Riley Greene leads Detroit Tigers in 13-5 win over Astros with four hits, two home runs

HOUSTON — The Detroit Tigers found out Saturday morning.

Houston Astros right-hander Justin Verlander, a 19-year MLB veteran who pitched for the Tigers from 2005-17, wasn't placed on the injured list, but he was scratched from Saturday's start against his old team with neck discomfort.

The Verlander injury pushed rookie right-hander Spencer Arrighetti into action a day earlier than planned.

"We knew it right when we got here," said center fielder Riley Greene, who finished 4-for-5 with six RBIs in the first four-hit game of his MLB career. "We did our meeting, and we were good to go."

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The Tigers took advantage of the inexperienced Arrighetti — chasing him in the second inning after scoring seven runs — en route to a 13-5 win over the Astros on Saturday in the second of three games at Minute Maid Park. The Tigers tallied 19 hits and five home runs, both season highs, in the eight-run victory.

Greene led the attack by launching home runs in the first and second innings.

The 23-year-old extended his hitting streak to six games, as his batting average increased from .245 to .256 and his OPS jumped from .796 to .836.

"I'm going to enjoy it today," Greene said. "Tomorrow is a new day. You never know with this game. I figured out a few things last night during the game. I made some adjustments (to my approach), and I talked to Michael (Brdar, hitting coach) about it, and he's like, 'I love it.' I'm just really trying to make those small adjustments until something clicks. Sometimes, it clicks. Sometimes, it doesn't."

Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene runs up the base line after hitting an RBI single to center field against the Houston Astros during the third inning at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Saturday, June 15, 2024.
Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene runs up the base line after hitting an RBI single to center field against the Houston Astros during the third inning at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Saturday, June 15, 2024.

For the Tigers, right-hander Jack Flaherty delivered five scoreless innings on three hits and one walk with six strikeouts, throwing 73 pitches. He hadn't pitched since June 4 because of lower back tightness.

The Tigers (34-36) scored 10 runs in the first three innings, plating double-digit runs that early for the first time since June 2, 2017, against the Chicago White Sox. In that game, Miguel Cabrera doubled off left-hander Derek Holland in both the first and second innings.

Facing the Astros, the Tigers grabbed a 2-0 lead with back-to-back solo home runs from Matt Vierling and Greene against Arrighetti in the first inning, both to left-center.

Vierling, who has nine homers in 63 games this season, crushed a cutter for a 411-foot homer, whereas Greene clobbered a curveball for a 343-foot homer into Minute Maid Park's Crawford Boxes.

"It allows you to fill up the zone," Flaherty said of the run support. "Get a lead like that, your job is to go out and throw strikes and continue to execute."

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The Tigers tacked on six more runs in the second inning, with the first five runs courtesy of Wenceel Pérez's two-run single and Greene's three-run home run for a 7-0 lead to chase Arrighetti from his start after four outs and 48 pitches.

This time, Greene pounded Arrighetti's changeup for a 409-foot homer to right field. He leads the Tigers with 14 home runs in 69 games this season.

"I think days like today show you not to panic about Riley," Hinch said. "He's learning. He's growing. He gets good pitches to hit, and he does a ton of damage. It's not always perfect, not always easy. I think it's part of the development."

The Tigers increased their lead to 8-0 against right-handed reliever Shawn Dubin when Mark Canha scored because of a fielding error on Colt Keith's ground ball to first base.

Greene, who hit 11 homers in 99 games last season, is tied with Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez for ninth in the American League with 14 homers.

"He's a really good player," Hinch said of Greene's power surge in the third season of his MLB career. "It doesn't surprise me in the least bit, but I don't want him to be done. We're only in June."

Riley Greene's RBIs

The Tigers scored two more runs in the third inning for a 10-0 lead.

Those runs scored as part of five singles in a row against Dubin from Pérez, Vierling, Greene, Canha and Keith. Greene and Canha registered the RBIs.

"Momentum is key for us," Greene said. "Just trying to ride that momentum every single day, every single at-bat. Just trying to do what we can to get more runs."

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In the sixth inning, Carson Kelly — who has caught all of Flaherty's starts — hit a solo home run off right-handed reliever Nick Hernandez to extend the Tigers' lead to 11-0.

Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers is congratulated by Wenceel Perez and Carson Kelly after hitting a three-run home run in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, June 15, 2024 in Houston.
Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers is congratulated by Wenceel Perez and Carson Kelly after hitting a three-run home run in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, June 15, 2024 in Houston.

The Tigers took a 12-5 lead when Greene drew a four-pitch walk against right-handed reliever Rafael Montero with the bases loaded and two outs in the eighth inning.

It was Greene's sixth RBI of the game, a career high and the most by a Tiger since Eric Haase drove in six runs on July 3, 2021, against the White Sox.

"That was my favorite at-bat right there," Greene said. "I really had to stick to my approach and not do too much. I spit on some good changeups. It made me feel good about my approach."

Keith, who finished 4-for-6 with two extra-base hits, then cranked a solo home run — his third homer in the 61st game of his rookie season — to right-center field off right-handed reliever Tayler Scott in the ninth inning for a 13-5 lead.

Tigers pitcher Jack Flaherty delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Saturday, June 15, 2024.
Tigers pitcher Jack Flaherty delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros during the first inning at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Saturday, June 15, 2024.

Finally, the Astros score

It wasn't a shutout for the Tigers, as the Astros scored five runs in the seventh inning.

César Salazar and Trey Cabbage hit back-to-back RBI doubles with two outs against right-handed reliever Mason Englert, and two batters later, Chas McCormick hit a three-run home run.

It was McCormick's first home run in his 37th game of the season.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him @EvanPetzold.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers pound Houston Astros early, often in 13-5 victory

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