Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 4/5/12
DETROIT He has two no-hitters, a MVP award and a Cy Young. Theres not much Justin Verlander hasnt done in his six-plus years in the big leagues. But hed never won on Opening Day, and he still hasnt despite a dominant performance Thursday against the Boston Red Sox. Verlander picked up right where he left off during his magical 2011 season, allowing only two hits while pitching eight shutout innings. He left with a 2-0 lead after throwing 105 pitches, only towatch closer Jose Valverde suffer his first blown save since August 25, 2010. The Tigers responded in the bottom of the ninth by scoring the winning run to send the Comerica Park crowd home happy with a 3-2 victory, albeit slightly disappointed that the ace didnt get credit for it. I did my part, kept us in the game, Verlander said. Our guys came in and picked up Jose. Thats what a teams all about. Its not an individual effort. Its a team effort. We came away with the W. Weve got a lot of drive and a will to win. A lot of teams probably could have folded there (after losing the lead with two outs in the ninth), but we came right back and scored. That says a lot about the chemistry of this team. Verlander entered Thursday with a 0-1 record and 8.55 ERA in four Opening Day assignments. He now has four no-decisions while starting the Tigers first game each of the last five seasons. The Red Sox put a runner in scoring position only twice. Verlander got three straight outs after a lead-off double in the second. He then struck out David Ortiz to end the sixth after an error and a walk put two on with two out. Verlander finished with seven strikeouts and only the one walk. His fastball was outstanding and his curveball was a nasty "out" pitch for him. This was the best Opening Day Ive had,Verlander said. Hopefully, that goes toward all the hard work Ive been putting in to get off to a better start. Long way to go, but its good to get that first one under your belt and have it be a good one. The one rap on Verlander has been that he gets off to slow starts every season. His career record in April was 9-14 with a 4.75 ERA. Its clearly arare flawthat he is determined to fix. Not only for himself but, more importantly, for the team. Hes the ace. He expects himself to live up to that reputation every day of the season. Got a few more (starts) left in April, Verlander said. Hopefully, I continue to pitch this way the rest of the month. Verlander admitted he felt a little overwhelmed by the crowds reaction when he was introduced while warming up in the bullpen. He said he immediately hung two sliders because he felt too much adrenaline. Fortunately for him, hes been through the anxiety of past big games, including the no-hitters. Hes learned from them and he settled down by the time he took the mound for real. I tried not to do too much, Verlander said. It helps having experienced some Opening Days in the past and the playoffs last year, having dealt with the adrenaline you know is going to be there. Its just being able to calm myself down and go out there and pitch and not let the adrenaline get the best of me. The key forthe extraordinarily talented right-handeris not trying to throw every pitch 100 mph andnot try to strike out every hitter. He also can'tworry about trying to live up to last years magical season statistically, when he finished 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA. Thats one of the things I tried to tell myself was dont try to pitch to an encore, Verlander said. Thats not the right away to go about it. Try to become a better pitcher. If the numbers are better or worse, so be it. But if I can look at myself at the end of the year and say I was a better pitcher than I was the year before, thats what I want to accomplish. So far, so good, even if he still doesnt have an Opening Day victory. NOT SO PERFECT Valverde had been successful in his last 50 save situations, 53 including the postseason. He was 49-for-49 last year during the regular season. But the streak ended when he gave upthe game-tyingruns in the ninth. Im glad its over with, to be honest with you, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. You knew it was going to happen at some point. Get it out of the way Opening Day, nothing wrong with that. Now lets move forward. Valverde finished the inning and ended up getting the victory. Not a bad consolation prize. MENTAL OBSTACLE Miguel Cabrera, in his regular-season return to third base, committed an error when he pulled away from a sharply hit ball by Dustin Pedroia in the sixth. Cabrera admitted he still hasto overcome lingering thoughts about the bad hop that hit him in the right eye during the exhibition season. Yeah, I think a lot, Cabrera said. I talked to a couple guys. Little panic for that ball. Ive got a little bit in my head on groundballs. Everybody tell me, You OK. Its not going to happen again. PRINCE'S HOMECOMING Free-agent newcomer Prince Fielder drove in the Tigers second run with a sacrifice fly in the eighth after Cabrera had been intentionally walked in front of him. Fielder spent much of his childhood in Detroit because his father, Cecil, played for the Tigers. Prince said it took him until the fifth or sixth inning to have it fully sink in that he was back home in a sense. It wasnt weird, but a couple times I had to realize where I was, Fielder said. Im in Detroit. Thats pretty cool. I didnt feel pressure. I felt excited to play baseball. I took myself out of the equation. It was more about the team. Its always easy when you know you have a good team and you just try to go out and win. Eliminate yourself a little bit. I felt very comfortable. Fielder went 1-for-3 and dug out two throws in the dirt to first, including one on a grounder to shortstop Jhonny Peralta in the second inning after a lead-off double. Leyland calledFielder's defensive plays "absolutely huge."
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