Riley Greene’s 453-foot home run sparks Detroit Tigers in 3-0 win over Minnesota Twins

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers right-hander Reese Olson pitched six scoreless innings.

Before Minnesota Twins right-hander Kenta Maeda could match him, designated hitter Riley Greene blasted a down-and-in slider with two strikes and two outs for a solo home run in the bottom of the inning.

The 453-foot solo shot from Greene, his 10th homer in 79 games this season, snapped a scoreless tie in the Tigers’ 3-0 win over the Twins in the finale of the four-game series at Comerica Park.

“It’s a great outcome for us based on how the series started,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “We obviously played well to win the series. We’ll get to see these guys again in a few days. I love how our guys responded to a rough night on Monday. We took care of business.”

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The Tigers (52-63) took three of four games from the Twins — after losing 9-3 on Monday, the Tigers outscored the Twins 18-5 on Tuesday-Thursday — and trail the American League Central leaders by seven games after having won seven of the 11 games played in the season series. The Tigers and Twins wrap up that season series with a two-game set next week (Tuesday-Wednesday) at Target Field in Minneapolis.

“It was awesome,” Greene said. “The boys are up, the music is loud. We got an 11-day road trip (nine games) coming up, so we’re going to celebrate this win, and then tomorrow is a new day, so we got to focus on tomorrow.”

The joy of sixth

Before Greene’s home run, Zack Short popped out and Matt Vierling struck out for the first two outs in the sixth inning.

Greene fell behind 1-2 in the count on a splitter for a ball and back-to-back sliders for strikes. Maeda opted for a third-consecutive down-and-in slider, searching for an inning-ending strikeout.

“My second swing on the slider, I missed over it by like a foot,” Greene said. “I told myself to keep the same path, and when he threw it, I went down to get it. If you look at my swing on the pitch before, it was a terrible swing on it.”

But Greene — a left-handed hitter — made Maeda pay for tripling up on the slider, hammering the ball with a 110.3 mph exit velocity for a monster home run to right-center field.

“I just tried to put the barrel on the ball,” Greene said.

Greene, who has played 172 games in his MLB career, finished 2-for-4 in Thursday’s series finale. The 22-year-old is hitting .301 with an .839 OPS this season; that run includes a .311 average with five homers since his July 8 return from the injured list.

“He’s limber and strong and young and twitchy,” Hinch said. “I miss those days. For him, just a good, hard barrel contact is something that we’re getting used to. We’re going to see him grow into even more power.”

The Tigers tacked on two runs in the seventh inning behind four straight hits from Kerry Carpenter, Javier Báez, Jake Rogers and Zach McKinstry. After Carpenter’s single, Báez — who had struck out in six consecutive previous plate appearances — dropped a bunt down the third-base line to reach safely.

An ensuing single from Rogers loaded the bases.

The left-handed McKinstry, who has shifted to the bottom part of the batting order, ripped a down-and-away changeup from right-handed reliever Dylan Floro to right field. His 17th double drove in Carpenter and Báez to take a 3-0 lead.

“I know that was a number of at-bats in a row where he punched,” Hinch said of Báez’s bunt. “Even his reaction at first base, it was fun to see him exhale and feel like he did something positive with the bat, because it’d been a tough couple of games for him. That’s a smart, heads-up play.”

The Tigers reached the finish line by using two relievers out of the bullpen. Left-hander Chasen Shreve covered the seventh inning, and right-hander Beau Brieske finished off the Twins in the eighth and ninth innings to complete the Tigers’ 11th shutout of the season.

Brieske threw 22 of 29 pitches for strikes.

An ‘Ole!’ from Olson

Olson, who fired 59 of 94 pitches for strikes, allowed two hits and three walks in his six scoreless innings, recording eight strikeouts. The 24-year-old rookie escaped trouble on the bases in the fourth and fifth innings.

“He was great,” Hinch said. “I thought his sequencing was great, and I thought his usage was great. He won really big at-bats. … Big moments and big at-bats, he was creative. He was overpowering when he needed to be and spun the ball.”

Jorge Polanco (walk) and Carlos Correa (single) reached safely to start the fourth inning, but Olson responded by getting three straight outs: Max Kepler (forceout at second base), Ryan Jeffers (strikeout) and Matt Wallner (popout).

Olson sent down Jeffers and Wallner with runners on the corners.

He experienced the same challenge — runners on the corners — in the fifth after Joey Gallo’s one-out walk and Christian Vazquez’s one-out single. Once again, Olson retired back-to-back batters: Edouard Julien (strikeout) and Polanco (groundout). In all, Olson put away the final five batters he faced.

He utilized 30 sliders (32%), 30 four-seam fastballs (32%), 15 sinkers (16%), 12 changeups (13%) and seven curveballs (7%). He generated 14 whiffs with eight sliders, four four-seamers, one sinker and one changeup.

He added 20 called strikes.

“I made an adjustment with (my slider), getting it more down instead of off the plate,” Olson said. “When it’s down, that seems to be where I get most of my chase and swing-and-miss, instead of off the plate. That’s going to be the focus going forward with the slider.”

Missing out in the fourth

The Tigers missed out on a scoring opportunity in the fourth.

Andy Ibáñez (single) and Spencer Torkelson (walk) reached safely with two outs, but Carpenter popped out to shallow center to end the inning. It was the only threat for the Tigers against Maeda until Greene’s homer.

Maeda allowed one run on three hits and one walk with four strikeouts in six innings, tossing 58 of 89 pitches for strikes. He recorded eight whiffs and 18 called strikes in his 13th start.

“We’ll see him again in Minnesota next week,” Hinch said. “We threw a little different look at him with all the right-handed hitters as opposed to the lefties. He’s got the nasty split and still throws it no matter who you put up there, but he just adapted his game plan a little bit and threw a few more sweepers.”

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

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