Opening Day has finally come for Detroit Tigers fans! And not for a lack of waiting. I’m not talking about the long winter, longing for fresh buds of spring to bring back our favorite pastime. I’m talking about the seemingly equally arduous delay to the game today.
Originally slated for an unusual 3:37 p.m. start in Toronto, apparently someone forgot to use their United States to Canadian time decoder ring and got confused. Twenty minutes after the initially announced time — with both of the fanbases up in arms over the delay — it was re-announced that the game would begin at a much-later 4:05 p.m. The first pitch was eventually thrown four minutes later than the re-announced mark. This is how space probes to Mars get lost, folks.
The matchup began with Jordan Zimmermann of the Detroit Tigers opposing Marcus Stroman from the Toronto Blue Jays on the mound in a pitcher’s duel that most did not expect. Through six innings, Zimmermann flirted with perfection, while Stroman brought a no-hitter into the sixth, after recording a quartet of walks in the previous frames. Nicholas Castellanos brought the dual no-nos to an end with a sharp grounder up the middle in the top of the sixth. Zimmermann’s perfect game finally came to an end in the seventh inning on an infield single fielded by Josh Harrison that was thrown wild to first base.
The first several innings were mostly unremarkable offensively. The first inning started off with a four-pitch walk to Harrison, which was quickly erased by a fielder’s choice grounder by Castellanos and a subsequent ground ball double play by Miguel Cabrera. Zimmermann made short work of the Blue Jays with a fly out and two groundouts.
Candelario started the second inning off with a fly out, followed by a Niko Goodrum walk and caught stealing, culminating with Stewart striking out to to finish the frame. Zimmermann would continue his mastery with unthreatening contact. The same would apply for the Tigers until a Castellanos base-on-balls in the fourth inning. At this point, the pitchers were working quickly, though Zimmermann was much more efficient than Stroman. Also, Jack Morris was in mid-season form on the TV broadcast, sharing random anecdotes about bird hunting and his personal accolades.
Stroman’s no-hitter was eventually broken up in the top of the sixth inning, with a sharp grounder up the middle by Castellanos. The Tigers would also strand their first runner in scoring position that inning after a sharp grounder by Cabrera to third base ended the threat.
Candelario opened the seventh with a line drive to right field, only to be stranded by fly outs by Goodrum and Stewart, along with a strikeout swinging by Grayson Greiner. The bottom of the seventh saw Zimmermann retire his twentieth-straight batter on a line-out to right field. The perfect game finally came to an end on a ground ball fielded by Harrison that was thrown wide of first base.
The Tigers went down on three straight strikeouts in the top of the eighth inning. Joe Jimenez was brought in to replace Zimmermann to start the bottom of the frame after only 70 pitches thrown. The pace of the game remained the same, and despite a walk, Jimenez handled the Jays with very little trouble.
Embarrassingly, the Tigers went down again on three more strikeouts in the top of the ninth, with the heart of the order — Castellanos, Cabrera, and Jeimer Candelario — all going down swinging. Victor Alcantara was brought in to face Toronto in the bottom of the inning, and despite giving up a line-drive single, he managed to put away the Jays with little trouble.
The 10th inning is when things finally got exciting. After Goodrum led off the inning with a line-drive double to right field, Christin Stewart finally erased the Tigers’ goose egg in the scoring column with a two-run home run.
Christin Stewart comes up clutch! The #Tigers' No. 8 prospect ripped this 2-run homer in the top of the 10th inning of a 0-0 game. Here's a look at how prospects are performing on #OpeningDay: https://t.co/SjUDSIloUD pic.twitter.com/ItyJ3gUd95— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 28, 2019
Shane Greene was brought in to close the game out, and he started strong, striking Justin Smoak out looking. He got the next batter out quickly with a pop-up to the catcher. Pillar would ground out to seal the win for the Tigers and the save for Greene.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the game:
Good: Jordan Zimmermann looked extremely impressive, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning in an uncharacteristically efficient manner. He was pulled prematurely in the eyes of many after only throwing 70 pitches over seven innings.
Bad: There is no bad today. It’s Opening Day, the Tigers won, and Jordan Zimmermann looked great.
Ugly: The half-hour delay at the beginning of the game. With Opening Day happening mid-week and people taking time out of their work schedules to watch the game, it’s not a good look when you can’t start an event you’ve been planning for months on time. I’m not sure whose fault it is, but let’s not let this happen again, mmkay?
Performance of the Game: Greg Maddux’s doppelganger, Jordan Zimmermann.
The Tigers’ next game is on Friday against the same Toronto Blue Jays, with a much more regular start time of 7:07 p.m. Matthew Boyd is expected to take the mound opposite of Matt Shoemaker in the second of a four-game season-opening series for the two clubs.