Detroit Free Press

How two fist pumps from Will Vest sum up the Tigers’ tense Game 2 win over White Sox

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CHICAGO – Detroit Tigers right-handed reliever Will Vest pumped his fist to end the seventh inning, following an epic inning-ending double play to strand the bases loaded. He did the same thing to end the eighth inning, following a wicked up-and-in fastball for a swinging strikeout to strand runners on the corners.

Two fits pumps for two big moments.

Vest stranded five runners.

“I always feel like I can roll a guy back out for another inning,” manager A.J. Hinch said, “but the emotion that comes with the end of the previous inning always gives me a little bit of pause . ... He had to work off the emotion of the previous inning, and he did.”

Vest, 28, protected a tie game in both innings in Saturday’s 7-6 win over the Chicago White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. Righthande­d reliever Shelby Miller covered the ninth and 10th innings, but the second game of the season wouldn’t have ended up in extras if not for Vest’s heroics in the seventh and eighth innings.

In the seventh, Vest inherited the bases loaded with one out after right-handed reliever Alex Lange — no longer in the closer role — walked three batters. When Hinch made the pitching change, the entire infield huddled around Vest on the pitcher’s mound to discuss the plan for Eloy Jiménez, a dangerous righthande­d hitter.

The Tigers decided to go for the double play. “I was trying to throw sinkers inside to get under his barrel and get him to roll over or something,” Vest said. “I was trying to get a ground ball. The heart of their lineup, we know that sinkers play pretty well against them, so I was using that scouting report and trying to execute.”

Vest threw back-to-back inside sinkers with plenty of arm-side run in an effort to get Jiménez to pull the ball to the left side of the infield. Jiménez didn’t swing at the first pitch, but he put the second sinker in play to the left side of the infield, just as the Tigers wanted.

Jiménez hit a tough in-between bouncer to third baseman Zach McKinstry.

McKinstry, who trusted his instincts, fielded the ball in his gut, stepped on third base with his right foot and simultaneo­usly threw the ball to first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who scooped the ball out of the dirt. Jiménez ran from home plate to first base in 4.78 seconds, but the throw from McKinstry beat him by a step.

Torkelson also deserves a lot of credit for picking the ball.

“As soon as he got the ball hit to him, I figured he was going to tag the bag,” Torkelson said, “and then he threw it over to me. It was a little rushed, but I was anticipati­ng a bad throw because that’s what you always have to do.”

“It was a great feeling when I noticed he had the ball in his glove,” McKinstry said.

“The whole play, all around, was incredible,” Vest said.

That was the seventh inning.

In the eighth inning, Vest returned to the mound and gave up a leadoff single to Andrew Vaughn. He retired the next two batters on fly balls to center field. Vest should’ve escaped without any other trouble, but McKinstry made a throwing error to extend the inning and put runners on the corners.

Vest didn’t shy away from attack mode. He blew back-to-back fastballs past Korey

Lee for swinging strikes, the first at 94.6 mph and the second at 95.5 mph. The matchup turned into a six-pitch battle, but Vest won when he got Lee to foul tip an up-and-in 94.5 mph sinker into the glove of catcher Carson Kelly for a strikeout.

The Tigers ended up winning the game in the 10th inning — thanks to back-to-back scoreless innings from Miller and a clutch game-winning single from Kelly — to maintain a perfect record through two games in the new season.

“That’s a testament to the guys staying in the game,” Vest said.

“We’re never out of it. We want to try to have that mentality this year. As relievers, we feed off big situations like that and keeping the team in the game.”

Seven runs beat the White Sox, but the combinatio­n of five relievers out of the bullpen kept the game within striking distance and gave the offense an opportunit­y to mount a comeback. The relievers combined for 62⁄3 scoreless innings after right-hander Kenta Maeda surrendere­d six runs across 31⁄3 innings. Vest did his job in the toughest situations. And he showed the most emotion.

“I tried to not really come down from it,” Vest said. “I just tried to keep that aggression and take it out for the next inning. I used it and fed off it.”

 ?? JEFFREY BECKER/USA TODAY SPORTS ?? Tigers relief pitcher Will Vest put in a clutch performanc­e in the seventh and eighth innings of Saturday’s win against the White Sox in Chicago.
JEFFREY BECKER/USA TODAY SPORTS Tigers relief pitcher Will Vest put in a clutch performanc­e in the seventh and eighth innings of Saturday’s win against the White Sox in Chicago.

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