Cespedes' bat, Greene's arm lead Tigers in rout
Detroit — Left-hander Jose Quintana was at 40 pitches, and yet, amazingly, he was one strike away from getting out of the first inning unscathed.
It would have been a rare feat, but the problem for him and the White Sox was that Yoenis Cespedes was at the plate. Quintana had faced him six times previously and allowed four hits and two home runs.
It got worse.
With a brief rain shower just starting and many fans bolting for cover, Cespedes slammed a 3-2 pitch on a line over the fence in left for his first career grand slam. He added a two-run homer off Quintana in the third and the Tigers were on their way to a 9-1 rout of the White Sox.
"You talk about Cespedes," said Victor Martinez, who had three hits himself. "He is a No. 3 or No. 4 hitter on any other team in the big leagues. When you have a guy like that down in your order, it makes you feel pretty good about your offense. He's been around for a little bit, so he's not a secret."
Not a secret, perhaps, but there was some uncertainty. His production has been on a slight decline since his rookie season and, despite hitting 22 home runs and knocking in 100 runs last season, he struggled in his brief time in Boston at the end of last season.
"I don't know him as a player that well yet — it's only April," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But he seems the type of guy who, when he gets hot, he hits them in bunches."
He's got three home runs already this season, plus he's hitting .300.
"He's that type of player," said Nick Castellanos. "You touch him, he's all muscle. It's ridiculous how strong that guy is. It was a good day for him today."
The difference for Cespedes now, compared to his time in Boston, could be as simple as his comfort level. He is on a team with a strong Latin contingent and instead of having to be the catalyst of the offensive like he was in Oakland, he is just one of many potent bats in the lineup.
"It feels great," said the Cuban-born Cespedes through an interpreter. "I couldn't be luckier to be on such a great team with such a good group of ballplayers. Latin ballplayers, too…I feel very happy to be able to be in the clubhouse with such great hitters, to be playing with the best hitter in the game in Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, JD Martinez, it's great to be a part of this lineup."
It took nothing less than a career-best six RBI day to upstage Tigers right-hander Shane Greene, who is now 3-0 to start the season.
"The Detroit Tigers won today; that's all that matters," Greene said. "When I go out on the mound, my biggest goal is for the team to win. If the team wins, I did my job."
He blanked the White Sox through five innings, allowing four hits and two walks. With the help of three double plays, though, he faced just one over the minimum through four innings.
But his streak of consecutive innings without allowing an earned run ended at 21 when he gave up a two-out, RBI triple to Jose Abreu. Right fielder J.D. Martinez tried, and failed, to make a shoestring catch on the sinking liner, allowing the ball to go to the wall.
No Tigers pitcher has ever started a season without giving up an earned run in his first three starts. But, Greene is the first Tigers pitcher since Jack Morris in 1984 to go at least seven innings and allow one or fewer earned runs in his first three starts.
Which is something Greene apparently cared little about.
"All I knew when I came into the game was we were 9-2," he said. "Now we are 10-2."
Greene wound up going seven innings and allowing one run on five hits. He induced four double plays. The last time the Tigers turned four double plays in a game was Aug. 7, 2013.
He also walked four and struck out three.
The Tigers are 10-2 and 8-1 against the AL Central. Still, the clubhouse mantra remains the same — win or lose, turn the page.
"That's the way we been taking it the last four or five years," Victor Martinez said. "We are just 12 games into the season. Yeah, we are off to a good start, but it doesn't mean anything. We are playing pretty good baseball but when the game is over, turn the page.
"Now we've got a new series, we have to get ready for the Yankees and go from there."
Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky