One year ago today, Comerica Park and Major League Baseball’s 29 other ballparks laid dormant as the COVID-19 pandemic prompted stay-home orders across the United States. While we still received a 60-game season and an exciting, if unconventional postseason in 2020, today’s Opening Day felt a little extra special. For the first time since September 29, 2019, fans are in the stand at Comerica Park. Springtime baseball is back in Detroit. Complete with a snowstorm.
Today’s Opening Day game was a pitcher’s duel bookended by an early barrage of Tigers offense, including a vintage Miguel Cabrera opposite-field home run, and a last-second surge from Cleveland’s offense. With each team blasting a two-run home run, a JaCoby Jones RBI double proved to be the difference. Cleveland may have posted a 20-game winning streak against Detroit from April 11, 2019 to August 21, 2020, but today, that streak felt like a thing of the past. Tigers win, 3-2.
Fun in the Snow
Despite temperatures hitting anywhere from 60-to-70-degree highs in southeastern Michigan recently, snow fell from the sky as Matthew Boyd threw the first pitch of Detroit’s 2021 campaign. After a disastrous 2020 season, in which he posted a 6.71 ERA over 12 starts, Boyd came out hot despite the day’s cold weather. An 11-pitch first inning was followed by a 1-2-3 second inning. A 1-2-3 second inning was followed by a hitless third inning (Boyd stranded a leadoff walk). In his final two innings, Boyd worked out of consecutive threats from Cleveland’s offense. While he only notched two strikeouts and walked four batters, Boyd finished today’s outing with five scoreless innings under his belt.
Cleveland’s reigning American League Cy Young champion Shane Bieber struck out 12 Tigers hitters and posted a quality start, but the Tigers had his number early. In the bottom of the first inning, with two outs and Jeimer Candelario on first base, Miguel Cabrera hit the 350th home run of his Tigers career, a screamer that just cleared the right field wall. At first, Cabrera could not tell that he had hit a home run due to an early-game flurry of snow; he slid into second base because nobody could tell whether he hit it out in the snow. From there, of course, he trotted home to celebrate with Candelario.
A Last-Second Cleveland Rally
Detroit carried a 3-0 lead into the day’s final two innings, but Cleveland gave it their best shot at a rally. In the eighth inning, with Daniel Norris in for his second frame (he got the final out of the seventh inning), Jose Ramirez and Eddie Rosario reached base to give Cleveland designated hitter Franmil Reyes runners at first and second base with only one out. New Tigers manager A.J. Hinch opted to leave Norris in the game, despite Norris already having thrown 19 pitches. Bally Sports Detroit analysts and Tigers legends Kirk Gibson (Hinch’s former bench coach in Arizona) and Jack Morris, suggested that Hinch may have left Norris in to get Reyes to over-extend in his at-bat and ground into a double play. Whether Hinch intentionally made this move or not, Reyes promptly grounded out to end the eighth inning threat.
The ninth inning brought the single blemish on Tigers pitching of the day. Gregory Soto got the first crack a the Tigers closing job, but struggled to throw strikes in his first outing of the season and allowed a two-run home run to eight-hole hitter Roberto Perez. Soto did ultimately lock down the save, but it took him 27 pitches to do so.
Who was the Tigers’ player of the game?
This poll is closed
1B Miguel Cabrera (1-4, 2 RBI, 1 HR)
SP Matthew Boyd (5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 2 K)
OF JaCoby Jones (1-3, 1 RBI, 1 K)
RP Daniel Norris (1.1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 K)