TAMPA, Fla. — AJ Hinch nailed it before the game.
He was asked about rookie Alex Faedo’s anxiety level as he prepared to make his third start and his first ever as a big-leaguer in his hometown, against the team he grew up rooting for.
“Honestly, I think the people around him are more nervous than he’s ever been,” Hinch said. “Even for his debut, for his return to Tampa, I’ve not seen one ounce of nervousness. It’s just flat-line, ready to compete, ready to play.”
That’s exactly right. Either the moment wasn’t all that big for him or he simply, calmly rose to it.
In front of a large group of family and friends, Faedo made essentially one mistake in 5.2 strong innings and put the Tigers in position to sneak a win in the first of three games at Tropicana Park.
Which they did, beating the Rays 3-2 on a 400-foot blast into the right-field seats by Harold Castro in the top of the ninth inning. The Rays had just tied the game in the bottom of the eighth.
Castro lashed a 94-mph fastball from reliever Andrew Kittredge, giving the Tigers a season-high fourth straight win.
Faedo's mistake was a center-cut, 91-mph four-seam fastball to Brett Phillips leading off the sixth inning. Phillips hit it off the catwalk in right field, his third homer of the year.
That was the only blemish on Faedo’s homecoming performance. He allowed four hits, walked one and struck four. He was spotting his four-seamer, which averaged 93 mph, on the edges of the plate, throwing sliders to right-handed hitters and change-ups to lefties.
The typically disciplined-hitting Rays swung and missed 13 times, eight against Faedo's slider on 17 swings.
He got a standing ovation from the section of fans behind the Tigers’ dugout as he departed with a 2-1 lead with two outs in the sixth and he almost assuredly earned another start Saturday in Cleveland.
The two Tigers runs came on a majestic home run by Jonathan Schoop off veteran right-hander Corey Kluber in the fourth inning. Schoop jumped an 88-mph sinker and hit it 404 feet into the second deck in left field – right into a group of players on the Tigers’ Gulf Coast League teams.
It was his third homer of the season. It was also the only damage they did against Kluber, who allowed four hits and struck out eight in six innings. After Schoop’s blast, Kluber struck out six of the next seven hitters including five in a row.
Schoop had quite a night. Besides the home run, he also made two smart if not sensational defensive plays.
The first one might’ve saved a run for Faedo in the second inning. After Ji-Man Choi led off with a double, Vidal Brujan hit a ground ball to Schoop on the right field side of second base. Schoop aggressively, fearlessly threw a dart to third base and got Choi.
Schoop then ended the seventh inning with a nifty double-play. Mike Zunino hit a high bouncer over second base. He snared the high hop behind the bag as he was moving toward the bag. He quick-stepped on the base and threw a bullet to first to complete the double-play.
The Rays pushed across the tying run in the bottom of the eighth against right-hander Michael Fulmer. Again it was Phillips. He doubled with one out, went to third on a wild pitch and scored on a sacrifice fly.©2022 www.detroitnews.com. Visit at detroitnews.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.