ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The schedule is brutal, and every game matters.
The Detroit Tigers begin the 2023 season with 37 of their first 40 games against teams with a winning record last season, plus three games against the Boston Red Sox. They won’t catch a breather until the middle of May when the Pittsburgh Pirates come to town. Falling out of postseason contention before the summer months, just like the past two seasons, is a real possibility.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, the Tigers’ Opening Day starter in back-to-back seasons, looked sharp but didn’t get any run support in a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday afternoon in front of 25,025 fans at Tropicana Field. The game, the Tigers’ first played under MLB’s new pitch clock, wrapped up in just two hours, 14 minutes. “I don’t take a lot away from games other than the win and the loss,” Tigers manager A.
J. Hinch said after his first Opening Day loss in his 10-year managerial career. “I’m proud of the way we competed, our dugout was good, but at the end of the day, we lost.
” GREENE’S GROWTH: After taking the next step, Tigers’ Riley Greene is thinking ‘pure’ at the plate CONTRASTING PERSONALITIES: Matt Vierling, Nick Maton on mission to help cultivate championship culture The shutout was the first on Opening Day for the Tigers since 1989, when they also lost 4-0 to the Texas Rangers on the road. Thirty-four years later, the Rays took a 1-0 lead on Jose Siri’s home run in the third inning. “I tried to go cutter inside,” Rodriguez said.
“I missed right in the middle of the plate, and I paid for it. ” The Tigers struck out six times with just three walks while facing one of the nastiest starting pitchers in the American League: Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan, a first-time All-Star who started the 2022 Midsummer Classic, was brilliant en route to six scoreless innings, featuring 16 whiffs. “Once he settled in, he started making some pitches,” catcher Eric Haase said.
“He’s obviously got really good stuff. From last year, I felt like it was a much more cohesive game plan. Guys were prepared, but he made pitches today.
He looked good. ” McClanahan’s departure didn’t change anything on the scoreboard, but the Tigers did threaten in the seventh inning against lefty reliever Colin Poche. Miguel Cabrera, playing his final Opening Day in his 21st season, doubled to the left-field wall with two outs, followed by a rare walk from Jonathan Schoop.
Ryan Kreidler, who hammered an 0-2 fastball, nearly scored them. Manuel Margo read the line drive off his bat, hustled to the right-field corner and completed a diving catch for the third out in the seventh, preventing extra bases and possibly two runs. “That’s a game-changing play,” Hinch said.
“I’ve never been in this building when they haven’t played elite defense. It’s one of their calling cards. They make good plays.
They finish plays. That was a big point where we needed something to happen to get back into the game. ” The Tigers went down 1-2-3 in the ninth inning.
In his return to Tropicana Field, former Tampa Bay outfielder Austin Meadows finished 3-for-4 with one double and two singles. Javier Báez singled in the first inning, walked on five pitches in the third and struck out swinging on three pitches in the sixth. E-Rod runs out of gas As the Opening Day starter, Rodriguez executed his pitches and absolutely dominated through five innings — aside from his poor cutter to Siri — but in the sixth inning, he completely lost his velocity and command.
Two of the three batters he faced reached safely. “Leadoff walk is how the inning started,” Hinch said. “To me, it all starts with not controlling the strike zone in a really critical part as they rolled the lineup (to the top of the batting order).
” Hinch replaced Rodriguez with right-handed reliever Jason Foley. His first assignment: Team Mexico star Randy Arozarena. He hit .
450 with six walks and five strikeouts across six games in the World Baseball Classic, and against Foley in the sixth, he showed that he’s still red hot. EVALUATING THE ROSTER: Tigers’ 26-man Opening Day roster: Here to stay or something to prove? THE FOUNDATION: A. J.
Hinch learned to be ‘a players’ manager. ‘ Tigers are relying on that in 2023 Arozarena hit a two-strike slider back up the middle for an RBI single, putting the Rays ahead 2-0. The next batter, pinch-hitter Luke Raley, increased the Rays’ lead to 3-0 by hitting a changeup back up the middle for an RBI single.
Both hits would have been outs with the infield shifted. But the shift has been banned this season. Rodriguez allowed three runs on three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in 5⅓ innings, throwing 54 of 88 pitches.
He generated eight whiffs — two fastballs, three cutters and three changeups — with 16 called strikes. “All the pitches were right where I wanted them, the cutter, the changeup, the breaking ball, the four-seam,” Rodriguez said. “Everything was working pretty good, so that’s what helped me stay in the game a little deeper.
” Welcome to the show Right-handed reliever Mason Englert, whom the Tigers selected in the Rule 5 draft from the Texas Rangers, stood on the mound for the eighth inning. He must stay on the 26-man roster for the entire season. It was his MLB debut.
NEW PLAYER: Here’s what Zach McKinstry does that intrigued the Tigers Wander Franco, the first batter in his big-league career, won a nine-pitch battle and cranked a fastball down the middle of the strike zone. He hit the ball 402 feet to left-center field for a solo home run. “He had a couple really good takes on changeups,” Englert said.
“The last fastball, I didn’t have my normal feeling. I was a little amped up and pulled it over the middle instead of it being up and away, so he did what he did. ” The Tigers trailed 4-0.
But Englert bounced back and retired the next three batters. “We want him to keep the ball in the ballpark, but he can take away the fact that he’s made it,” Hinch said. “He’s one of very few people in the world that’s pitched at this level.
He should be very, very comfortable knowing that he’s earned the opportunity. We’ll get him back out there again. I was glad to get it out of the way.
” Contact Evan Petzold at ep[email protected]. com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold . .