The Tigers nearly became the second team in modern Major League history to open a season with three consecutive shutouts. They settled for an American League record of 24 consecutive scoreless innings, and one of the more one-sided season-opening series sweeps, finishing off the Twins with a 7-1 win on a rainy Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Not only did Shane Greene allow just three singles over his first six innings, the Twins didn't reach a three-ball count against him until Brian Dozier's full-count fly out to end the sixth. The sinkerballer pounded the strike zone and avoided solid contact despite a fair number of fly balls. A leadoff walk to Joe Mauer in the seventh and a Kennys Vargas one-out double finally put a blemish on the Tigers' pitching, albeit an unearned run thanks to Yoenis Cespedes' fielding error.
After a three-hour, 36-minute rain delay, Greene was trying to work quickly.
"I was just trying to throw strikes," Greene said. "Once they put up those three runs, I was just trying to get out there and get back in the dugout as fast as possible."
It was stark contrast to the trouble the Twins gave the Tigers last season, beating Detroit 10 times in 19 games and nearly derailing their division hopes down the stretch.
"They're a team that gave us a lot of trouble, and they hit the ball a lot better against us last year, with basically the same lineup, the same roster as they had a year ago," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "So we probably caught them at a time where they were a little flat offensively, but they're a very good offensive club."
Twins starter Kyle Gibson also worked ahead, but he struggled to finish off batters. Gibson had nine of his final 16 batters in two-strike counts, but he retired just four of them, none in his fourth and final inning. Ian Kinsler andMiguel Cabrera both drew full-count walks, and though Gibson got a first-pitch double play from Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez chased him with a two-run homer to right, his second of the series.
"I thought we swung the bats well," Ausmus said. "I don't know if we're going to swing the bats this well all the time, but from Day 1 of Spring Training, I said I thought this lineup was better than what we had a year ago, and I thought we had a very good lineup last year."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gose leading the way: A day after Anthony Gose made his Tigers debut with three hits and three RBIs, he was back at it with three more hits, including a bloop double that began the Tigers' offensive effort against Gibson. Gose added a pair of ground-ball singles, used a delayed steal to set up a run and scored three times.
Twins snap scoring drought at 24 frames: The Twins finally got on the board against the Tigers in the seventh thanks to Cespedes' error. It was the first run of the year for the Twins, who nearly set the Major League record of consecutive scoreless innings to open a season. The 1943 St. Louis Cardinals still have the record of 26 straight innings, but it did set a franchise record.
"Guys were kind of joking about it, believe it or not," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "But you have to start somewhere. You have to be a little light-hearted after you suffer through so many innings, 24 or whatever it was. It's all we got and we needed a misplay to get it, but we got a point on the board." More >
This time, it was easy being Greene: The Tigers traded for Greene in no small part based off the way he pitched against them in two starts for the Yankees. In his Detroit debut, the Tigers saw him do the same to somebody else, delivering eight innings of four-hit ball with a walk and five strikeouts. Minnesota's lone run was unearned.
"I didn't feel really good with my slider," Greene said. "I kept throwing it. I'm going to keep working on it. I know that's my best pitch in my back pocket. Just keeping working on that. My two-seam was really good today." More >
Gibson roughed up in season debut: A day after Ricky Nolasco lasted just three-plus innings in Wednesday's 11-0 loss, Gibson didn't fare much better. The right-hander lasted just 3 2/3 frames, giving up six runs on eight hits and five walks. The five free passes tied a career worst for the sinkerballer. More >
QUOTABLE "They kicked our [butts] last year, so it's nice to return the favor, at least for three games. They've always played us tough. We just gotta make sure, anybody we play in our division, that's priority number one. You've got to beat the teams in your division and win the division. We want to get off to a good start. We have a tough schedule coming up as far as teams in our division, so that's important." -- Alex Avila
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS The Tigers' 24-inning scoreless streak to begin the season ranks as the third-longest in Major League history. The 1963 Cardinals, the only team with three straight shutouts to begin a year, hold the innings standard at 32, followed by the 1943 Reds at 26.
REPLAY REVIEW Molitor challenged his first play as Twins manager in the second inning, when Gibson tried to pick off Gose at first base with two outs and Cabrera at the plate. Gose was ruled safe by first-base umpire D.J. Reyburn, and the replay challenge was unsuccessful, as the play stood as called.
"It looked like it was close," Molitor said. "They had one of the best hitters in the game at the plate, so with a chance to get out of the inning, I thought it was worth the challenge. I'm still not sure what happened in New York, because I took another look after the game, but I guess it just wasn't conclusive enough. It cost us about 20 pitches and a run."
WHAT'S NEXT Twins: The Twins head to Chicago for the White Sox home opener at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday in a 3:10 p.m. CT star. Left-hander Tommy Milonelooks to record the first quality start of the season for Minnesota, which has seen its starters combine to post an 11.37 ERA in three starts. Both the Twins and White Sox are looking for their first wins.
Tigers: The Tigers hop over Lake Erie to Cleveland, where they serve as the guests for the Indians' home opener on Friday in a 4:10 p.m. ET start at Progressive Field. Alfredo Simon, acquired from the Reds in an offseason trade to help fill the rotation void of the Rick Porcello-Yoenis Cespedes trade, will make his Detroit debut opposite Zack McAllister.