Báez-ed Opinion (Tigers-Diamondbacks; 06.24.22)

Arnie Bazemore/ALOST

akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief

PHOENIX — Similar to the receptions that he has received from fans both home and away for his middling start to his Detroit Tiger career, shortstop Javier Báez was audibly jeered after one of his wild swings came up with nothing but air as he stood at the plate with the bases loaded in the third inning. Fortunately for Báez, he still had another shot in the at-bat.

Immediately afterward, Báez hit a moonshot. Then, he let his hecklers hear about it.

Báez crushed a 459-foot grand slam to open the scoring, and it was all the scoring the Tigers needed in a 5-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on Friday evening. Starting pitcher Rony García allowed just a run on three hits in 5.1 innings pitched Detroit snapped a three-game losing streak.

Signing a big free-agent contract in the offseason with the Tigers, Báez was considered the main piece to allow the Tigers to take the next step to AL Central Division title contention after a promising 2021. Instead, Báez has been the poster boy of the Tigers’ disappointing start to this season, coming into today with a slash line of .216/.259/.367 and just six home runs in 57 games. Those numbers, especially from a two-time All-Star, get noticed by fans, and in his at-bat against Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly, a swing and miss on a curveball that was about a foot outside the strike zone prompted fans behind the Tigers’ dugout to start the latest round of razzing directed toward the slugger.

Báez was not done with the at-bat however, and after he launched a curveball down in the zone deep in the left field bleachers on the next pitch, Báez was not done with the fans either; He pointed in the direction of the heckling fans soon after his bat flip coming out of the batter’s box, and once again made the shush gesture at the fans soon after crossing home plate and making his way back to the dugout.

“As soon as I hit that ball, the first thing that came to my mind was all this other stuff that he was saying,” Báez said about his interactions with a particular Diamondbacks fan during and after the at-bat. “It was very fun.”

The Tigers hope that there is more fun to be had for Baez, who has now homered in his third consecutive game. Over his last eight games, Báez is batting .387 (12-for-31) with three doubles, a triple, four home runs and nine runs batted in. That stretch came immediately on the heels of being rested for a game at home against the White Sox on June 15.

“Javy, when he gets hot like this, he’s hitting balls, he’s hitting strikes,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s doing better at staying inside his zone where he can hit. Obviously the version of him is electric and magical, and we’re seeing first-hand how he can get very, very productive, very fast.

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Friday evening’s contest, with all photos taken by Las Vegas-area photographer Arnie Bazemore. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 29 pictures in total.

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Tags : Arizona DiamondbacksDetroit TigersJavier BáezMLB

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