Nothing explosive happened in this one. Instead, the Tigers executed well when needed, putting together tough at-bat after tough at-bat against Cleveland pitching. Meanwhile, starter Julio Teheran and the rebuilt Tigers bullpen were up to the task as they led the club to a 5-2 win on a nice Saturday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Tigers fans got a good look at some of the differences between the 2021 lineup and what we’ve seen the past few seasons, and it didn’t take long. As they did in the opener, they got to a good Indians’ starting pitcher right from the jump. Jeimer Candelario, hitting second, drew a walk and quickly scored on a Willi Castro triple to left-centerfield. Miguel Cabrera got to two strikes and put the ball on the ground, scoring Castro, and the Tigers led 2-0.
Julio Teheran wasn’t at his sharpest in this one, walking three, but the ability to make pitches and out-think hitters was on display. Eddie Rosario got to him for a no-doubter to lead off the second inning, but Teheran managed traffic well from there, pairing a nasty changeup off his twoseamer to lefties, and fourseamers and sliders away to right-handers. He gave the Tigers five innings with just that one run allowed despite only three strikeouts on the day.
We’re also getting our first look at new members of the Tigers’ bullpen, including converted starters Derek Holland and Michael Fulmer. Holland took the sixth and Fulmer the seventh, both of them looking good. Holland pitched around a leadoff walk, but otherwise the duo didn’t allow a baserunner. At this point, in a one-run game, Gregory Soto was warming up, looking like he and Fulmer might split the eighth, but we didn’t get to see how A.J. Hinch would have managed it if the game remained 2-1, because the Tigers blew it open a bit in the bottom of the seventh.
JaCoby Jones got this started with a soft single to left-center, while Grossman followed with another pain in the backside style at-bat, drawing another walk. Jeimer Candelario drilled a Nick Wittgren changeup hard down the left field line to score Jones and move Grossman to third. A groundout by Willi Castro and a walk to Miguel Cabrera brought Jonathan Schoop to the plate with the bases juiced, and Schoop lifted one down the right field line for a sacrifice fly to plate Grossman. Nomar Mazara dumped one into shallow left-center off the end of the bat to score Candelario, and the Tigers led 5-1.
With the expanded lead, Hinch turned to Tyler Alexander in the eighth. The lefty punched out Amed Rosario to start the frame, then got into some hot water. Back-to-back singles by Cesar Hernandez and Jose Ramirez set up Rosario with runners on first and third and one out. Rosario hit a deep fly ball to centerfield for a sacrifice fly, scoring Hernandez. Hinch turned to Bryan Garcia to deal with right-handed slugger Franmil Reyes, but a hanging 1-2 slider allowed Reyes to single to left. Josh Naylor followed with a deep drive to left-centerfield, but JaCoby Jones flew over to make a nice grab near the warning track and end the threat with only one run in. Tigers still up 5-2 at that point.
Jones led off the eighth with a screaming lineout, while Niko Goodrum continued to flail from the left side of the plate, missing too many fastballs in the strike zone and ultimately watching a 97 mph heater from Indians reliever Trevor Stephan for strike three. Robbie Grossman then walked yet again, his SIXTH WALK in two games. Candelario followed with his third hit of the game, but Willi Castro got rung up on an 0-2 fastball that was not a strike to end the threat.
Garcia stayed on for the four-out save, and he quickly delivered. Yu Chang lined out for the first out of the frame. Garcia got a little payback for Willi Castro, striking out Roberto Perez with easy 96 mph cheddar on an 0-2 pitch that was also just outside. Andres Gimenez lined out sharply to Grossman in left, and your Tigers are now 2-0 to start the season.
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