OK, we’re done with the whole innings without a run, or then an earned run, thing. But what the Tigers have done through four games remains historic. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Detroit is just the third team in Major League history to score at least 30 runs and allow no more than five runs in their first four games. The only other modern MLB team to do it was the 2007 Mets, who plowed through St. Louis and Atlanta by a combined 31-3 through four games. They became better known for the way they finished, losing six of their final seven games to squander the NL East title and a playoff berth.
The other team with that good of a run differential through four games? It was the 1888 Brooklyn Bridegrooms of the American Association, who swept the Cleveland Blues in a season-opening four-game set by a 31-5 margin. The Bridegrooms, too, finished second in their league, going 88-52.
The Tigers’ season-opening streak of scoreless innings ended Thursday with an unearned run. Their streak of innings without an earned run stayed intact long enough Friday to reach record territory.
Not until the Indians put up five consecutive hits in a three-run sixth inning off Alfredo Simon Friday did the Tigers finally yield an earned run. That ended their season-opening streak of 32 innings without one, tying the modern Major League record established by the St. Louis Cardinals to begin the 1963 season.
The Cardinals’ stretch was also the shutout streak the Tigers were aiming for until Joe Mauer scored with help from a Yoenis Cespedes error in Thursday’s season-opening series finale against the Twins. Detroit became the third team in Major League history to go three games without an earned run allowed to begin a season.
The other team was the 1943 Reds, who went 31 innings into their season without an earned run allowed.
“It doesn’t happen often,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It occasionally happens. It rarely happens at the beginning of the season. That’s why it’s more noticeable.”
It’s a blustery day in Cleveland, with the winds blowing left to right, and it’s getting colder by the minute. So basically, the weather you thought Detroit escaped on Opening Day back on Monday, the Tigers are going to get today in Cleveland’s home opener.
Tigers stick with their same lineup. Indians also loading up with left-handed hitters.
TIGERS (career numbers off Zach McAllister)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (4-for-12, double, walk, 2 K’s)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (6-for-22, 2 doubles, walk, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (9-for-18, 4 doubles, HR, walk, 3 K’s)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (2-for-6, HR, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF (4-for-12, 2 doubles, 2 K’s)
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-5, K)
- Alex Avila, C (1-for-11, 2 walks, 7 K’s)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (1-for-2, double)
P: Alfredo Simon
INDIANS (career numbers off Alfredo Simon)
- Michael Bourn, CF (2-for-3, K)
- Jason Kipnis, 2B (1-for-5, double, walk, K)
- Michael Brantley, LF (6-for-9, 2 doubles, walk)
- Carlos Santana, 1B (3-for-10, walk, 2 K’s)
- Brandon Moss, DH (0-for-1, K)
- Yan Gomes, C (0-for-3)
- David Murphy, RF (2-for-5, double, walk)
- Lonnie Chisenhall, 3B (2-for-8, double, HR)
- Jose Ramirez, SS (1-for-2)
P: Zach McAllister
The Tigers lost Max Scherzer to free agency, Rick Porcello to a trade and Justin Verlander to the disabled list. It took them three games to surrender a run.
After consecutive shutouts of the Twins, the Tigers nearly became the second team in modern Major League history to toss three straight to open a season. Instead, they had to settle for an American League-record 24-inning scoreless streak to begin the year.
“It’s impressive,” catcher Alex Avila said, “but I don’t know how to explain it. We pitched good. But it’s not something I’m celebrating or anything like that. It’s just a result. Gave up a run, try to do another one.”
Shane Greene, making his Tigers debut, tried to follow the pace David Price and Anibal Sanchez set the previous two afternoons. For six innings, Greene did, allowing just three singles and no runners in scoring position.
Once Greene ended the fifth inning by getting Kurt Suzuki to hit into a double play, Detroit eclipsed the previous AL mark of 22 scoreless innings from the White Sox to open the 1947 season. Greene retired the Twins in order in the sixth inning to push the streak to third-longest in Major League history.
Not only had the Twins not scored on the season, they hadn’t even advanced a runner to third base. Joe Mauer’s leadoff walk in the seventh gave Minnesota its opportunity, and the Twins converted when Kennys Vargas lined a single into left field. Yoenis Cespedes, who reached over the left-field fence to rob a home run on Opening Day, mishandled the ball for an error, allowing Mauer to round third base and score easily.
That kept the 1963 Cardinals as the only team in modern history with three straight shutouts to start a season, on complete games from Ernie Broglio, Ray Washburn and Curt Simmons. They also hold the Major League mark of 32 scoreless innings to begin a season, followed by the 1943 Reds at 26.
The Tigers’ streak was also the longest for the franchise at any point in a season since June 20-23, 1996. That team finished with a 6.38 team ERA, but took advantage of complete-game shutouts by Felipe Lira and Brian Williams — also against the Twins in Detroit, in that case at Tiger Stadium.
“I don’t think we’re going to go streaks of three games giving up one run very often,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “But we’ll take it.”
UPDATE: Since folks were asking, the Tigers joined the ’63 Cardinals and ’43 Reds as the only teams to not give up an earned run in their first three games of the season. Again, the Cardinals’ 32-inning streak is the standard. The ’43 Reds, who gave up a pair of unearned runs in their third game of the season and lost, went 31 innings into their season before surrendering an earned run.
The window has finally arrived. It might only last for a few hours before the storms arrive, but they’re going to try to get this one in. Lineups remain the same from this morning.
Whether these lineups get any use is in serious question. Brad Ausmus said before the game that they have a chance to get nine innings in. With showers moving in by game time, though, it could be a wait to get there. They’ll probably get a window of dry weather to get started at some point, but will the rain that follows be light enough to play through?
As for the Tigers lineup, it’s the same nine that produced 11 runs Wednesday. The Twins insert Eduardo Escobar in left field and Chris Herrmann behind the plate.
TIGERS (career numbers off Kyle Gibson)
- Anthony Gose, CF
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (6-for-14, HR, walk, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (5-for-11, double, HR, 2 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (3-for-12, double, 2 walks)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (4-for-11, double, walk, 3 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (1-for-11, walk, 4 K’s)
- Alex Avila, C (3-for-9, double, walk, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS
P: Shane Greene
- Danny Santana, SS
- Brian Dozier, 2B
- Joe Mauer, 1B
- Torii Hunter, RF (1-for-4, K against Greene)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B
- Eduardo Escobar, LF
- Chris Herrmann, C
- Jordan Schafer, CF
P: Kyle Gibson
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:
Joe Nathan spent Spring Training working to prove he can still be an effective closer. After he closed out an Opening Day win, a right elbow flexor strain has landed the veteran reliever on the 15-day disabled list, leaving the Tigers to close out games.
Nathan becomes the third Tigers pitcher to land on the DL in the span of a week, joining hard-throwing reliever Bruce Rondon and former AL MVP and Cy Young winner Justin Verlander. In Nathan’s case, at least, the Tigers have a ready replacement.
Joakim Soria, who closed for five seasons in Kansas City and again last year in Texas before joining Detroit in a July deadline trade, will close for the Tigers while Nathan is out. With Rondon already on the 15-day DL with biceps tenditis, manager Brad Ausmus said he’ll play the eighth inning according to matchups, though he could lean on Joba Chamberlain to handle the role once again like he did for the bulk of last season.
“I think we got a couple guys we could use down there,” Ausmus said. “It might depend on who’s hitting. Certainly Joba did it for us last year; he would be a guy that we’d consider using. I think if there are lefties coming up, we could use a guy like [Ian] Krol. It might vary day to day.”
Nathan had been dealing with soreness in his arm last week as Spring Training wrapped up, according to team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski. Nathan recorded the final out of Monday’s Opening Day win over the Twins, but felt pain on the final pitch, a slider off the outside corner that drew a checked swing from Torii Hunter and a strikeout call from plate umpire Joe West.
“Actually on the very last pitch he threw, he kind of felt it grab on Monday,” Ausmus said. “Then he came in today, played catch and from what he said and how his face looked, you could tell it was bothering him quite a bit.
“Joe, in the time I’ve known him, he’s never said I can’t throw and today he kind of, not in so many words, said I probably shouldn’t throw today, which tells me it was really bothering him. So that’s why we got the MRI.”
The MRI exam showed no structural damage, including the ulnar collateral ligament in the elbow. Nathan missed three weeks with a right flexor muscle strain in 2011 after missing the entire 2010 season recovering from Tommy John surgery.
“[Head athletic trainer] Kevin Rand said it’s very common,” Ausmus said.
Team president/general manager Dave Dombrowski said they’re “hopeful” Nathan will be ready to return once he’s eligible to come off the disabled list in two weeks. At this point, they’re relying on rest to allow the strain to heal.
“We’re hopeful,” Dombrowski said. “That’s what we think at this time.”
With Nathan out, the Tigers used the roster spot to add a third lefty reliever, recalling Blaine Hardy from Triple-A Toledo. Hardy was one the final Spring Training cuts, having competed for the second lefty role.
The three-lefty bullpen is aimed towards the Tigers’ upcoming series against the Indians.
