What was billed as a marquee matchup of Cy Young winners was ultimately a duel between two shaky bullpens for the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians. A huge four-run rally in the ninth inning off Indians' closer Cody Allen gave the Tigers a 9-6 win in decisive fashion, and Detroit opened the season with a 5-0 record for the first time since 2006.
David Price and Corey Kluber combined to record six strikeouts in the second inning alone, and both cruised through the fifth inning. Kluber struck out nine Tigers in six, issuing just one free pass after the first inning. Price recorded six strikeouts through five innings and didn't allow a runner past first base. However, Kluber's pitch count climbed over 100 pitches through six, and several solid at-bats by Indians' hitters had Price's pitch count at 84 through five innings.
But after issuing two free passes in the sixth, Price induced a one-out come-backer that looked like an inning-ending double play, but he threw a sinking duck to second base and everyone was safe. With the bases loaded, Ryan Raburn hit a sacrifice fly to deep center field then Jerry Sands then smoked a two-run drive into right field. Price's day was done having allowed three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings.
Left-handed reliever Tom Gorzelanny replaced Price and he retired the final batter in the sixth. He remained in the game through the seventh inning, allowing just one leadoff single in the seventh and induced a 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. Things unraveled in the eighth for the Tigers' bullpen. After Al Alburquerque and Ian Krol each walked a batter, Sands smoked another double to right and the game was tied 5-5 heading into the ninth.
Joakim Soria struck out Jose Ramirez and got Michael Bourn on a grounder in the ninth, but gave up a two-out bloop single into right field. Jason Kipnis then plated Aviles on an RBI single, stole second base, and strolled to third uncontested, but Soria mercifully induced a grounder to first, ending the game and handing the Tigers their fifth straight win.
The Tigers' offense picked up right where they left off in the first game of the series. Anthony Gose continued his hot start, planting the second pitch of the game 400 feet into the right field seats for his first home run as a Tiger. Solid singles from Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera allowed Kinsler to score on Victor Martinez's double play ball and the Tigers had an early 2-0 lead. Trailing in the seventh with one out, Kinsler, Cabrera, and Victor Martinez plated three runs to re-take a 5-3 lead, following a pinch-hit single by James McCann and a walk by Andrew Romine.
Cody Allen was brought in to keep the game tied in the ninth for the Indians, but after walking Romine and Rajai Davis, Kinsler stroked an RBI single into right field and gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead. With Allen's pitch count past 30, Cespedes punched a two-run double down the right field line and the Tigers broke it open. Consecutive walks to Castellanos and McCann -- the latter a bases-loaded walk issued by Kyle Crockett -- ended the inning and the Tigers' led 9-5 heading to the bottom of the ninth.
Defensively, the Tigers outfield was well positioned to run down several loud outs off Indians' bats. Gose continued to shine, ranging far into both left and right field to run down fly balls near the warning track. In the bottom half of the first, Gose robbed Jason Kipnis of a base hit with a diving catch in shallow left-center field. J.D. Martinez also showed some range in right, hauling in a flare down the right-field line on a dead sprint in the first inning.
There was a scary moment in the seventh inning where Victor Martinez spun himself into the ground on a Shaw breaking ball. He appeared to feel some pain in his leg, and after singling sharply to center, he was visited by manager Brad Ausmus and Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand. After a quick consultation, Victor was pulled from the game in favor of a pinch runner.
Anthony Gose: The Tigers' centerfielder led the game off with a home run, his first in a Tigers' uniform. He then made a diving catch on a Jason Kipnis' blooper in the bottom half of the first inning. He continues to spark the Tigers on offense as well as defense.
Yoenis Cespedes: Cespedes was quiet at the plate until his bases-loaded double in the ninth inning, which, for all intents and purposes, put the game to bed.
Ian Kinsler: The Tigers' second baseman had a four-hit game, driving in three runs, including the go-ahead run in the ninth inning. He also came around to score twice.
Miguel Cabrera: The biggest of bats was a steady presence in the heart of the order, finishing 4-for-5 for the day with a run scored and an RBI.
Andrew Romine: Some may have questioned pulling Jose Iglesias from the lineup, but Romine rewarded Ausmus for his trust. Romine drew a big walk in the ninth inning and contributed a single, three walks, and two stolen bases to the Tigers' offense, while filling in without a hitch at shortstop.
David Price: The Tigers' ace was solid through five, but an elevated pitch count, a pair of walks, and his own throwing error put him behind the eight ball in the sixth inning. He then allowed a double to Jerry Sands that coughed up the lead. Three runs allowed in 5 2/3 innings was a not an ideal outing for the flame-throwing lefthander.
Ian Krol: Unfortunately Krol showed the same lack of command that has kept him from becoming a regular feature of the Tigers' bullpen. He lasted just a third of an inning, surrendering a walk and the second game-tying double of the afternoon to Jerry Sands.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- The Tigers opened the season 5-0 for the first time since the 2006 season.
- This was the second longest 9 inning game in Tigers' history, clocking in at a disturbing 4 hours and 16 minutes.
- The Tigers' bullpen finished with a line of 3.2 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 3 R, 2 K.
- Detroit finished with six two-out RBI on the night.
- The Tigers made Cody Allen throw 37 pitches in the ninth inning. Last year they touched him up for six runs in just eight innings-pitched.
- Starting Tigers batters in the batting order 9-through-3 finished 10-for-15 with four RBI, seven runs scored, and three walks against Indians pitching.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: