Garrett Hill found himself in trouble in the first inning.
Bases loaded, one out.
The 26-year-old rookie escaped without damage, though, and despite a solo home run in the second inning, provided the Detroit Tigers with the best outing of his career in Saturday’s 9-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park.
A five-run seventh inning helped, too.
Before the game, the Tigers (43-66) retired Lou Whitaker’s No. 1 jersey during an on-field ceremony. The 40,101 tickets sold marked the largest non-Opening Day crowd since 41,053 fans showed up Aug. 6, 2016.
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In his sixth MLB start, Hill allowed one run on six hits and three walks with a career-high six strikeouts over 5⅔ innings. He recorded a career-high 15 swings and misses — using all five pitches to do so — and threw 54 of 93 pitches for strikes.
But Hill’s clean outing began with a messy first inning.
The batters reached safely with one out: Ji-Man Choi (walk), Isaac Paredes (single) and David Peralta (single). Hill took care of the next two batters, through, by getting Jose Siri to flyout to center and striking out Luke Raley on three pitches.
Hill blew a 93 mph fastball — his fastest pitch — past Raley for a swinging third strike.
With two outs in the second, Yu Chang launched a second-pitch slider for a solo home run to left. Hill responded by striking out Brandon Lowe, who swung and missed at a pair of knuckle-curves and a fastball.
For his 93 pitches, Hill tossed 40 four-seam fastballs (43%), 15 sliders (16%), 14 changeups (15%), 14 sinkers (15%) and 10 knuckle-curves (11%). His whiffs came on six four-seamers, two sliders, four changeups, one sinker and two knuckle curves.
His fastball averaged 91.1 mph.
Hill allowed a one-out double to Christian Bethancourt in the sixth inning, and after he recorded the second out, right-handed reliever Alex Lange took over to face Chang, the No. 9 batter in Tampa Bay’s lineup.
Lange struck out Chang with a full-count curveball.
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The Tigers entered the seventh facing Rays right-handed starter Shane McClanahan, who started the 2022 All-Star Game for the AL, with a 2-1 advantage, but when the inning ended, the home team had chased McClanahan and tacked on five more runs for a 7-1 lead.
Jeimer Candelario opened the seventh with a single, and Willi Castro doubled to put two runners in scoring position. Jonathan Schoop increased the margin to 3-1 with a sacrifice fly, which forced McClanahan’s exit.
McClanahan, who entered with a 2.07 ERA in 20 starts, allowed four runs on six hits across 6⅓ innings. He did not concede a walk and struck out three batters. The Rays replaced him with right-handed reliever Jimmy Yacabonis.
The Tigers didn’t waste time beating up Yacabonis, as Harold Castro clobbered a double to center for a 4-1 lead. Yacabonis recorded the second out of the inning, then hit Riley Greene in the foot with a slider.
Javier Báez drove in both Castro and Greene for the fifth and sixth runs with a rocket double off the left-field wall. He hit the ball with a 111.1 mph exit velocity, and it traveled 322 feet for his 22nd double this season.
Miguel Cabrera upped the Tigers’ lead to 7-1 with an RBI single to right field.
In the eighth, the Rays sent Chang — a position player — to the mound in a six-run deficit. He gave up a single to Candelario, and Schoop made Chang pay for stepping on the rubber by crushing a 40 mph curveball over the left-field wall for a two-run home run.
It was Schoop’s eighth homer this season.
Hello, Luis Castillo
For much of the game against McClanahan, it looked like another struggle for the Tigers offense, which entered Saturday averaging 3.2 runs per game.
That was, until Harold Castro stepped to the plate in the fifth.
With Willi Castro on second base, he smacked a two-out, two-strike slider from McClanahan, a fellow lefty, for an RBI single and a tie game. Reyes followed up with an RBI double on a curveball for a 2-1 lead.
The Tigers’ bullpen stepped up, as well, with left-hander Andrew Chafin locking down the seventh, right-hander Joe Jiménez striking out three batters in the eighth and righty Luis Castillo making his MLB debut in the ninth.
Castillo struck out the first batter he faced, Taylor Walls, then sandwiched two singles around a lineout by Lowe for the second out. Former Tiger Isaac Paredes, traded in April, ended the game with a groundout to third.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers roast Rays, 9-1, with gem from rookie Garrett Hill