Brieske turns corner with 6-inning gem vs. Yankees

June 4th, 2022

NEW YORK – Tigers right-hander  had the best start of his Major League career on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. Unfortunately, the Yankees won the game, 3-0.

Brieske made two mistakes and the first one came on his first pitch of the game to Aaron Judge, who hit his 21st home run over the right-field wall to give New York a 1-0 lead. After that, Brieske found a nice rhythm, retiring 17 of the next 19 batters he faced. It helped that he was able to throw a great slider on this day. Brieske said he enjoyed pitching on the big stage -- New York. 

“I wasn’t overthinking things. I just allowed the game to come to me. I kind of fed off the energy from the crowd -- just the atmosphere,” Brieske said. “I just had a lot of fun out there. It does give you confidence knowing that you can go against this [Yankees] lineup. It’s a good lineup. But if I execute my stuff, I’m going to give my team a chance.”      

But the long ball haunted Brieske once again as he allowed a solo shot to Anthony Rizzo on the first pitch of his at-bat in the sixth inning. The slider betrayed Brieske when it came to Rizzo.

“[Brieske] had the first-pitch homers, but he settled in pretty nicely,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I thought he threw some nice secondary pitches. He pitched to a really good game plan. I’m very happy with him. His adjustments started to come a little faster in the game. The swings by the [Yankees] looked a little more uncomfortable as the day went on, which is good.”

Brieske believes he took a step forward because he never gave up on his slider. In fact, he said he has never felt better on the mound. He was pleased to be able to add another tool to his repertoire. In addition to the slider, Brieske throws a fastball, a changeup and a two-seamer.

“Having that slider allowed me to throw heaters in certain counts, where they took it. They were not expecting it,” Brieske said. “I’m going to continue to work and progress with it, too. All my stuff will be a little bit better.”

The Tigers didn't give Brieske any run support. They were shut out for the second consecutive game, this time by Yankees right-hander Luis Severino, who allowed one hit in seven innings, a second-inning single off the bat of Miguel Cabrera.

“We didn’t do much -- one walk and one hit [against Severino],” Hinch said. “He was very dominant. He got us to chase when he needed to. We didn’t hit a ton of balls hard. He pitched a great game. They are rolling out a good pitcher every day. We’ve seen two of the best that they have. They have stepped up.

“We had a hard time offensively for a while, and we had some spurts where we [did] a little bit better. I don’t care who gets the credit or the blame. We just have to come out and win a game tomorrow.”

Detroit’s offense has struggled for most of the season. The Tigers are 30th in OPS (.596) and runs scored (146) and near the bottom in batting average (.218). It doesn’t help that Javier Báez is having a down season.

In fact, Detroit signed Báez this offseason thinking he could take the Tigers to the next level. But entering Sunday’s action, he is hitting .190 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Opposing pitchers have thrown a steady diet of sliders his way, and he is swinging at that pitch.

"I think we are all frustrated,” Hinch said. “The lack of recognition and swinging outside the strike zone is part of what [Báez] has done. It begs for some adjustments [at the plate]. We want better for him. He wants better for himself. We have to get inside the strike zone because the league is obviously going to continue to tease him around the strike zone until he adjusts.”

Báez acknowledged that he is not following the ball and has the same approach while in the batter’s box. He is always looking for the fastball.

“[If] I don’t make them throw my pitch, they are going to throw the slider,” Báez said. “I just have to make an adjustment. There are no excuses.”