'When he's hot, he's hot': Tork HRs, 2Bs in 3-hit game

April 5th, 2023

HOUSTON -- Not only did  pick up three hits on Tuesday at Minute Maid Park, including a towering two-run home run in the top of the eighth, he smashed the ball against Astros pitching.

Torkelson’s stat line of 3-for-4 with three RBIs in the Tigers' 6-3 victory over Houston does not tell the whole story.

The Detroit first baseman’s home run off of reliever Ryne Stanek had an exit velocity of 106.0 mph. His sixth-inning single off starter Framber Valdez had an exit velocity of 109.3. A first-inning double that drove in for the game’s first run left his bat at 102.2 mph.

On a night when most of the Tigers were also hitting -- they finished with a season-best 12 hits -- the right-handed-hitting Torkelson was a triple shy of the cycle.

Manager A.J. Hinch liked the approach at the plate that the second-year Major Leaguer brought.

“We show a ton of confidence in him because he’s a good player and he’s in a really good place,” Hinch said. “He’s not missing pitches, and he’s taking whatever they give him. Some of them are singles; this one [in the eighth] was a big homer.

“He’s hit the ball as hard as any player on our team in the first five games. He’s developing nicely.”

Torkelson batted fourth in the lineup. His focus was just making solid contact against a respectable Houston staff.

“The biggest thing is getting away from being results-driven,” he said. “My process is good. I’m hitting the ball hard.”

Torkelson’s offensive surge helped Detroit win the three-game series over the reigning World Series champions. In Monday’s 7-6 victory in 11 innings, Torkelson went 1-for-4 with two runs and an RBI.

The only time he was retired on Tuesday came leading off the fourth inning, when Valdez got Torkelson to ground out to third. Even that knock had an exit velocity of 85.5 mph.

The three-hit night raised Torkelson’s season batting average to .263.

“He’s locked in, and it’s awesome to see that,” Detroit center fielder said. “Everyone knows he’s one of the best hitters. He always hits balls hard, and it’s cool to see him get three hits. He works super hard, so he deserves it.”

Tuesday was Torkelson’s second career three-RBI game and the first by a Tiger this season. Torkelson previously drove in three on April 22, 2022, his rookie season. He spent most of that year with the Tigers, playing 110 games for the big club.

 “I see him in the cage every day; he’s working his butt off,” Greene said. “When he’s hot, he’s hot.”

Greene batted third in the lineup, one spot ahead of Torkelson. Greene also went 3-for-4 with two runs scored. Greene contributed in the field as well, making a diving catch to rob Yordan Alvarez of a hit leading off the sixth.

Greene benefits from batting in front of Torkelson in the lineup.

“It’s nice to know that Tork’s behind me,” Greene said. “If I get on, it’s a good shot that he’s going to do some damage.”

The eighth-inning blast by Torkelson gave Detroit a 5-2 lead. His first homer of the season came on a 1-1 count and hit high above the left-center-field wall.

“That was a big homer that Torkelson hit tonight to pad the lead, especially when you're not scoring,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “When they score in the seventh, eighth or ninth, and now you have to have a big inning just to tie the game up. [Stanek] threw a pitch where it wasn’t supposed to be."

Torkelson's strike broke the game open for the Tigers, who have won two straight after being outscored 21-3 in losing all three games at Tampa Bay in the opening series of 2023.

Torkelson turned over a 98 mph fastball from Stanek, who has a lively arm and a good splitter. 

“I’m just trying to be easy [swinging],” Torkelson said. “I was really keyholing him. I was just trying to get a good pitch to hit and seeing it right down the middle. I think he threw it somewhere close to down the middle.”