DETROIT — The list of players from Curaçao making it to the major leagues is 16 players long, according to Baseball Reference. Only two, Andruw Jones and Andrelton Simmons, had racked up 1,000 hits in the major leagues — as of Monday.
Jonathan Schoop arrived at the club with his hat-trick in the Tigers’ 7-5 win over the Twins. But when he stepped on the plate in the eighth inning and needed a home run for the cycle, he admittedly had his thoughts about becoming a part of this exclusive club, too.
“Of course,” said Schoop. “I was trying. I was trying to get runs so we could get more runs, but I was aware of it. I was trying to try.”
Schoop struck, but given the way the game was shaping up, it was arguably fitting that the 30-year-old – who was known for homers for almost his entire 10-year major league career – balked at a homer. On a day when Twins rookie starter Beau Brieske missed three homers, the Tigers outplayed them in large part on the basepaths.
Detroit’s only home run on Monday came from an unexpected source. Derek Hill’s 355-foot drive over the left fence bounced off Kyle Garlick’s glove and into the bullpen for the club’s first hit from Twins starter Dylan Bundy with an out in the third inning.
The Tigers haven’t been the most efficient baserunners this season. That includes Schoop, who started not too short from second base after Javier Báez’s two-out pop-up on Saturday. On Monday they increased the pressure.
“You don’t have to be the fastest to be a good baserunner,” said manager AJ Hinch. “In fact, it’s probably even more important that average to below average guys are smart baserunners.”
After his third inning single got him to one, Schoop’s one-out double in the fifth inning on the left field line – his eighth double of the year – was his 1,000. Major League hit. It also put him in position to launch into flat left midfield with Jeimer Candelario’s two-off flare. Schoop was third when the ball hit the ground and scored an easy goal. It was one of five occasions on which the Tigers grabbed the extra base, whether first for third, second home or first home — as Candelario did with Spencer Torkelson’s double in the fourth inning.
Schoop is no stranger to doubles, having turned 30 last year. However, Monday’s seventh inning triple was only the seventh of his career. Admittedly, even in a 4-4 game at the time, he didn’t think about it. As the ball passed right fielder Trevor Larnach and rolled against the wall in right center, Schoop accelerated for second.
“I was thinking of two [bases], but when I saw the ball hit that wall over there, I said I was going,” Schoop said. “I’m trying to get to third base so they can drive me in.”
That didn’t happen; Sidearmer Joe Smith induced three consecutive groundballs, including a Candelario groundball for the second that caught Schoop lifting. But on the ensuing rundown, Schoop set up the go-ahead, pulling catcher Gary Sánchez who chased him over the third baseline while Candelario finished second.
“I really wanted to score,” Schoop said, “but when I knew I wasn’t going to make it, I had to try to get on the rundown and see if Candy could make it to second or third base.”
The difference was a runner in goal position for Torkelson, whose ground ball on the right sent first baseman Jose Miranda wide of the pocket as Torkelson sped down the line. Miranda attempted to throw across his body to Smith, who raced around the pocket, but his long throw allowed Candelario to round third and put Detroit ahead. Willi Castro’s subsequent single scored Torkelson from second place before Hill walked and scored an insurance run on a throwing error by Gio Urshela in eighth place.
It’s not the typical effect of Schoop, whose recovery from a slow start at the plate last year came mostly through strength and the Tigers raised with him. This led to Detroit signing him to a two-year contract extension late last season. But with Hinch emphasizing the value of balls in play and action on the bases, this is a post that makes a difference.
“We saw him get really super hot, and it’s generally about getting some good pitches to hit and getting some confidence,” Hinch said. “Usually when he gets one, he gets two. If he gets two, he gets three. He can get it rolling because he gains confidence from taking pitches he can’t handle. Very productive day.”