Mize gets 1st win; Tigers beat Astros 6-2 in Hinch’s return

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
0 Comments

HOUSTON — Back in the place where he’d received so many cheers over the years, one more ovation after a long and difficult time away was almost too much for manager A.J. Hinch to take.

Casey Mize tossed seven scoreless innings for his first career win and fellow rookie Akil Baddoo homered again as the Detroit Tigers beat the Astros 6-2 on Monday night in Hinch’s first trip to Houston since he was fired for his role in the team’s sign-stealing scheme.

Hinch spent five seasons in Houston, winning the 2017 World Series and helping turn around a team that had sunk to embarrassing lows during a rebuild in the years before he arrived. The Astros won more than 100 games in each of his last three seasons, capped by a franchise-best 107 wins in 2019 when they lost to the Washington Nationals in the World Series.

He received a standing ovation when he was introduced before the game and the team played a tribute video to him on the big screen. As the last frame of the video displayed the words: “Thank you A.J.,” he stepped onto the field and tipped his cap to the crowd, which roared with approval.

The Astros gave Hinch a heads up before the video was played and it still got to him.

“This place is very special to me,” he said. “It’s the only time I’ve ever been uncomfortable in this setting, in this building. I really do appreciate it. It touched me. I wanted to get out and tip my cap and then get back in before I showed too much emotion.”

Hinch was suspended by baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred for a year in January 2020 and subsequently fired by owner Jim Crane for his role in the scheme that violated rules by using a video camera to steal catchers’ signs during Houston’s run to the 2017 title and again during the 2018 season.

Renato Nunez and Grayson Greiner also homered as the Tigers jumped on Zack Greinke (1-1) for six runs to snap a four-game skid.

“We needed a good performance,” Hinch said. “Emotional night for me personally. I think our guys knew that and responded with a great effort across the board.”

His two up-and-coming stars helped him to a sweet return as the Tigers handed the Astros their third consecutive loss after a 6-1 start. Mize (1-0), the top overall pick in the 2018 amateur draft who was making his ninth start, yielded four hits and fanned five in the longest start of his big league career.

“The kid has good stuff,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “Early it looked like he was going to be wild and then he got some runs and he settled down. He kept us off balance with his split finger.”

Mize got stronger as the game progressed, retiring nine of the last 10 batters he faced before being replaced by Buck Farmer to start the eighth.

The Tigers didn’t score in the first inning, but they taxed Greinke, forcing him to throw 27 pitches to escape a bases loaded jam. His trouble continued in the second when Nunez doubled to start the inning before Greiner’s one-out shot to right field made it 2-0.

Nunez and Baddoo hit back-to-back homers with two outs in the third to extend the lead to 4-0. Baddoo, who homered on his first major league pitch this season, drove a fastball from Greinke 450 feet to the seats in center field for his third career homer.

The 22-year-old Baddoo hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth, and Greiner chased Greinke with an RBI single after that.

Greinke yielded 10 hits and six runs while walking three in 4 2/3 innings.

The Astros went 0 for 11 with runners in scoring position, but got solo homers from Michael Brantley in the eighth and Carlos Correa in the ninth to avoid a shutout.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Tigers: A day after Miguel Cabrera landed on the 10-day injured list with a left biceps strain, Hinch said that that tests showed that it was a mild strain. But Hinch still isn’t sure how long it will keep the slugger out. “We don’t feel like it’s major, but we feel like he’s going to need a little bit of rest and some therapy in order to get himself back ramped up, and we’ll see how long that takes,” Hinch said.

ABANDONING THE SLIDER?

Greinke was not happy with his slider on Monday night and was especially critical of two that he threw Nunez for his homer and a double.

“I don’t want to ever throw it again after today,” he said.

He said he hasn’t it hasn’t been good since he reported to camp, so maybe it’s time to move on from the pitch.

“It’s been a big negative to the season – spring training and the season,” he said. “It’s just been bad so I’m going to focus on the other pitches, pitches I throw good from here on out.”

UP NEXT

Houston’s Jake Odorizzi will make his season debut when the series continues Tuesday night. Odorizzi’s first start of the season was delayed because he didn’t sign with the Astros until March 8. He’ll oppose left-hander Matthew Boyd (1-1, 2.13 ERA).

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

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
2 Comments

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.