CHICAGO -- Shane Greene became the Tigers' closer about four weeks ago. With Saturday's 6-3 win over the White Sox, he now has more saves of five or more outs than anybody else in the American League. Only Cincinnati's Raisel Iglesias has more in the Majors.Greene -- aka "Shaner" for
CHICAGO -- Shane Greene became the Tigers' closer about four weeks ago. With Saturday's 6-3 win over the White Sox, he now has more saves of five or more outs than anybody else in the American League. Only Cincinnati's Raisel Iglesias has more in the Majors.
Greene -- aka "Shaner" for Players Weekend -- has more five-out saves (three) than traditional three-out saves (two).
It's not as if the Tigers drew up the role when they anointed him to succeed Justin Wilson at closer. But Greene's background as a converted starter turned middle reliever turned big-out specialist provided an extra advantage in his new role. He's also one of two established Major League relievers in an eight-man Tigers bullpen. And as Detroit struggles through August, Greene hasn't had an abundance of work, going three weeks between save opportunities at one point and six days without pitching at another.
"Actually, I'm feeling better now that I'm pitching more," Greene said. "The more I pitch, the better I feel. It's kind of weird, but that's the way it is."
So as Alex Wilson, pitching for the third consecutive day, worked into eighth-inning trouble with a one-out walk and single to put the potential tying run at the plate, Gene Lamont -- acting as manager once Brad Ausmus was ejected earlier in the game -- didn't hesitate to make the call. That's why he had Greene warming up as the bottom of the eighth began.
"You don't want him to throw too many pitches. It's not the ideal thing," Lamont said. "But we've been struggling to win games."
It was a similar setup to Thursday, when Wilson's ejection for hitting Todd Frazier put the Tigers in a bind with a three-run lead. With Tim Anderson up, just 1-for-7 against Greene, Lamont made the call.
"I knew if he got into any trouble, they were probably going to call my name early," Greene said. "I had to make sure I was ready to go."
Four pitches later, Greene was out of the inning. All four pitches were sliders. Anderson swung and missed at the first one, took the second at the knees in nearly the same location, fouled off the third, then hit the fourth on the ground to third for a double play.
Greene was equally nasty to Yolmer Sanchez, using 96-mph fastballs to set up a cutter that he chased for strike three, and pinch-hitter Rob Brantly, who fouled off three consecutive pitches before taking a fastball at the belt and on the outside corner for a called third strike. Omar Narvaez's one-out single in between created trouble in between, but Alen Hanson's two-out grounder seemingly ended up.
Perhaps conscious of Hanson's speed, Greene bobbled it, picking up a fielding error and putting Hanson on first. That brought Tyler Saladino to the plate as the potential tying run, with Jose Abreu looming on deck, hoping for a chance to win it.
"Hitters have no names and no faces," Greene said. "If I make my pitch, I'm going to come out on top most of the time."
Saladino worked his way to a 2-1 count before Greene executed his biggest pitches of the night, two 96-mph fastballs down near the knees for called strikes. And as Saladino froze, the Tigers celebrated.
Lamont didn't rule out Greene being available again Sunday, though maybe just for three outs. Greene never will rule himself out. As the Tigers work their way down the stretch with a young bullpen and an aging roster, he's an advantage for them. A Justin Wilson made the closer a strength for the club for the first time in a while, Greene might be even stronger.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.