This year, we saw the longest spring training in recent memory but maybe it wasn't long enough. The Tigers got off on the wrong foot getting pounded by the Blue Jays tonight 12-5. John who writes Tiger Geist asked Tigers bloggers yesterday what they were looking for in the first ten games of the season. My immediate response was that I felt it was important that Justin Verlander get off to a good start.
Unfortunately, Verlander's first effort could not have been much worse. He retired the first two Blue Jays he faced in the first inning but then proceeded to give up four runs in a 35 pitch inning. He settled down in the second and third but then got pounded for four runs in the fourth. Justin struggled through a lot of games last year but tonight was about as bad as I've ever seen him. He was shelled for eight runs on eight hits, including six extra base hits and there were not many cheap ones. The biggest Blue Jay hitter was Adam Lind who had four hits, including a home run and six RBI.
The Bengals were down 9-1 after four innings versus Roy Halladay, the only run coming on a solo blast by Curtis Granderson in the fourth. They tried to mount a come back in the seventh when they scored four runs highlighted by a two run bomb by Brandon Inge. That would be it however as the Toronto bullpen held them the rest of the way.
The one bright spot on the pitching staff tonight was Nate Robertson who who retired the Jays 1-2-3 including two strikeouts in the eighth. You know you're in trouble when Robertson is your best pitcher on the night. Eddie Bonine and especially Juan Rincon were not as sharp as they had shown in spring training. Rincon had control problems and gave up three runs (two earned) in the eighth. An error by, of all people, Adam Everett did not help.
As if the game was not bad enough, the fans at the Rogers Centre in Toronto were even uglier. They sounded loud an obnoxious the whole game and they erupted in the eighth inning by throwing trash onto the field. When one fan threw a ball at Tigers new left fielder Josh Hernandez, Jim Leyland pulled his team off the field for ten minutes. Stranely, it took stadium security that long to make an announcement to the fans to settle down or forfeit the game. A forfeit wouldn't have been so bad but they did manage to finish the game without further incident.