Opening Day in Detroit. It’s a holiday truly on par with Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and any other designated celebratory moment the calender might offer. For the second straight year, the Detroit Tigers didn’t disappoint their festive fans while taking on a tough foe from the American League East. A big day from Prince Fielder and clutch pitching from Drew Smyly provided the difference in a dominating 8-3 victory over the New York Yankees.
The Tigers started things off on the right foot offensively in the first, getting singled out of Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter to pressure Ivan Nova. Miguel Cabrera’s fielders choice gave Detroit a 1-0 lead. After Omar Infante’s RBI single in the second, the Tigers led 2-0, giving starter Doug Fister a comfortable margin to work with. Fister himself wasn’t fantastic at all, hitting two batters and working out of most trouble he worked into until the fifth. In that inning, Fister tossed the Yankees their first run with a wild pitch, and Kevin Youkillis crushed a two run homer one batter later for a 3-2 lead. However, Nova couldn’t keep the good momentum, allowing a single and hitting Cabrera. Prince Fielder then crushed Boone Logan’s offering, getting Detroit’s two run lead back. Alex Avila added a solo home run in the sixth, powering up the crowd for the late innings.
A major bone of contention early has been the rough play of the Tigers’ bullpen. Drew Smyly put some rest to those notions at least for a day by working a nice sixth inning striking out one, and motoring through the seventh, fanning two more Yankees. Fielder added more breathing room with a monster two-run shot in the bottom of the inning, and the Tigers led 8-3. Smyly was superb in the eighth, and worked a spotless ninth for his first career save. Between Fielder and Smyly’s contributions after the fifth, it was quite the show of impressive hitting and pitching.
Big Cats: Prince Fielder and Drew Smyly. After failing to come through in Minnesota in a couple clutch situations, Fielder delivered today with runners on base courtesy of the long ball. The grooved, powerful swing was something Tigers’ fans were used to seeing the second half of last year, and it was a welcome sight to see Fielder get off the mat with two big flies on opening day. Smyly was excellent, keeping the Yankees off the scoreboard following Fister’s exit striking out five and getting all 12 batters he faced. After the bullpen got rocked by the Twins, it was an important performance for Smyly.
Stray Kitty: Doug Fister. Who was the guy on the mound today? Fister wasn’t the pitcher everyone remembers from last season, fighting his usually sharp control all day long. The Yankees only caught up with one mistake pitch, though, buit it quickly left the yard. Despite that, Fister was shaky all day long and all over the plate. His rebound from this performance will be worth watching.
Best Play Of The Game: Fielder’s go ahead home run in the fifth. After Fister gave up the lead, there was likely a feeling of “here we go again,” being the Tigers had blown a few two run leads in consecutive days at Target Field. Fielder’s big swing in a clutch spot eased any concerns about failing bats for the home opener. The shot cleared the wall, and gave Detroit a lead they wouldn’t look back from.
Worst Play Of The Game: Brennan Boesch runs down a scorching line drive. After Boesch exited Detroit and caught on with New York, you just had to figure he’d do something to infuriate Tiger fans in his first visit to Comerica Park as a visitor. Sure enough, Boesch took away what would have been Fielder’s third hit of the day with a fantastic running catch against the right field wall. Where, exactly, was that defensive talent hiding the last three years in Detroit?
Central Focus: It’s way too early to be charting the central, but Detroit’s first home win of the year pulls them back to 2-2, which is good enough to get the team .5 games behind Chicago and Cleveland, who have both started the 2013 season 2-1.
On Deck: The Yankees bring their hurting lineup back tomorrow. They’ll face Max Scherzer, and Detroit will tangle against David Phelps. The game begins at 4:05 p.m. and will be broadcast on Fox.
Max DeMara is a senior editor at The Detroit Sports Site. You can find him on Twitter @SportsGuyTheMax