CINCINNATI — Jonathan Schoop put his hands in the air and bounced through the Detroit Tigers‘ dugout in the third inning.
None of his teammates celebrated with him.
The Tigers made Schoop wait for their smiles and cheers, giving him the silent treatment following his home run off Cincinnati Reds starter Vladimir Gutierrez, because Schoop made them wait 112 plate appearances for a long ball. He hadn’t cleared the outfield wall since Aug. 4 at Comerica Park.
“That’s a long time,” Schoop said, laughing. “I deserved to get the silent treatment.”
Schoop, who has 19 home runs this season, eventually got the response he was looking for, one of many joyful moments in the Tigers’ 15-5 win over the Reds in Friday’s series opener at Great American Ball Park.
Detroit finished with 18 hits, including four-hit performances from Schoop and Jeimer Candelario.
“We’ve been putting up some pretty good at-bats in recent low-scoring games,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “We had some really, really good at-bats, some good swings. We hit the ball all over the ballpark. I loved our aggressive style of play tonight. We put pressure on them and capitalized with some separator hits.”
Although the Tigers (64-72) picked up a convincing win, the Reds nearly took the lead — and the momentum — in the fifth inning.
Jonathan India won a nine-pitch battle against reliever Kyle Funkhouser, hitting his two-seam fastball for a two-run homer to center field. India’s blast trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 4-3 with one out.
Tyler Stephenson (walk) and Nick Castellanos (single) reached safely, and a passed ball by catcher Dustin Garneau advanced them into scoring position with Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez coming to the plate.
Funkhouser struck out Votto swinging with a 97 mph four-seam fastball on the seventh pitch of the at-bat. On his sixth pitch to Suarez, Funkhouser got a swing and miss at an 87 mph slider to end the inning.
“If you overlook that, you’re doing a disservice to this game,” Hinch said. “He really needed to get two really dangerous hitters, especially Votto. You’re not expecting the swing and miss. He pitched him tough and made some key pitches to him. That game is just so different if they were able to push those runs across.”
Indeed, the Tigers never let the Reds get close again.
Detroit scored a combined 10 runs — six in the sixth and four in the seventh — over the next two innings.The Reds scored one run in the sixth off reliever Joe Jimenez and one more in the seventh off Michael Fulmer. Derek Holland delivered scoreless eighth and ninth innings.
“We’re in a bad place with the bullpen,” Hinch said. “We won by 10, and we were a pitcher away from using (Jose) Cisnero and (Gregory) Soto and Fulmer and Funkhouser. We’re going on availability a little more than I would like than in some of these games. But Holland really saved us tonight.”
Aggressive base running from Victor Reyes brought sloppy defense from the Reds, allowing the Tigers to score two runs on a throwing error for a 6-3 lead in the sixth inning. Garneau’s ensuing two-run homer made it 8-3, and then Miguel Cabrera and Candelario recorded back-to-back RBIs for a 10-3 advantage.
“Put pressure on the defense and get into scoring position, that’s how good teams do it,” Schoop said. “They take 90 feet to score the runs. It was impressive how we ran the bases.”
In the seventh, Garneau blasted his second home run of the game and the 12th of his MLB career. Robbie Grossman added a three-run shot with two outs in the seventh for a 14-4 lead.
Niko Goodrum’s single plated Candelario — who doubled for the 39th time this year — for a 15-5 margin in the eighth.
“We were just trying to get good at-bats and trying to put the barrel on the ball,” Schoop said. “In this park, you don’t have to try to homer. You just have to barrel up, and it’s going to go out for you. We didn’t plan for it. Whenever it goes, it goes. We scored runs, and now we got to come back tomorrow and do the same thing.”
Offense strikes early
Gutierrez created trouble for himself in the second inning, walking Cabrera on four pitches. When Candelario bounced a weak grounder, Gutierrez picked up the ball and misfired to Votto at first base for a throwing error.
The Tigers didn’t wait to capitalize.
Harold Castro drilled a two-strike fastball to center field. His double — clocked at a 106.4 mph exit velocity — scored Cabrera and Candelario for a 2-0 lead.
The next two runs came from solo home runs, beginning with Schoop in the third inning. He tagged a first-pitch curveball from Gutierrez and drove the ball 421 feet to left field. It landed in the second deck.
“That felt so good,” Schoop said. “I was so relieved.”
In the fourth, Candelario worked a full count and smacked a changeup to right-center field. Giving the Tigers a 4-1 lead, Candelario’s solo home run marked his 12th homer this season and his second in as many days.
Gutierrez allowed four runs (three earned) on four hits and one walk over 3⅓ innings. He struck out one.
Left-handed starter Tyler Alexander’s start didn’t come easy, but he worked through tough situations. He conceded one run on two hits and two walks over 3⅔ innings, striking out five and throwing 79 pitches.
Facing Suarez in a full count, Alexander put a changeup at the bottom of the strike zone. It was a quality pitch, but Suarez went down to yank a solo homer to left field in the second inning.
Alexander then walked Kyle Farmer but responded with consecutive strikeouts.
“He had to pitch in and out of some messes,” Hinch said. “I don’t think he executed nearly as well as he normally does. They missed some hittable pitches, so he got away with a little bit. The two-strike grind that they have, they really put that up against Tyler. … But Tyler kept coming at them as long as he could.”
After a 29-pitch second frame, Alexander threw 10 of 11 pitches for strikes in a perfect third. He then needed 31 pitches to record two outs in the fourth, forcing his removal from the game.
Funkhouser inherited runners on first and second base and completed the scoreless inning on the first pitch he threw.
Of Alexander’s 79 pitches, he tossed 50 for strikes.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.