HOUSTON — A.J. Hinch returned to Minute Maid Park to a video tribute and a standing ovation that brought him out of the visiting dugout. The Tigers manager then watched his new team send one of his old aces, Zack Greinke, back to the home dugout with one of his roughest outings in years.
Hinch’s first game against the Astros was always going to be an unusual night, but the Tigers’ 6-2 win Monday night was beyond what even the most ardent Detroit fan might have dreamed. A Tigers lineup that produced just six runs in three games at Cleveland matched that total in 4 2/3 innings against Greinke.
Rule 5 Draft pick Akil Baddoo hit a 450-foot home run and came within feet of a two-homer game. And former top overall pick Casey Mize outpitched a Cy Young Award winner for his first Major League victory in his ninth big league start, delivering seven scoreless innings.
Hinch enjoyed seeing familiar faces. He loved the performance from his new guys more.
A day after the Tigers looked lethargic in a series sweep in Cleveland, they came to life against an Astros team that had opened the season playing some of its best ball since Hinch’s days as manager. Much of the time came from the bottom third of the lineup, which hit all three homers yielded by Greinke.
Greinke stranded the bases loaded in a 27-pitch opening inning, but Grayson Greiner’s opposite-field two-run homer sparked Detroit again in the second. Renato Núñez, who doubled off the left-field wall ahead of Greiner’s homer, hit his first homer as a Tiger with a drive off the left-field pole with two outs in the third.
Mize spent much of Spring Training fighting for a rotation spot because he struggled to command the strike zone. A pair of first-inning walks and a second-inning hit-by-pitch hinted at a similar battle Monday, but the former top prospect used key strikeouts in both innings to escape unblemished.