Pop the champagne, Tigers fans! Detroit is victorious for the first time in 2023! In a back and forth battle with the reigning champs, the Tigers emerged with an 11th round knock out of the Astros to win 7-6. It certainty wasn’t easy, but it feels all the better for it.
Matt Vierling was the hero of the night, breaking out with a massive night in all phases. Prior to the game, he had yet to record a hit for the Tigers, but he finished the game with four hits, two runs driven in, and two runs scored. Of his four hits, none were bigger than his 11th inning two-run bomb to center field to put the Tigers ahead for good. He also played some stellar defense in right field, showing his elite speed and strong throwing arm off.
The Tigers took their very first lead of the season in the second inning, and it was courtesy of an inside-out hitting approach. Spencer Torkelson drilled an opposite field single, Zach McKinstry followed suit with an infield hit, and then Vierling had his first knock as a Tiger, an oppo single as well. With the bases loaded and two outs, Eric Haase flipped the script with a single that scored two runs to put them up 2-0. Four hits in the inning, four opposite field knocks.
Facing off against Detroit native and former Wayne State Warrior Hunter Brown in his first start of the season, the Tigers were able to string together some patient plate appearances that looked like a far cry from the at bats in Tampa Bay. After getting the first two outs of the fifth inning via the strikeout, Brown walked Nick Maton and Riley Greene to bring up Javier Báez. Báez, who isn’t necessarily known for his patience at the plate, went down 1-2 in the count before fouling off one tough slider and flicking another well off the plate to right field to drive home Detroit’s third run of the game.
Facing Phil Maton, older brother of Nick Maton, the patience of the Tigers once again paid off. A walk to Torkelson plated the Tigers fourth run, eclipsing their run total from the entire 2023 season to date! Yes, it’s only been three games but it’s fun to be dramatic.
After spending last year with the Giants and Mariners, Matthew Boyd made his return to the mound as a member of the Tigers and pitched reasonably well. Boyd wasn’t at his sharpest, walking three batters over 4.1 innings, but he did strike out three and was able to limit the Astros to only two runs after settling in from some early wildness. Sadly, Boyd had to deal with a phenomenon he knows all too well from his first stint in Detroit: a bullpen blowing a lead.
After Boyd exited with one out and one on in the fifth, Jose Cisnero came on and hit Alex Bregman, which was immediately followed by a Yordan Alvarez moonshot to tie the game at four. Things could have completely unraveled from there if not for a spectacular catch by Matt Vierling, who really did it all in this one, including a nice throw to hold the runner at second in the 11th inning. Vierling’s weaknesses is generally thought to be his splits, so it was also positive to see him spray line drives off right handers all game long, before adding the biggest blow of them all later on.
The game was untied by Riley Greene, who launched a solo shot 414 feet the opposite way on a 97 mph offering from Bryan Abreu in the seventh inning. Though the Tigers led 5-4 heading to the ninth for Alex Lange, that would sadly not last. In all fairness to Lange his defense biffed two plays behind him that were not scored as errors, but a run scored all the same, sending the game to extra innings.
With one out and Alex Bregman on first after a solid single, Lange got the quite terrifying Yordan Alvarez to ground out sharply to Spencer Torkelson. The Tigers’ first baseman handled it perfectly, stepped on the bag, and then plunked Bregman between the numbers instead of completing the double play.
Lange threw three straight sweeping curveballs low and away over the plate to Jose Abreu, and the third one got ambushed and whacked off the wall beneath the Crawford boxes in left field. Austin Meadows had a chance at it, but looked to have a little trouble gauging the wall. Meadows got the ball in quickly, but Tork’s miscue had made it easy, and Bregman scored from second.
Vierling’s game-sealing bomb was the story of the night, but cheers are in order for Mason Englert and Trey Wingenter as well. The Tigers’ bullpen is green to say the least, so for them to come in and shut down the Astros offense is a strong statement and helps them both make cases to stick as high leverage guys as roles get sorted out early in the season.
RHP Matt Manning will take on a very tough LHP in Framber Valdez on Tuesday night at 8:10 pm ET.