Torkelson, Greene ignite offense, lead Tigers to second straight win in Houston

Detroit News

Houston – Spencer Torkelson hit a 99-mph fastball off right-hander Ryne Stanek 424 feet in the eighth inning of the Tigers’ 6-3 win over the Astros Tuesday night. The ball landed just below the train tracks that run from the left-field foul pole to center field.

He had just one question afterward.

“Was it farther than Greeney’s?” he said.

It was. It was, in fact, 10 feet farther than the opposite-field homer that Riley Greene hit on Monday night.

“Did his go on top of the train tracks,” Greene asked. “No? Well mine landed on top (of the signage). So it looks cooler.”

This was the vision. This is what it was supposed to look like. Torkelson and Greene, two highly-touted, first-round picks, hitting third and fourth in the batting order, driving balls, producing runs, leading the Tigers’ offense. For this one night, it was all there.

“We’ve said it over and over, we’re watching those two guys mature and they’re doing it together,” manager AJ Hinch said. “There’s a lot of growth left but those guys are learning they play here and they can do some damage. They’re building some confidence. It’s nice to see those guys take a step forward.”

The duo combined for six hits and four of the runs. Torkelson finished with an RBI double, a single and his first home run of the season, a two-run shot that left his bat with an exit velocity of 106 mph.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 6, Astros 3

“Tork rakes,” said Greene, who contributed three singles and scored twice. “I don’t care what anyone says. Tork rakes. I see him in the cage every single day. He’s working his butt off. When he’s hot, he’s hot. He’s one of the best hitters I know. Like I said, he rakes.”

Torkelson’s homer was off Stanek, but the other damage he and Greene inflicted came at the expense of Astros’ lefty ace Framber Valdez.

“We’ve shown a ton of confidence in Tork because he’s a good player,” Hinch said. “And he’s come in a really good place mechanically, he’s hunting good pitches and he’s not missing them. He’s taking whatever they give him. Some of them are singles, this was a homer to the pull side. He’s hit the ball as hard as any player on our team in the first five games.

“Mentally and physically, he’s developing nicely.”

Torkelson hit a bullet off the left-field wall in the first inning, scoring Javier Báez from first base. The ball left his bat at 102 mph and caromed some 100 feet back toward the infield.

With the game tied 2-2 in the sixth – the second run courtesy of an RBI single by Jake Rogers in the fifth – Greene and Torkelson both singled and advanced to second and third on a passed ball. Greene scored the go-ahead run on a ground out by Eric Haase.

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Greene, who hit a 414-foot, opposite-field home run here Monday night, is hitting .316 on the young season. Torkelson, who had a 50% hard-hit rate and a 90-mph average exit velocity coming into the game, is hitting .263.

“The biggest thing is getting away from being results-driven and just being absolutely process-driven,” Torkelson said. “If my process is good, then I am seeing the ball well and hitting the ball hard. If I’m doing that and it’s not falling, that’s just as good as a hit in my book. If you keep doing that over 600 at-bats, you can look back at the end of the year and I’m sure you’re going to be happy with what you see.”

The other part of the story was right-hander Matt Manning.

After making just 12 starts last season and being on a slow ramp up in spring training, nobody was quite sure what to expect from him in his first start of the 2023 season.

All things considered, he was pretty darn good.

Manning left the game with two outs in the sixth inning – the Tigers up 3-2 − limiting the Astros to a pair of runs on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts.

“I like that we got a win,” Manning said. “That’s the main thing. It was a good game all around. The defense was incredible and we hit the ball.”

He didn’t command the strike zone as well as he’d like, throwing just 10 first-pitch strikes to the 23 batters he faced. Of his 89 pitches, 55 were strikes. But he was still able to induce a lot of weak contact, even in hitter’s counts.

Still, the spotty command that led to both runs and ended his night one out short of quality start.

He walked Alex Bregman, who eventually scored on a two-out, opposite-field single by Kyle Tucker in the first inning. Then leading off the fourth inning, Manning fell behind Tucker 3-0 and fed him a juicy, center-cut, 91-mph fastball. Tucker sent it into the seats in right field.

“Leadoff walks usually lead to big innings,” Manning said. “I didn’t want to walk him. I just challenged him and he beat me, but it was just a solo homer.”

In the sixth, after Greene made a superman-style diving catch in center field to rob Yordan Alvarez of a leadoff hit, Manning struck out Jose Abreu and got ahead of Tucker 0-2 before walking him.

Manning pitched effectively off his fastball. He threw 47 of them ranging in velocity from 91 mph to 96 mph. The last two fastballs he threw were his firmest. But even his 93 mph fastballs, which is where he sat most of the night, seemed to be playing up to the Astros’ hitters.

The spin rate on it was up 131 rpms above his norm.

He was also throwing a slower slider (80 mph, down 3 mph off his norm) and landing his curveball.

The Tigers, for the second straight night, played crisp defense. Báez made a couple of deft plays at shortstop, as did second baseman Ryan Kreidler. Kreidler also had a pair of hits and scored a run.

Haase, making his first start in left field, threw out Bregman at second base for the final out of the fifth.

Bregman hit the ball off the top of the wall in left center. Haase played the carom perfectly and threw out Bregman by several feet. The umpires reviewed the play but the ball clearly hit below the yellow line and was in play.

“We’ve got to play clean baseball,” Hinch said. “We’re not perfect. We’re going to make some mistakes. But especially against good teams, you have to play cleaner, you have to outplay them the best you can if you want an opportunity to beat them.”

The Tigers had lost seven straight games to the Astros before taking the first two in this series.

“We lost the first series (to Tampa Bay) but we didn’t panic,” Greene said. “We just turned the page and came here with a lot of energy. We need to keep it rolling.”

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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