Lorenzen extends scoreless streak to MLB-best 21 2/3 IP

Detroit Tigers

KANSAS CITY — Michael Lorenzen was a portrait of frustration three weeks ago after a five-run second inning led to a loss in Colorado.

“I thought I had really good stuff, but really good stuff and not getting results isn’t good enough,” Lorenzen said that day. “So I have to figure out how to get results. The object of the game is to win the baseball game, and I need to keep the team in a position to do that. Allowing them to score five in one inning, it’s not good enough.”

Lorenzen hasn’t allowed a run since, including seven scoreless innings in the Tigers’ 3-0 shutout of the Royals on Thursday afternoon at Kauffman Stadium. He has tossed 21 2/3 scoreless innings since that five-run second (22 1/3 if you count his inning of relief in the All-Star Game), the longest active streak in the Majors and the longest by a Tiger since Michael Fulmer’s 33 1/3 innings in 2016. 

How’s that for results?

“There’s just a different confidence when you develop more and more skill,” Lorenzen said. “I just know that I’ve developed the skills that I needed, cleaning up the command with the slider, not just trying to land it in the zone, but actually trying to execute in a certain part of the zone. My changeup feels a lot more comfortable consistently.”

It’s the same stuff Lorenzen had going a few weeks ago. It’s moving better than it did at Coors Field given the altitude. But he’s also believing in it and becoming more precise.

“My stuff is good,” he said, “and if I can execute it even better, I’m personally going to have better results. That’s what I felt going into the second half, and that’s kind of what’s happening.”

It’s plenty good for the Tigers, who return home off a 5-2 road trip that has brought them to within eight games of .500 (44-52) for the first time since June 8. They’ll host the Padres on Friday with a chance at their first three-game winning streak since the first week of May.

“I think his mentality has been excellent going on a couple [of] months now, where he’s able to reset, get back in the strike zone, get back to competitive pitches, mix his pitches well,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s unafraid to use any pitch, which is good, and I just love the way he goes about it.”

The way Lorenzen is pitching is also plenty good enough for a lot of teams looking for rotation help, which is why it’s tricky and Lorenzen’s joy is slightly guarded. The scouts who watched Eduardo Rodriguez on Wednesday night stayed for the series finale to look at Lorenzen. While Rodriguez has been more hyped leading into the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline, Lorenzen is a real option for teams as well, especially since he’s on a true one-year contract at $8.5 million — no opt-out, no trade veto power.

“Guys sign one-year deals, and teams generally do that to get pieces back if you perform well,” Lorenzen explained last week. “That’s just the way teams do it. We’re at a spot where the Central’s open for the taking. 

“No one really truly knows anything. So both sides make sense. I just need to stay off my phone, stay off the internet, do my scouting and play baseball.”

He has executed that as well.

“Honestly, I’m trying to read my Bible more,” Lorenzen said, “to where it’s like I need something to read to get my mind on my faith, to get to where my mind is on that and pitching.”

Lorenzen never allowed an aggressive Royals lineup the chance to string together hits and runs like it did to Rodriguez and Tarik Skubal before him. Though two of Lorenzen’s three hits allowed were doubles from left-handed hitters, he stranded two runners before Zack McKinstry and Javier Báez executed a relay to throw out Kyle Isbel trying to stretch a one-out triple in the sixth. An MJ Melendez flyout in the seventh was the only ball to top 100 mph in exit velocity off him.

He’s an All-Star,” Royals manager Matt Quatraro said. “You look at his hits, innings pitched. He doesn’t give up a lot. You really have to maximize your chances. And then today, he didn’t give us many.”

When Lorenzen was named an All-Star on July 2, he half-jokingly bemoaned his 4.28 ERA. His scoreless streak has lowered that to 3.49. Yes, he’s good enough.

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