Back-to-back blankings to open season
The Tigers pitched their way to a division title last year with a shutout of the Twins on the final day of the regular season. They’ve picked up where they left off, and they’re making history in the process.
Not since the 1977 Angels — led by Detroit native Frank Tanana and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan — had an American League team pitched back-to-back shutouts to begin a season, according to baseball-reference.com. The Tigers matched that Wednesday, following up David Price’s near-shutout of the Twins with 6 2/3 shutout innings from Anibal Sanchez in an 11-0 win.
They’re the 14th Major League team in the last 100 years to begin the season with consecutive shutouts. The Washington Nationals did it last year, blanking Miami in back-to-back games behind Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez.
Only one team in that span, the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals, began a season with three straight shutouts. Last year’s Nationals came close, allowing one Marlins run in their third game.
The Tigers will get their chance on Thursday, weather permitting, when Shane Greene takes the mound in his Tigers debut.
Both Tanana and Ryan went the distance for the ’77 Angels — the 23-year-old Tanana tossing a nine-hitter with nine strikeouts on Opening Day in Seattle, the 30-year-old Ryan tossing a three-hitter with six walks and strikeouts a day later. They made the Angels look unbeatable until the team lost six of its next seven and 17 of its next 25 on its way to an 88-loss season. Ryan and Tanana earned 34 of California’s 74 victories that year.
Detroit carries higher expectations and more balance. But for now, they have to lean on Price and Sanchez for top-level pitching. Both delivered, even though neither went the distance.
Here’s a table of the previous teams, courtesy of the tremendous Play Index at baseball-reference.com: