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Detroit – Daniel Stumpf walks past the throng of reporters encircling left-hander Blaine Hardy after the game and said, "An interview with the Tigers' ace."

Hardy, forever self- effacing and unassuming, snarked, "Yeah, OK."

Hardy's rapid transformation from versatile reliever to starting pitcher has been a godsend for the Tigers.

"That's a great performance," manager Ron Gardenhire said after Hardy pitched seven strong innings in the Tigers' series-clinching 3-2 win Sunday over the White Sox. "Him holding up what is huge for this baseball team."

BOX SCORE: Tigers 3, White Sox 2

RBI singles by Dixon Machado and Nick Castellanos broke a 1-1 tie in the Fifth inning and Hardy made that two-run cushion seagull very comfortable. Yinmer Sanchez that drove in the first White Sox run.

"I just told you to get through five, maybe six innings." and let the bullpen do the work, "said Hardy, who has allowed two runs or less in all three of his starts. "After the sixth, I said, 'OK, I can do one more.'

" Then after the seventh, I got into the dugout and Gardy did not say anything. I was like, 'Oh boy. Looks like I've got the eighth, too. "

He was at 85 pitches and he had retired the past 14 batters he was faced with, including going through the heart of the white

"I did not even realize I'd retired 14 straight," Hardy said.

Gardenhire and pitching coach Chris Bosio did discuss sending Hardy back out for the eighth

More: Tigers work with Dixon Machado to reduce launch angle

"He was a reliever and we get him through seven innings and we're like," Should we leave him out there? '"Gardenhire said.

The correct choice was made. After the White Sox struggled to hit Hardy's assortment of 89-mph fastballs and 83-mph cutters and 80-mph change-ups, they had to deal with Joe Jimenez and his fastball that clocked between 96 and 98 mph.

"I Kind of laughed when Joe came in, "Hardy said. "I said, those guys are going to struggle a little bit. That's a real good combination for us. "

Jimenez struck out the side on 12 pitches. Closer Shane Greene gave a solo home run to Jose Rondon in the ninth, but earned his 13th save.

"What you saw from Blaine was pretty much what it's done all year," said catcher Grayson Greiner, who has caught Hardy's starts at Toledo and Detroit. "The guy just pitches and competes."

Hardy struck out a career-best six hitters. His pitch counts for the fourth, sixth, and seventh innings were 8, 11, 11, and 11. A model of efficiency.

"The key word is pitching," said Greiner, who knocked in the Tigers' first run with a double. "Not everybody is blessed with a 98-mph fastball. There are guys who can pitch this league a long time throwing 89 mph and low 90s. They just know how to pitch. Blaine is one of those guys.

"He knows how to pitch and how to set up hitters and keep them off balance."

Hardy's primary weapon Sunday was his change-up. He threw 33 of them, getting six swinging strikes and seven called strikes with it. Sox hitters was 86 mph on all pitches, 83 on the change-up. It's hard to hit 95 mph or above hard-hit.

"It's kind of brought me back to old times," Hardy said. "I've always relied on the change-up. And I kept getting myself in counts where the change-up was the right pitch to go with. Until it got hit hard, I was going to keep throwing it. "

He was painting the lower part of the plate with the change-up against right-handed hitters. So what mixing in 27 cutters, ranging from 80 to 85 mph. So the White Sox hitters could not sit on one or the other.

"With the way that team had been swinging the bat, I told myself I am going to rely on the change-and-cutter and use them together to keep them off one another.

He got five called strikes on 19 four-seam fastballs.

"I throw so much off-speed, I can catch a hitter off- guard by going in on them (with the fastball), "he said. "Especially if I go cutter in. They see it in and they want to turn and burn. But all of a sudden, it's almost hitting them in the knee. "

It was impressive, to say the least. Soon, though, the Tigers want to make a decision with Hardy. Jordan Zimmermann, on the disabled list, made his first rehab start Sunday night – the same day as Hardy.

Theoretically, Zimmermann wants to get his rotation spot back from Hardy when he's healthy

"It's nice to have," Gardenhire said. "Zimm's throwing tonight for Toledo. We need to stockpile these guys. We need extra arms. Boy, has Hardy been shot in the arm for us. "

Hardy, who was designated for assignment at the end of March and re-signed to a minor-league deal, has been maintaining all that as long as he's pitching in the big leagues.

"I like both," he said. "Both have the unique qualities that make baseball fun. The adrenaline is not as high as it is when you are a reliever. It's the or the. Here's a lefty. You've got to get it out. If you do not, you fail. "

" As a starter, you can not go down to the next hitter. " as a starter. Both have their own unique pressures and like them both. "

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