Detroit Tigers left-hander Tyler Alexander has made seven starts this season but only three since his late-July switch from the bullpen to the rotation. In his latest outing, he pitched into the seventh inning for the first time this season.
The Cleveland Guardians, though, scored once in the fifth and sixth innings, and without any support from the Tigers' offense, Alexander couldn't win his matchup with right-hander Shane Bieber in Tuesday's three-game series opener at Comerica Park.
The Tigers lost, 5-2.
Bieber, the 2020 American League Cy Young winner who features as a pair of nasty breaking balls, shut down the Tigers (43-68) across seven scoreless innings. He allowed four hits — two singles to Riley Greene, one single to Willi Castro and one single to Miguel Cabrera — and one walk.
Bieber struck out seven batters.
The Tigers didn't advance a runner into scoring position off Bieber until the seventh inning, when Cabrera singled and Jeimer Candelario drew a four-pitch walk. (Pinch-runner Victor Reyes replaced Cabrera on the bases.) The scoring opportunity was squandered by the next three batters in the lineup.
Willi Castro struck out swinging for the first out.
Jonathan Schoop popped out in foul territory for the second out.
Tucker Barnhart grounded out for the third out.
Some late runs
After the Tigers blew their chance, the Guardians created their next scoring chance in the eighth inning with a one-out walk and single, then executed on a clutch two-out double from Oscar Gonzalez against right-handed reliever Will Vest.
Gonzalez's double drove in two runs and extended the Guardians' lead to 4-0. Josh Naylor made it 5-0 with an ensuing RBI single.
For Bieber's 91 pitches (63 strikes), the 27-year-old racked up 13 swings and misses: two four-seam fastballs, seven curveballs, three sliders and one cutter. He also had 16 called strikes, including 10 with his fastball and four with his slider.
The Tigers gave themselves a chance to rally in the ninth inning, as the first three batters reached safely with right-handed reliever Eli Morgan on the mound: Harold Castro (single), Reyes (single) and Candelario (walk).
A two-out walk from pinch-hitter Eric Haase scored the Tigers' first run, then the Guardians turned to right-handed closer Emmanuel Clase. He threw the ball away on his first pitch to Akil Baddoo, which pushed home another run for a 5-2 deficit.
Two pitches later, Baddoo grounded out to end the game.
Detroit finished with six hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts.
Alexander the good
Opposing Bieber, Alexander allowed two runs on seven hits across seven innings. He did not walk a batter and struck out two, throwing 60 of 84 pitches for strikes. For his first 12 outs, thus completing the fourth inning, he needed just 46 pitches.
The 28-year-old completed seven innings as a starter for the first time since Aug. 20, 2021, against the Blue Jays in Toronto. He also got through seven innings July 21, 2019, against the Blue Jays in Detroit in his second MLB appearance.
Alexander pitched excellent Tuesday, but to beat the Guardians, he needed to be nearly perfect considering Bieber's dominance and the Tigers' confused offense.
Owen Miller and Andres Gimenez got ahold of cutters for back-to-back singles with one out in the fifth inning, putting runners on the corners for Austin Hedges. He produced a sacrifice fly to give the Guardians a 1-0 lead.
In the sixth, the Guardians increased their margin to 2-0 on consecutive doubles from Steven Kwan and Amed Rosario. Alexander ended up with runners on the corners and one out, but he escaped further damage by getting Naylor to ground into an inning-ending double play.
For his 84 pitches, Alexander used 26 four-seam fastballs (31%), 24 cutters (29%), 13 changeups (15%), 11 sinkers (13%) and 10 sliders (12%). He recorded four swings and misses — two cutters, one changeup and one slider — along with 15 called strikes.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers stifled by Shane Bieber, Cleveland Guardians, 5-2