It wasn't a perfect day at the ballpark for the Tigers by any means.
Justin Verlander labored through five innings, giving up four runs to a rather weak hitting Royals lineup.
The writing however was certainly on the wall for Verlander that manager Jim Leyland is going to get serious about pitch counts this season. After leading baseball in pitch counts and innings pitched in 2009, Leyland wants Verlander to be more selective, use his defense more, and get deeper into games without going above 110 pitches.
On Monday, Verlander got yanked after 93.
It's also probably no coincidence that fresh off a five year extension that will pay Verlander $80 million over the next five years, the organization expects Verlander to be the team's horse for awhile. Which means he can't be burning out by over-pitching in his mid 20's.
The offense meanwhile was largely kept in check by AL Cy Young champ Zach Greinke, who allowed the Tigers to plate a pair (though just one earned) in six innings. But some patient at-bats helped get Greinke's pitch count up early, and he exited at 96 pitches after six innings, allowing the Tigers to get to the Royals' bullpen, another weak spot.
In the key 7th inning that turned the tables, the Tigers posted six runs off Roman Colon, Robinson Tejeda and Juan Cruz, batting around while getting key doubles from Austin Jackson, Johnny Damon and Brandon Inge.
Damon finished with two hits, two runs and two RBI, while Miguel Cabrera chimed in with a pair of hits and pair of RBI as well.
Joel Zumaya earned the win for working an easy 6th inning (including hitting 102 MPH on the stadium radar gun), with Phil Coke and Ryan Perry combining for the 7th and 8th innings to get the ball to Jose Valverde.
Valverde wasn't quite as smooth as everyone had hoped, he gave up a one-out walk, and then a grounder that should have recorded at least one out but resulted in an error on Ramon Santiago. But Valverde calmed down, got two more ground balls for put outs, and secured the Tigers first Opening Day win since 2008.
It wasn't perfect, but on a day where they needed contributions from lots of players, they got them. And so the 2010 season begins on a positive note. Let's hope there's many more of those in the coming months.