Sports fans in Michigan know that you don't look on the calendar to determine the first day of Spring, You check your Detroit Tigers schedule.
Opening Day in Detroit is an event and this year it featured a new manager, some nostalgia, a new starting lineup, timely hitting, strong pitching and a Tigers victory.
After a long winter of weather-related discontent, Tiger fans were blessed with perfect Spring weather. The temperature at game time was a pleasant 51 degrees and the team with the hot bats in the early innings of the game was the visiting Kansas City Royals.
Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander gave up two hits but no runs in the first two innings, breezed through the 3rd and gave up three runs (two of them earned) in the 4th inning. All Detroit could muster against Royals starter James Shield was Victor Martinez.s 2nd inning solo home run.
Regardless of the off-season changes, the Detroit Tigers took the two-run deficit in stride and rallied to win 4-3 with rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos scoring the winning run after fill-in shortstop Alex Gonzalez drilled a base hit into left field.
Detroit's Brad Ausmus took it all in stride, though he admitted that he'd keep the lineup card to commemorate his first victory as the Tigers manager. After the game, Ausmus and his players reminded the media that it is just one of 162 games.
The Opening Day festivities included centerfielder Chet Lemon, a member of Detroit's 1984 world championship team, throwing out the first pitch. When Ausmus presented the Tiger lineup to home plate umpire Jerry Meals, it included:
- Ian Kinsler, 2b (acquired during the off-season)
- Torii Hunter, rf
- Miguel Cabrera, 1b
- Victor Martinez, dh
- Austin Jackson, cf
- Alex Avila, c
- Nick Castellanos, 3b (rookie)
- Alex Gonzalez, ss (acquired earlier this month)
- Rajai Davis, lf (acquired during the off-season)
Though it is unlikely any fantasy baseball owner has them on their roster, Castellanos and Gonzalez led the Tigers with two hits a piece. If Victor Martinez is the designated hitter on your fantasy team, you probably appreciate the homer he hit into the right field seats. First baseman Miguel Cabrera drilled a double and finished 1-for-4 in the game.
Four of Kansas City's seven hits were provided by catcher Salvador Perez who should be on someone's fantasy roster. Two of Perez's hits were doubles.
The strong pitching was supplied by the Tigers. Verlander gave up two earned runs in six innings and Evan Reed, Al Alburquerque and Joe Nathan held Kansas City to just one hit in the final three innings.
Nathan is Detroit's new closer. He set the Royals down 1-2-3 in the 9th inning and earned the victory.
A Tiger win is a great way to kick off the 2014 baseball season and celebrate Spring..