Grayson Greiner's offensive resurgence a ray of light in another dismal Tigers loss

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland — Grayson Greiner isn't trying to be a silver lining. That's never the goal.

"I'd much rather just win baseball games, that's the most important thing" he said after the Tigers endured a mostly uninspired, 7-2 loss to the Cleveland Indians Tuesday night. "Losing is tough. It's always the worst feeling in our profession."

This was loss No. 105 for the rebuilding Tigers. It was the 15th straight loss to the Indians. Better then to search for silver linings than dwell on another mundane loss. And the offensive resurgence of Greiner is at the top of a short list from this one.

He had double and a single Tuesday and in the 10 games he’s played since he’s come back from Triple-A Toledo, he’s hitting .405 (15-for-37). Not bad for a 6-foot-6 catcher who was in a back brace in mid-August.

Detroit Tigers' Ronny Rodriguez throws his bat after striking out during the fourth inning Tuesday.

"I feel much more comfortable and in a much better place mentally than where I was three months ago," he said. "Sometimes God blesses you with an obstacle you don't really expect or understand.

"But the time off kind of worked wonders for me mentally and physically."

BOX SCORE: Indians 7, Tigers 2

Greiner was hitting .161 on June 13 when the back injury put him on the injured list. It was a sudden injury, he felt in on one swing. Within a day he was gone, his locker completely cleared out of the Tigers' clubhouse. 

There was serious doubt, both organizationally and within Greiner, that he would make it back to the big leagues this season. But, what's the saying — it's always darkest before the dawn? 

"I was sitting in a hotel room in Lakeland every day thinking I could be in the big leagues struggling right now," Greiner said. "There's a lot worst things in the world than struggling in the major leagues. 

"I kind of vowed to myself, if I get back up, I was just going to play carefree, play with confidence and see where it takes me. Just try to have a positive attitude and have a positive affect on my teammates." 

He spent a lot of time in Toledo with hitting coach Mike Hessman and manager Doug Mientkiewicz, working at staying on the baseball longer and not pulling off like he was doing early in the season.

A good percentage of his hits since he's been back have been to the opposite field. 

"He had time down in the minor leagues to get away from the pressure of the rat race up here, where everything is magnified," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "He got healthy and he found his swing and brought it back up here with him.

"He's done a really nice job."

The Tigers were in bind Tuesday. It was Matthew Boyd's day to start, but he was called away to Seattle to tend to a family issue. He is expected to make his next start Sunday against the White Sox.

Zac Reininger, who was converted to a starting pitcher in August, was thus thrust into his first big-league start — against a beat-up but still strong-hitting Indians team. 

“We’d be happy to get three innings,” he said. “Anything less than that would probably not be that fun. Anything more would be really good.”

"Not that fun" won out.

Reininger, who was pulled after the first two hitters in the third inning reached base, ended up being charged for four runs.

"I tried to go about it just like any other game," Reininger said. "Just make pitches and get early contact. It didn't really go my way."

The Tigers have lost eight straight at Progressive Field. Going back to Sept. 1, 2017, they are 7-36 against the Indians and 2-19 at Progressive.

Reininger’s sixth pitch of the game, a hanging curveball to Oscar Mercado, was slammed 407 feet into the bleachers in left field. He hung another curveball to Yasiel Puig two batters later that was driven on a hop off the wall in center.

He did not throw another curveball.

Roberto Perez doubled in a run in the second and the two runners Reininger left for  reliever Nick Ramirez in the third — Mercado, who doubled, and Carlos Santana — both scored on a triple by Jordan Luplow. Fifty percent of the runners Ramirez has inherited this season have scored (13-of-26).

Mercado has tortured Tigers’ pitching all season. The rookie center fielder is hitting .327 (18-for-55) with four doubles, four homers and 13 RBIs against them.   

There was one positive takeaway from Reininger’s outing, though. It looks like he’s fully integrated a change-up into his repertoire. He’s tried his entire pitching life to develop one. During his last stint at Triple-A Toledo, he found a grip, a modified four-seam grip, that he liked.

He threw 11 change-ups Tuesday, getting three swings and misses and two groundball outs.  

"That was his best pitch tonight, for sure," Greiner said. 

Dawel Lugo hit his sixth home run of the season, a solo shot to right field in the fifth.

Reliever John Schreiber took over for Ramirez in the fourth inning, inheriting a bases-loaded, two-out mess. He walked Greg Allen to force in a run, then retired seven straight hitters, striking out four of them.

Twitter: @cmccosky