The version of Javier Baez that the Detroit Tigers expected to see has arrived.
The suddenly hot shortstop has homered in three straight games and four of the past six as the Tigers take on the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday night in Phoenix.
Baez bashed a 459-foot grand slam in the third inning on Friday night to help the Tigers cruise to a 5-1 victory.
Baez didn’t see how far the ball was flying at first or celebrate his seventh career grand slam. He was more interested in addressing a heckler with a be-quiet signal before he started rounding the bases.
“I turned back and they were just laughing,” Baez said after Friday’s win. “It was competition stuff. As soon as I hit that ball, the first thing that came to my mind was all this other stuff that he was saying. It was very fun.”
Tigers manager A.J. Hinch caught the interaction and wasn’t surprised with Baez’s reaction.
“Javi doesn’t need a lot of motivation,” Hinch said. “Javi loves the moment, and that was another big one for him — and I think he let the fan know it.”
Baez signed a six-year, $140 million contract during the offseason and was underachieving badly with a .188 average and three homers after going hitless in four at-bats on June 14.
He has since batted .387 (12-for-31) during an eight-game hitting that has seen his average rise 28 points to .216. Baez has eight extra-base hits during the stretch, including three doubles and one triple.
Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera went 1-for-4 in the opener. His career hit total sits at 3,052, one behind Rod Carew for 27th place on the all-time list.
The victory snapped a three-game skid for the Tigers. It was just Detroit’s third win in the past 12 games.
Meanwhile, Arizona has dropped four consecutive games and five of the past six contests. The Diamondbacks had just three hits — all singles — in their latest long night at the ballpark.
The contest left manager Torey Lovullo feeling dismayed.
“It didn’t go anywhere close to where we wanted it to,” Lovullo said of the game. “We’ve got to figure it out.”
The Diamondbacks were 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position on Friday. They have scored two or fewer runs in four of their past six games.
Arizona right-hander Zach Davies (2-4, 3.96 ERA) is aiming to halt a seven-start winless stretch when he takes the mound on Saturday.
Davies is 0-3 during the span despite twice pitching at least seven innings without allowing an earned run.
The 29-year-old lost to the San Diego Padres in his last turn after permitting four runs on as many hits over six innings. He served up two homers in that setback after not allowing any in his previous three starts.
Davies received a no-decision in his lone career start against the Tigers in 2018, when he was a member of the Milwaukee Brewers. He gave up three runs and five hits over four innings.
Baez is batting .303 (10-for-33) with a homer against Davies from his time in the National League.
Detroit will counter with right-hander Alex Faedo (1-4, 4.67). Faedo is 0-3 over his last five starts since beating the Cleveland Guardians on May 22.
The 26-year-old has allowed 12 runs (11 earned) and 17 runs in just 7 1/3 innings over his last two turns. He hadn’t allowed more than two runs in an outing prior to the tough stretch.
Faedo gave up five runs (four earned) on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings while losing to the Boston Red Sox on Monday.
–Field Level Media