Reese Olson’s debut went as well as you could hope on a warm night on the south side. He no hit the White Sox for five innings, racking up six strikeouts with only a walk allowed. Unfortunately the offense couldn’t get much going as the Tigers fell to the Sox 3-0 to open the weekend series.
In many ways it was a classic Olson outing, displaying the strength of his slider and especially his fearsome oneseam changeup, but also his inability to locate his fastball. The latter didn’t really cost him until the end, and for five innings Olson carved up the White Sox with some authority.
After the Tigers went 1-2-3 in the top of the first, the 23-year-old right-hander took the mound for his first major league start. He collected a Tim Anderson groundout to first, an Andrew Benintendi flyout to center, and then the one he’ll likely remember his whole life, a strikeout of Luis Robert swinging at a nasty slider that dove down and away.
The Tigers again went down in order against the twitchy one himself, Mike Clevinger. Olson walked Andrew Vaughn with two outs in the second, but got Yasmani Grandal to groundout to first to end the inning. In the third, Olson punched out Gavin Sheets and Tim Anderson whiffing on the changeup for another 1-2-3 inning.
Finally, in the top of the fourth, the Tigers generated a scoring opportunity when Javier Báez drilled a line drive up the right center field gap to the wall. Robert was really lackadaisical about getting it in, and Báez easily cruised to third with a triple. Torkelson walked and then stole second, but Nick Maton, again in the cleanup spot, struck out swinging to end the threat.
By this point, we’d heard from Olson’s parents and older brother, fans had gotten a good eyeful of his nasty secondary pitches, and he was cruising. He struck out Robert and Eloy Jimenez to close out the fourth inning.
In the fifth, Miguel Cabrera made a bid for a home run with a rocket that hit the base of the wall in straightaway center field on a line. It was possibly the longest single in major league history. Andy Ibáñez singled to left, and the Tigers were briefly in business. Jake Marisnick appeared to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, but A.J. Hinch challenged the call at first, and Marisnick was safe. Unfortunately, a deep drive up the left center field gap was run down at the warning track by Robert, and a good opportunity was squandered.
Olson was unphased, striking out Moncada to start the inning. Vaughn flew out, while Grandal slapped a hard grounder to first that Torkelson just whiffed on. Gavin Sheets ripped a drive to left but it went straight to McKinstry in right field. That made it five innings of no-hit ball with a walk and six strikeouts. Pretty impressive stuff.
There wasn’t any question that Olson had the stuff to handle major league hitters. The problem for him remains his fastball command. He appeared to get only a handful of strikes on, basically using it as a chase pitch before turning back to the slider and changeup in heavy doses. This is pretty standard for him, but the White Sox are not a patient enough team to take advantage. Still, a heck of a good start in the big leagues.
With Clevinger pulled in favor of reliever Kenyan Middleton, the Tigers got a two-out single from Torkelson in the top of the sixth, but Maton grounded out to end the inning.
(help us Colt Keith)
Also, if you missed the news earlier, Riley Greene’s initial diagnosis of a stress fracture in his tibia was altered after more imaging and second opinions. The Tigers press release today stated that the injury was now regarded as a stress reaction instead. That could mean that with a few weeks rest, Greene might be back in the lineup. Lord knows they need him.
Olson was over 80 pitches when Hinch sent him back out in the sixth. That might have been a bridge too far as Olson surrendered a leadoff single to Romy Gonzalez, and then another single to center field from Anderson. Hinch turned to Will Vest, who was unable to quell the rally, allowing two runs to cross on RBI singles from Benintendi and Jimenez, which were charged to Olson.
Still, 5.0 IP, 2 ER, 2 H, BB, 6 SO is a very fine debut, particularly as it came a bit earlier than expected for Olson. Excellent job by the youngster.
The Tigers finally looked to have something brewing in the top of the seventh against Reynaldo Lopez when Eric Haase led off with a double to left. Cabrera walked and Zack Short came in to run for him. Ibáñez grounded into a force of Short at second, moving Haase to third. Tyler Nevin pinch-hit for Marisnick but popped out, and McKinstry grounded out for another wasted opportunity.
Chasen Shreve took over in the bottom half, walking the leadoff hitter, Grandal. Jake Burger grounded into a force of Grandal at second, and Romy Gonzalez flew out. With the right-handed Tim Anderson coming up, Hinch went to Mason Englert, and that didn’t work out well at all as Anderson pulled a double down the left field line, scoring Burger all the way from first. 3-0 White Sox.
Joe Kelly entered in the top of the eighth to hold the lead. He immediately walked Akil Baddoo. Javy singled to right, moving Baddoo to second base, and brought Torkelson to the dish with no outs. Tork worked into a 3-2 count and guessed he was getting triple digit heat from Kelly. Instead he got the breaking ball right in the heart of the plate and was way early on it. Maton just got blown away with ease, and Haase grounded softly back to Kelly for the third out.
(unintelligible angry noises)
Englert walked Robert to open the bottom of the eighth before getting Jimenez and Moncada to fly out. Andrew Vaughn smoked a hot shot to third that Maton was able to knock down, holding him to a single instead of the double into the corner it looked like, and it was first and second, two outs for catcher Seby Zavala who flew out to end the inning.
Kendall Graveman had no trouble retiring the Tigers in order in the ninth to earn the save.
Michael Lorenzen will take on Dylan Cease at 2:10 p.m. ET on Saturday.