The Detroit Tigers were mesmerized by Joe Ryan’s elite fastball.
For the third time this season, Ryan carved up the Tigers with a blend of fastballs, sliders, changeups and curveballs. His confidence in his fastball- and slider-heavy mix was on full display Friday night, as the 26-year-old rookie right-hander snapped the Tigers’ six-game winning streak.
Ryan finished his season with a 3.55 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 147 innings. Of those, 23⅔ came against the Tigers; he allowed two runs and struck out 33.
“I’ve had enough of Joe Ryan,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
The Tigers lost, 7-0, in the first of three games against the Minnesota Twins at Comerica Park. Twins shortstop Carlos Correa delivered the big blow in the seventh inning with a two-run home run off reliever Will Vest for a five-run advantage. Position player Kody Clemens pitched the ninth inning, his seventh pitching appearance of the year.
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In the sixth inning, the Tigers (63-93) generated momentum, thanks to a leadoff seven-pitch walk from Riley Greene, and forced Ryan to throw 27 pitches, but they would up with nothing to show for their efforts. Spencer Torkelson stranded runners on the corners when he struck out looking on a down-and-away fastball in a full count.
Ryan fired six scoreless innings on five hits and one walk with eight strikeouts, throwing 65 of 91 pitches for strikes. He threw 55 fastballs, or 60% of his pitches, and collected 10 of his 16 swings and misses (and 10 of his 13 called strikes) with his heater.
His fastball averaged about 92 mph.
“He beat us with fastballs, and obviously the chase slider when we had to anticipate,” Hinch said. “If you don’t beat him to the spot with the fastball, it’s tough. He’s really good with (vertical break). He changes his pace. … And he throws enough strikes to get you to the defensive. We’ve seen that a lot this year.”
Facing Ryan, the Tigers only hit one ball — Harold Castro’s fourth-inning single — with an exit velocity of 100 mph or greater and averaged an 83 mph exit velocity on 15 balls in play. The Tigers’ six hits off him were all singles.
Torkelson finished 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and is batting .205 with one home run, seven walks and 18 strikeouts in 22 games since returning from Triple-A Toledo. He’s hitless in five straight games.
“He’s a really good pitcher,” Torkelson said of Ryan. “He has a good fastball that’s tough to see. He threw well today. We had a good plan, but we just didn’t execute. We didn’t come through good when we needed to.”
Video killed the Tigers starter
The Tigers fell behind in the third inning.
Mark Contreras, the nine-hole hitter, doubled to center field on left-hander Tyler Alexander’s first-pitch sinker for a 1-0 lead, which occurred immediately after Jermaine Palacios singled to left field with two strikes.
“I thought I had really good stuff but poor command, at times, though,” Alexander said. “It was weird. I would lose it one batter here, and then I’d lock it back in. It was strange. But really good stuff.”
A leadoff walk from Gio Urshela sparked a two-run fourth inning.
Two batters later, Ryan Jeffers tripled on a ground ball to left field. The ball rolled into foul territory, skipped off the side wall and came to rest on the warning track in left field. Initially, the umpires determined the play was a result of fan interference. Twins manager Rocco Baldelli challenged, and the call on the field was overturned, allowing Urshela to score for a 2-0 lead as Jeffers received a triple instead of a double. With two outs, Jake Cave chipped in an RBI single.
“As the play went on, we were hoping that (the fans) grabbed it,” Hinch said. “We couldn’t really tell. Until I saw the video, I didn’t see there were two chances to get it. My only question is can you interfere without touching it? You can shield Akil from seeing the ball without (touching) it. The point of replay is to get it right. I think they got it right. It didn’t seem like the fans touched it.”
Alexander escaped his start without further damage and completed five innings, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks with six strikeouts. Before Friday, he hadn’t walked more than three batters in an outing in his 93-game career.
“Mechanically, I felt fine,” Alexander said. “It might have been something I didn’t feel, or maybe I just lost it.”
For Alexander’s 90 pitches (57 strikes), he used 24 four-seam fastballs (27%), 22 changeups (24%), 20 cutters (22%), 19 sinkers (21%) and five sliders (6%). He got 14 swings and misses: two four-seamers, five changeups, two cutters, three sinkers and two sliders.
Diaz debuts with Tigers
After Alexander’s departure, right-handed reliever Miguel Diaz took over for his first MLB appearance since the 2021 season, when he was a member of the San Diego Padres. He delivered a scoreless sixth inning — earning a swinging strikeout with his changeup — and returned for the seventh.
Contreras drew a walk, stole second base and advanced to third on a wild pitch. The stolen base and wild pitch occurred with Jose Miranda batting; he then grounded out sharply to third base, keeping the run from scoring.
Then, Vest entered for a matchup with Correa.
Correa launched a first-pitch 95 mph fastball over the left-field wall (and the Tigers’ bullpen) for a 390-foot two-run home run. He put the Twins ahead, 5-0, and Vest continued to crumble, allowing two singles and an RBI double throughout the remainder of the inning.
“He’s been trying to leave (the ballpark) the last week or so, watching the video,” Hinch said of Correa. “He’s been emptying his tank on most of his swings. … He certainly reacted right to the pitch. He beat us to the spot, and it was a big blow because we were trying to keep the game close there.”
The Twins increased their lead to 7-0 against left-hander Andrew Chafin in the eighth inning.