SEATTLE — Kerry Carpenter is locked in at the plate.
He is recognizing different pitch types, swinging at pitches inside the strike zone and creating damage with his powerful swing. The first two-homer game of his career powered the Detroit Tigers past the Seattle Mariners in Saturday’s 6-0 win at T-Mobile Park.
“I feel really good,” Carpenter said. “That’s what I work on in the (batting) cage every day, getting on time and getting my swing right. Out there, it’s just swinging at the right pitches. That’s something I’m going to try to do in the second half.”
Carpenter, 25, launched his home runs off right-hander George Kirby, an All-Star this season, in the second and fifth innings. He has three homers through two games in the series and 11 homers in 49 games this season.
“Collectively, if we can continue to put good at-bats together, then we’re pretty productive,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “And then we get that kind of effort on the mound, it’s a fun win.”
The Tigers (41-50) — thanks to Carpenter’s big swings — stayed within five games of the Minnesota Twins for first place in the American League Central. The Twins, just like the Tigers, have won back-to-back games coming out of the All-Star break.
“It’s been fun these last couple of days,” Carpenter said. “We’re playing up to our full potential, and we can beat a lot of teams when we play up to our full potential. We want to get there every day.”
The Carpenter-led offense was backed up by a sharp pitching performance from right-hander Michael Lorenzen. The 31-year-old, a likely trade candidate as the Aug. 1 trade deadline approaches, fired 6⅔ scoreless innings with two hits, five walks and seven strikeouts.
“It’s just two-strike execution with the bullet slider, and the sweeper was really good,” Lorenzen said. “We found a good spot to start that pitch, so now I’m starting it in one area and trusting that it’s going to end up in a good spot with two strikes. And they were all sweeping.”
But Carpenter, a left-handed slugger, stole the show with his power punches.
In the second inning, Carpenter put the Tigers ahead, 1-0, with a 356-foot solo home run to left field off Kirby’s first-pitch sinker at the bottom of the strike zone. He upped the Tigers’ lead to 6-0 in the fifth inning with a 431-foot three-run home run to right-center field off Kirby’s third-pitch four-seam fastball above the strike zone.
“When I’m on time, I feel like I can get to that,” Carpenter said of the elevated four-seam fastball for the second homer. “If they throw it up there, and I’m on time, I’ll take a chance every once in a while.”
The Tigers were productive with two outs — Riley Greene drew a walk and Spencer Torkelson slapped a single — to set up Carpenter’s second home run. Torkelson picked up his 46th RBI of the season by driving in Eric Haase, who doubled with one out, for a 3-0 advantage.
Greene, hitting .300 in 56 games this season, drove in the Tigers’ second run for a 2-0 lead in the third inning with a two-out single to score Zach McKinstry, who doubled with two outs.
“Those are big,” Hinch said. “Against a pitcher like Kirby, you go into the game knowing that runs are going to be a premium, and you know you have to earn it. He doesn’t walk anybody. You have to do something like that in order to beat him, whether it’s the homer or whether it’s a two-out hit.”
Kirby allowed six runs on eight hits and one walk with four strikeouts across five innings, throwing 59 of 87 pitches for strikes. The Tigers, seemingly focused on his four-seam fastball, only swung seven times (and didn’t miss) at his 18 sliders.
Carpenter, hitting .269 in 49 games, finished 2-for-4 with four RBIs and one strikeout.
“I think it’s more about the plan and then staying dedicated to that plan,” Hinch said of Carpenter. “But his recognition is good. He doesn’t swing at every strike, which means he’s staying disciplined to what he’s looking for inside the strike zone. When he’s hot, the way he’s been these first couple of games, we just want the lineup to roll around quickly and get back to him.”
At home in Seattle
Lorenzen, the Tigers’ All-Star representative in Tuesday’s game in Seattle, opposed Kirby and extended his scoreless innings streak to a career-high 14⅔ innings. He walked the final two batters he faced, but right-handed reliever Beau Brieske entered and escaped the jam by striking out Mike Ford with fastballs and changeups.
“He was a good matchup for Ford,” Hinch said of Brieske. “The fastball, changeup can be effective, and he dotted those.”
The Mariners didn’t get a hit off Lorenzen until Jarred Kelenic’s ground-ball single with one out in the fifth inning. Lorenzen escaped a pair of walks in the first and fourth innings with inning-ending double plays, both from Ty France.
Both times, France hit second-pitch sinkers into the ground.
“My confidence level is high,” Lorenzen said, “and it just comes from the skill of working on throwing sliders down and away and finding the rhythm with my changeup. The confidence comes from having the skill to be able to execute certain pitches in certain counts.”
Lorenzen also worked around a two-out walk to Cal Raleigh in the fifth inning, which occurred after Kelenic’s single. Ford stranded Kelenic and Raleigh by popping out on a first-pitch slider.
Before Ford’s plate appearance, pitching coach Chris Fetter visited Lorenzen on the mound.
He finished with five walks and seven strikeouts.
“The two (walks) at the end are probably my fault,” Hinch said. “I probably should have gotten him out. … We wanted him to finish seven (innings) so badly because he earned the right to get out there. Maybe I’ll count three walks.”
Lorenzen threw 31 four-seam fastballs (32%), 23 sliders (24%), 18 changeups (19%), 15 sweepers (15%) and 10 sinkers (10%). He recorded 11 whiffs with two fastballs, three sliders, three changeups and three sweepers.
The Mariners were limited to an 82.5 mph exit velocity on 13 balls in play.
“He landed a lot of secondary (pitches), which allowed us to save his heater to finish off some guys,” Haase said. “Second and third time through the lineup, we started throwing a couple more heaters, and it was getting on guys. … (His confidence) should be high. He’s attacking the zone with his best stuff.”
Go, go, Beau
Making his season debut, Brieske completed 1⅓ innings out of the bullpen with three strikeouts. He struck out Ford in the seventh, then Julio Rodríguez and France in the eighth.
He worked around a leadoff double from Kolten Wong in the eighth.
“I’m really happy for him,” Hinch said. “He’s worked really hard. He probably felt like he was a long way away from here during his rehab. He was down in Lakeland and sort of on again, off again with his rehab.”
Brieske, who landed on the injured list before Opening Day with an ulnar nerve entrapment, featured seven four-seam fastballs, five sinkers, four changeups and two sliders. His fastball averaged 96.6 mph, up from 94.3 mph last season, and he generated five whiffs.
If Brieske throws strikes, he can dominate as a reliever in the big leagues.
“I love having Beau back up here,” Haase said.
Right-handed reliever Brendan White pitched a scoreless bottom of the ninth inning, including a pair of strikeouts, to end the game.