Eduardo Rodriguez’s scoreless streak ends in Detroit Tigers’ 7-4 win over Orioles

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez couldn’t keep his scoreless streak intact forever.

It lasted 18 innings.

“Feels good to put zeros on the board,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t really look at how many scoreless innings. I just go out there and put the most zeros I can put on the board to help the team win the game.”

Rodriguez gave up a solo home run to Baltimore Orioles catcher James McCann, an ex-Tiger, in the second inning in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader. He was sharp the rest of the way, though, as the Tigers took down the Orioles, 7-4, and snapped a two-game skid.

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The Tigers (10-15) beat the Orioles for the first time in five games this season. The offense collected 16 hits (plus three walks) and went 4-for-17 with runners in scoring position. In Thursday’s 7-4 loss, the Tigers went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

“It’s a conversation all the time,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “You want to get a good pitch to hit, but you want to see results. These guys are battling, and we’ve left so many guys on base. After a win, I don’t get asked about the 10 guys left on base because that means we did something with the other opportunities. That’s probably just as important in the big scheme of things.”

In his 18-inning scoreless stretch, Rodriguez racked up 19 strikeouts without issuing a walk. On Saturday, he allowed one run on four hits with two walks and five strikeouts across 5⅔ innings, throwing 62 of 98 pitches for strikes.

McCann hit Rodriguez’s fifth-pitch fastball, in a 3-1 count, for a 419-foot home run to left-center with one out in the second. McCann, a 10-year MLB veteran, has two homers this season — both against the Tigers.

“I’m never thinking about how many runs we score,” Rodriguez said of the Tigers scoring five runs in the first three innings. “I’m thinking about going out there and putting up zeros. If the game is 0-0 or 10-0, I want to go out there and get three outs. That’s it. That’s the way I think every time I’m on the mound.”

Right-handed reliever Mason Englert took over with runners on first and second in the sixth inning, with the Tigers ahead by four runs. He walked a batter to load the bases but escaped the jam.

Rodriguez, who signed a five-year, $77 million contract in November 2021, has a 0.68 ERA with three walks and 24 strikeouts in 26⅔ innings over his past four starts. The 30-year-old can opt out of his contract at the end of the season.

“I actually thought he was battling himself the whole game,” Hinch said of Rodriguez’s latest start. “He felt fine, but he was a little sluggish early. He just couldn’t get his body moving quite well, but I look up, and it’s two hits and one run, so it wasn’t as if he was scuffling at all.”

Englert carried the Tigers through the eighth inning but surrendered three runs in his final inning. Jorge Mateo blasted a three-run home run off his first-pitch changeup to trim the Tigers’ lead to 6-4, following singles from Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santander.

Zack Short, the Tigers’ 27th player for the doubleheader, blasted a solo home run on a first-pitch fastball in the eighth inning.

“It’s not like you’re trying to hit four homers in a game,” Short said, “but I just took what was given to me.”

The Tigers took a 7-4 lead, and right-handed reliever Alex Lange slammed the door on the Orioles in the ninth inning for his third save in his fourth opportunity. Lange stranded runners on the corners with a strikeout of Mountcastle.

Scoring early and often

The Tigers entered Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader with three first-inning runs in the previous 24 games. Facing Orioles right-hander Dean Kremer, the Tigers matched that in one game.

Eight batters stepped to the plate, and the Tigers took a 3-0 lead in the first inning on hits from Javier Báez and Matt Vierling. Báez drove in one run with a single, while Vierling drove in two runs with a single.

The inning started with a leadoff single from Zach McKinstry on his 28th birthday.

“We had a couple early two-out hits that we have been missing for a while,” Hinch said. “When we talk about clean baseball, coming through at the right time, having a good at-bat at the right time, the defensive plays, it’s important, especially when you got your big boy on the mound.”

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The Tigers kept the pressure on Kremer in the second inning, as McKinstry doubled to right field with one out. Riley Greene hit a line-drive single to center field and increased the advantage to 4-1.

In the third inning, Matt Vierling ripped a two-strike, two-out double to center field and drove in Nick Maton for a 5-1 lead.

Kremer allowed five runs on 11 hits and two walks with six strikeouts over five innings. The Tigers put eight balls in play with at least a 100 mph exit velocity, and six of those resulted in hits.

Scoring later on

The Tigers added another run in the seventh inning.

Another two-strike, two-out double from Vierling — this time facing left-hander DL Hall — put the Tigers ahead, 6-1, in the seventh. Vierling finished 3-for-4 with four RBIs, while Greene went 2-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout.

“His quality of at-bats have been pretty good,” Hinch said of Vierling, hitting .284 in 22 games. “He hasn’t gotten a ton to show for it. Against right-handed pitching, especially, he’s trying to control the strike zone, but he’s also trying to get the ball in the air and trying not to hit it so deep (in the strike zone). When you throw three or four things at him, I think it can weigh on him a little bit.”

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The Tigers received multi-hit performances from McKinstry, Greene, Maton, Vierling, Short and Akil Baddoo. The offense produced 16 hits and three walks with 13 strikeouts against two pitchers.

Short delivered the final blow, and countered the Orioles’ three-run inning, with a solo homer off Hall to begin the bottom of the eighth. It was his first homer in the big leagues since the 2021 season.

He finished 3-for-4 with one strikeout at the plate and completed two spectacular plays at shortstop.

“That one felt good,” Short said. “I can’t say I saw all that happening today, but that’s why you play. You never know what can happen. Anytime you have that jersey on, you never know what can happen.”

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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