Reese Olson sharp, Alex Lange slams door in Detroit Tigers’ 3-2 win over Minnesota Twins

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers right-hander Reese Olson handed the baseball to manager A.J. Hinch in the top of the sixth inning and received a standing ovation from a majority of the 24,203 fans as he walked back to the dugout.

The 23-year-old rookie was brilliant.

“I definitely heard it,” Olson said, after earning the first win of his MLB career. “I was thinking about the pitch to (Carlos) Correa, but I heard the crowd, and it was awesome. I appreciate that.”

The combination of his fastball-slider heavy pitch mix and superb command of those pitches baffled the Minnesota Twins. He generated swinging strikes, painted the corners for called strikes and set a new career high with nine strikeouts.

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After Olson’s dominance, the Tigers fended off a comeback attempt from the Twins to complete Saturday’s 3-2 win at Comerica Park. Right-handed relievers Jason Foley and Alex Lange protected a one-run lead in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

With the win, the Tigers (33-42) improved to 4½ games behind the Twins for first place in the American League Central.

“I have all the confidence in the world in our bullpen,” Olson said.

Leading 3-2, the Tigers called Lange out of the bullpen to replace Foley with two outs in the eighth inning. A fielding error by third baseman Nick Maton allowed the Twins to load the bases.

But Lange struck out Royce Lewis with a curveball inside the strike zone to strand the bases loaded.

“Weak contact,” Lange said of his approach. “Get him out quick. He’s a good hitter.”

Lange returned for the ninth inning and walked Ryan Jeffers on four pitches with one out. He struck out the next two batters, including pinch-hitter Kyle Farmer, for his 12th save of the season.

“No one feels sorry for you, so go out and do your job,” Lange said of his up-and-down performance in June. “You can sit there and sulk about it. You can sit there and whine about it. It’s not going to change that hitters are going to get in the box and try to take your money, so go out there, fill up the zone and have fun.”

In the seventh inning, Joey Gallo launched a solo home run off left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve for the Twins’ second run. After that, Foley took over and got the third out of the inning.

Right-handed reliever José Cisnero finished the sixth inning for Olson by inducing an inning-ending double play on his second pitch to Byron Buxton.

“The bullet double play was right up my sleeve, and I played that card,” Hinch said, laughing. “You know, Reese had done so well up to that point. With Buxton, he can hit the breaking ball. Giving him a different look, and certainly Cisnero can throw the sinker or change, and he’s been pitching great.”

Olson, who started 10 games for Triple-A Toledo before his promotion to the Tigers, has recorded 28 strikeouts (with six walks) in the first 24⅔ innings of his MLB career. He owns a 4.74 ERA.

Reese’s peace

Making his fourth start in his fifth appearance, Olson allowed one run on four hits and one walk across 5⅓ innings. That run wasn’t scored until the sixth inning, when Correa hit a middle-up fastball for a 425-foot solo home run to left-center field.

The Twins ended up chasing Olson later in the sixth.

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The first five innings, however, were controlled by Olson. He struck out two batters in the second inning, three batters in the third, three batters in the fifth and one batter in the sixth.

“We played (the Twins) last week, as well,” Olson said, “so you feel like you have a pretty good idea. … I don’t know if that was the plan going in, but they were hacking early, and I made some good pitches.”

In the third inning, Jeffers hit a two-strike fastball for a single. Olson responded by striking out Michael A. Taylor (swinging, 85.1 mph slider), Edouard Julien (swinging, 85.2 mph slider) and Correa (called strike, 96 mph fastball).

Taylor struck out on three straight sliders, while Julien lost an eight-pitch battle.

In the fifth inning, Lewis hit a first-pitch sinker for a single. Once again, Olson responded with three consecutive strikeouts, sending down Gallo (swinging, 85.7 mph slider), Jeffers (called strike, 95.5 mph fastball) and Taylor (swinging, 95.5 mph fastball).

Olson notched his career-high ninth strikeout against Julien to start the sixth inning.

The next batter, Correa, cut the Tigers’ lead to 3-1 with a solo home run.

For his 88 pitches, Olson threw 34 four-seam fastballs (39%), 33 sliders (38%), 10 sinkers (11%), seven changeups (8%) and four curveballs (5%). His slider produced 11 whiffs on 15 swings for a 73% swing-and-miss rate.

He generated 13 whiffs total, plus 19 called strikes.

“That’s been his best pitch,” Hinch said of Olson’s slider. “It all depends on lineup construction. He was able to throw it to lefties tonight, which was really good, and change the shape with more a curveball to get a little creative. He demonstrates so much poise and calmness and ability to get back into counts.”

Pounding Pablo

The Tigers scored three runs off right-hander Pablo López in the second inning.

The inning started with Maton’s single on a fifth-pitch changeup with two strikes, marking his first hit against an offspeed pitch in June. With one out, Miguel Cabrera worked a seven-pitch walk to put runners on first and second base.

Eric Haase put the Tigers ahead, 1-0, with an RBI single to center field.

“We didn’t hit the ball hard, but we hit the ball in the right spots,” Hinch said. “Putting the ball in play matters.”

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A single from Jake Marisnick loaded the bases for Zach McKinstry, and McKinstry delivered with a bloop single to center field. The blooper drove in two runners and extended the Tigers’ lead to 3-0.

Haase finished 2-for-3 with one strikeout.

Maton went 2-for-4 with one strikeout for his first two-hit game since May 21.

López allowed three runs on seven hits and one walk with 10 strikeouts across six innings, throwing 73 of 100 pitches for strikes. He got 18 whiffs with 11 fastballs, three changeups and four curveballs.

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

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