'Wish it came sooner': Tigers topple Orioles, Tyler Alexander earns first big-league win
Detroit — Tyler Alexander had a litany of things poured on him by his teammates after Monday’s game.
Listerine, relish, yogurt and shaving cream were among the things dumped on the Tigers rookie left-hander. And he was fine being the recipient of the hodge-podge shower.
Alexander (1-3) picked up his first major league win, allowing just one run and four hits across six innings, en route to a 5-2 Tigers win and series split against Baltimore at Comerica Park.
“I felt like I was ahead of almost everybody, which helped keep my pitch count down,” Alexander said. “And ultimately it helped me eat as many innings as I could.”
Alexander entered Monday winless in five starts and an 5.40 ERA, but against a struggling Orioles team, Alexander was finally able to find his stride.
Though he’s a believer the win-loss record doesn’t accurately depict the quality of a pitcher, it’s a milestone he’s happy to reach.
“I wish it came a little sooner, but I’m not complaining,” Alexander said.
“I don’t really get a lot of wins. I don’t know why. I’ve always kind of preached that I don’t like the win-loss statistic. It’s not something that I can control to a degree.”
Detroit (45-104) remains four games ahead of Baltimore (49-101) for the first overall pick in next year's amateur draft with 13 games remaining.
Alexander worked through the sixth with mostly minimal effort, and was able to navigate his biggest jam of the afternoon during his final frame of work after giving up a 430-foot solo homer to Trey Mancini, followed by a line-drive single from Anthony Santander one batter later.
“He’s a good hitter,” Alexander said. “I made a bad pitch and he made a good swing.”
Alexander was able to get out of trouble after a brief mound visit by pitching coach Rick Anderson following the single to Santander. He then induced cleanup man Renato Nunez to pop out in foul territory, ending the day without issuing a walk to go with three strikeouts.
And though the wins all count the same, Alexander said the outing will help fuel his confidence for the rest of this year in an attempt to make the starting rotation next season.
“September pretty much is a showcase or a way to prove that you belong for a lot of guys that get called up later in the year,” he said. “And I’m included in that. Every time I pitch I’m trying to prove that I belong here and pitch for a long time and I can be a starter, a long relief guy, a one-inning guy, whatever they need me to be.
Victor Reyes led the Tigers off with a triple into the left-center field alley, setting the table for Jordy Mercer’s ninth home run to give Detroit an early 2-0 lead. Mercer turned on a first-pitch fastball from starter John Means and sent it an estimated 424 feet into the left-field stands.
Reyes extended the Tigers’ lead in the fifth with a two-out, two-run double to make it 4-0 but was thrown out in a rundown trying to reach third base. Dawel Lugo and Travis Demeritte scored on the play and set the table with back-to-back singles to lead the inning off.
“I was trying to let the runner ahead of me score the run,” Reyes said through a team translator. That’s why I stopped intentionally to get the infielders to get me in the rundown. Fortunately, we scored the runs, but they caught me in the rundown.”
Jose Cisnero allowed one run in relief to bring the Orioles within 5-2 in the seventh. He surrendered a leadoff triple to Jonathan Villar, who was brought home one batter later on a single from Austin Hayes. After a chippy eighth inning in which Nunez was hit by reliever Buck Farmer — and in the next half-inning Jeimer Candelario was drilled by Ryan Eades — Joe Jimenez sealed the win, but not before a two-out threat.
Manager Ron Gardenhire said Farmer was taken out after feeling dizzy. He said Farmer was checked out after the game and appears to be OK.
“He just had a racing heart, and so did I,” Gardenhire said, joking.
Jimenez quickly recorded two outs, but allowed the next three batters to reach, partly due to an error by Candelario. But with the bases juiced, the closer struck out Mancini — who was 2-for-4 with a double and homer at that point — to earn his seventh save.
The Tigers return to action on Tuesday, where they’ll visit Cleveland for a three-game series before returning home for the final home stand of the season.
Gardenhire said before the game that Tuesday's scheduled starter, Matthew Boyd, will miss the series to due a “family emergency.” Gardenhire said a replacement is to be determined.
“We are still looking for a pitcher to start tomorrow’s ballgame,” Gardenhire said. “But we’ll have it figured out. We’ll have one listed tomorrow.”