“Hardy was real close to making our club as it was,” Dombrowski said. “We’re in a situation where, going into Cleveland, they’ve got a lot of left-handed hitters. Brad felt he’d like to have another left-hander in the bullpen, if we had that flexibility.”
As expected, Justin Verlander isn’t starting Sunday. Kyle Lobstein is. The Tigers are hoping that’s the only start Verlander will miss. His triceps strain, however, is an injury that has already lingered longer than anyone anticipated.
“We’re not going to put him out there until he’s 100 percent, especially at this point in the season,” manager Brad Ausmus said.
Verlander’s trip to the 15-day DL became official on Wednesday. It’s backdated to March 29, two days after he left his spring training start against the Blue Jays with a right triceps cramp. It’s now classified as a strain, and while the soreness isn’t enough to lead to an MRI or other follow-up tests, it’s putting a cramp into Verlander’s rehab process.
“Early on, it was kind of grabby, I guess,” Verlander said. “Right now, it’s just kind of achy. It just gets tired quickly.”
On Sunday, it was apparently grabby, which limited Verlander during his bullpen session in Lakeland. That led to a postponement of Verlander’s scheduled session facing hitters.
“It just kind of grabbed me a little bit,” Verlander said. “The next day it was sore, which was why I wasn’t able to [face hitters] on Tuesday. Obviously, if I was sore the day after throwing a bullpen like that, it was probably not the smartest move to go right back out there and try to pitch in a game on Tuesday. So that is what set everything back a little bit.”
Verlander threw long-toss Tuesday instead and felt fine, then flew to Detroit last night. He still has to face hitters before he pitches again, and the Tigers will set up a simulated game for him to do that. For now, though, there’s no schedule for when that would take place.
“Some days are really good. Some days it’s a little cranky,” Verlander said, “but definitely a lot better than it was a few days ago, or a week ago. So, it’s definitely trending in the right direction.
“It’s obviously taking longer than I would like, but it’s just one of those things where you can’t really speed up the process. You’ve just gotta wait until you’re ready.”
Ideally, Verlander could return at some point next week. Ausmus did not rule out next week’s Interleague series at Pittsburgh, but he noted that the off-day next Thursday after that series gives them flexibility.
Anthony Gose makes his Tigers debut today, getting the start in center field. He’ll start against most right-handers, manager Brad Ausmus reiterated Wednesday, but not all.
“Raj is going to see probably the vast majority of the lefties,” Ausmus said. “Anthony’s going to see the majority of the righties. And there’s going to be times where Raj, whether it’s a matchup situation or he just needs to play because we haven’t seen a lefty, is also going to face righties. You probably could say the same thing about the catchers.”
Other than center field, it’s the same lineup for Detroit, including Nick Castellanos batting ahead of Alex Avila. Castellanos homered off Nolasco here last September.
Same exact lineup for the Twins, who have some bad history against Anibal Sanchez. He had 2 2/3 hitless innings in Minnesota last April 26 when a blister broke open on him.
As for the weather, as the picture shows, it’s pretty damp and cold. For now, however, it’s expected to be dry, allowing them to get the game in. It’s the kind of weather that makes hitters hate getting jammed on fastballs even more, but Anibal Sanchez isn’t a fan either.
“I don’t like it,” Sanchez said Monday. “I’m positive. I don’t like it at all. Boo.”
TIGERS (career numbers off Nolasco)
- Anthony Gose, CF (0-for-2, K)
- Ian Kinsler, 2B (5-for-12, 3 doubles, K)
- Miguel Cabrera, 1B (2-for-9, 5 K’s)
- Victor Martinez, DH (5-for-7, double, 2 walks)
- J.D. Martinez, RF (3-for-11, walk, 2 K’s)
- Yoenis Cespedes, LF
- Nick Castellanos, 3B (2-for-5, double, HR, K)
- Alex Avila, C (0-for-4, 2 walks, K)
- Jose Iglesias, SS (0-for-2, K)
P: Anibal Sanchez
TWINS (career numbers off Sanchez)
- Danny Santana, SS
- Brian Dozier, 2B (1-for-14, 2 walks, 4 K’s)
- Joe Mauer, 1B (5-for-17, 2 walks, 3 K’s)
- Torii Hunter, RF (2-for-6, double, 2 K’s)
- Kennys Vargas, DH
- Trevor Plouffe, 3B (3-for-13, HR, walk, 2 K’s)
- Oswaldo Arcia, LF (0-for-10, walk, 4 K’s)
- Kurt Suzuki, C (1-for-2)
- Jordan Schafer, CF (1-for-12, walk, 8 K’s)
P: Ricky Nolasco