Tigers lose Urena, Goodrum, but end losing streak in opener
Detroit – The Tigers needed to flip the script any way they could after being swept in a four-game series in Minnesota before the All-Star break.
A skinny, 1-0 win in a seven-inning game that lasted one hour and 55 minutes would do just fine.
"This was huge," said lefty reliever Daniel Norris, who got six big outs to earn the win. "That series back before the break, that hurt. It stung a bit because we'd been playing so well and we wanted to finish the first half on a high note. But they play good ball and they battle.
"So today was big to get that win and stop the bleeding a little bit."
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Robbie Grossman led off the bottom of the first inning with a solo home run and Norris and two other relievers made it hold up in the first of two games Saturday at Comerica Park.
But the win came with a potentially significant loss.
Right-hander Jose Urena started and for the second start in a row, albeit 10 days apart, pitched three scoreless innings. It would've been a serious boost for the Tigers rotation if Urena could get back to the form he showed through his first seven starts.
Instead, he's headed to the injured list. Urena was pulled from the game after three innings with tightness in his right groin.
"He said he did it on one pitch (in the third inning)," Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. "The right groin grabbed and he was sore, so we had to get him out."
The Tigers rotation, already without injured Matthew Boyd (elbow) and Spencer Turnbull (forearm), is thinning dangerously. It's down to Wily Peralta, Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize, who has at least two more short-inning outings left before he starts ramping back up.
"Unfortunately, this popped up and now we have to deal with it," Hinch said.
Reliever Alex Lange was summoned from Triple-A Toledo and active for Game 2. It is unclear when or whether the Tigers will add a starter going forward.
The Tigers also put utility man Niko Goodrum on the injured list between games and called up outfielder Victor Reyes from Toledo.
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"This stems back to last Saturday before the break when Niko fouled a ball off his calf," Hinch said. "He's got a hematoma, he's bleeding in his calf and it's sore and spreading. The body hasn't absorbed it yet. He's uncomfortable moving around."
Despite that, the Tigers were able to make a winner out of Grossman's first-inning homer.
"Obviously we needed our bullpen to pitch well and I think they wanted to prove something," Hinch said, referencing the beating the Tigers bullpen took at Target Field. "All three guys came in and were great."
Norris, spotting his four-seam fastball (93-94 mph) precisely and mixing his slider and change-up, blew through hitters Nos. 3-8 in the Twins lineup, four of the six hitting from the left side. It was as sharp as he’s looked in quite some time.
“Obviously numbers-wise, it was not a fun first half for me,” Norris said. “But the break gave me a chance to take a step back and look at the positives. This is the best I’ve felt (physically) in five years now. That’s a huge positive for me.
"I know if I keep doing what I’m doing, working hard and feeling good, with the stuff I’ve had this year, good things will happen in time.”
Hinch, who called him a prime bounce-back candidate, said it could be vital for the structure of the bullpen, the way teams are stacking left-handed hitters against the Tigers, if Norris can get back to form.
"He's just got really good pitches when he executes," Hinch said. "His arsenal is really good to be a weapon for us. That's how I described him at the beginning and that's still how I feel about him. If he can put some outings together and pitch his way back into the mid-leverage role, it would be huge for us."
Right-hander Kyle Funkhouser struck out the side in the sixth, punching out Andrelton Simmons, Luis Arraez and Josh Donaldson.
That left the seventh, and the heart of the Twins order, to All-Star lefty Gregory Soto. Done. He put the Twins down in order for his eighth save of the season.
"We couldn't have drawn it up any better with the way their batting order played out for them," Hinch said. "Our match-up bullpen matched up great and they also came in and performed."
Twins rookie lefty Charlie Barnes was making his major league debut and Grossman gave him his welcome to the big leagues moment, leading off the bottom of the first with a line drive home run into the visitor’s bullpen in left center.
The Tigers did very little else against him or former Tiger Beau Burrows, who made his Twins debut with 1 1/3 scoreless innings.
Guess how many times in their history the Tigers have hit a home run in their first at-bat and won the game 1-0? According to Elias Sports, never before Saturday. The last time it happened in the major leagues was Aug. 3, 2014, when the Orioles did it.