Opening Day a Letdown?

In front of a record 44,934 fans at Comerica Park, the Tigers weren't able to get the season started with a victory, despite a home run from new star Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander exiting the game with a 3-2 lead.

There was plenty of hope and anticipation coming into Opening Day – after all, in an offseason in which you add a Gold Glove, All Star shortstop, one of the best young hitters in all of baseball, and a former Cy Young runner up, there is plenty to look forward to when you're talking about a team that returned virtually every key player from a team that won 88 games in 2007.

And some of what they were waiting for was on display. Cabrera's lone hit was a home run; Carlos Guillen had three hits including a game tying home run in the 8th; Gary Sheffield walked four times; Justin Verlander turned in six solid innings before allowing a pair of hits in the seventh.

But at the end of the day, there were concerns about the team coming in, and nothing was done to ease those concerns.

Could the bullpen hold up? It was the most talked about topic of spring training, and injuries only added fuel to the fire. So the bullpen would be under the microscope come the opener.

And how did they show? They lost the lead in the seventh (albeit in a tough situation with runners on first and third and nobody out), and lost the game in the 11th. Only one earned run over five innings is typically pretty good, but the ‘pen was on the mound when three of the five runs crossed the plate, and it would have been four had Brandon Inge not made a perfect throw to the plate to keep the game tied in the 11th.

Things weren't perfect at the plate either. Placido Polanco went 0-for-6 and left two runners in scoring position, including the game-tying run in the 11th. To that point, after the Tigers lost the lead, they received a leadoff double from Clete Thomas, only to prove unable to get him home. The plague of not being able to get a runner home in scoring position with less than two outs has followed the Tigers for years.

It was only one game, and there is still plenty to be optimistic about. Many players looked good, and those that didn't are unlikely to repeat that performance.

The Tigers could have 50 more games like Monday's opener, and still end up with the best record in baseball. Losses will happen. But there were concerns about this Tigers team, and those concerns weren't calmed on Monday.

But it's only one game. Baseball is back in Detroit. Spring is upon us, and better weather is on the way. Nearly 45,000 fans packed Comerica Park, and thousands more ventured down to Detroit just to enjoy the atmosphere in a downtown that desperately needs the attention.

So baseball's back. Cabrera looks great. Magglio Ordonez hit the ball with the same authority he did throughout 2007. Verlander looked strong through six. All is good.

Unless of course, they lose again Wednesday . . .


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