Detroit Tigers manager AJ Hinch waved to the crowd. He tipped his baseball cap, flashing the Old English D emblem, to a standing ovation from the fans. It was his first time back at Minute Maid Park since getting fired in January 2020.
After the emotions, the Tigers (4-6) buried the Houston Astros — the team Hinch managed from 2015-19 — with a barrage of early home runs against starter Zack Greinke en route to a 6-2 victory. Detroit snapped a four-game losing skid.
The Tigers hit back-to-back home runs in the third inning, courtesy of first baseman Renato Nunez, recently added to the 40-man roster because of Miguel Cabrera’s injury, and center fielder Akil Baddoo, a Rule 5 draft pick who continues to shine.
Right-hander Casey Mize picked up the first MLB win of his career in his ninth start (second this season). He pitched seven scoreless innings, doing so efficiently with 89 pitches. He is the first Tigers rookie to throw seven or more shutout innings since Michael Fulmer’s complete game shutout in August 2016 against the Texas Rangers.
The Tigers take on Houston at 8:10 p.m. Tuesday in the second of three games. Left-hander Matthew Boyd is starting, opposed by righty Jake Odorizzi.
Bottom of the order
Before Nunez and Baddoo went back-to-back, backup catcher Grayson Greiner set the tone in the top of the second inning with an opposite field two-run homer beyond the right-center wall. It was the first homer of Greiner’s season and the ninth in his career.
Then, Nunez and Baddoo did their damage.
Nunez launched his first home run this season. The ball traveled 349 feet and clanking off the left-field foul pole, in the third inning. Up next, Baddoo tagged a first-pitch 87.8 mph fastball from Greinke. He demolished it 450 feet to center field, giving the Tigers a 4-0 lead.
It was the first time the Tigers picked up homers from the seventh, eighth and ninth hitters in the order since June 6, 2006, against the Chicago White Sox. In that game, Marcus Thames, Chris Shelton and Brandon Inge went deep.
Baddoo’s home run — traveling 109.3 mph off the bat — was the seventh longest homer by a rookie since the start of the 2020 season, and it’s the longest homer by a Tigers rookie in the Statcast era, which dates to 2015. (He added a 403-foot double in the seventh inning.)
In the fifth inning, Baddoo hit a sacrifice fly. Greiner followed by driving an RBI single to deliver the Tigers a 6-0 lead and chase Greinke from the game. He departed with two outs and 90 pitches, getting 56 strikes. Righty Luis Garcia got the third out with four pitches.
Greinke allowed six runs on 10 hits and three walks in 4⅔ innings. He registered two strikeouts.
Mize deals for first win
While the Tigers were pouring on runs, Mize pitched his way through the Astros with authority. He missed his spots in the first inning, issuing walks to Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman. He got a mound visit from Greiner before getting Yordan Alvarez into a two-pitch line out and striking out Carlos Correa with an elevated 96.6 mph fastball in a 1-2 count.
By the third inning, Mize was completely locked in.
The 23-year-old pitched seven scoreless innings, giving up just four hits and two walks. He struck out five batters. He used 28 four-seam fastballs, 26 splitters, 21 sliders, eight curveballs and six sinkers.
Mize got six swings-and-misses (three splitters, two sliders, one fastball) and 19 called strikes. Although he didn’t get a ton of whiffs, he induced ground balls and weak contact to dispose of an All-Star-heavy Astros lineup.
In the fifth inning, Nunez made a strong defensive play at first base. He ranged to his right, fielded the ball in the hole and made a throw on the run to Mize at first base, beating a sprinting Altuve. Also, Mize made four flawless defensive plays.
The up-and-comer capped off his best MLB performance with a strikeout of Martin Maldonado to end the seventh inning. He got two strikeouts each against Maldonado and Correa. Mize’s ERA went from 2.25 to 0.82.
In his first start this year, the former No. 1 overall pick gave up one run on five hits and two walks against the Minnesota Twins.
Life after Mize
Needing six outs, Hinch turned to right-hander Buck Farmer. He struck out Altuve swinging but squandered the shutout in a nine-pitch battle with Michael Brantley, who finished his at-bat with a home run to right field.
After the home run, Farmer completed the inning with ease.
Righty Jose Cisnero entered for the bottom of the ninth, facing Correa, Yuli Gurriel and Kyle Tucker. Before the Tigers’ defense took the field, utility player Harold Castro replaced Nunez as the team’s first baseman.
Correa homered on the third pitch he saw from Cisnero — a 90.2 mph slider — and Gurriel chipped in a double on his first-pitch fastball offering. Although Cisnero responded by retiring Tucker, Hinch went to lefty Gregory Soto for the final two outs.
Soto completed Mize’s masterpiece in eight pitches.