Shane Greene sparkles in debut as Tigers sweep Twins

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Detroit — They waited. And they waited. And they waited some more.

And let's be honest — if you were the Tigers and you were playing the way they're playing, and the Twins were playing the way they're playing, well, you'd wait, too.

When the long day was over — nearly four hours of rain delay, and nearly three hours of game — the Tigers had thumped the Twins, 7-1, before a small but hearty crowd at Comerica Park on Thursday evening.

The Tigers are 3-0 and haven't allowed an earned run this season.

"This," said Alex Avila, "was about as complete a series as you can play."

Detroit did it all. Pitching. Hitting. Defense. Baserunning. You name it, the Tigers did it.

Shane Greene was outstanding in his Tigers debut, tossing eight innings of four-hit ball. He was a strike-throwing machine, almost like he was pitching to beat the rain.

That wasn't the case, of course. Throwing strikes, that's his game. Not that he knew he'd even have a game today. He said he was ready for the 1 p.m. start, but then was stuck at his locker Thursday afternoon, watching The Masters, eating, not knowing if he was going to get the ball at all.

The Tigers were going to play. Then they weren't. Then they were.

"I tied my cleats four different times," Greene said, smiling.

And by 5 p.m., he was tying the Twins in knots. Through six innings, he'd only allowed three baserunners — all on singles — and thrown only 13 balls.

Then to start the seventh, he walked Joe Mauer. Two batters later, Twins designated hitter Kennys Vargas sent a screamer toward left-center, where Yoenis Cespedes and Anthony Gose were giving chase. It ended up getting by them, allowing Mauer to score — the Twins first run of the season. Cespedes was charged with an error, so the run was unearned.

Still, Tigers pitchers went 24.1 innings without allowing a run — the longest streak to start a season in American League history, and only trailing the 1963 Cardinals (32) and 1943 Reds (26).

The waterlogged crowd gave a nice ovation when the achievement was announced at the ballpark.

"He's got very good stuff," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Greene, the 26-year-old right-hander acquired in a trade with the Yankees in December. "He throws strikes and keeps the ball down in the zone, especially is sinker."

Ausmus started noticing Greene leaving some of those balls up in the eighth inning. Leaving balls up means one of two things: You're too strong, or you're getting tired. Being late in the game, Ausmus decided that was enough for Greene, who struck out five and walked only Mauer. Tom Gorzelanny pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the victory.

Like David Price and Anibal Sanchez before him, Greene benefited from plenty of support. The Tigers scored two runs barely before the tarp had been removed, added one in the second and scored three in the fourth, the big blow a rocket home run to right field by J.D. Martinez. It was Martinez's second homer in three games, both going the opposite way.

Ausmus said he knows only one other man with that kind of opposite-field power, and that's Martinez's teammate, Miguel Cabrera.

Martinez smiled after the compliment was relayed to him.

"I role-model myself after him," Martinez said of Cabrera. "I really try to study him."

Once again, Gose made a huge impact on this victory.

He had three hits, his second three-hit game in as many with the Tigers. He doubled leading off the first, then singled in the second and fourth innings, each one sparking a Tigers' scoring inning — as did his stolen base in the fourth inning; he ended up on third base after catcher Kurt Suzuki's throw trickled into the outfield.

Gose also showed off his defensive chops once again. In the second inning, Eduardo Escobar hit a bomb to center field, where Gose was playing shallow, as he likes it. He raced and raced and raced and snagged the ball near the warning track. If it gets over his head, the Twins score a run and there's a runner on second or third. Instead, it was the end of the second inning.

Greene rarely allowed another hard-hit ball all game.

"That's what changed the game, right there," Martinez said of Gose's catch.

The first seven men in the Tigers' lineup reached base at least twice, including Miguel Cabrera, who walked twice but was hitless again. He made a bid for extra bases in the eighth inning, but ex-Tiger Torii Hunter made a fine running, diving catch.

Nick Castellanos had a long triple to center leading off the fifth inning, and quickly scored on Alex Avila's RBI single to right.

Victor Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes also had RBI singles.

"I hope it's a snowball effect," said Greene, "and we keep this going."

tpaul@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/tonypaul1984​