Detroit Tigers' Tyler Alexander on AL strikeout record: 'I don’t know about special'

Carlos Monarrez
Detroit Free Press

Special? What’s so special about nine straight strikeouts?

Not much, if you ask Tyler Alexander.

The Detroit Tigers left-handed reliever did exactly that, striking out nine consecutive Cincinnati Reds in a 4-3 loss in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader at Comerica Park.

Sometimes they were whiffing. Sometimes they were just looking. No matter what, the entire Reds lineup just couldn’t get their bats on Alexander’s pinpoint pitches as they zipped past.

Nine men up. Nine men down. It tied an American League record, set by the Tigers' Doug Fister against the Kansas City Royals on Sept. 27, 2012.

Alexander’s reaction — somewhere between "meh" and "whatever" — was perhaps as bewildering as his pitches.

Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander pitches during the fifth inning of the Tigers' 4-3 loss in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Reds at Comerica Park on Sunday, August 2, 2020.

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“I don’t know about special,” he said. “I normally don’t try to strike people out. But I would say after about the fifth strikeout I started to try to strike people out.

“I don’t know about special. We were just trying to get outs and keep us in it.”

Alexander entered the game at a precarious moment. Starter Rony Garcia had just given up his second home run to Nick Castellanos to start the third inning, giving the Reds a 3-0 lead in a scheduled seven-inning game.

Alexander entered and he didn’t so much close the door as he hammered a board over it and changed the locks, kicking nine Reds batters to curb as they went down hacking and hoping.

Alexander finished with 10 strikeouts. But he isn’t really a strikeout pitcher, though he did strike out nine Seattle Mariners in 4⅓ innings on July 27, 2019.

“It’s surprising, I guess,” he said. “I normally do throw a lot of strikes, and when I miss, I miss over the plate. I made a big focus on missing down. I didn’t have very many bad misses and the mistakes I made were in the dirt so it gave me a chance for them to swing at it.”

Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander pitches during the fourth inning of the Tigers' 4-3 loss in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Reds at Comerica Park on Sunday, August 2, 2020.

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Alexander wasn’t aware of the record until it was announced in the stadium after he struck out Castellanos to end the fifth inning. 

The major league record for consecutive strikeouts is 10, set by the New York Mets' Tom Seaver on April 22, 1970, against San Diego. Alexander had a chance to tie Seaver when he faced Mike Moustakas to start the sixth. But the streak ended when he hit Moustakas on a 1-2 pitch.

“I threw not my best slider of the day,” he said. “He fouled it off, 0-2. Then I tried to go up there just with the goal of brushing him back so that I could go back to the slider, but it obviously got a little bit away from me.”

Besides giving his team a chance to claw back — which they did, tieing it at 3 in the sixth inning — Alexander was most excited about the effectiveness of his slider.

“It’s awesome because I’ve been working on that slider for forever,” he said. “It’s been a pitch that’s been — my biggest issue is spinning the ball and I know it’s been good here and there the last couple of, I guess, weeks. I’ve been working on it a lot.

Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander pitches during the sixth inning of the Tigers' 4-3 loss in Game 1 of the doubleheader against the Reds at Comerica Park on Sunday, August 2, 2020.

“It’s showed signs of being real good here and there for a batter every once in a while in a game. It’s never been this good so consistently. So hopefully I can continue to do that.”

Fans aren’t allowed at games and his cell phone was dead when he got back to the clubhouse after the game. So he had little idea about what the reaction might be to his feat, especially since the Tigers didn’t exactly shower him with praise.

“That’s about it,” he said. “I don’t really know. We’ll see when I look at my phone here in a little bit.”

It’s a safe bet that after Alexander powered up his cell phone and began to see the countless messages he missed, he had some idea of how special his performance was.

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Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.