Tigers 5, Rays 2: Rick Porcello, Austin Jackson lead Detroit to 4-0 start

April 10, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson (14) hits a home run during the seventh inning against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE


Final - 4.10.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Tampa Bay Rays 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2 8 0
Detroit Tigers 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 3 X 5 8 0
WP: Phil Coke (1 - 0)
SV: Jose Valverde (1)
LP: Jake McGee (0 - 1)

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With all the hand wringing over the rotation from some quarters, it was important for a non-Justin Verlander figure to arise from the smoldering ashes to alleviate some fears. Rick Porcello just may have done that today.

Porcello stayed on the mound for seven innings, allowing seven hits and a walk for just two runs. He struck out four. Of course, it's fair to point out that it's just one start. It's fair to point that out about anyone who pitches really -- except for maybe Verlander, whose sample size is his career. On the other hand, I wouldn't exactly declare Porcello's performance a big surprise either. True, the Rays are a pretty good baseball team with a decent lineup. They averaged six runs per game against the Yankees in their opening series. But a look at the career trajectory for Porcello should have instilled more confidence in the 22-year-old right-hander than many offered him. His strikeouts were heading up, his control remained strong. His indicator stats like FIP or xFIP pointed toward an improvement each season even if his ERA didn't always follow closely. So for me to say I was surprised by Porcello today would be a lie. It seems about right to me, really.

At this point, few are likely to declare surprise that Austin Jackson continued his hot stop for the season. This time he showed off his defensive acumen as well as a continued outburst at the plate. We even have video evidence of both. In our first highlight, Jackson turns the double play by making a running catch in center field and rifling the ball to first base for the out. In the seventh inning, he deposited the ball into the Tigers' bullpen for his first home run of the year. It was his ninth hit for the season after just 16 at bats -- plus he has four walks. Now that's table setting.

I was unable to watch today's game, but it sounds like the defense was solid all around. That may be a surprise for a few. Dan Dickerson mentioned on Twitter: "Good defense from Tigers today -- two fine plays by Peralta, Cabrera took double away from Longoria, Fielder nice grab of Pena line drive." So that's definitely a good sign. It's too early to make any solid declarations, but I do hope those who battled to over-exaggerate each other after the Prince Fielder signing realize how silly they'll look when the Tigers prove to have a perfectly capable defense. It doesn't have to be elite, it just has to get the job done.

A few other highlights from the Tigers' today: Brennan Boesch had two hits -- hopefully evidence he put his awful start to the season behind him. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder made it up base several combined times. Their hits in the eighth inning were key: Miguel Cabrera doubled to lead off the inning, then Fielder drove him in with a single for the eventual game-winner. Even Delmon Young got into the act with two hits -- including an eighth inning single during the Tigers' three-run inning. Jose Valverde picked up his first save.

So the Tigers have now opened the season 4-0. (Curiously, the starters have four non-decisions.) That's the best start since 5-0 to begin the 2006 season -- but they've got to keep winning for almost another week to match the 9-0 start of 1984.

3 ROARS

Rick Porcello -- The Tigers needed a good start, and got one

Prince Fielder - Dickerson lauded his defense, and he drove in the winning run

Austin Jackson -- Turned a DP in the field, hit the game-tying HR

3 HISSES

Ryan Raburn -- 0-for-4, four left on base

Danny Worth - 0-for-4

The game ended before I got home ... at 4.

GAME 3 PLAYER OF THE GAME

Miguel Cabrera got 50% of the vote after Sunday's win. Keep track of the player of the game standings on the left sidebar!

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