Monday, April 1, 2013

Welcome Back, Tigers!

Photo: Reuters
Admit it. You missed all the stress and anxiety that comes with Tigers baseball. Your life felt empty without it over the last few months. And as fast as your heart was beating during the seventh inning, and as much obscenities as you were hurling at the TV, once Al Alburquerque struck out Chris Parmelee on that 3-2 slider, for a brief second, a voice somewhere deep down inside was whispering "Welcome back."

Justin Verlander finally got a win on Opening Day, although he maybe wasn't at his sharpest. His balls/strikes ratio wasn't as great as it normally is, but being Justin Verlander, he got through it. Maybe the cold had something to do with it. Several players were wearing those hoods that always make me think of Placido Polanco in the 2006 ALCS, and the gametime temperature was 35 degrees. I don't get cold easily, and even I'm wondering how you can pitch that long without your hands going numb (and I know they can blow into their hands when it's cold, but in my experience, that only works for a few seconds). Maybe that's what Drew Smyly's problem was, too. Before the game, there seemed to be quite a few people on Twitter who were advocating having the starters go seven innings and having Smyly pitch the last three. I'm not sure how they planned for this to happen every day (Smyly cannot pitch three innings every day, plus there are six other guys who do need to get work sometimes), but at any rate, once he came on to pitch the sixth inning today there was a lot of talk about "four-inning save." That talk lasted for about two outs and then Smyly got into a mess with a double and two walks. He got out of that jam but got himself back into trouble in the seventh inning by loading the bases with one out and allowing a run to score on a wild pitch. Al Alburquerque had to come in and bail him out, though he gave up an RBI single himself and kind of danced on the edge by going to a full count on Parmelee. One of these days, opposing teams will figure out that Alburquerque almost always throws a slider in a 3-2 count, and hitters will start to lay off that. Thankfully, today was not that day. For all the discussion we've had about closers and how difficult those last three outs are, today's ninth inning was probably the least stressful inning of the entire game. Playing matchups with Joaquin Benoit and Phil Coke worked beautifully.

There weren't a lot of offensive highlights to speak of, although Torii Hunter made his presence known right away with a perfect hit and run single (which wasn't called; Hunter did that on his own). He also chipped in a double later in the game. Omar Infante also had a good first game with a couple hits and an RBI. Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-5, which is something he won't do very often, but he also had an RBI. Prince Fielder was probably the most entertaining player of the day with his...whatever that was on the wild pitch in the 8th inning. I don't want to call it a slide, because it wasn't. Belly-flop, maybe?

And now we must endure another off-day before seeing our beloved Tigers again. Anibal Sanchez goes up against Kevin Correia on Wednesday.

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