Detroit Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, accompanied by a disappointing 7.31 ERA across his first three starts in September, looked like a man on a mission Saturday night against the Chicago White Sox.
He painted the corners and worked efficiently. He mixed his five pitches and generated swings and misses with all of them. His changeup was especially sharp for the first time since returning from the restricted list. He retired 16 straight batters before a hit-by-pitch and two walks spoiled an otherwise superb performance.
The Tigers fought back from Rodriguez’s seventh-inning troubles but lost to the White Sox, 4-3, in the 11th inning at Comerica Park. Left-handed closer Gregory Soto allowed two runs, too many for his offense to overcome.
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The Tigers (55-90) became the second team in the American League to reach 90 losses, as White Sox lefty Aaron Bummer escaped the bottom of the 11th inning after Javier Báez’s pinch-hit, two-out RBI single for the Tigers’ third run. Spencer Torkelson lined out to end the game.
The White Sox scored their first two runs in the seventh, a product of Rodriguez’s inconsistencies pitching out of the stretch, but the Tigers tied the game in the eighth and forced extras. Right-handed relievers Will Vest, Jose Cisnero and Alex Lange pitched scoreless eighth, ninth and 10th innings.
In the top of the 10th, the Tigers caught free runner Leury Garcia in a rundown between second and third for the first out. Luis Robert grounded out for the second out, and Lange struck out Gavin Sheets with a changeup for the third out. He danced off the mound in celebration.
The Tigers began the bottom of the 10th with a sacrifice bunt from Ryan Kreidler, advancing free runner Willi Castro to third base. Tucker Barnhart flied out to shallow center field, and Akil Baddoo struck out looking to strand the runner.
A disappointing 10th inning led to a frustrating 11th. Soto took over on the mound for the Tigers and failed to field his position on a bunt from Elvis Andrus. Seby Zavala, the free runner, moved up to third base. Yoan Moncada smacked the next pitch, a 97.6 mph sinker, into left field for an RBI single.
Ahead 3-2, the White Sox picked up a double steal — Andrus to third base and Moncada to second base — with one out to put two runners in scoring position. Eloy Jimenez increased Chicago’s lead to 4-2 on a sacrifice fly to left field.
Eighth not enough
Trailing 2-1, the Tigers clawed back in the eighth inning to even the score at two runs. Baddoo, who also tripled in the third, worked a four-pitch walk against right-handed reliever Kendall Graveman. He stole second to advance into scoring position with rookie Riley Greene at the plate.
Greene grounded a two-strike pitch the opposite way, but Andrus had an incredible diving play at short to keep the ball from trickling into the outfield. Baddoo, meanwhile, seemingly thought the ball got through the hole. He never slowed down rounding third base — third-base coach Ramon Santiago waved him home — which forced a hesitation and inaccurate throw from Andrus.
Baddoo crossed home plate standing up.
An ugly seventh
In the seventh inning, Rodriguez got Jose Abreu to ground out for the first out. He then worked ahead, 0-2, against Jimenez, but his third-pitch sinker drilled Jimenez to put a runner on base for the first time since the second inning.
Suddenly, Rodriguez fell apart.
He walked Andrew Vaughn on five pitches, but a mound visit from pitching coach Chris Fetter couldn’t fix the problem. Rodriguez walked the next batter, Yasmani Grandal, on four pitches to load the bases.
Right-handed reliever Jason Foley, armed with a 58.3% ground-ball rate, entered in search of an inning-ending double play. He threw back-to-back sinkers at the bottom of the strike zone, which, indeed, induced a ground ball from AJ Pollock. The grounder, though, traveled up the middle and into center field, and the White Sox scored two runs for a 2-1 advantage.
Rodriguez allowed two runs on two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 6⅓ innings, throwing 51 of 87 pitches for strikes.
The White Sox averaged an 88.2 mph exit velocity on 14 balls in play.
The 29-year-old used 36 sinkers (41%), 19 changeups (22%), 17 cutters (20%), 12 four-seam fastballs (14%) and three sliders (3%). He recorded 11 swings and misses: one sinker, five changeups, two cutters, one four-seamer and two sliders.
Rodriguez now has a 6.04 ERA in four September outings.
Before Rodriguez faltered, he appeared on track to complete seven innings. He needed 11 pitches in the first inning, 13 in the second, 12 in the third, 13 in the fourth, 11 in the fifth and 12 in the sixth, then 15 for one out in the messy seventh.
His opponent, White Sox right-hander Davis Martin, pitched well, too. Martin, who started in place of an under-the-weather Johnny Cueto, allowed one run on three hits and one walk with five strikeouts over six innings.
The Tigers scored in the sixth to provide Rodriguez with a one-run cushion.
On Friday night, Victor Reyes delivered a walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 10th inning for a 3-2 win. Less than 24 hours later, he put the Tigers ahead 1-0 with a two-out RBI single in the sixth inning. He hit a high-and-tight fastball just over the glove of leaping first baseman Jose Abreu and scored Tucker Barnhart.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Extras again for Detroit Tigers, but this time a 4-3 loss in 11