Greene shakes off rust, laborious start for win

Having not pitched since Opening Day, Tigers starter overcomes two-run first with efficiency

April 14th, 2016

PITTSBURGH -- Shane Greene hadn't thrown a pitch in a game since Opening Day, when he was the impromptu closer in an 11th-inning Tigers win. By the time Greene's first inning against the Pirates was over Wednesday night, he had thrown 35 pitches, including eight straight for balls in back-to-back walks to bring in a run.

He threw 62 pitches over his next five innings to take the 7-3 win at PNC Park. And as he reflected back on the victory, he was as efficient with his words as he was with those later innings.

"At the end of the day, we're just trying to win ballgames," he said.

His ability to survive that opening inning with just two runs allowed was arguably the key to getting that win, keeping the Tigers within striking distance rather than what could've been far worse. Then again, the entire inning was an oddity.

Despite the pitch count, his only full count was to his first batter, John Jaso, who also provided the only hard-hit ball in play that inning with a leadoff single off the right-field wall. David Freese's infield single was the only other base hit.

Greene had two four-pitch walks and another 2-0 count, but he also had three hitters in 0-2 holes. As he tried to pitch off the brink of disaster, his final two hitters of the inning fell into the 0-2 category.

With the bases loaded, one out and relievers beginning to stretch, Greene worked ahead of Gregory Polanco and induced a ground ball. They couldn't get the double play, but settled for a second out as a second run came across.

Up came Josh Harrison, who chased a slider down and out of the zone on an 0-2 pitch to end the threat. The Pirates got their toll from Greene, much like they did against Justin Verlander on Monday, but Greene regrouped.

Breaking balls point of emphasis for Verlander

"Once I settled down, my timing was down," he said.

The fact that he could lose it after one inning of game work in about two weeks wasn't altogether shocking. Manager Brad Ausmus said he worried more about Greene having too much energy than not enough focus.

His pitches were moving, including 91-mph sinkers that registered as sliders on's Gameday app. He just had to corral them.

"He hasn't started in two weeks," said catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who hit a go-ahead grand slam in the sixth inning for his 100th career home run. "This is his first time starting. He was in a tough situation, missing starts as a young pitcher. He's a little excited, amped up obviously, but he did a great job of coming out in the next inning and really making great, great pitches.

"Obviously his cutter was really good tonight, but he had a lot of bad swings on the slider. Slider was really, really good. He just did a great job of not missing. He didn't miss over the middle of the plate to a group of hitters that are really good and at any point can break open a game. He did a great job keeping us in that game, so this win's all on him."