Detroit Tigers’ bats slump in Seattle finale, losing 2-0 to Mariners

Detroit Free Press

SEATTLE — There were runners on base in six of the nine innings.

But the Detroit Tigers couldn’t cash in.

After winning the first two games, the Tigers were taken down, 2-0, by the Seattle Mariners in Sunday’s series finale at T-Mobile Park. The pitching staff, including right-hander Reese Olson, kept a comeback within reach until the final out.

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The Tigers (41-51) put runners on base in each of the first five innings, beginning with Riley Greene’s one-out single in the first inning. Spencer Torkelson struck out looking for the second out, then Greene was thrown out advancing to second base on a sweeper in the dirt by Mariners right-hander Bryce Miller.

Stranding runners was the theme of Sunday’s finale.

“We didn’t get to Miller,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I said before the game that we needed to get to him because their best guys (out of the bullpen) were fresh. In a low-scoring game, you need as many opportunities as you can get. We won the series, which is the silver lining, but missed opportunity today.”

The Tigers failed to drive in Kerry Carpenter (leadoff single) in the second inning, Zach McKinstry (two-out double) in the third, Torkelson (leadoff single) and Matt Vierling (one-out walk) in the fourth and Jake Rogers (leadoff single) in the fifth.

Miller tossed five scoreless innings, allowing five hits, with one walk and three strikeouts. His replacement, right-handed reliever Matt Brash, retired three batters in a row with strikeouts of Torkelson and Carpenter in the sixth inning.

Right-handed relievers Justin Topa and Andrés Muñoz retired six straight batters in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively.

“He was mixing his pitches, at least against us,” Hinch said. “I know he’s been primarily fastball to a couple other teams. He doesn’t concede anything. He throws a lot of strikes and will be in attack mode from what it looks like in the two games I’ve seen him.”

In the ninth inning, right-hander Paul Sewald struck out Torkelson, who went 1-for-4 with three strikeouts, to win an eight-pitch battle. Carpenter delivered his second hit of the game — a bloop single that dropped on on the left-field line — but Vierling (strikeout) and Javier Báez (strikeout) failed to move him up on the bases.

Báez, hitting .220 in 88 games, finished 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.

With the loss, the Tigers dropped to six games behind the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central.

Reese’s piece

Olson looked sharp in the ninth appearance of his big-league career, allowing two runs on six hits with five strikeouts in 5⅓ innings. The 23-year-old struck out Teoscar Hernández, a right-handed hitter, on a down-and-away slider for the first out in the sixth inning before giving way to left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve.

Olson threw 54 of 75 pitches for strikes and didn’t concede a walk.

“I felt fresh going out there,” Olson said. “It didn’t feel any different going out there for the sixth. I felt strong and felt good.”

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The Mariners, though, applied pressure from the beginning of the game with back-to-back hits from J.P. Crawford (double) and Julio Rodríguez (infield single). A second-pitch sinker from Olson induced a double play against Hernández.

Olson nearly escaped the jam, but Jarred Kelenic smacked a first-pitch slider for a double to score Crawford from third. The extra-base hit put the Mariners ahead, 1-0, in the first inning.

“They came out very, very aggressive, swinging first pitch in virtually every at-bat,” Hinch said. “They ambushed him in the first inning and got a couple of hits. … It looked like he made some adjustments and started mixing his pitches a little bit better.”

“In the first inning, they came out aggressive,” Olson said. “I wasn’t expecting Kelenic to hit that first-pitch slider. I was trying to backdoor it, and it wasn’t a terrible pitch, but he made a good swing.”

The Mariners didn’t score again until Cal Raleigh’s solo home run with two outs in the fourth inning, making it 2-0. He worked the count to 3-1, then hammered Olson’s four-seam fastball for a 432-foot homer to right-center.

“I’m not going to walk a guy,” Olson said.

“We need to throw strikes there,” Hinch said. “When the result is bad, it’s easy to go back and say, ‘Hey, could he have done something different?’ If he walks him, we’re talking about why he walked a guy at the bottom of the order. It’s part of it.”

Other than those runs, Olson kept the Mariners in check without run support.

The Tigers’ rookie threw 31 sliders (41%), 25 four-seam fastballs (33%), 13 sinkers (17%), five changeups (7%) and one curveball (1%). He generated 15 whiffs with nine sliders, five four-seamers and one changeup.

His four-seam fastball, despite a 10.8% whiff rate in his previous eight games, had an impressive 36% whiff rate against the Mariners.

“Commanding my slider in the zone like I have been for my first month and a half, guys have to respect that,” Olson said. “When I can spot a four-seam up-and-away to those lefties, that’s when I’m getting swing and miss. I think it’s probably a product of being able to command the slider.”

Oh, that bullpen

After Olson’s 5⅓ innings, Shreve — a likely trade candidate for the Tigers at the Aug. 1 deadline — worked around a two-out walk and finished the sixth inning.

Right-hander Mason Englert, the Tigers’ Rule 5 draft pick, pitched the seventh and eighth innings without allowing a run.

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

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