Detroit — There’s a level of intrigue these days when Reese Olson pitches.
The rookie right-hander carried a no-hitter past the fifth inning for a second straight start, helping the Tigers to an 8-2 victory over Cincinnati on Thursday at Comerica Park.
Olson didn’t allow a hit until Reds designated hitter Jake Fraley led off the sixth inning with a single to center. Olson would induce Nick Martini into a double play, but Spencer Steer hit his 21st home run with two outs, cutting the Tigers’ lead to 3-1 before Olson finished the inning.
Will Vest relieved Olson to begin the seventh inning.
Olson (4-7) went six innings, allowing two hits, one earned run and four walks, while striking out seven.
“He’s been incredible,” said Matt Vierling, whose grand slam in the eighth inning capped the Tigers’ scoring. “He’s young and he looks even younger than he is. He just goes out there every day and you know you’re going to get a good chance to win. He’s going to put in some quality innings. He’s been phenomenal for his first year.
“I can’t say enough about the kid. Just his poise, even from his first start, it felt like he was in control the whole time. He has a calm presence about him.”
Olson became the second Tigers pitcher to take a no-hitter through five innings in consecutive starts since Justin Verlander in May 2011.
Six days ago against the Chicago White Sox, Olson went 6⅓ innings before allowing his first hit. In all, it was the third time this season Olson took a no-hitter into the sixth inning since making his major league debut on June 2.
Olson has been particularly effective over his last four starts. He has allowed only four earned runs with 23 strikeouts in 24 innings.
“He was very impressive again, all the way through,” manager AJ Hinch said. “I know the run and couple hits late will change his take a little bit, but not mine. He had a tough lineup today with all lefties (hitting) but it was nice to see him get into the game. We’ll take that outing.”
The way Olson has stepped into the rotation and become a steady, reliable contributor has been a plus for the Tigers.
“It’s important for him to learn all this for the next version of him as he matures and grow and learns from this year,” Hinch said. “How he can impact a pitching staff in any given year, that’s the most important takeaway from this year as he winds down.
“He’s laying the foundation of a very good pitcher at this level.”
Olson was pleased with the outing, but he was disappointed with allowing the four walks, which likely cost him a chance to go back for another inning. But neutralizing a young, athletic Reds lineup was another step in Olson’s development.
“I would have liked to limit those walks,” Olson said. “Definitely I had confidence coming in and just building confidence there (for the future) so when I execute pitches, I can be successful.”
The Tigers got things going offensively in the first inning. Vierling led things off by getting hit by a pitch. He then stole second base, moved to third on Spencer Torkelson’s fly to center field, and scored on Kerry Carpenter’s RBI single.
Akil Baddoo increased the lead to 3-0 with a two-run home run, his 10th, in the fourth inning after Tyler Nevin led off with a single.
Torkelson regained the Tigers’ three-run lead in the seventh inning, 4-1, with an RBI single that plated Parker Meadows, who led off with a single. Meadows’ hit broke a personal 0-for-28 slump.
The Reds threatened in the top of the eighth with two singles against reliever Tyler Holton. But reliever Jason Foley got pinch-hitter Christian Encarnacion-Strand to bounce into an inning-ending double play.
Vierling ended any hopes of a Reds comeback in the bottom of the eighth with his first career grand slam, a 448-foot blast for his ninth homer this season.
“It felt great. It’s one of the best homers I’ve hit, and in a key situation,” Vierling said. “That’s what I’m most happy about. (I’ve been) going through some ups and downs and trying to figure it out. I feel like I’m more in a spot now that I’m starting to see some results.
“This was a big win for us today and for me, just trying to keep it going.”