The Detroit Tigers started their season off with a bang. Reigning Cy Young winner and MVP Justin Verlander had a career start on Opening Day. Verlander went eight innings strong, tossed a two-hitter, allowed one walk, and had seven strikeouts. He was dominant, but unfortunately couldn’t get the win because of a surprise blow save by former Mr. Perfect, Jose Valverde.
Valverde was perfect in his last 51 save opportunities, but didn’t get 52 as he allowed two runs on three hits, in just one inning. Valverde did ultimately earn the win with a walk-off single by Austin Jackson in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Let’s not forget about the big signing of the man fans call the Prince of Detroit, Prince Fielder. He was warming up to the idea of playing in Detroit, and it didn’t take him long. Fielder was able to knock a single in his first at-bat as a Tiger after the crowd roared when his name was announced in the starting lineup.
The Tigers’ opponent, the Boston Red Sox, are looking to start fresh this year. Last year, an epic collapse cost them a spot in the postseason, resulting in the resigning of their former manager, Terry Francona, and the loss of their closer, Jonathon Papelbon. The Red Sox were looking for answers, and they sent out their ace, Jon Lester. It was a Verlander-Lester duel until the seventh inning, when Lester finally gave up a run when catcher Alex Avila doubled with Jhonny Peralta.
Fielder hit a sacrifice fly the next inning, sending Austin Jackson home and Miguel Cabrera to second. Valverde came in, and he wasn’t himself. When asked about the streak that Valverde had, Jim Leyland answered, “When I say this, I mean it: In a way, I’m glad that streak’s over…it puts that behind us and we can just go forward.”
Boston clawed their way back with Valverde giving up the two runs. Designated Hitter David Ortiz hit a sacrifice fly to Jackson, scoring first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. One out later, Ryan Sweeney tripled in Darnell McDonald, who was pinch-running for Gonzalez.
With the festivities surrounding the magical day, the Tigers weren’t going to let a win slip away that easily. The Tigers performed in the bottom of the ninth inning. Ryan Raburn was first up. He flied out to right field. Jhonny Peralta was next. He singled to right field. Alex Avila singled to left field, moving Peralta to second base. Infielder Danny Worth pinch-ran for Peralta after a Red Sox pitching change. It gave the Tigers the speed they needed. Ramon Santiago was hit by a pitch, moving the runners up one base. The bases were now loaded for Austin Jackson. On a 2-1 count, Jackson ripped a pitch right past a diving Nick Punto at third base, giving him his first walk-off hit of his career.
Jackson was the hero, Verlander pitched like Verlander, the fans cheered, with hot dogs all around and beer flowing. It was definitely another Opening Day in the Motor City. A Tigers win made it that much more memorable.
Oh, did I mention that the crowd was the largest Opening Day crowd in Comerica Park history, and second largest crowd to ever attend a Tigers game at Comerica Park? Yeah, that happened too. The Tigers are creating so much buzz, it seems that every “expert” is picking the Tigers to win the American League Central Division, and some are predicting them to make it to the World Series, and even win.
The Tigers have that strong of a team, and Verlander showed why he is the best pitcher in Major League Baseball. It will take some time for this team to gel together, but come mid-June and July, this team should be dominant enough to win nearly two out of every three games. It’s only one game, but this win should show you what the Tigers are capable of in the coming year. The Roar is back in Detroit, and it’s here to stay. Go Tigers!