Lorenzen blanks former team in Rangers debut

April 16th, 2024

DETROIT -- set the tone Monday night in his Ranger debut. He threw five scoreless innings against the Tigers, and his bullpen supported him by blanking Detroit the rest of the way in a 1-0 victory at Comerica Park.

The degree of difficulty in what Lorenzen accomplished was pretty high.

Lorenzen, an All-Star for Detroit in 2023 before being traded to the Phillies, didn’t sign with Texas until March 22, and had only three starts in the Minors to get ready.

To top it off, he’d never thrown to starting catcher Jonah Heim.

But they met before the game in a room outside the clubhouse and hatched a plan with pitching coach Mike Maddux.

“I told [Heim], ‘This is a team effort, me and you,’” Lorenzen said. “And I thought he handled everything really [well], and it’s only going to get better. It wasn’t pretty by any means [walking five to go with three singles allowed] and he had my back the entire time. That’s all you can ask for in a catcher.”

Double plays in the third, fourth and fifth innings got him out of scoring trouble.

“Jonah called some really good pitches back there and was able to get us out of some sticky situations,” said Lorenzen. “Let’s pitch to contact and challenge them. I’m happy with how I handled those situations.”

How did the first-time battery mates handle pitch selection?

“We went over the typical scouting report of how we wanted to throw each guy,” said Lorenzen. “What pitches I throw and what I like to do, and then you try and have a blend of how you attack each guy ‘this way.’ But also a blend of what you personally like to do, and your strength. That’ll all come with more pitches and experience of what my go-to is, and seeing it for himself.”

Heim said of the start of the game: “We were kind of going by the seat of our pants at that point, going out with a good game plan and sitting down and talking about how he likes to pitch. When I can understand how he likes to pitch, I can try to game plan to that and see what’s working.”

How quickly did they mesh?

“I think it started right away,” said Heim. “We were on the same page right when we started the game plan, and obviously he knows what he’s doing out there, knows what he wants to do with his pitches. When you’ve got a guy who’s confident in his stuff, that makes my job easy. I’ve just got to push the right buttons and go from there.”

Heim also doubled to lead off the fifth inning, and scored when second baseman Marcus Semien hit a fielder’s choice grounder to shortstop, beating out the would-be double play to knock in the game’s lone run.

Lorenzen struck out four, throwing 46 of his 79 pitches for strikes. He had a 6.35 ERA over three starts at Triple-A Round Rock, but said his offseason workload contributed to getting him ready for the Majors in a hurry.

Jose Leclerc threw two scoreless innings and David Robertson blanked Detroit in the eighth inning before Kirby Yates got his first save as a Ranger with a 1-2-3 ninth.

“Really, really good pitching,” said manager Bruce Bochy. “I mean, down the line, they stepped up. And Michael set the tone. A great start for him -- his first start -- and good stuff. He had a good fastball going along with that slider and changeup.

“He probably could’ve gone a little further but I wanted to take care of him. He had a couple stressful innings but a terrific job… You saw a guy with a lot of poise. He’s got the experience and knows how to make big pitches when he has to. That’s what really good pitchers do, and he did it tonight.”

It was the first five-plus innings outing by Lorenzen in which he allowed three or fewer hits since his no-hitter on Aug. 9, 2023 against the Nationals in Philadelphia. He walked four and struck out five in throwing 124 pitches for his only complete game shutout in 70 starts in the Majors.

Lorenzen started his Major League career with the Reds in 2015, but pitched primarily out of the bullpen after that until the Angels used him as a starter in 2022, as did the Tigers the following season.

He did well against his former teammates.

“I love Detroit,” Lorenzen said. “I love the city. I loved living in [suburban] Birmingham. Everything about Detroit, I enjoyed. The guys over there are great. I tried not to talk to them at all. I was wanting to beat them. So, I’ll catch up with them tomorrow, for sure.”