Dominance of Mariners rookie Bryce Miller upstages step forward for Tigers’ Alex Faedo

Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers manager AJ Hinch was asked before Saturday’s game what he thought about Mariners rookie right-hander Bryce Miller.

“Good fastball and he likes to use it,” he said. “If any one of us had that fastball, we’d like to use it, too. Good young arm and he’s pretty bold in how he pitches. He challenges a lot of guys.”

Throwing 70% fastballs in his first two starts, Miller allowed one run in 12 total innings with 15 strikeouts and one walk. Hitters in those two games were 1-for-30 against his fastball.

He must’ve been saving his secondary pitches for the Tigers.

“Yeah, his scouting report was pretty dominant fastball,” Spencer Torkelson said. “He kind of switched it up on us.”

Miller, mixing four pitches, threw seven scoreless innings and allowed three hits, and helped the Mariners win their second straight at Comerica Park, 5-0. It’s the third time this season the Tigers have been shut out.

BOX SCORE: Mariners 5, Tigers 0

“He kind of changed his attack plan a little bit,” Hinch said. “But everything across the board was in the strike zone. He was efficient and he was dominant. We hit a couple of balls hard but then you look up at the board in the sixth and seventh inning and we have three hits and zero runs.

“Anything we did to counter what he was doing, we fell short.”

The Tigers’ best chance to nick him came in the first inning. Riley Greene, who has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games, doubled into the right-center field gap. With two outs, Torkelson smoked a single to left.

The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 112.7 mph, the hardest ball he’s hit all year, and left fielder Bubba Trammell was playing shallow. The combination of those two facts forced third base coach Gary Jones to hold Greene at third.

“That might’ve been the hardest ball I hit in my career,” Torkelson said. “A little too hard, as it turned out. Greeney got a good jump at second but he had no choice but to hold up.”

The Tigers did not put another runner on base against Miller until Javier Báez led off the seventh with a single. He retired 16 straight.

All three hits were off Miller’s fastball. But the Tigers went 0-for-10 against his slider, curveball and changeup.

“We hit a lot of balls hard right at people, again,” catcher Eric Haase said.

The average exit velocity on 21 balls put in play against Miller was 92 mph. Six balls were hit at 100 mph or better including three straight in the seventh — only one resulted in a hit.

“He has a really good fastball and he was filling up the zone and getting ahead,” Torkelson said. “But I really don’t think the box score is going to show how good our at-bats were, for the most part. We hit a lot of balls hard right at guys.”

Miller’s performance overshadowed a quality start by Tigers right-hander Alex Faedo.

“Alex was really good,” Hinch said. “I thought it was a step up for him.”

Faedo allowed three runs in six innings and tied his career high with seven strikeouts. He smartly mixed his slider and changeup off a lively four-seam fastball that ranged in velocity from 91 to 95 mph and sat 93.

“It was my first time getting through five innings, first time getting through six,” Faedo said. “I thought I threw the ball pretty good. I threw a lot of strikes. Overall, it was a good game but not good enough to get the win. More often than not, though, I’ll take that game.”

Just like in his first start against the Cardinals in St. Louis, the earned runs came on two big swings. With two outs and a runner on in the third inning, Jarred Kelenic turned on a 1-2 fastball that was up and in and swatted it inside the right-field foul pole.

“That was a really good pitch,” Faedo said. “He’s a good hitter so I’m not surprised he hit it out. We had beaten him with some fastballs away, that’s why I wanted to go in there. He must’ve been cheating for it. But he put a good swing on it. I didn’t think it was going to go out, but he hit it to the right part of the park.”

In the fourth, Faedo dispatched the first two hitters. He had gotten four straight swinging strikes — two in a strikeout of Cal Raleigh and then two to get ahead of Teoscar Hernandez. But he hung the 0-2 slider and Hernandez crushed it 403 feet into the seats in left.

“That was just a really bad miss by me,” he said. “If you’re going to miss with an 0-2 pitch, miss in the dirt. It’s the same thing I did with (Paul) Goldschmidt last week (hung a two-strike slider). I have to get better 0-2. You try to make the perfect pitch when really all you’ve got to do is miss below the zone.”

The damage was minimal but, with the Tigers’ offense being dismantled, it was fatal.

The Mariners tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the ninth, aided by a couple of mental mistakes by the Tigers.

“I thought they were more physical mistakes than mental,” Hinch said.

Will Vest walked the first two batters in the inning. He had Julio Rodriguez picked off first base but he ran toward second base on the rundown. Once first baseman Torkelson ran Rodriguez toward second, there was nobody at first when he doubled back.

“We have to run at him harder (meaning Torkelson) and make him commit one way or the other,” Hinch said.

Later, Akil Baddoo put a runner in scoring position by throwing to the wrong base. With runners at first and second, Baddoo went back to the track to catch a fly ball hit by Raleigh. Rodriguez tagged and went to third. Baddoo had no play but he airmailed the cutoff man. That allowed Eugenio Suarez to advance.

Suarez would eventually score on a wild pitch.

“They’re mistakes and we’ve been better than that,” Hinch said. “It’s easy to nitpick right now when you lose 5-0. I know those guys know. They’ll review it again and they will make better decisions.”

Twitter: @cmccosky

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