There was greater anticipation among Tigers fans for this opening day than any in recent memory. And for good reason. This is the most talented Tigers team since the 1980's and everyone wanted to see the season get off on the right foot. We were not disappointed.
Justin Verlander was brilliant commanding all his pitches in holding the Red Sox to just two hits and one walk in eight innings. He threw 107 pitches which is not a lot for him (he averaged 116 per start last year), but Jim Leyland was not going to take any chances with his ace on a cool day in early April. Remember, that Verlander does not generally start the season so well. His lifetime ERA in April is 4.75 and even last year he was only at 3.75 prior to his no hitter versus the Blue Jays on May 7. So, today's game was a good sign.
While Verlander picked up where he left off last year, closer Jose Valverde did not. After going through the entire 2011 season including the playoffs without a blown save, Valverde blew a two-run lead in the ninth today. He allowed three hits including a game-tying triple by Ryan Sweeney extending the game another half inning. It was Papa Grande's first blown save since September 2, 2010. It was about time though as he's just not as good as his perfect record indicated last year. He should still be a solid closer, but you can expect him to blow a few more this year.
Austin Jackson bailed out Valverde with a walk-off single down the third base line with the bases loaded off Red Sox reliever Alfredo Aceves in the bottom of the ninth. Earlier, Jackson led off the game for the Tigers with a single and then tripled and scored in the eighth. Tigers had loaded the bases in the ninth on singles by Jhonny Peralta (his third hit) and Alex Avila (his second hit) and a hit by pitch to Ramon Santiago.
New first baseman Prince Fielder celebrated his Tiger debut with a single in his first at bat and a sacrifice fly in the eighth. He also made a couple of nifty scoops at first base saving shortstop Peralta a couple of errors.
New third baseman Miguel Cabrera did not have it so good defensively. He had only two plays, both coming in the sixth inning. First, he fell down and tumbled catching a relatively easy pop up in foul ground. Moments later he olayed a hard ground ball off the bat of Adrian Gonzalez for an error. No harm was done as the Red Sox failed to score.
All in all, it was entertaining start to a long season. I can hardly wait for game two.