CLEVELAND — Rookie Riley Greene ignited the offense and right-hander Drew Hutchison answered a rough start with five innings, but the Detroit Tigers lost for the seventh time in the past eight games.
This time, one relief pitcher didn’t get the job done.
The Tigers lost to the Cleveland Guardians, 6-5, in the second of four games at Progressive Field heading into the All-Star break. Right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer gave up two runs on two hits and two walks (one intentional walk) in the seventh inning to flip a 5-4 lead into a 6-5 deficit.
“They did a better job of winning the at-bats,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “They came through with the big hit on a backup slider that didn’t get executed with two strikes. We’ll get back at it tomorrow, but it’s a tough loss.”
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Greene, in the 26th game of his MLB career, finished 2-for-5 with three RBIs and two extra-base hits. Harold Castro, starting at first base over rookie Spencer Torkelson, went 3-for-4 with one RBI.
“I’m always going to be in attack mode,” Greene said. “If he’s going to throw a first-pitch fastball, I’m going to swing at it. If I swing at it, and it’s a curveball in the dirt, I’m just sticking to my approach and sticking to my plan.”
Jonathan Schoop’s 0-for-4 night ended his hitting streak at 12 games.
The Tigers (37-54) were positioned for a victory, but only if Hinch’s most reliable bullpen arms navigated the final four innings. Left-hander Andrew Chafin took care of business in the sixth.
Ahead 5-4, there was no room for error.
But mistakes were made.
In the seventh, Fulmer got ahead 0-2 in the count against Myles Straw before spraying four consecutive pitches for a walk, and Steven Kwan followed with a double in a two-strike count.
The Guardians had two runners in scoring position with nobody out. Fulmer struck out Amed Rosario, then Hinch intentionally walked Jose Ramirez to load the bases. It was Hinch’s second intentional walk in as many games.
The next batter, Josh Naylor, hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game. Andres Gimenez followed up with a bloop single into left field — hit with a 66.7 mph exit velocity — to put the Guardians ahead 6-5.
“Those are tough when you get guys on base without having to put the ball in play,” Hinch said. “Anytime you get Straw on base in front of the top of the order, and then all of a sudden you got to navigate through the middle, sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don’t.”
Right-handed Alex Lange entered and needed one pitch, a sinker to Owen Miller, to complete the seventh inning. He returned for the eighth inning and retired three of four batters.
After losing the lead, the Tigers failed to get a runner on base in the eighth against right-handed reliever Eli Morgan. In the ninth, right-hander Trevor Stephan sent down three in a row.
Entering Friday, left-handed hitters had a .333 batting average against Stephan. He sent down three lefties to end the game, though: Robbie Grossman, pinch-hitter Akil Baddoo and Greene.
Life of Riley
The offense finally clicked in the fourth inning, courtesy of Greene. The 21-year-old bounced back from an 0-for-4, four-strikeout performance Thursday by blasting the Tigers onto the scoreboard.
Greene tagged a first-pitch fastball at the top of the strike zone from right-hander Zach Plesac for a 386-foot solo home run to right-center field, hit with a 106.9 mph exit velocity.
“See ball, hit ball there,” Greene said.
In his first at-bat, Greene connected with another first-pitch fastball, producing a 104.3 mph exit velocity, but flied out. In his second at-bat, more hard contact helped deliver the second homer of his MLB career.
“Getting to two strikes yesterday didn’t do us a lot of favors,” Hinch said. “I liked the approach if we take a good ‘A’ swing on the right pitch. … You’re not going to pick perfect pitches all the time, but if it’s a good pitch, we got to be ready to hit.”
The Tigers’ offense kept rolling in the fourth inning, as Javier Báez reached on a fielding error by Ramirez, the third baseman.
With one out, four straight batters reached safely: Harold Castro (RBI double), Willi Castro (RBI single), Schoop (fielder’s choice) and Grossman (single). The pair of RBI hits tied the game, 3-3. On Schoop’s fielder’s choice, Plesac fielding a comebacker and tried to start a double play, but Rosario — the shortstop — failed to cover second base.
After Grossman’s single, the Tigers had the bases loaded for their young star.
Greene delivered by ripping a two-run double into the right-field corner and putting the Tigers ahead 5-3. Plesac threw Greene back-to-back changeups in the same spot, and he didn’t miss the second off-speed offering. This time, it was a 108.4 mph exit velocity.
“He got a swing and miss on a changeup, and then he threw it again,” Greene said. “I stayed back just a little longer and hit it.”
The Tigers sent nine players to the plate in the fourth and chased Plesac. He allowed five runs (two earned runs) on six hits with three strikeouts, without issuing a walk.
To end the fourth, Victor Reyes popped out in foul territory to catcher Austin Hedges against right-handed reliever Enyel De Los Santos.
As Hedges caught the ball, his foot was on the top step of stairs into the Guardians’ dugout. A player cannot step into out-of-play territory to make a catch, which appeared to be what Hinch was arguing with the umpires between innings.
That type of play isn’t reviewable, however.
“In the spirit of trying to get it right, I don’t know why it’s not a reviewable play when we’re talking about ground rules,” Hinch said. “It would have been nice to get another swing at it. I don’t know what would’ve happened.”
Hutchison hit early
Hutchison — in his fifth start this season — struggled early against the contact-heavy Guardians but didn’t take long to find comfort. He provided the Tigers with five innings.
Three of the four runs off him came in a 31-pitch first inning.
The first three batters reached safely: Kwan (six-pitch walk), Rosario (single) and Ramirez (RBI single). Josh Naylor put the Guardians ahead 2-0 with an RBI groundout. Miller added another run, making it 3-0, with a two-out triple on Hutchison’s changeup.
“My command on everything was off in the first,” Hutchison said. “The slider definitely was falling behind hitters. I was able to get the strikeout with a couple good changeups, and then a threw a bad one that got hit. I was trying to get through that just giving up two, but I ended up giving up three.”
Moving forward, Hutchison was rock solid and backed his offense by keeping Cleveland’s offense to a minimum.
An RBI single from Hedges in the fourth inning, cutting the Guardians’ deficit to 5-4, was the final run off Hutchison. To start that frame, Gimenez singled and Miller drew a four-pitch walk.
“I thought I did a good job battling,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts, throwing 49 of 86 pitches for strikes. He threw 39 four-seam fastballs (45%), 24 sliders (28%), 15 changeups (17%) and eight two-seam fastballs (9%).
His changeup earned three of his five swings and misses.
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