Detroit Tigers’ Riley Greene takes Shohei Ohtani deep in 4-0 win over Angels

Detroit Free Press

On Sunday’s first pitch from Shohei Ohtani, Detroit Tigers rookie Riley Greene smoked a fastball well over the wall in right-center field for a solo home run. The ball traveled 448 feet, marking the longest home run Ohtani has allowed in the big leagues.

Just like that, the Tigers controlled an early lead.

“It’s just another home run,” Greene said. “He’s one of the best to do it. He can pitch and he can swing it. It’s very, very impressive what he can do. All the respect to that guy because it’s a hard thing to do.”

Ohtani, arguably the best player in baseball because of his two-way abilities, wasn’t at his best on the mound in Sunday’s series finale. The Tigers scored three runs across four innings off the 2021 American League MVP on the way to a sound 4-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels at Comerica Park.

“It’s nice to get in early and get the lead, especially against a really good pitcher,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “I thought our at-bats today were arguably as good as they’ve been in a lot of series. It was nice to see us not chase, and mix in a couple walks.”

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The Tigers (47-76) won two of three games in the series — their first series victory since taking two of three from the San Diego Padres on July 25-27 — and their 11th victory since July 9. Greene finished 2-for-2 with two walks, one home run (the fourth of his career) and one ground-rule double.

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, in his return from the restricted list for his first MLB start since May 18, out-dueled Ohtani. He pitched five scoreless innings on 78 pitches (45 strikes), giving up four hits and three walks with five strikeouts.

“The result that I got was the best I felt I could get,” Rodriguez said. “I went out there for five innings and helped the team win the game. That’s the best part, and that’s what I was trying to do. It felt fine because I’ve already thrown in the minor leagues. It didn’t feel like a really big deal. I just pitched like a normal game.”

Rodriguez faced Ohtani and Mike Trout as part of his 19-pitch first inning. Trout grounded into a force out and Ohtani walked on six pitches. The Angels had two runners on with one out, but Rodriguez retired the next two batters.

Two innings later, Rodriguez found himself in the same situation.

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Singles from Andrew Velazquez and Trout created an opportunity for Los Angeles with one out in the third inning. Rodriguez struck out Ohtani on a full-count sinker, then Greene — the center fielder — made an inning-ending diving catch to take a single away from Luis Rengifo.

“He saved me two runs right there,” Rodriguez said. “As soon as he hit the ball, I knew it was going to be a blooper. I saw him coming in, and he caught the ball. Trout was on third base already when caught the ball, so that means it’s going to be two runs in. I’m really glad he caught it.”

“Two on, one out” became the Angels’ theme by the fifth inning. Velazquez doubled and Trout walked on five pitches. Instead of Ohtani, though, pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki came to the plate behind Trout. He flied out to center field.

Finally, Rengifo flied out to left to conclude Rodriguez’s outing.

His 78-pitch arsenal featured 26 four-seam fastballs (33%), 25 cutters (32%), 11 sinkers (14%), 10 changeups (13%) and six sliders (8%). He earned four swings and misses — one four-seamer, sinker, changeup and slider — and 16 called strikes.

Rodriguez’s fastball averaged 91 mph.

“I expected him to be good,” Hinch said. “We rehabbed him. He had told us what he had done. He was very good early. I think the first inning was key to get out of that after having a little bit of pressure. … Just a really good first start back after being gone.”

On par with Ohtani

Sunday was just the second time in his past 12 starts, dating to June 9, that Ohtani has allowed at least three runs. (The other: July 22 in Atlanta, when the Braves scored six runs in 6 ⅓ innings.)

On Sunday, Ohtani hit the three-run mark in just four innings, allowing five hits and four walks with two strikeouts. He threw 47 of 85 pitches for strikes, recorded 10 swings and misses and logged 11 called strikes.

He left the game after the fourth inning because of a stomach virus.

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“He’s really good,” Hinch said. “He can do a lot of different things with the ball, which is what his unique traits are. I think he wasn’t feeling well. You could see, whether it was heat or whatever was going on with him, he was taking a long time in between pitches.”

For an example of Ohtani’s inconsistencies, look no further than his walk to Javier Báez — who entered Sunday with just 19 walks in 439 plate appearances in 2022. Báez reached on four pitches after Greene’s first-inning solo home run, though he was stranded by fly outs by Harold Castro and Kerry Carpenter.

The Tigers let Ohtani off the hook in the second inning, too, as Willi Castro (double), Akil Baddoo (single) and Greene (walk) loaded the bases with two outs. Victor Reyes grounded out to conclude an eight-pitch battle and the inning.

“We made him work,” Hinch said. “He wasn’t as effective as he could have been because we didn’t chase. Credit to our hitters.”

Reyes made up for it in other ways. During one of two brief periods of heavy rainfall, Reyes stretched his glove above the fence in right and robbed a home run from Taylor Ward in the fourth inning.

In the bottom half of the inning, Reyes clubbing a two-run triple — aided by a wipeout by Ward on the slippery right-field grass — for a 3-0 lead. Before Reyes’ triple, Baddoo and Greene both walked on six pitches. They fell behind 0-2 in the counts, then each received four straight balls from Ohtani.

“I always feel like good things are going to happen with him,” Hinch said of Reyes. “He can move the ball forward. He puts the ball in play hard and is not always trying to lift the ball. That’s been something in the past that has been a knock on him. But he knows how he is and generally stays around the strike zone.”

The Angels replaced Ohtani on the mound with right-handed reliever Jimmy Herget for the fifth. Herget plunked Willi Castro with two outs, than gave up an RBI double on a two-strike curve to Kody Clemens to make it 4-0.

Ohtani’s four-seam fastball averaged 95.8 mph, down from his 97.3 mph average. The velocity on all his pitches were noticeably down from season averages. He got four swings and misses with his slider and four-seamer.

Oh, that bullpen!

After Rodriguez’s five innings, the Tigers’ bullpen had a four-run margin to protect.

Four relievers got the job done: right-hander Will Vest in the sixth, righty Jason Foley in the seventh, lefty Andrew Chafin in the eighth and lefty closer Gregory Soto in the ninth. The Angels came closest to scoring in the eighth, when Jo Adell ripped a two-out triple, but Chafin struck out Walsh to strand the runner.

Foley and Chafin each allowed one hit.

Max Stassi singled to open the ninth inning, but Soto struck out Velazquez and got David Fletcher to ground into a double play for his 24th save of the season.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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