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Behind Riley Greene, Tigers look to take series from Royals

Jul 2, 2022; Detroit, Michigan, USA;  Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene (31) hits a game winning home run in the ninth inning against the Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Rookie power has been on display in this weekend’s series between the host Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals.

Royals first baseman Vinnie Pasquantino homered for his first major league hit in the opener on Friday.

Detroit center fielder Riley Greene saved his first career long ball for a more dramatic moment — he hit a walk-off winner over the center field wall in Detroit’s 4-3 triumph on Saturday.

The American League Central teams will finish off the series on Sunday afternoon.

Greene’s blast came two pitches after Victor Reyes tied the game with his first home run of the season.

“It feels awesome,” Greene said in a postgame TV interview. “Shout-out to Rey-Rey for hitting that homer. It gave me an opportunity and I took advantage of it.”

While it took 12 games before Greene knocked one over the fence, he’s given the Tigers a huge jolt since being called up from Triple-A Toledo. He’s batting .302 with a .434 on-base percentage and has scored 10 runs. Greene was moved into the leadoff spot when Detroit returned from a road trip this week.

He also had a triple and walk while scoring three runs on Saturday.

“He just gets good pitches and good at-bats,” Detroit manager A.J. Hinch said. “He’s in a good place selectivity-wise and he didn’t miss that last one. Not many guys can go out to those bushes (beyond the center field wall).”

Greene has also sparkled in center field defensively. He was expected to join the club for Opening Day but suffered a broken foot late in training camp. He’s quickly become a regular on Hinch’s lineup card.

“Just trying to stick to my approach and hit the ball hard,” Greene said.

The ninth-inning homers came off Joel Payamps, who was seeking his first career save. Scott Barlow closed out Friday’s game and manager Mike Matheny didn’t want to use him.

“We’ve got guys down today,” Matheny said. “We’ve got to see who can get us outs. He was a guy that’s had some experience and did a great job in the eighth and we let him take it home.”

Brady Singer (3-3, 4.50 ERA), who was originally listed as Saturday’s starter, will start the series finale for the Royals. He stuck around for 8 1/3 innings against Oakland in his last start but took the loss. He allowed five runs (four earned) and eight hits.

Singer has only walked one batter in his last two starts after issuing five to San Francisco on June 13.

“I think extension’s a huge thing,” Singer said. “Getting down on the mound, getting my hand out in front of me. The tilt of it helped a lot. We’ve been working on getting it down in the zone and getting extended out there, and you can see the ball run a lot more and have a lot more movement.”

Singer has enjoyed more success against Detroit than any other club during his young career. He’s started seven times against the Tigers, posting a 4-0 record and 2.87 ERA. He has no more than two career wins against any other opponent.

He’ll be opposed by Tarik Skubal (5-6. 3.75 ERA), who has lost his last four starts while giving up 18 runs in 18 1/3 innings.

–Field Level Media