By CHRIS ZADOROZNY, Sports Editor
The 2013 Major League Baseball season finally descended on the Detroit Tigers last week. The Tigers traveled to Minnesota for the opening series, and returned home to Detroit for their home opener against the Yankees.
Justin Verlander started his seventh opening day last Monday, this time, facing the Minnesota Twins. Verlander shut down the Twins with five shutout innings and seven strikeouts, topping out at 91 pitches.
The Tigers highly anticipated offense was alive from the start, as Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder had first inning RBI’s. Second baseman Omar Infante added an RBI in the second inning as the Tigers finally got Verlander his first Opening Day win in seven tries, emerging victorious, 4-2.
Game two against the Twins featured a pitching match-up between Anibal Sanchez and Kevin Correia. Sanchez out-pitched Correia, throwing five shutout innings with five strikeouts.
Cabrera drove in the two runs scored by the Tigers, but it wasn’t enough, as the Twins would walk off winners, 3-2, after shaky ninth inning pitching by Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke.
The Tigers looked for redemption in the rubber-game against the Twins, but shaky relief pitching ruined the chances of returning to Detroit with an opening series win. Rick Porcello lasted 5.1 innings, but allowed three runs off of two home runs.
Brayan Villarreal allowed five runs in 0.2 innings of relief, putting the game out of the Tigers reach. Torii Hunter and Cabrera drove in one run each in the 8-2 loss.
Following the game, the bullpen struggles led to a surprising signing of Jose Valverde, the team’s closer for the past three seasons. Valverde will report to Lakeland for an extended spring training as a part of the minor league deal, which includes an opt out clause at May 5.
The Tigers returned home to a great reception from the crowd of 45,051, a Comerica Park record for Opening Day. Fielder stole the show with two home runs, including a mammoth shot to right field in the sixth inning. He finished with five RBI’s in the 8-4 victory over the New York Yankees.
Doug Fister pitched well, lasting five innings and allowing three runs. Drew Smyly rebounded from a rough outing in the season opener in Minnesota with four perfect innings of relief. He finished with five strikeouts.
Max Scherzer took the mound for the first time this season in the second game of the series against the Yankees. Scherzer lasted five innings, allowing four runs while striking out seven.
Cabrera, Fielder, and Andy Dirks led the Tigers to an 8-4 victory. Cabrera went 4-4 with an RBI and one walk, while Fielder and Dirks added two RBI’s each.
After winning their first series of the season, the Tigers looked to finish their first sweep. Verlander took the mound to oppose Yankees’ ace CC Sabathia.
The Yankees offense got to Verlander early for three runs, including one home run, which was enough run support for a locked in Sabathia. CC threw seven shutout innings and dominated the Tigers offense throughout the day, avoiding the sweep and leading the Yankees to a 7-0 victory.
The Tigers return to action Tuesday at 1:05 PM when the Toronto Blue Jays arrive in Detroit for a three game series. The Blue Jays have vastly improved and are considered a World Series favorite. The Tigers send Sanchez, Porcello, and Fister to oppose Brandon Morrow, Mark Buehrle, and Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays.