Guardians' seventh-inning rally foils productive night for Tigers rookie Greene

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland – Tigers’ manager AJ Hinch was talking about rookie Riley Greene before Friday's game. He was asked what Greene might’ve learned from striking out four times against Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie Thursday night.

“I think he learned that McKenzie’s got a nasty breaking ball,” Hinch said. “It’s pretty simple. That dude was nasty.”

Hinch, as he’s said, isn’t going to ride the emotional rapids with Greene, who like all rookies will endure his share of hardships and successes as he cuts his teeth against big-league pitching.

BOX SCORE: Guardians 6, Tigers 5

"One thing I appreciate about Riley Greene,” Hinch said. “The day after the four-punchout performance he was just the same as he was the day after he hit the walk-off homer. That’s not easy to do at that age, at this level with so many expectations on him. It’s a tribute to his character.”

What he did Friday in the Tigers’ otherwise dispiriting 6-5 loss to the Guardians at Progressive Field was a tribute to his talent. Greene hit his second home run of the season, doubled and knocked in three runs.

Detroit Tigers' Riley Greene (31) celebrates with Victor Reyes (22) after hitting a solo home run off Cleveland Guardians starting pitcher Zach Plesac during the third inning of a baseball game Friday, July 15, 2022, in Cleveland.

"You just turn the page," Greene said. "You can't go back in time and redo anything. So, what's done is done. Can't change anything so just focus on what you do today." 

When Greene came to bat in the first inning, he’d struck out in his six previous at-bats and hadn’t put a ball in play since his first-inning single in Kansas City on Wednesday.

He came to hunt fastballs.

He swung at the first pitch of the game, a fastball from right-hander Zach Plesac. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 104 mph. Unfortunately for him, he hit it to the deepest part of Progressive Field and it was caught.

Next at-bat, with two outs in the third inning with the Tigers trailing 3-0, he again swung at a first-pitch fastball and scalded it. The ball left his bat at 107 mph and flew on a line over the right-center field wall — Greene’s second homer of the season.

"I'm always going to be in attack-mode," Greene said. "If he's going to throw me a first-pitch fastball, I'm going to swing at it. If I swing at it and it's a curveball in the dirt, I'm sticking to my approach, sticking to my plan. 

"Going into my next couple of at-bats I felt pretty good about my swing." 

His third at-bat highlighted a four-run fourth inning and sent Plesac to an early shower. A double by Harold Castro (who had three hits) and a single by Willi Castro tied the score at 3. Greene came up with the bases loaded and two outs.

He missed badly on a 1-0 change-up, so badly that Plesac decided to throw another one. Greene was all over it, lining a two-run double into the right field corner, giving the Tigers a 5-3 lead.

"I was just kind of see-ball, hit-ball right there," Greene said. "He got a swing-and-miss on a change-up and threw it again. I stayed back a little longer and hit it."

Hinch, after watching his hitters strike out 12 times against McKenzie on Thursday, appreciated Greene setting an aggressive tone right out of the gate. But he never doubted his resiliency. 

"If he wants to play every day and be the player we think he can be, he's got to have a short memory on nights like last night," Hinch said. "He did that tonight. It was an excellent bounce-back game. Just not quite enough."

It's 2022 in a nutshell for the Tigers: Three pitchers shut down in one day

Tigers pitchers walked six batters (one intentionally), three of them to start innings. It was a recipe for defeat.

"It's tough when you put guys on base without having to put the ball in play," Hinch said. "And anytime you put guys on base in front of the top of their order, then all of a sudden you've got to navigate that middle. 

"Sometimes you get away with it, sometimes you don't."

Cleveland scored four runs in five innings against Tigers' starter Drew Hutchison, three in the first after a leadoff walk.

"It was a battle tonight," Hutchison said. "I put us behind the 8-ball in the first." 

He left with a 5-4 lead.

Reliever Andrew Chafin walked the leadoff man in the sixth and hit a batter, but got through the inning unscathed, getting a clutch strikeout of pinch-hitter Franmil Reyes.

But the walks caught up to them in the seventh. Michael Fulmer walked the No. 9 hitter Myles Straw after getting ahead of him 0-2. Bad start.

Steven Kwan followed with a double, hitting a high chopper over the head of first baseman Harold Castro.

"If that's a foot lower, that's an out," Greene said.

Fulmer struck out Amed Rosario and then, per Hinch's instructions, walked Jose Ramirez intentionally. 

Josh Naylor tied the score with a sacrifice fly to left and then Andres Gimenez dunked an RBI bloop single into shallow left to put the Guardians ahead. 

Cleveland Guardians' Josh Naylor, left, and Trevor Stephan celebrate the team's 6-5 win over the Detroit Tigers in a baseball game Friday, July 15, 2022, in Cleveland.

"I don't think anything is going against us," Hinch said. "They did a better job of winning the at-bats. We're not victims. We tried to push through an extra run here or there to give us some breathing room, but they came up with the big hit.

"That's just the competition."

The Tigers, who have lost seven of their last eight games and fall to 17 games under .500 (37-54), got just two hits after the fourth inning. 

Twitter: @cmccosky