Tigers opening day: 6 takeaways from a tough start that can only get more difficult

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Matthew Boyd had a bad day, but the Detroit Tigers’ absent offense meant it probably wouldn’t have mattered even if he had been flawless.

It was the grim reality of a rather gloomy opening day in which the Tigers fell to the Cincinnati Reds 7-1.

The Tigers had just three hits and struck out 13 goals against Reds starter Sonny Gray and three relievers.

Even so, Boyd took responsibility for the loss.

“The game is on me, the starting pitcher,” he said. “Tonight is for me, and I’ll do better.”

Here are the takeaways from the opener.

1. It could have been worse.

Day 1 didn’t go well, but it could have been a disaster. This was not the case.

When Boyd allowed Cincinnati’s top six hitters to get to base – one walk, two singles and two batters – the Tiger Box started to get busy.

Rule 5 draft pick Ronny Garcia, who has never spoken of Double-A, was warming up, ready to make his Major League debut in the first set.

If Boyd had come out without removing a batsman, the Tigers would have conceded on opening day before the first inning and would have been forced to tinker with eight innings of work from a young pen.

This does not happen. Boyd escaped the inning after allowing just two runs and settled in to pitch five innings.

It won’t be considered his best job, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

“That’s what Matty does,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “He continues to work, he continues to grind. He is not satisfied and he will tell you that he is not satisfied, but we did not score too many points for him.

2. Ugly bats.

Other than CJ Cron’s massive home run, there was little to report offensively for the Tigers on Friday night.

Several of the bats listened last year: bad shots, strikeouts.

Much of it had to do with Gray, who was a knack for making hitters silly by tempting them to swing balls out of the box. Most of his jumps and misses were caused by throws out of speed. He had six on his slider and four on his curve.

Niko Goodrum struck out three balls and had a double play. Jonathan Schoop, Christin Stewart and Austin Romine also had two strikeouts each.

3. It won’t be any easier.

It might actually become more difficult.

Gray got the nod on opening day because he’s a veteran who just wrapped up an All-Star season, but the next two Reds starters the Tigers face this weekend are equally as good and maybe better.

Luis Castillo is one of baseball’s best young pitchers. Trevor Bauer is a former enemy of the Cleveland Tigers who moved to the southern tip of the state.

In this shortened season, each game counts almost three times as much as in a normal year, so the Tigers must recover a win before they escape Cincinnati.

“You’ve had 60 games and we’ve got to go out and fight some really good baseball teams,” Gardenhire said.

4. Emergency mixed bag.

It’s too early to judge the Tigers relievers on the basis of an inning of work, but Jose Cisnero and David McKay have seen better days.

Cisnero was pumping fastballs at 96 mph, but gave No.9 hitter Curt Casali a walk in the sixth inning when he should have put the inning away. The Japanese star and the Reds import Shogo Akiyama, then conceded a number of throws before recording his first Major League hit. Cisnero only allowed one run, but a walk to the weakest hitter of a tough lineup will haunt him.

David McKay, who pitched the seventh, looked like he could steal a waiver thread last year, but he had a few tough outings in summer camp and struggled on Friday. His fast ball speed went from 94-95 mph last summer to 91-92 mph on Friday. Of course, he’s not the only one in the Tigers, or MLB, to have shed a few ticks this unusual year, and he’s more likely to get on the right track in the days to come.

On a positive note, Gregory Soto and Buck Farmer put out the five hitters they faced.

5. About this range.

The range the Tigers used in their last exhibition games was actually the range that Gardenhire used in Game 1.

Goodrum clearly didn’t have a day fit for a leading man, but he had shown increased patience and a willingness to work counts in the spring and summer camp.

Jonathan Schoop is perhaps a more curious choice for second place because, despite his power and production, he’s always been a guy with a high takeout and a relatively low OBP. Even in what was a pretty solid offensive season a year ago at Minnesota, he’s only posted a .304 percentage on base.

The Tigers aren’t full of great options, which is probably how Schoop ended up there. If Jeimer Candelario is hot, he could be a good candidate because of his eye on the plate. In 2019, a terrible offensive season, Candelario’s OBP of .306 was actually better than Schoop’s.

Gardenhire said he discussed the roster with the club’s analysis department and “played with things” before settling on the starting nine.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “I think the most important thing for our offense and our roster is that Candy is having a good year. He has to step it up and do it. It’s a great year for him.

Candelario, sixth at bat between Christin Stewart and Cameron Maybin, went 0 for 3 in Game 1.

6. A strange day.

The atmosphere at the Great American Ballpark, CJ Cron said, was more suited to a “glorified spring game” without supporters in an empty stadium.

And yet, it was real baseball, a game that really mattered in the standings, something that had been on hiatus for a long time.

So when Boyd said he wanted to “go through a brick wall” at the start of the game, no one doubted him.

“I miss that feeling,” he says. “I haven’t felt it for a while. This is when you want to feed on it. “

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