Arlington, Texas — As a kid growing up outside of Dallas, Tigers left-hander Tyler Alexander often sat in Globe Life Park watching his beloved Rangers. He even got tickets to a 2011 World Series game.
But before Friday night, he'd only pitched on this field once.
"It was pretty cool," Alexander said. "I grew up going to games here, sitting in the stands. I can tell you exactly where I sat for that World Series game. I got to play a high school scrimmage game on this field as a freshman and I hadn't been on this field since."
He didn't get the storybook ending he might've wished for, though. With a large contingent of family and friends on hand, Alexander was roughed up by the Rangers and the Tigers, despite a late rally, dropped the first game of a three-game set, 5-4.
"Well, I didn't really have anything," he said. "I had a fastball, a little bit, but I left it over the plate. I couldn't get it down for the life of me. The balls they hit were bad pitches.
"I battled as hard as I could, but my biggest thing tonight was I couldn't get the ball down."
Alexander gave up four runs and 10 hits in 5.2 innings. There weren’t a lot of cheap hits off him, either.
There were six balls put in play with exit velocities of 100 mph or better, including a double by Jeff Mathis, a triple by Danny Santana and a solo home run by Rougned Odor, who lined a curveball off the foul pole in right.
There were seven other balls put in play that left Rangers’ bats with exit velocities between 97-99 mph.
"What I like about him is that he hangs in there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He never gives up the big bomb inning. It's one run here, one run there. He just pitched up today and I don't think that's his strong point.
"He's doing fine. He competes, he works quick and all those little things. It's a learning lesson for him up here, too."
Soon after the Tigers get back from the three-city road trip, Spencer Turnbull is expected to be done with his rehab assignment and should soon rejoin the rotation.
Which begs the question: Who goes back to Toledo?
It will either be Drew VerHagen or Alexander, most likely.
In his last two starts, Alexander has allowed eight runs and 18 hits over 10 innings. VerHagen, in two starts since being up from Toledo, has allowed 11 runs and 16 hits in 8.2 innings.
So it's still an open debate.
The storybook night belonged to the newest Tiger — right fielder Travis Demeritte, who was acquired from the Braves for closer Shane Greene on Wednesday. He walked twice, stole a base and, in the seventh inning, bounced a ball over the bag at third and into the left-field corner which he legged out for a triple.
That ball was in his locker after the game.
"Yep, that's the first one," Demeritte said. "Hopefully it's the first of many."
He becomes the fourth Tigers player to triple in his big-league debut and first since Andres Torres in 2002.
"He looked pretty calm and had some great at-bats," Gardenhire said. "He ran the ball down out there and had a triple down the left-field line. That's not easy to do, so you know he can run.
"He did a lot of good things for a first day in the big leagues."
For seven innings, the Tigers were dominated by 32-year-old right-hander Lance Lynn. He allowed a run and struck out 10 in seven innings.
But they started to chip away against the Rangers bullpen, cutting the deficit to 5-2 in the eighth. Niko Goodrum, who had three hits, doubled and scored on a single by Miguel Cabrera.
It was Cabrera's 1,767th career RBI, tying him with former Tiger Gary Sheffield for 26th all-time.
Then Demeritte drew a leadoff walk to start a rally in the ninth off closer Jose Leclerc.
"That's something I pride myself on — not chasing pitches and making them come into the zone," Demeritte said. "That paid off for me tonight...I was happy I could get that inning started.
"Then it snowballed, but we couldn't quite pull it off."
With two outs, JaCoby Jones followed with a single and then Demeritte scored on a Goodrum single — 5-3.
Brandon Dixon, pinch-hitting in Cabrera's spot in the order (he was pinch-run for in the eighth), walked to load the bases and Jones scored on a wild pitch. The tying and winning runs were in scoring position.
Jeimer Candelario grounded out to end the game.
"We got the men out there, we were just looking for one more hit," Gardenhire said. "Candy had a rough night (three strikeouts) but he hit the ball hard, right at them. It was a good, competitive effort.
"I liked how they stayed after it. We didn't get many hits but they stayed after it and put pressure on their closer. It was pretty fun to watch. Unfortunately, we didn't get that one big hit."