Florida man becoming the breakout star of the upstart Detroit Tigers

Central Florida native and Tigers breakout star Riley Greene was key to Detroit's comeback victory
Apr 23, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Riley Greene (31) hits
Apr 23, 2024; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Detroit Tigers designated hitter Riley Greene (31) hits / Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Riley Greene hit his fourth and fifth home runs of the season, and the Detroit Tigers again made an eighth inning comeback in a 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

It was the kind of game we've come to expect already this season: low scoring, with one or two mistakes leading to a narrow Tigers deficit because the offense couldn't get much going.

Kenta Maeda made his best start of the year for the Tigers, a five-inning scoreless appearance where Tigers manager A.J. Hinch relieved him while the story was still a happy one.

The Tigers led 1-0 at the time on a third-inning solo home run off the bat of Greene, prompting "Florida Man" jokes among Tigers broadcasters and social media alike. Greene is from Oviedo, a suburb of Orlando, though the Rays may disagree about whether this should qualify as a "local boy done good" story.

A two-run shot off reliever Alex Faedo by former Tiger Isaac Paredes erased any opportunity for Maeda to pick up his first win of the year though and it looked like the Tigers' offense may go quietly after that.

That is, until Greene launched a 408-foot, go-ahead home run in the eighth and Mark Canha tacked on one of his own.

A stress free ninth inning (longtime Tigers fans still must marvel at those words) later and Detroit picked up another series victory against one of last year's playoff teams and improved to 14-10 on the year.

The win gave the Tigers an MLB-leading (along with four other teams) 10th win on the road.

Riley Greene is becoming a star in the Tigers lineup

One thing that makes this Tigers team particularly intriguing is that it's the first season in forever that the Tigers didn't have a bonafide star in the lineup.

Even when Miguel Cabrera was no longer the player he was at the peak of his career, he was still Miguel Cabrera. His was the face opposing teams would put into marketing for the series. He was the guy everyone wanted to talk about and talk to.

Before Cabrera, arguably Magglio Ordóñez (who arrived in 2005) and Pudge Rodriguez (who arrived in 2004) were the faces of the lineup, both players who'd been stars before even arriving in Detroit.

Cabrera retired following the 2023 season leaving quite a void but also an opportunity for some young players to make their mark in Tigers history.

Who's the star now? Who's going to be the face of the lineup for the long run? The rotation has a growing star in Tarik Skubal, who may not be a household name yet but is well known enough to be seen as a favorite in competition to win the AL Cy Young award.

We got an early peek into how things look to people outside Detroit when Greene and Spencer Torkelson were invited to hang out at MLB Network for a couple of bits. The pair were both first-round draft picks of the Tigers during the rebuilding years, with Torkelson first overall and Greene fifth.

The 23-year-old Greene is batting .247 but has taken 21 walks to bolster his on-base percentage to .402. Add in nine extra-base hits and. .506 slugging and you've got one of the best all-around batters on the team and he currently leads the lineup in FanGraphs' WAR.

It's been a bit more of a struggle for Torkelson thus far, as he has not fully found his power stroke to start the year. Though he has eight doubles, he's yet to hit a home run. He had 31 last year, so it's an important part of his game that is currently missing.

Mark Canha, who leads the team in OPS, has been the steady player in the middle of the line and seems to do a little bit of everything well. He is exactly the kind of player good teams need.

But he's also in his first year with the team and an unrestricted free agent after this season, so we'll have to hold back a bit and wait to see if he becomes a longtime Tiger or just a one-year mercenary.

It's early in their careers and early in the year. But right now, it looks like Greene might just have the best chance to be the face of the Tigers' lineup for years to come.

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