Justin Verlander pitched into the seventh inning and the Tigers got timely homeruns from rookie outfielder JaCoby Jones and third baseman Nick Nicholas Castellanos as the team rocked White Sox ace José Quintana to the tune of a 6-3 win.
Verlander was dominant, leaning on an overpowering fastball as he whiffed ten White Sox to set a personal Opening Day high. The Tigers’ ace limited the hapless Sox to 2 runs over 6.1 IP on 6 hits, while walking 2. Verlander then turned the ball over to the much-maligned bullpen and an entire fanbase held its collective breath.
More after the jump!
Justin Wilson had an odd 2016 season. You would be hard pressed to find anyone who would disagree that, at times, Wilson was difficult to hit. The southpaw racked up over a strikeout an inning and was pretty stingy with the walks too, allowing only 2.61 per 9. Wilson was perplexingly hittable at times, though, and found himself the subject of trade whispers during the Tigers’ busy (but ultimately quiet) offseason.
On this Opening Day, the Tigers turned to Wilson to help bridge the gap to the ninth inning. Wilson was sharp in his 2/3 of an inning, retiring both batters he faced, and then handed the metaphorical baton off to Bruce Rondon.
Rondon was also an interesting story at the end of last season and throughout spring training. The big righty emerged in September as one of the Tigers’ most reliable arms, working himself into an eighth inning set-up role. This spring, however, Rondon disappointed with uncharacteristically low fastball velocity and struggled before being plucked up by Venezuela for the World Baseball Classic. Rondon didn’t fare much better on the bigger stage either, although his velocity ticked up, and when he returned to the Tigers, it was more of the same. What Rondon would the Tigers see in Tuesday’s eighth inning?
Perhaps all the moaning over Rondon’s velocity was overstated. The right-hander hit 98mph with his fastball and sat mid-to-upper 90s; he also featured a hard changeup (88mph) and a lively slider. Rondon allowed a single to José Abreu, but outside of that, he was solid and looked more like the Rondon we saw at the end of 2016 then the one we saw in spring of 2017. It was also a good reminder to fan and broadcaster alike that we can’t put too much stock in spring stats or radar gun readings.
In the ninth, Shane Greene, perhaps surprisingly, was called upon to close the game out with the Tigers enjoying a 6-2 lead. Greene struggled to control an upper 90s fastball and cutter, hitting Cody Asche and allowing a single to Avisail Garcia before departing without a single out recorded.
Brad Ausmus, like most managers, dislikes bringing his closer into the ninth with men on base, but turned to K-Rod here.
Rodriguez had his struggles in spring training and the World Baseball Classic, and fans weren’t certain what to expect from the veteran. They had nothing to worry about; K-Rod was up to his old tricks, inducing harmless, weak contact to help nail down a 6-3 Opening Day victory.
On the offensive side, the Tigers were carried by their youngsters, as JaCoby Jones and Nicholas Castellanos provided most of the offense in the second inning.
Jones homered to left field to open the scoring, a three-run shot, and just two batters later, Castellanos added a two-run shot to give the Tigers an early 5-0 lead. Second baseman Ian Kinsler added to the homer barrage in the fourth with a solo shot.
The White Sox never really threatened until the ninth, but the rally was snuffed out fairly quickly as the Tigers secured the win.
Bullet Points Are For Lazy People
• Verlander was locked in.
• Justin Upton went 1-for-3 before being pinch hit for in the seventh. Upton tweaked his knee on a defensive play in the previous half inning, but should be fine.
• Newcomer Mikie Mahtook started in right and went 0-for-3 with a HBP in the second. He came around to score on the Jones homerun.
• James McCann went hitless in three at bats, but worked a walk! He also made a nifty defensive play over the dugout railing to end the game.
• Kinsler got himself picked off. This is not a recording.
• Tyler Saladino continued his Tiger-killing ways, leading off for the Sox and going 2-for-4.
• José Quintana looked shaky early on, but settled down and managed to give the Sox 5.1 IP.
• The Sox bullpen pitched 3.2 IP and allowed no runs on a hit and a walk, to go along with 3 strikeouts.
• Rondon was dealing. This blogger was particularly impressed with his slider.
• None of the White Sox were able to square up any of K-Rod’s offerings. He looked strong.
• Justin Wilson also impressed. He had his mid-90s fastball working today.
• The Chicago Tribune put up a photo gallery here.
Tomorrow will be better.