Tigers 7, Rays 2: Drew Smyly survives major-league debut

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 12: Drew Smyly #33 of the Detroit Tigers pitches in his major league debut in the first inning during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Comerica Park on April 12, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)


Final - 4.12.2012 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 7 0
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 3 0 2 2 X 7 10 0
WP: Collin Balester (1 - 0)
LP: Jeff Niemann (0 - 1)

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It's always exciting when a player makes a major-league debut. There's just something special knowing that a moment dreamed for a lifetime is about to come true. Tigers 22-year-old left-hander Drew Smyly got to experience all the fun and nerves that come with that moment as he went out to the mound for Detroit in the first inning. The moment nearly overwhelmed him, but he battled back to claim a successful debut for his career. Smyly limited the Rays to one run in 4+ innings, and the bullpen and lineup did the rest as the Tigers beat the Rays 7-2 to improve to 5-1 for the season.



For the nuts and bolts recap:


Calling Smyly's debut shaky to start may be charitable. After throwing a first-pitch strike to begin his career, he lost the ability to throw another pitch through the zone. Desmond Jennings took the next four pitches for balls to get to first. Pena took the first three pitches for balls before hitting a soft line drive up the middle. Evan Longoria took the first three pitches he saw, eventually walking after going to a full count. Three up, three baserunners.

Finally the tide turned for Smyly when he got Jeff Keppinger to left a 1-1 pitch to shallow right. Jennings thought twice about testing Boesch's arm. Smyly seemed to gain confidence from the out. It was like a switch was turned. He got ahead of Ben Zobrist on a called strike, then put him away with a swinging strike on the fourth pitch of the at bat. Smyly got ahead of Ben Zobrist 1-2 before putting him away on a swinging strike as Smyly threw his 28th pitch of the inning.

Smyly got through the second inning in 1-2-3 fashion for six consecutive outs, but allowed one-out home run to Carlos Pena in the third. In the fourth, he allowed a single and walk but made it out of the inning without further mishap. Smyly's day ended after hitting Pena to lead off the fifth.

Smyly's final line showed four hits, three walks, a hit batter and four strikeouts. He threw 49 of 90 pitches for strikes.

According to PitchF/X identifications -- which aren't always right -- Smyly started off the game throwing mostly four-seam fastballs. He added sliders, changeups and a cutter as he got deeper into the game. The changeup worked to get him a few strikes, the slider mostly resulted in balls. The fastball was most reliable.

Smyly's debut was a pretty gutty performance. The moment may have been a bit too big for his emotions to handle at the start. Understandable, too. Two years ago he was pitching for the Arkansas Razorbacks. One year ago he was just beginning his professional career. Suddenly on a Thursday in early April, he found himself facing a team coming off a pair of 90-plus-win playoff seasons that many people expect to be back in the postseason again this season. That's one heck of a quick-rising career.

But once Smyly made it through that initial stumble and remembered what got him there, he seemed to settle in. After the first three batters, he looked like he belonged. That was a great sign.

Maybe it wasn't the best start, but it was a good stat. We'll take it.

3 ROARS

Drew Smyly -- Survives his debut

Brennan Boesch - 4 RBI day on his birthday

Collin Balester - Comes through in relief to earn the win

3 HISSES

Ryan Raburn - goes 0-for-3, avg drops to .105

Miguel Cabrera - hate to even include him, but he went 0-for-4

Delmon Young - 1 hit but got thrown out trying to stretch it into a double

GAME 5 PLAYER OF THE GAME

Looks like Miguel Cabrera very narrowly made it by Justin Verlander.

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