The Detroit Tigers 2017 Opening Day was a success, but it almost wasn’t.
The Detroit Tigers offense, defense, and starting pitching certainly improved after the mess yesterday in Chicago.
But, the eighth inning pitching nearly destroyed the Opening Day win streak. Fortunately, the offense took charge and carried the Tigers to a nine-game Opening Day win streak.
Gaffs in the Eighth Inning
The eighth inning should have been a quick and dirty inning owned by Bruce Rondon and his lightning-fast fastball. But, no. Rondon and Francisco Rodriguez along with the pitchers from the Red Sox made the inning last about an hour.
Coming into the eighth inning, the Tigers had a 4-0 lead thanks to a pair of RBIs from Victor Martinez and a two-run dinger from James McCann. Then, Rondon took the mound. After a quick first out to Dustin Pedroia, Rondon gave up a walk, a stolen base, a single, and a double. When Brad Ausmus took out Rondon, the score was 4-1.
Rondon was replaced by Alex Wilson who gave up a single and another run scored, making the score 4-2. A strike out made the second out of the inning. With Pablo Sandoval on deck, Ausmus pulled Wilson and replaced him with Francisco Rodriguez. This was a good idea in theory, but it backfired badly. With Chris Young and Jackie Bradley, Jr on base, Sandoval hit a home run. Then, K-Rod got the final out, but not after the damage was already done and the score was 4-5.
Ausmus’s Take on His Choice
In an article from Anthony Fenech in the Detroit Free Press, Brad Ausmus said of his choice to go to K-Rod in the eighth:
"“I really just felt like we had to win that game. And as much as I didn’t want to go to (Rodriguez) for four outs, I almost felt like I didn’t have a choice. To me, we had to go to our best reliever to try and lock it down.”"
Winning for Mr. I
Fortunately, the Tigers had one goal today: a win. After the pitching debacle that happened in the top of the eighth, the Tigers hitters recovered nicely. With a quick two outs, it seemed like the Tigers were doomed to a loss. Instead, the team got it done. Nick Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera both struck out, then Victor Martinez walked after a nine-pitch at-bat and Justin Upton earned his walk after six pitches. Then, to complement the left-handed pitching change, Ausmus put in Mikie Mahtook to pinch hit and pinch hit he did. The double scored V-Mart, tying the game. James McCann walked next, loading the bases. Then, JaCoby Jones walked, bringing in the winning run.
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Rodriguez came back out for the ninth inning. He had one job to do and if he didn’t, the fans might have run him out of Detroit. But, in typical K-Rod fashion, he kept the inning interesting. Seeing five batters, the first batter grounded out, the second reached on a single. Then, the third batter had a fly out, and the fourth hit a double. With two runners in scoring position and fans nearing cardiac arrest, K-Rod threw four pitches before the fifth resulted in a pop-up to Miguel Cabrera to end the game.
Why the “Win” is a Silly Stat
So, after nearly destroying the game, K-Rod ended up with the win (but not the save). And, after a fantastic first start of the 2017 season, Michael Fulmer walks away with the love of the fans, but not the win that he deserved.
Even though the Tigers were free of defensive gaffs and offensive duds, it was the Tigers who created the drama that nearly lost the game. To accompany that exciting type of play, the pitching also needs to be clean and consistent. All-in-all, it is good to home.
All-in-all, it is good to be home.