Tigers lose as Shane Greene's struggles continue

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News

Chicago — Sports mysteries abound in Detroit's world today.

Mike Babcock and his future with the Red Wings is a list-leader. The Lions and their ability to plug some square mileage lost by Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley is somewhere in the mix.

And, of course, there is that sudden, bewildering question: What happened to Shane Greene?

He was almost immaculate in his first three starts for the Tigers, but after exploding in a fine mist of missed pitches and lost mechanics Tuesday at U.S. Cellular Field, the third self-immolation in a row by Greene, the Tigers are free to wonder about Mr. X following a 5-2 loss to the White Sox.

"Yeah, it's baseball," Greene said after watching his once-pristine ERA climb to 5.56 due to Tuesday's demolition. "It's not the first time it's happened to anybody, and it's not the last."

Greene didn't allow an earned run in his first dazzling trio of Tigers starts. But now he has been pummeled to the tune of 20 earned runs in his last 11 innings.

BOX SCORE: White Sox 5, Tigers 2

"I don't know if he was trying to be too fine," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who saw Greene early Tuesday get his customary sack-full of ground balls. "I don't think he's far off. One thing is, from the stretch (no wind-up when there is a man on base) he tends to be a bit quick."

Greene's disintegration ended the Tigers' thoughts of three victories in a row, as well as holding onto first place in the American League Central. The Royals are now a half-game ahead after they socked the Indians, 5-3, Tuesday.

In the first of a three-game set against the White Sox, Alex Avila had put Detroit on top, 2-1, with a home run in the second that bounced from Melky Cabrera's glove and landed in the left-field bullpen. It was still 2-1 when Greene settled in for the bottom of the third.

Landslide alert.

Micah Johnson, who could hold his own in some world-class sprints, beat out a chopper to first for a single. An innocent groundout to second by Adam Eaton was followed by the sight of Greene coming unglued.

He walked the next three batters, with many of the pitches nowhere close to Cook County.

"Maybe overthrowing," Greene said later.

The third freebie forced in a run to tie the game, 2-2, after which Greene nearly slipped from his own jail cell by getting Avisail Garcia to hit a broken-bat grounder to Nick Castellanos at third, which came within a single Garcia step of being a double play.

It instead scored the go-ahead run and left two White Sox on base. With Greene still pitching treacherously behind in the count, Conor Gillaspie finished things with a line triple up the right-center field gap to make it 5-2 and seal Greene's third consecutive pitching disaster.

It didn't have to end as a three-run defeat. But on a night when the air seemed as moist as it was chilled (low 50s as evening deepened) the Tigers were doing too little against White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija.

They had their shots on a night when they got seven hits, one more than the White Sox, and when they might also have clobbered the White Sox for making three errors.

Their best chances? In the fifth: two on with two out for Miguel Cabrera, until Samardzija blew away Cabrera on three fastballs, the last at 94 mph. In the seventh: two singles put a pair of Tigers on base with one out. But nothing more as Samardzija struck out Anthony Gose and got Ian Kinsler on a pop-up.

The Tigers had started rambunctiously, getting a quick run in the first on Gose's leadoff single, his steal of second, a throwing error by catcher Geovany Soto, and Kinsler's RBI single to left.

After the White Sox tied it, 1-1, in the first, helped by ground balls that went for a double (Eaton) and single (Jose Abreu), Avila's second homer of the season gave the Tigers a second one-run lead.

But it was clear Tuesday the magical man who had pitched so stunningly in the early days of a new season, with his new team, the Tigers, was out of whack and out of luck.

Of his 57 pitches Tuesday, only 26 were strikes. It suggested Greene and pitching coach Jeff Jones have some serious study ahead in coming days.

"We'll look into that," Ausmus assured.

Another new Tigers pitcher, Alfredo Simon, takes the ball Wednesday night, against White Sox gunslinger Chris Sale. Simon's been hot (4-1 on the season). The Tigers only hope he'll flash a brand of consistency tonight Greene hasn't yet mastered.