Greene impressive in Tigers’ victory over Pirates

Shane Greene has allowed only one unearned run in 16 innings through his first two starts of the season.

Charles LeClaire

Shane Greene is quickly becoming the efficient, high-tempo control pitcher that the Tigers missed last year after trading Doug Fister.

He’s even got the same low-key interview style as his predecessor. 

"This feels great," Greene told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating after beating the Pirates 2-0. "After the first inning, I felt pretty good."

Greene might not talk much, but he’s pitched 16 innings as a Tiger and he still hasn’t allowed an earned run. Tuesday, he improved to 2-0 with eight shutout innings, and only needed 81 pitches to do it.

"Greene was outstanding out there," Brad Ausmus said. "He had good movement and he mixed his pitches. It certainly didn’t hurt him that there were a lot of right-handed hitters in the Pirates lineup, though. His sinker-slider combo is really tough on righties."

If the Tigers had been playing a normal game, Greene would have gotten a shot for what has become called a "Maddux" — a complete game with fewer than 100 pitches. This, though, was a game in a National League park, and when Jose Iglesias doubled with one out in the ninth, Ausmus turned to Victor Martinez.

"If Iglesias had singled, I would have had Greene bunt, but when he got into scoring position, I sent Victor up there," he said. "The chance to get a second run with three outs to go was huge."

The move didn’t pay off immediately — Martinez struck out — but Ian Kinsler drove home the run with a two-out single and Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth to finish off the win.

"Any time you can get some separation for your closer, that’s great," Kinsler said. "I was upset with my at-bat before that one, but Jose gave me another chance, and I was able to take it. The star of this game was Shane Greene, though. I don’t even think he broke a sweat."

Pinch hitting for a pitcher that has been dominant for eight innings is a decision that Ausmus hasn’t had to make very often as an American League manager, but he’s certainly familiar with the NL style of playing after playing 16 seasons with the Astros, Padres and Dodgers.

And, to be honest, Greene made the decision a lot easier. He hadn’t batted in high school, and he didn’t give any signs of being a hidden prodigy on Tuesday. He struck out in all three of his at-bats, failing twice to get down a bunt.

"I was ready to bat again, but that wasn’t going very well," Greene said. "So when Jose got to second, I knew I was done."

The closest Greene got to loquaciousness was when he talked about the outstanding defensive plays behind him, especially a pair of highlight-reel moves pulled off by Iglesias and Kinsler.

"Every time I gave up a hard-hit ball, it was either right at someone, or someone made a great play for me," he said. "That makes me look a lot better."

The defense might have helped, but Greene deserves a lot more of the credit than he’s willing to take. He was ahead in the count all night, and although he only struck out three batters, the Pirates weren’t able to square up many balls.

That’s a very good sign for a young pitcher, especially one who relied on strikeouts as a rookie and gave up a lot of hard-hit balls. If the 26-year-old is able to pitch to contact with the kind of success he has shown in these two starts, he could turn out to be a big part of Detroit’s chase for that elusive World Series title.