Clever Tigers' triple play becomes casualty in rainout

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Shane Greene, RHP, age 27, 6-4, 215: He won the fifth starter spot last year and was unhittable for three starts. Then all hell broke loose for him. He began to feel tingling and numbness in his fingers, learned he had ulnar neuritis that ultimately required surgery to fix. He has come through it very well, with his fastball hitting 96 with a hard sinker. Toward the end of camp was on the verge of again winning the fifth rotation spot.

Lakeland, Fla. — The rains came after four innings Friday and didn’t leave.

But there was plenty of action before the game was called.

For starters, the Tigers turned a triple play in the second inning — thanks to heads-up plays by shortstop Jose Iglesias and second baseman Ian Kinsler.

The Braves loaded the bases off Shane Greene on a pair of walks and an infield single. Willians Astudillo then hit a soft, sinking liner toward Iglesias. Iglesias let the ball fall in front of him, to at least facilitate a double play.

The runner on second, Hector Olivera, stayed on the bag. After taking the flip from Iglesias, Kinsler had to do some quick thinking.

“I was definitely thinking about it,” Kinsler said. “When (Olivera) was standing there, I knew I had to tag him first if I wanted him to be out, before I stepped on the base.”

Kinsler had to make a sweeping tag on Olivera before stepping on the bag to force the runner from first, then he made a strong throw to first to complete the 6-4-3 triple play.

“Pretty cool play,” Kinsler said.

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Greene certainly appreciated it.

“No doubt,” he said. “I saw him tag the guy and then step on the bag and I thought, ‘I think we can get a triple play.’”

Greene probably deserved that break. He threw the ball well for the most part, even though he allowed three runs, five hits and two walks. Only one ball was hit hard, and that was a two-run home run on a hanging slider by Olivera.

“Overall, I felt really good,” he said. “The home run was a slider I overthrew, tried to do too much with it and left if over the plate. Paid for it. But I felt like I was commanding both sides of the plate pretty well.”

Greene’s fastball topped out at 97 — he froze Ender Inciarte with one for a called third strike in the third.

“I’ve been at 97 before,” Greene said. “But I didn’t realize I got there today. It was pretty humid; I guess I got pretty loose.”

The Olivera home run was typical of Greene’s day.

He made two splendid pitches to get ahead 0-2. Both were big bending breaking balls, an 83 mph slider and a 91 mph cutter. He threw a fastball up and in to get him off the plate and set up another sweeping slider away.

He hung it, like he said, but Olivera was sitting on it — knocking it onto the berm in left field. The blast put the Braves up 3-1.

Greene appears to have won a roster spot; what’s uncertain is his role. He is the frontrunner for the final spot in the Tigers rotation, but with injuries to two key bullpen arms — Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson — he may be needed to pitch relief, at least for a short time.

“I just want to pitch,” Greene said.

The Tigers did not muster a single hit off Braves starter John Gant. He walked three. The Tigers' only run came on a walk to Kinsler, a stolen base and two ground outs.

A no-hitter and a triple play, all washed away.

Twitter @cmccosky