Detroit Tigers Opening Day (Samantha Elliott/MJ)

Detroit Tigers Opening Day (Samantha Elliott/MJ)
BY RICKY LINDSAY, Guest Reporter

The Detroit Tigers finished their recent home stand with a 4-1 record, showing signs of improvement throughout each game. These improvements included excellent pitching, the awakening of the lineup’s home run power, and key guys breaking out of their current slumps.

The bats were explosive in a 9-3 victory against the Kansas City Royals to open the home stand after the scheduled opener was postponed due to rain. The Tigers sent Justin Verlander to the mound the next day in an effort to complete the two game sweep over the struggling Royals team. Verlander pitched great, however it was not enough, as he received no run support from his offense until the eighth inning. The Tigers ended up losing that game 3-2, as Chris Getz had the game winning hit after fighting off several of Joaquín Benoit’s pitches.

The Tigers got a well deserved off day before their AL Central rivals, the Chicago White Sox, came to town. The White Sox, who lost their previous series against the Cleveland Indians, looked to get back on track after a surprisingly well start to the season. This series was a power show between both teams, as nine home runs were slugged into Comerica Park’s spacious outfield.

The series started off as the Tigers gave the ball to rookie Drew Smyly, who has had a marvelous rookie season so far at the age of 22. Smyly previously allowed only 1 run in his two starts against baseball’s most powerful lineups; the Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees.

Smyly was sharp in his fifth major league start, allowing two runs in six innings. Alex Avila started the power show, hitting a solo home run in the fourth inning to provide Smyly with run support. Octavio Dotel was brought into the game in the seventh inning to relieve Smyly after his stellar start. Dotel allowed a two run home run to Gordon Beckham, giving the White Sox a comfortable 4-2 lead heading into the late innings. The Tigers never gave up, clawing their way back into the game. Miguel Cabrera singled in a run in the eighth inning, allowing thoughts of a comeback to become a reality. In the ninth inning, down 4-3, Jhonny Peralta played the role of the hero, hitting a walk off home run to right field to end the game.

Saturday’s matchup did not disappoint baseball fans, as it featured all the late inning drama from the previous night. The Tigers got off to a quick 2-0 lead, with rbi singles by Andy Dirks and Austin Jackson. Max Scherzer looked dialed in from the start, allowing one run and striking out 9 in seven strong innings. The game appeared to be in Detroit’s favor with a 2-1 lead, until Jose Valverde took the mound to close out the game. Valverde, who had a phenomenal 2011 season, has worried fans this year with location issues. Valverde allowed a base hit to Alejandro De Aza, who later stole second base to move into scoring position. One batter later, Adam Dunn came up to bat against the struggling Valverde. Dunn hit a long, towering home run into the right field concourse, giving the White Sox their first lead of the game. The Tigers had no response to Dunn’s home run in the bottom half of the ninth inning as the White Sox evened the series up heading into Sunday’s game.

Sunday’s game featured a the matchup between Rick Porcello and Dylan Axelrod. Axelrod replaced Chris Sale in the White Sox rotation, who was moved to the closer role due to a tender elbow. Adam Dunn started this game where he finished yesterdays, hitting a line drive home run in the first inning. Jackson responded to Dunn’s home run, hitting a leadoff homer to tie the game at 1-1. The score remained tied until Prince Fielder hit a deep home run to the centerfield brick wall, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead after three innings. Dirks joined the home run party in the eighth inning, hitting a solo shot that solidified a great pitching performance from the Tigers’ pitchers. Valverde did make the game interesting again in the ninth inning, allowing two base runners before closing out the game with a save and a 3-1 win. Oddly enough, all the offense in Sunday’s game was produced from solo home runs.

The Tigers successfully ignited their offense before traveling to the west coast to take on the improved teams of the AL West, the Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics. The Tigers start the series tomorrow against the Mariners at 10:05 PM, sending former Mariner Doug Fister to the mound to oppose Blake Beaven. Fister, a key part in the Tigers’ playoff run, is making his return after being placed on the DL in his first start of the season. The Mariners are looking to turn things around, as they went 2-7 in their past nine games. Verlander and Smyly are expected to pitch the following two games of the series before traveling to Oakland this weekend.