Tyler Alexander's strikeout heroics for Tigers swept up in Reds' 7-inning twinbill taking

Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — On a historic day at Comerica Park, Tigers left-handed pitcher Tyler Alexander made history himself.

Alexander’s heroics were sandwiched between two home runs and a game-tying error by former Tiger Nick Castellanos as Cincinnati rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Tigers in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader.

The Tigers tied the game 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth on a three-base error by Castellanos, who dropped a line drive to right-center field by Victor Reyes.

Detroit Tigers pitcher Tyler Alexander throws against the Cincinnati Reds in the fourth inning of Game 1 Sunday.

But the Reds came right back against Tigers closer Joe Jimenez with three straight hits to open the seventh — remember, both games Sunday were seven innings — with Shogo Akiyama's single breaking a 3-3 tie.

Trevor Bauer shut down the Tigers in the second game, 4-0, to earn the sweep and drop the Tigers to 5-5 on the season.

BOX SCORE: Game 1, Reds 4, Tigers 3

BOX SCORE: Game 2, Reds 4, Tigers 0

But back to Alexander.

Alexander relieved Rony Garcia after Garcia gave up a second consecutive home run to Castellanos and promptly struck out nine consecutive hitters, tying an American League and Tigers franchise record.

“I don’t know about special,” said Alexander of his memorable performance. “I don’t normally try to strike out people, but I would say after the fifth strikeout I was trying to strike people out.

“I don’t know about special, it was just trying to get outs.”

Alexander, 26, was a second-round draft pick in 2015 from Texas Christian University. He made his major league debut last year and has worked out of the bullpen thus far this season.

Alexander tied former Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, who struck out nine consecutive Kansas City Royals on Sept. 27, 2012.

The Major League Baseball record is 10, set by Tom Seaver of the New York Mets on April 22, 1970 against San Diego.

But Alexander hit Mike Moustakas with a 1-2 pitch, ending his streak. Alexander was ahead 0-2 on Moustakas but missed on a pitch down low.

Then after Moustakas fouled off a ball, Alexander hit Moustakas on the hand, forcing Moustakas to leave the game.

“I tried to brush him back to go back to my slider, but obviously it got a little bit away from me,” Alexander said.

Alexander credited a slider he’s been working extensively on with Sunday’s success.

“I normally do throw a lot of strikes and when I miss, I miss over the plate,” Alexander said. “I just made a big focus on missing down and I didn’t have many bad misses, and the mistakes I made were in the dirt, so it gave me a chance to (have batters) swing at them.

“I’ve been working on the slider. It’s been here and there but in the last couple of weeks it’s been showing signs of being good, but it’s never been this good consistently. Hopefully, it continues.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire was impressed by Alexander.

"He's a done a real nice job no matter what situation we put him in," Gardenhire said. "Today was phenomenal. Nine (strikeouts) in a row, he just knows how to pitch. 

"He's making a statement he wants to pitch more and he wants to start and that's how you get into the plans doing things like that. We know he can start, we had him do it last  year. We're just trying to sort things out."

The Reds' Nick Castellanos rounds the bases after hitting a two-run home run against the Tigers in the first inning of Game 1 Sunday.

Alexander realized he was setting a record when the public address announcer mentioned it.

“I tried to strike him out," Alexander said of Castellanos, the ninth strikeout victim. "The 10th guy (Moustakas) I ran up and in and I hit Moustakas on the wrist, unfortunately."

Alexander wound up pitching 3⅔ innings, allowing no hits or runs, while walking one and striking out 10.

Sunday’s doubleheader was the first in Major League Baseball since 1900 in which both games were scheduled for fewer than nine innings. The only other such doubleheader, between Boston and Cleveland in 1912, was shortened by rain and darkness. 

Castellanos, dealt at the trade deadline last year, tormented his former teammates with a two-run home run in the first inning on a solo shot to lead off the third inning.

But the dropped fly ball in the sixth by Castellanos gave back all three runs, tying the game, before the Reds rebounded against Jimenez. 

The Tigers went down in order in the seventh to end the game.

Game 2

In the second game, Bauer, who took to social media to blast Saturday’s late rainout postponement and slyly complimented Sunday’s rain delay, held the Tigers to two hits in the nightcap.

Bauer was dominant for the second time this season against the Tigers, this time blanking the Tigers over seven innings. (It counts as a shutout despite the seven-inning game).

Tigers pitcher Daniel Norris works in the first inning of Game 2 Sunday.

Bauer allowed two hits and two walks with no earned runs, while striking out seven. He was rarely in trouble in this game, with the Tigers only putting two runners aboard in one inning.

The loss spoiled the season debut of Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris, who didn’t finish the second inning.

Norris went 1⅔ innings, allowing four hits, two earned runs and two walks, while striking out none.

Norris threw 54 pitches, laboring through his first start of the season.

Matt Davidson singled home Eugenio Suarez, who doubled, in the Reds’ first inning, and Aristides Aquino singled in Christian Colon in the second.

All the Tigers could muster off Bauer was a single by Jordy Mercer in the second inning and a Harold Castro single in the third.

After Castro got on base, Miguel Cabrera walked with two outs, giving the Tigers their best threat of the day.

But Jonathan Schoop popped out to second baseman Colon to end the inning, and pretty much end the Tigers’ lone threat.

A bright spot was the Tigers’ bullpen, which allowed two Reds runs over the last 5⅓ innings, on seven hits, the lone damage being a two-run single by Colon in the seventh inning off reliever Bryan Garcia.