The Detroit Tigers got the 2016 season started with a bang, and then some. Ian Kinsler, Anthony Gose, and Victor Martinez all crushed home runs, and Justin Verlander recorded his third career hit. But it was all downhill from there until Kinsler and Shane Greene saved the day. The Tigers eventually won 8-7 in 11 innings, with no help from the bullpen.
The Tigers rode early offense to a hot start. Anthony Gose singled on a two-out pitch in the top of the second, and Justin Verlander bopped a soft liner to center to put two men on. Ian Kinsler then sauntered to the box and drilled a three-run shot to left, putting the Tigers up 4-0.
Meanwhile, Verlander pitched a solid opening game, dotting the corners and keeping hitters off-balance. While the Tigers had knocked out Marlins starter Wei-Yin Chen after just five innings, Verlander was at only 66 pitches after the fifth and cruising. He had given up just two walks and no hits through the same, and after a prolonged battle with Ichiro Suzuki had gone 5 1/3 innings without surrendering a knock.
But it ended there. Dee Gordon smacked an extra-base knock to end Verlander's no-hit bid, and Marcell Ozuna brought him home on a liner to center. Then Giancarlo Stanton obliterated a hanging curveball into space for a two-run shot. We may never see that baseball again. Verlander finished out the sixth to end his day, leaving with a 5-3 lead and earning a quality start over 98 pitches.
Unfortunately, bullpen-itis struck on Day 1. And it was ugly. Beyond ugly. Now, two runs allowed is workable. The Tigers had a lead and the offense padded that lead with two home runs. But new Tigers closer Francisco Rodriguez blew a 7-4 lead, and might have blown the game except for a fantastic catch by Justin Upton in left.
Later, with two out and the bases loaded in the 10th, the Tigers had a golden opportunity when Marlins reliever A.J. Ramos threw a low pitch that bounced under and past catcher J.T. Realmuto. J.D. Martinez at third immediately broke for home plate, but the ball caromed off the backstop directly to Realmuto at home, forcing the baserunners to scramble back. But Jose Iglesias on first made what could arguably be called the TOOTBLAN to end all TOOTBLANs, having advanced almost all the way to second before realizing the situation, and easily getting caught in a rundown.
Luckily, the Tigers would break the tie in the 11th inning. Anthony Gose led off with a walk, and pinch-hitter Mike Aviles advanced him on a sacrifice bunt. The strategy worked perfectly, with Ian Kinsler scoring Gose on a clutch liner to left. Holding an 8-7 lead, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus made the unorthodox call to bring starting pitcher Shane Greene out of the bullpen. Greene turned in a miraculously drama-free inning, inducing a line out and a pair of weak groundouts to secure the save and the victory.
TIGERS WIN pic.twitter.com/y4Klh3PUrQ— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) April 6, 2016
Ian Kinsler: He started the season with a leadoff single. Then, he followed it up with a three-run crush to left field with two outs. And he drilled an RBI single in the 11th inning for the go-ahead run, saving the game and the flaming bullpen.
Justin Verlander: HE GOT A HIT TO KEEP THE SECOND INNING GOING AND BRING KINSLER TO BAT. He also pitched a gem ... until the sixth inning. He would get a HISS were it not for how impressive that home run to Stanton was. At some point you just gotta respect the power and go along with it. For the first game of the season, Verlander had a respectable game, giving up just three hits with five strikeouts over six innings of work.
JUSTIN VERLANDER GOT A HIT pic.twitter.com/6aCcPHIPZP— Tigers GIFs (@TigersGIFs) April 6, 2016
Justin Upton: He recorded the team's first extra-base hit of the season with a double in the first, singled to lead off the fifth, and made several dazzling plays defensively. That last bit is especially noteworthy, since Upton had a few moments during spring training where he looked lost in left. Good to see that's not the case. His game-saving catch in the ninth was outstanding.
Anthony Gose: He gives absolutely no appearance of being a power hitter, but he destroyed a baseball and sent it into the second deck for a 404-foot solo shot.
Victor Martinez: Followed Gose with a 405-foot homer to dead center, giving the Tigers critical breathing room with the longest dinger of the night.
Closed for Opening Day activities.
Tigers bullpen: You had one job. Justin Wilson, Mark Lowe, and Francisco Rodriguez combined to serve up one heck of a stinker in relief. All gave up leadoff hits. Lowe allowed a run. And then K-Rod blew it wide open by allowing a double, sac fly, double, and a double (in that order) to tie the game at 7-7. When the bottom of the ninth had started, the Tigers were leading 7-4. There are bad nights, and then there are games like this.
Tenth inning: #TTBDNS plus #TOOTBLAN
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Ian Kinsler's three-run home run was the fourth Opening Day homer of his career, and his first since April 6, 2012 against the Chicago White Sox.
- Justin Verlander's hit was on Tuesday night was the third of his career, and his second career-run scored. He's also the first Tigers pitcher to get a hit on Opening Day/Night since Mickey Lolich did it on April 6, 1971. (Lolich went 1-for-3 with an RBI that day, and the Tigers won 8-2 vs. the Indians)
- Miguel Cabrera's single gave him 1,490 as a Tiger, which tied him with Willie Horton for 13th in team history.
- J.D. Martinez showed off some easy power, smoking the ball to all fields. He didn't send the ball out but hit the warning track on several occasions.
- Shane Greene came out in the 11th inning to pitch in relief. With a one-run lead to work with, he recorded the first save of his career.
- The Tigers' win was their fifth straight Opening Day win.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: