Detroit Tigers' Opening Day win told us a lot in a little: Wins will rarely be easy

Carlos Monarrez
Detroit Free Press

Free Press sports writer Carlos Monarrez answers three questions from the Detroit Tigers3-2 win Thursday over the ClevelandIndians at Comerica Park on Opening Day.

How did Miggy look?

About 10 years younger. Miguel Cabrera turns 38 in a couple weeks, but he turned back the clock and looked like a spry youngster, batting, fielding and even running. Cabrera couldn’t have asked for a better start to the season after he homered in his first at-bat —off 2020 AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, no less — with just enough opposite-field power and slid into second because he wasn’t sure the ball cleared the right-field wall. After showing off the lumber, Cabrera flashed the leather when he made a great diving stab at first base to save a run in the fourth inning. Cabrera wants to play first and he’s the Tigers’ best defensive player at the position. But manager AJ Hinch is going to have be smart about how much he lets Cabrera play in the field; Cabrera needs to stay fresh in order to contribute the most at the plate. We can joke about Cabrera being on pace for 162 home runs, but his chances of hitting 12 more dingers this season and joining the 500-homer club look very promising.

GAME 1:Cabrera, Boyd help Tigers top Cleveland, 3-2, on Opening Day

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Detroit Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera celebrates as he rounds the bases in the snow after hitting a two-run home run during the first inning against the Cleveland Indians on Opening Day at Comerica Park on April 1, 2021.

What did it look like with fans in the stands?

From my vantage point — watching from home — it was a refreshingly welcome sight ... and sound. After Bieber brushed back Cabrera in the first inning, the crowd jeered and analyst Jack Morris said: “What was that? I heard some noise. Oh, that’s fans. That’s great!” It was great, and it was even better when you could hear every one of the approximately 8,000 fans at Comerica Park cheering Cabrera’s homer a few pitches later, and then the ovation for Matthew Boyd’s strong start over 5⅔ innings. The Tigers have promised to be friendly and polite while being diligent in telling fans to wear their masks and observe COVID-19 safety protocols. This isn’t a joke. Michigan recently ranked No. 1 in the country in COVID-19 cases per capita. If we all do the simplest thing and wear our masks, we can keep moving forward and hopefully fill the stands even more.

Is it wrong to get too excited about this win?

One game out of 162 isn’t much of a sample size. But winning a game against one of the American League’s best starting pitchers does give us a hint at the Tigers’ potential when they get strong pitching, timely hitting and solid fielding. Boyd worked out of a couple of jams, especially in the fifth inning, when he walked two batters but wiggled out of it by getting Jose Ramirez to fly out. I loved the aggressiveness on the basepaths when third-base coach Chip Hale waved in Victor Reyes on JaCoby Jones’ second-inning double to strong-armed left fielder Eddie Rosario. Jose Cisnero and Daniel Norris were strong out of the bullpen, but lefty closer Gregory Soto was very shaky, allowing a single followed by a two-run home run to Roberto Perez and then a walk to lefty Ben Gamel. In a way, this game told us one important thing about the Tigers: Wins are rarely going to come easy.

Contact Carlos Monarrez at cmonarrez@freepress.com and follow him on Twitter @cmonarrez.