So the Tigers opened up the 2012 regular season in style: 3 games, 3 wins. No one will ever complain about that.
While 1 of those wins was more fun than over-dramatic, the other 2 were a different story.
The Tigers won the opener in their last at bat, after Jose Valverde blew what could have been Justin Verlander‘s first Opening Day win of his career, but instead the Red Sox tied the game in the 9th inning at 2 before Austin Jackson drove a grounder past Nick Punto at third base, who was drawn in. A walk off winner in the open. Pretty good start, right?
After a 10-0 laugher on Saturday, Sunday was a laugher in a much different way. Tigers starter Max Scherzer, staked to an early 4-0 lead was clearly off his game, with zero command of any of his pitches en route to giving up 7 runs to the Red Sox, and an outing where he couldn’t even pitch out of the third inning. Collin Balester provided some sound relief, and the Tigers clawed back to tie the game at 7.
Enter Daniel Schlereth, who would inherit a Balester base runner, facing left handed slugger Adrian Gonzalez, allows a home run on his very first pitch of the season. Suddenly it’s 9-7, and the collective groans of Tigers fans could be heard throughout the midwest.
Boston would even add an insurance run, and to the bottom of the 9th we go, the Tigers down 10-7. “Emergency” closer Alfredo Aceves would give up singles to Austin Jackson and Brennan Boesch to start the 9th, bringing up Miguel Cabrera as the tying run.
Aceves would then serve up Miggy with a fastball in his wheelhouse – on the first pitch – and Cabrera sent it over the left field wall thus tying the game and sending fans into a wonderful frenzy. Exciting, isn’t it?
Fast forward to the 11th inning, teams still tied at 10, and Joaquin Benoit gives up 2 runs in the top of the 11th before being pulled for “unavailable” pitcher Duane Below. Below records the final out of the 11th, getting the Tigers up to bat down 2, with the meat of the order due up. One out singles by Cabrera and Prince Fielder, followed by a wild pitch by Mark Melancon that would allow Miggy to third, Delmon Young hit a sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera.
Alex Avila, with 2 outs, sent most of us into a state of disbelief after he hit a 2-run, walk off home run that just cleared the wall in right field. Tigers win, 13-12.
And after all that, a game the Tigers probably had no business winning, suddenly find themselves sweeping away the Boston Red Sox for the first time since 2007. And in rather heart stopping fashion.
The Tigers are certainly capable of putting up a 13 run effort every so often, but not too many times is it necessary to eke out a win. The club will have a few of these this season (perhaps more so now than later), probably because the sudden reshaping of the pitching staff is necessary after Doug Fister‘s recent injury. Will the pitching always be this exciting? Let’s hope not. But some cause for alarm after a very poor outing from Max didn’t settle too many fans down, especially after his last couple of starts in Spring Training. Sure, it’s a long season, but we’ve seen far more inconsistencies than not from Scherzer, which is not a welcome sign since the rotation should be rather solid even without Fister. We can only hope that we have a few less of these 2-sided mass run-production type games. It’s a lot easier to have a 10-0 kind of game than a 13-12 kind of game, with 2 multi-run comebacks needed.
Sure, those are fun to watch, but more often than not teams aren’t going to always come out on top. As good as this offense has been to start the season, it’s far from perfect – especially if the pitching staff can’t hold a lead of any kind.
In the meantime, buckle up…
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