Riley Greene reaches base four times in debut win over Rangers


Riley Greene reaches base four times in debut win over Rangers

DETROIT — Ever since the Tigers drafted Riley Greene fifth overall in 2019, his baseball skills have come under scrutiny. But besides the sweet swing, quick strides and instinctive play, there’s this: He hates losing.

“He’s a competitor,” said Braves prospect Vaughn Grissom, Greene’s best friend and high school teammate in Oviedo, Fla. “and he’s not going to be okay with just folding.”

Many professional athletes have this trait. But green Yes, really hates to lose.

“This guy literally plays to the right,” Grissom said of left-handed Greene, who plays golf with his left hand so as not to interfere with his baseball swing, “and he’s good just because he doesn’t want to lose.”

Grissom said so in a phone call Friday, just hours before the Tigers called to bring Greene to his major league debut. Greene, who was traveling with Triple-A Toledo and couldn’t fly back Friday night, caught a flight to Detroit Saturday morning, went to Comerica Park and joined a Tigers team that had spent most of the week in free fall . The hug he received from Miguel Cabrera in the clubhouse showed what his arrival meant.

“We will do everything in our power to win and now I will do my best to help this team and do whatever I have to do,” Greene said early Saturday afternoon. “But we will win baseball games. That’s all I have to say.”

A few hours later, as Greene trotted home for the Tigers with the day’s 14th heat, it was hard to argue that he hadn’t made a difference. No, he didn’t score all of those runs, just a few of them, nor did he have one in his first two big league hits. But the energy with which the Tigers played in their 14-7 win over Rangers bolstered case manager AJ Hinch, who noted Friday that Greene’s spring training foot injury, which delayed his debut by two months, was a blow to the pit of the stomach was for the whole team.

“It speaks to how much credibility Riley has gained in our clubhouse because of his energy, his work and the vibe around him,” said Hinch.

Hinch didn’t want Greene to feel the weight of the club’s slow start on his shoulders. The way the Tigers banged the lineup up and down, he didn’t have to.

“I was just trying to have fun today,” Greene said. “That’s the name of the game, I think. Just have fun and everything else will fall into place.”

By the time the Tigers finished batting in the first inning, Greene – batting sixth – not only had his first major league hit, but the Tigers had recorded more runs (three) than in the previous four games combined (two ).

When a fourth inning with five runs increased their lead to 9-1, they had their second-highest run total of the season.

Two more runs in the fifth inning, one by Greene after a leadoff walk and a sacrifice fly by Kody Clemens, meant the Tigers had as many runs in five innings (11) as in the previous eight games of the homestand combined.

A three-run sixth inning — again with Clemens driving in Greene — propelled Detroit to its highest mileage of the season, after the 13-0 win on April 23, the same day Cabrera made his 3,000. scored hits.

This outburst was short-lived; The Tigers totaled 10 runs in their subsequent six-game losing streak. But Greene isn’t going anywhere, and the Tigers are hoping his elevator isn’t either.

“This isn’t the first breakout game,” Hinch said. “We had long stretches in between but I’m grateful because these guys needed it. This team needed it. Our employees needed it. Our fans needed it.”

Greene reached base safely four times out of four pitchers. His two hits were singles against lefties. It took him just two pitches, one in the strike zone, to record his first major league hit, firing a single into short left field in front of Texas starter Taylor Hearn. Members of his family, who flew from Orlando to Pittsburgh because of full flights and then drove to Detroit on Saturday, stood behind home plate to cheer him on.

“When I ran into midfield [for the first inning, I was] a little nervous,” Greene said. “But once I got my first hit, everything was fine after that.”

Greene led the eighth inning with a line drive to end a 0-2 pitch by John King. But the walks in between, in back-to-back innings from right-handed assists, made a bigger impression on Hinch. Jesus Tinoco put him into an 0-2 hole at 96 mph, but Greene put down breaking balls to fill up the count before another sinker missed a free pass that led to the fifth.

An inning later, Greene took two narrow pitches from Jose Leclerc on his way to a one-out walk.

“The quality of at-bats for five in a row is pretty great,” Hinch said. “I mean, that’s something we needed and one of the reasons we’re looking forward to him.”

According to research on Baseball-Reference, Greene is the first major league player to make four safe baseballs on his debut since Orioles outfielder Cedric Mullins had three hits and a walk on Aug. 10, 2018. Not since Scott Livingstone had a tiger managed three hits and a walk on July 19, 1991.

“Riley just scores,” said teammate and good friend Spencer Torkelson. “I remember when I got my first punch it was like a load was lifted from my shoulders. It looked like he was playing pretty freely anyway.”

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