Reese Olson strikes out career-high 10 in Detroit Tigers’ 4-1 loss to New York Yankees

Detroit Free Press

A high pitch count forced an early exit for Reese Olson.

Olson was nasty through 4⅓ innings with a career-high 10 strikeouts against the New York Yankees, despite needing 100 pitches to get 13 outs. The Detroit Tigers‘ right-hander generated swinging strikeouts for his first eight outs of the game and 10 of his 12 outs through four innings.

The Tigers lost, 4-1, to the Yankees in Monday’s series opener of the four-game set at Comerica Park. The Yankees pulled away from the Tigers (59-72) by crushing back-to-back home runs off right-handed reliever Beau Brieske in the seventh inning.

“The stuff was there,” Olson said. “There’s a lot of positives to take away. There’s also some things I can clean up. I wasn’t very efficient. Just a few too many at-bats that I’m taking to six, seven pitches. I would like finish those earlier so I can go deep in the game and get through five and six innings.”

Pinch-hitter Akil Baddoo, a left-handed hitter, pulled a slider for a solo home run to right field off right-handed reliever Clay Holmes in the bottom of the ninth inning, avoiding the shutout.

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Olson, who has a 5.10 ERA in 16 games, allowed one run on three hits and four walks, throwing 62 of 100 pitches for strikes. The 24-year-old rookie used 24 pitches in the first inning, 20 pitches in the second, 20 pitches in the third, 26 pitches in the fourth and 10 pitches in an incomplete fifth.

“His stuff looked pretty good,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “His put-away pitches were really good. It took him a lot of pitches to get through his outing. … In the fifth, we’re stretching him as much as we can. We were pretty light in the bullpen, so it’s unfortunate he couldn’t get through his whole outing.”

The slider-changeup combination received a boost from Olson’s command of his sinker and four-seam fastball. He could keep the Yankees guessing, in part, because he landed his sinker inside the strike zone.

Olson struck out Aaron Judge (83.2 mph slider), Giancarlo Stanton (84.7 mph slider) and Anthony Volpe (83.9 mph slider) in the first inning. He stranded the bases loaded — two walks and a fielding error — when he struck out Volpe, a fellow rookie, on three straight down-and-away pitches.

“It’s one of those nights when you have everything working,” Olson said of his swinging strikeouts. “I would have liked to trust it a little bit more in the zone and finish those at-bats quicker, but it’s good to see.”

Three of his four walks occurred in two-strike counts.

The Yankees finally got to Olson in the fifth inning, following Judge’s one-out walk. The next batter, Gleyber Torres, hit a hanging slider on the outside part of the plate for a double to left-center field.

The double from Torres put the Yankees ahead, 1-0.

“Getting above 100 pitches, probably a little tired and didn’t get it down,” Olson said. “It was off the plate. I don’t know about all the way off the plate, but it wasn’t a terrible pitch. It just wasn’t down enough.”

Right-handed reliever Brendan White completed the fifth inning with back-to-back outs to strand Torres on second base, then returned for the sixth inning and retired all three batters.

Olson threw 31 sinkers, 28 sliders, 19 changeups, 15 four-seam fastballs and seven curveballs. He generated 20 whiffs with three sinkers, 11 sliders, four changeups, one four-seamer and two curveballs.

He also had 18 called strikes.

“Getting the sinker to the glove side was big for me,” Olson said. “I was able to do that pretty consistently. I didn’t throw too many four-seams, but when I did, they were commanded pretty well. With the righty-heavy lineup like that, if I can command the sinker, it opens up everything.”

Two triples

Zach McKinstry, who blasted a home run in Sunday’s 17-4 loss to the Houston Astros, had a pair of triples in Monday’s series opener against the Yankees.

But he never scored.

McKinstry ripped a down-and-in four-seam fastball from right-hander Luis Severino for a triple with two outs in the third inning. The ball traveled 220 feet to right-center field. Riley Greene, stuck in a slump recently, grounded out to the right side of the infield to strand his teammate on third base.

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McKinstry, a left-handed hitter, delivered his second triple on Severino’s two-strike four-seam fastball — located on the inside part of the strike zone — with one out in the sixth inning. This time, the ball traveled 384 feet to right-center field.

Once again, Greene couldn’t get the ball out of the infield.

He hit a grounder to shortstop Anthony Volpe. The ball was thrown to catcher Kyle Higashioka, who tagged out McKinstry. Matt Vierling kept the inning alive with a single, but Spencer Torkelson struck out swinging.

“We’re going on contact there,” Hinch said. “The ball is sort of medium-hit, line drive. You can’t really tell if the pitcher has a chance at it. There looked like a little bit of pause in (McKinstry’s) break. I’m not sure it would have mattered if he goes straight away. … It was a weird ball off the bat that you’re not really expecting.”

Severino, who entered Monday’s start with a 7.26 ERA in 16 games, tossed seven scoreless innings on five hits and zero walks with eight strikeouts, throwing 71 of 99 pitches for strikes. His four-seam fastball generated 12 of his 15 whiffs and eight of his 20 called strikes.

He now has a 6.64 ERA in 17 games.

“He threw a ton of strikes,” Hinch said. “We couldn’t put anything together. Guy on third base and two outs, and a guy on third base with less than two outs. We couldn’t push anything across until Akil went deep with the pinch-hit. Tough night for us.”

All Rise

The Yankees took advantage of Brieske with two outs in the seventh inning.

Judge and Torres, both right-handed hitters, launched back-to-back solo home runs to take a 3-0 lead. Both Judge and Torres connected on inside changeups from Brieske.

Judge, the reigning American League MVP, has 29 home runs in 77 games this season. The 31-year-old returned from the injured list July 28 after missing more than 50 days with a right toe sprain.

The Yankees extended their lead to 4-0 in the eighth inning with Oswaldo Cabrera’s RBI single off right-handed reliever José Cisnero.

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

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