Tyler Alexander flirts with a no-hitter as Tigers blitz Orioles, 11-0
Baltimore, Md. — The rather sudden hiring of Scott Harris as president of baseball operations wasn't the only plot twist Monday night.
Tyler Alexander might've bent a plot line or two himself.
The Tigers were 1-12 in his starts this season and his last few have been an absolute grind. He’d been tagged for 19 earned runs in 17 innings, yielding seven home runs and a .760 slugging percentage in his last four starts.
The Orioles saw a very different version of this veteran left-hander.
Throwing his four-seamer with precision and moving his cutter and changeup to different sides of the plate, Alexander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning in the Tigers' 11-0 romp.
"I really thought Todd was going to do it," rookie Ryan Kreidler said, using Alexander's nickname, 'Todd the Painter'. "I've never been part of a no-hitter before. We had a combined no-hitter one year in the minors but never a solo no-hitter. I was pretty nervous, to be honest."
Kreidler made one of three sterling plays behind Alexander. In the sixth inning, he made a sliding backhand stab of a ball hit down the line, got up fast and made a strong throw across the diamond that Spencer Torkelson scooped up at first base.
"Those are the plays you see on the highlight reels if it does come true," Kreidler said. "That was a cool one, for sure."
Riley Greene made one in center field earlier. Orioles' Gunnar Henderson in the second inning hit a bullet directly over his head. The ball traveled 406 feet but Greene, though he spun the wrong way at first, recovered and caught the ball as he was banging into the wall.
"Yeah, bad turn, but I recovered," he said. "I didn't realize I was that close to the wall."
Shortstop Javier Báez made a swiping backhand catch of a liner hit by Ramon Urias in the third inning. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 108 mph.
"Todd was incredible," Greene said. "I was in center so I could see where he was throwing it. He wasn't missing. I wear the PitchCom so I knew where every pitch was going and he was right on — maybe he missed a couple."
Alexander only got five swings and misses but he was keeping the Orioles’ hitters off-balance, as evidenced by 14 called strikes, nine with his fastball.
He struck out Adley Rutschman, Ryan Mountcastle and Anthony Santander in succession between the first and second innings — all looking. Rutschman and Mountcastle were frozen by cutters and Santander took a 3-2 fastball.
"I had fastball command for the first time in a while, which is good," Alexander said. "It opened up a lot of the plate for my other pitches."
He knew what was going on and he had to sit through some long innings while the Tigers were putting up crooked numbers on the scoreboard.
"I just kept telling myself to dominate the next inning," he said. "I hadn't gone deep in a while."
Alas, the intrigue came to an abrupt end in the seventh. Mountcastle led off with a broken-bat single to center and Santander followed with another single to center.
"It's nerve-wracking when the hit is hit at you and you don't know if you can catch it or not," Greene said. "I got a good jump and I broke hard. But it was like, 'Aw man." I wasn't going to catch it."
Alexander didn’t flinch, though. He struck out Jesus Aguilar and got Henderson to bounce into a 4-3 double-play, with Jonathan Scoop making a heads-up tag on Santander before throwing Henderson out at first.
"I wasn't too upset when the ball landed," Alexander said. "At that point, I just wanted to get through seven innings clean. I'm glad I was able to keep it together and put up the zero."
After the inning he shared a big hug with catcher Tucker Barnhart, who contributed three hits on the night.
"I don't shake (off signs)," Alexander said. "He calls the pitches and I roll with it and he did a great job of sticking with me when I walked a couple of dudes and when I fell behind a couple of dudes.
"He had a lot of faith in some of the pitches I was throwing."
And, speaking of plot bending, how about 11 runs from the offense? Even if the last two came off outfielder Ryan McKenna.
Rookies Greene, Kreidler and Torkelson have all been scuffling at the plate. Greene was in a 3-for-21 drought, Kreidler 0-for-17 and Torkelson 0-for-19. There wasn't an extra-base hit among them over the last five games.
Greene produced a pair of doubles, both off left-handed pitchers and knocked in three runs. Torkelson had two doubles, a single and scored three times. Kreidler had a big bases-loaded walk in the five-run fourth inning, was hit by a pitch, singled, had a sacrifice fly and totaled a career-high three RBI.
"Everybody wants to have a good night, but when our young guys have a night like that collectively, it's fun to think about what's ahead," manager AJ Hinch said.
Akil Baddoo scored twice and had a two-run single (off a left-handed pitcher) and Miguel Cabrera, in his first game back off the injured list, had two hits, an RBI and scored a run.
The two hits tied him with Cap Anson (3,081) for 24th place on Major League Baseball’s all-time hit list.
"I think I play my best baseball when I'm just trying to help the team win and I think that goes for everybody in the clubhouse," Kreidler said. "When we're just trying to win and we're manufacturing runs and everybody is chipping in, things are going to happen for you."
The Tigers are unbeaten in the Harris era.