Entering Opening Day, the Detroit Tigers and the fanbase had a level of excitement and optimism that has not been seen around the team in some years. The offseason moves, the optimism of spring training, and the young up-and-coming talent seemingly ready to take the show by storm raised the expectations around the organization and the Tigers had their eyes set on making a statement against the reigning AL Central champion Chicago White Sox.
It’s fascinating how things can change in three days.
Opening Day provided some late-game heroics with the Tigers scoring two runs in both the eighth and ninth innings, capped off by offseason signee SS Javier Báez delivering a winning RBI single on a game-ending replay reversal to give the Tigers a 5-4 win.
Saturday and Sunday, the White Sox jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning in each game and the Detroit offense struggled, mustering one hit through the first 5 innings on Saturday and two total hits during Sunday’s game, losing 5-2 and 10-1, respectively.
Opening the season against the White Sox provided a great measuring stick for the Tigers to see where they currently stand but there is still a pretty clear gap between the two. Sure this opening series did not go exactly as hoped for the Tigers’ fan base but expectations should be tempered a bit knowing this team still has plenty more room to develop and a lot of work ahead.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart put it in perspective, “It’s the first three games of the year.”
Austin Meadows provides an impact
The acquisition of LF Austin Meadows from the Tampa Bay Rays just days before Opening Day sent shockwaves through Detroit. Immediately inserting him into the second slot in the batting order has provided some early returns: He is tied for team-best four hits (with Javier Báez), has drawn three walks, and team-leading six total bases. His triple in the bottom of the ninth inning on opening day set up Javy Báez’s game-winning single. Meadows has been calm and collected at the plate, provided some big at-bats for the team, and has already been a steal of a deal for the Tigers.
Starting pitching needs consistency
In each of the first 3 games, the Tigers’ starting pitching has given up at least three earned runs while only lasting no more than 5 full innings. Eduardo Rodriguez gave up three earned runs in four innings, Casey Mize gave up four earned runs in five innings, and Tarik Skubal gave up four earned runs in four innings. Lack of command has hurt the starting rotation early, forcing the Tigers to look to a still not fully healthy bullpen. The Tigers are still without starter Michael Pineda and his addition to the rotation will help keep the starters’ arms fresh but the next few series against the Red Sox, Royals, and Yankees will gauge where this starting rotation stands. If the Tigers want to take the next step towards winning the division, the starters will have to go deeper into games and have better command of all their pitches.
Spencer Torkelson struggles to get going
1B Spencer Torkelson enters his first big league season with high expectations and big shoes to fill. While he has flashed some leather during the first three games of the season, what sticks out most is his early struggle at the plate. Six strikeouts in eight at-bats and still searching for his first big-league hit has made it difficult for him to settle in. It makes it especially difficult when he has been seeing borderline calls go against him at the plate, such as his 5th inning plate appearance during Sunday’s game:
What the organization likes about Torkelson is his approach to the game at such a young age and his body of work in the minor league system. There is a reason why the Tigers organization decided to name Tork the starting first baseman. Torkelson will have to look to be more aggressive at the plate soon but remember, it’s only three games and he still has a very long career ahead of him.
What is evident is while the Tigers made some big splashes in the offseason and the team’s expectations are much higher than in previous seasons, there is still a long season ahead that will be full of highs and lows. This is still a young and hungry team that will look to be consistent in their approach and will improve as the season moves on under year 2 of manager A.J. Hinch.
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