Cruz hits two HRs, including slam as Twins rout Tigers; Baddoo adds slam

Kirthmon F. Dozier/Detroit Free Press - USA TODAY Sports Images
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DETROIT — Nelson Cruz hit a drive just foul down the line in right field, narrowly missing a grand slam.

The play was reviewed and the call was upheld – but Cruz could have saved everyone some time if he’d known what would happen on the very next pitch.

Cruz cleared the bases with a home run – this time pulling the ball to left – and the Minnesota Twins were well on their way to a 15-6 rout of the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

“I think a lot of guys hit foul homers and then get emotional,” Twins manager Rocco Baldelli said. “You don’t normally see guys do that back to back.”

Cruz added a solo homer and a double, and Matt Shoemaker held Detroit hitless into the fifth inning.

Akil Baddoo hit a grand slam for the Tigers in the ninth, but by then the game was well out of hand. The 22-year-old made his big league debut Sunday and homered on the first pitch thrown to him.

Cruz came up with the bases loaded in the second and the Twins already up 2-0. After his near miss, he connected to cap a five-run inning. Minnesota added five more runs in the fifth, when Cruz hit his solo shot.

Limited to pinch-hitting duty in Minnesota’s opening series at Milwaukee, Cruz was back in his normal role with the return of the designated hitter to the Twins’ lineup. After hitting his two homers, he doubled and scored in the sixth.

Cruz hit a towering fly in the ninth that was caught on the warning track.

Tiger infielder Harold Castro pitched a hitless ninth.

“That was the cleanest inning we had,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said.

Detroit scored five with two outs in the bottom half on a solo homer by Victor Reyes and the slam by Baddoo.

“The at-bat before, kind of was seeing the ball well. Realized I just missed a pitch,” Baddoo said. “I was going into my next at-bat just thinking, `Hey, think left-center and make sure you stay through it.”‘

Shoemaker (1-0) held the Tigers without a hit until Wilson Ramos homered with two outs in the fifth. He allowed three hits in six innings with five strikeouts and earned his first victory since April 9, 2019, before he was beset by injuries.

Shoemaker, a Michigan native, has dominated the Tigers in his career, going 5-1 with a 0.79 ERA in seven starts against Detroit.

Jose Urena (0-1) lasted only three innings in his Tigers debut. The right-hander allowed five earned runs, four hits and four walks with five strikeouts. He threw 66 pitches in the first two innings alone.

Randy Dobnak, who entered with the Twins up 15-1, allowed those five runs in the ninth but was credited with his first save of the season after pitching the final three innings.

Since saves became an official stat in 1969, Dobnak was the sixth pitcher to earn one while giving up at least five earned runs, according to SportRadar. It hadn’t happened since Jerome Williams of the Los Angeles Angels did it in a four-inning save against Texas on July 30, 2012.

The game was delayed by rain for 52 minutes at the start, and when it began it moved slowly – when the Twins were batting, at least. Minnesota finished with 14 hits and drew 11 walks. Detroit’s six pitchers did combine for 13 strikeouts. The Tigers threw 215 pitches in the game.

“When that happens, we’re all on the same page. They don’t throw anything to hit, let’s walk,” Cruz said. “Be patient and just wait for the right pitch to hit.”

CRUZ’S ROLE

Baldelli said Cruz has raised the possibility of playing the field, which would be a way to get him in the lineup in National League parks.

“He tells me every day,” Baldelli said. “He does say it with a smile, so there could be some seriousness and also some sarcasm.”

Cruz played four games in right field in 2018 and has not been in the field in a regular-season game since.

LOSING CONTROL

There were three wild pitches in the game, although the most memorable flub wasn’t scored as one since nobody was on base. Detroit’s Gregory Soto came on in relief to start the eighth, and his first pitch sailed several feet above batter, catcher and umpire.

“As soon as he threw that first pitch, in my mind, I was like, `Oh my God, this is going to be another long inning,”‘ said Ramos, the Tigers catcher.

Soto did get through that inning without allowing a run.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Twins: 3B Luiz Arraez left the game in the second inning with upper gastrointestinal discomfort. Willians Astudillo replaced him and had three hits. … OF Byron Buxton was out of the lineup. He left Sunday’s game with an illness unrelated to COVID-19, according to team officials. Manager Rocco Baldelli said Monday that Buxton was doing better but was still not 100%.

Tigers: DH Miguel Cabrera returned to the lineup. He experienced soreness coming out of Saturday’s game and had the day off Sunday.

UP NEXT

Detroit sends RHP Casey Mize to the mound for his first start of the season Tuesday. The No. 1 pick in the 2018 draft, Mize arrived in the majors last season but is still seeking his first win. LHP J.A. Happ is set to start for the Twins.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.