat the Guardians today,” he said. “It’s frustrating and it’s easy to pile on and take it like we’re a victim.
“We’re not going to do that.”
The Tigers played more like survivors than victims Sunday, snapping a three-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Cleveland Guardians at Progressive Field.
BOX SCORE: Tigers 4, Guardians 2
Rookie right-hander Alex Faedo survived a shaky, 29-pitch first inning and limited the Guardians to just two runs in 5.1 innings and picked up his first Major League win.
Which, as is customary, comes with a beer and powder shower.
“Yeah, lot’s of baby powder, lots of catsup, via (Tarik) Skubal, all sorts of different drinks and stuff all over,” Faedo said. “It was pretty cool. They put him in the laundry basket. It was funny.”
At least no one threw tuna on him, which was Will Vest’s fate last week.
“You have to enjoy wins,” Faedo said. “You only get your first win once. I want to enjoy this.”
Faedo was the first to set a survivalist tone.
He had already yielded an RBI single to Owen Miller in the first inning when he walked the dangerous Josh Naylor with one out to load the bases. But he did not flinch.
“He is fearless,” Hinch said. “He’s got some weapons and he’s got some competitiveness which is good. He’s not afraid. The moment never speeds up too fast for him.
“He seems always under control. There’s a lot to like with him.”
Faedo struck out Franmil Reyes waving at three straight sliders out of the strike zone and then got Andres Gimenez to line out to left.
“I just needed to get back in the zone and I needed to get ahead,” Faedo said. “I know one run was on the board. I had to find a way to work out of it. It’s a long game. And I knew (Shane) Bieber was on the mound for them and he’s one of the best pitchers in baseball.
“I had to do whatever I could to leave it at one and give us a chance.”
The only other damage against Faedo came in the fourth when Naylor unloaded on a 3-1 fastball and hit it 416 feet into the bullpen area in right-center.
He got some defensive help, too.
Daz Cameron, getting the start in center field, turned what appeared to be a game-flipping two-run home run by Amed Rosario in the fifth inning into an 8-4-3 double-play. Cameron made a perfectly-timed leap at the wall in the right-center field and brought the ball back.
“He smacked it pretty well,” said Cameron, who also ripped a pair of singles. “After I read the ball I saw I had a pretty good chance of getting up and getting close to the wall. When I realized what my surroundings were, I just went up and the ball was right there.”
He made a quick throw to Jonathan Schoop whose relay to first doubled up Austin Hedges.
“Incredible play,” Faedo said. “My emotions were up and down as that ball was going. I could see Daz’s mannerisms and I was like, ‘It looks like it has a chance to stay in.’ But the ball was still going. “
The Tigers also found a way to survive and scratch out some runs Sunday against a pitcher who has had his way with them in recent years.
Bieber came in on a streak of five straight starts with at least 10 strikeouts – make it six straight starts. He struck out 10 again in seven innings.
But the lowest run-producing offense in baseball came to fight.
Miguel Cabrera doubled home Robbie Grossman in the first inning. It was his 603rd career double, tying him with Cal Ripken, Jr., for 16th all-time. It was also the first time the Tigers scored a run in the first inning on the road all season.
Schoop walked and stole second base in the second inning. He scored on a two-out single by Cameron.
Tucker Barnhart and Cameron singled to start the fifth inning, with Barnhart coming home after first baseman Naylor missed a grounder by Grossman. It was originally scored a single, but later changed – taking an RBI off the books for Grossman.
“Bieber is a little different then he’s been in years past coming past his (shoulder) injury, but he’s still JB,” Hinch said. “His stuff is good. It cuts, it sinks. He’s throwing his fastball. His stuff plays well down in the zone but he was pitching us up in the zone where some of our weaknesses are.
“But we were able to capitalize on a couple of walks and a couple of big hits.”
Javier Báez, who came in hitting .205 with just two home runs and 11 RBIs, lined a cutter over the wall in right-center off reliever Bryan Shaw in the eighth inning, providing an extra layer of cushion.
“He’s really hung in there,” Hinch said. “That was a key run. The way the momentum can go in this ballpark and the emotions can go for a team that’s been struggling. We’re trying to get some spark to get something going. That tack-on run was huge.”
The bullpen took it home. Lefty Andrew Chafin got four outs, two on a well-timed double-play in the seventh after he hit Gimenez with a 1-2 pitch. Alex Lange struck out three in 1.1 hitless innings.
That left it to Gregory Soto to close it out. He pitched a hitless ninth for his seventh save.
“We played pretty well all the way around,” Hinch said. “From the beginning of the game, we punched first, we were able to hold them off in the first inning, played a little defense (turned four double-plays), got a tack-on run – there was a lot to like today. “