Pérez homers from both sides of plate in Tigers 11-6 win over Cardinals to split DH after losing 2-1

DETROIT (AP) — Wenceel Pérez hit homers from both sides of the plate, including a tiebreaking blast in the fifth inning, to help the Detroit Tigers beat the St. Louis Cardinals 11-6 Tuesday night to split a doubleheader.

“There's some energy around Wenceel and we want more of it,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said.

In the opener, Jack Flaherty tied an American League record with seven straight strikeouts to start a game and struck out a career-high 14 before St. Louis rallied against a usually bullpen with a two-run ninth inning to beat Detroit 2-1.

“It’s good to steal that one,” Cardinals manager Oliver Marmol said after his team won for the first time in 15 games this season when trailing after eight innings.

Flaherty was fifth in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2018 in St. Louis and finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting the following year with an 11-8 record and a 2.75 ERA for the Cardinals, who dealt him last season at the trade deadline.

“I knew it would be emotional for him to pitch against, the Cardinals, the team that he grew up in the big leagues with,” Hinch said. “What I didn’t know was he was going to bring his best fastball in the first inning and then just take off, and dominate.”

The Tigers went ahead again in the second game and pulled away with a four-run seventh.

Perez hit a right-handed, opposite-field solo shot in the second inning off Steven Matz and a left-handed, two-run homer against Ryan Fernandez to put Detroit ahead 7-5.

The 24-year-old Dominican became the first rookie to clear the fences for the franchise hitting right and left handed in the same game since Raúl Casanova in 1996, and the first Tiger with any level of experience to do it since Victor Martinez in 2018.

Perez hit a homer for the first time in the majors on Sunday in his 16th game.

“He deserves opportunity,” Hinch said.

Tyler Holton (2-0) allowed a run in one inning in relief of Matt Manning. Kyle Leahy (0-1) took the loss after giving up two runs on two hits in 1 1/3 innings.

Detroit jumped out to a 4-0 lead through four innings before the Cardinals went ahead with a five-run fifth, powered by Brendan Donovan's two-run homer off Matt Manning and Alec Burleson's three-run shot off Holton.

St. Louis pulled within a run in the seventh, but the Tigers built a cushion with Riley Greene's second homer of the day to help them build a five-run advantage.

In the opener, Flaherty’s game-opening seven strikeouts matched the AL record shared by four other pitchers. Miami Marlins right-hander Pablo López set the major league record by striking out the first nine batters of a game in 2021.

“You could kind of feel it early on in the game,” Detroit coach Carson Kelly said. “Actually before the game, he was on a mission.”

Flaherty kept the Cardinals off balance and flailing at four-seam fastballs and knuckle-curveballs.

“He was on, and it was nasty,” Marmol said. “He had his stuff.”

The 28-year-old matched the most strikeouts in the majors this season and the most for the Tigers since Max Scherzer had 14 against Pittsburgh in an eight-inning outing on Aug. 14, 2014.

Greene hit a fourth-inning home run off Kyle Gibson.

Nolan Arenado, Paul Goldschmidt and Alec Burleson had one-out singles in the ninth, with Burleson's driving in the tying run off Shelby Miller (3-3). Pedro Pages followed with a go-ahead sacrifice fly for his first RBI in the majors in his fifth game.

Matthew Liberatore (1-1) struck out two in a 1-2-3 eighth, and Ryan Helsley fanned two in a perfect ninth for his 10th save in as many chances.

Gibson made the comeback possible by holding Detroit to one run on four hits over seven innings.

“It was good duel,” Marmol said. “Those two guys went at it, and both of them looked really, really good.”

UP NEXT

Cardinals RHP Miles Mikolas (2-3, 5.91 ERA) and Tigers RHP Kenta Maeda (0-1, 5.96) are scheduled to pitch in the series finale on Wednesday afternoon.

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