Alex Avila’s walk-off homer– the first for any player in the young 2012 season– in the bottom of the eleventh last night secured a season-opening sweep of the Boston Red Sox in a series that showcased the promised strength of this Tigers team and cast some light on potential weaknesses going forward.
This lineup was expected to be absurdly productive on offense, and they did not disappoint. Over the three games, they scored 26 runs on 39 hits, including seven home runs, all from Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Avila.
The first game, a 3-2 victory, showed that ace Justin Verlander was picking up where he left off last season, a dangerous prospect for opponents considering the fact that the pitcher won the Cy Young and the MVP last year. Batting pyrotechnics in the second game, a 10-0 win, were enough to momentarily overshadow the injury to Detroit’s #2 starter, Doug Fister, who landed on the 15-day DL because he sprained a side muscle after pitching 3 2/3 shutout innings. This injury could damper the Tigers’ hot start, especially since the team has “no clue” who Fister’s replacement will be. Manager Jim Leyland:
I have no idea who’s going to start. Don’t ask. Please. I have no clue. I just told you that. There’s no sense searching. I have no clue. I keep trying to make that perfectly clear to you guys, but you keep searching. I have no clue who’s going to start. None.
… We will have a starter at the appropriate time. Who it is, I have no clue. None. Next question
That’s concerning. Number 3 starter Max Scherzer got shelled in the third game, and relievers Jose Valverde and Joaquin Benoit looked a bit out of sorts in this first series. If Tiger fans learned anything from 2006, it’s that a baseball team that lives by its offense can die by it when the hits evaporate. This team is both more balanced and more offensively powerful than that team, which made it to the World Series, and last year’s squad, but it looks like they are going to be able to need to bat their way through some early defensive hiccups to continue this strong start. If any team can do it, though, it’s this one.
For now, it feels really great to open the season in grand winning fashion, sweep a media darling like Boston, and find out that the grand slugging experiment, initiated when the Tigers signed Fielder to replace the injured Victor Martinez, really works.