Last night, the Detroit Tigers’ 2016 season finally got underway in Miami, where the team opened a two-game series against the Marlins. I’m perhaps over-eager to employ this concept, but if Detroit’s 8-7 win in eleven innings wasn’t a microcosm of a Tigers season, I’m not sure what was. This game had pretty much everything:
- Justin Verlander started and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning, hit a single of his own, scored a run to help his own cause, and allowed a big home run to power slugger Giancarlo Stanton;
- Tiger bats were hot early, pushing the team to a 5-0 lead;
- Ian Kinsler had 4 RBIs and played solid defense at second;
- Justin Upton, in his Tigers debut, made good contact and played very good defense in left, reinforcing the decision to sign him over resigning Yoenis Cespedes;
- Detroit’s middle relief was, surprisingly given Detroit’s history, effective, as Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe pitched an inning each in their Tigers debuts and allowed just one run between the two of them;
- Anthony Gose hit the ball very hard all night, including a comebacker off Miami pitcher Wei-Yin Chen’s throwing elbow in the second that yielded a single and a solo blast in the ninth that seemingly provided an insurance run to secure the lead;
- Victor Martinez, pinch-hitting in the ninth because there was no designated hitter spot in the NL park, immediately followed Gose’s blast with a homer of his own to definitely secure Detroit’s lead, everyone thought;
- Detroit’s closer, Francisco Rodriguez, made his Tigers debut in the bottom of the ninth with a 7-4 lead and, much less surprisingly given Detroit’s history, very nearly blew the entire thing, allowing three earned runs on four hits in his one inning of work– [Jon Gruden voice:] I call Rodriguez “Six Pack of Oberon,” because he so easily can make you forget those Gose and V-Mart home runs actually happened;
- The Tigers’ baserunning severely deteriorated in extra innings, but they managed to manufacture a run in the eleventh by way of a Gose walk, a Mike Aviles pinch-hit sacrifice bunt, and a Kinsler RBI single;
- Fifth starter Shane Greene made his season debut in relief, sporting some kind of mohawk thing he surely didn’t plan to display to the public, and earned his first career save, because how else was this game really going to end?
Not surprisingly, Stanton’s blast off Verlander has been the most popular highlight from this game:
A towering shot without a doubt, and it makes for a good and internet-shareable story based on the participants’ existing narratives, but, as a factual matter, it shouldn’t overshadow Gose’s home run, which, according to the MLB data publicly hosted at Baseball Savant, went even farther than Stanton’s:
Here‘s video of Gose’s upper-decker. Sure, Gose didn’t hit his homer as hard as Stanton hit his–nobody hits as hard as Stanton— but he did hit his farther than Stanton’s, and that’s a story that, today, is the baseball internet’s biggest secret. You heard it here first.
Miguel Cabrera saved his first home run of 2016 for the Detroit fans, and Justin Upton saved his first homer in a Tiger uniform for his new fans as well, waiting until yesterday to launch his first blast of the season. Upton’s was a doozy, landing in the camera well beyond the center field fence, a spot that used to be the domain of Cabrera and J.D. Martinez.
Upton’s bomb bested those by Gose and Stanton discussed above by about fifty feet, and he even bested Stanton on the exit velocity. Upton is second only to Stanton (29) with seventeen HRs at 450 feet or longer since 2009.
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