DETROIT — The A.J. Hinch era as Tigers manager began with a snowy Opening Day, a youth movement for Miguel Cabrera, a scoreless performance for Matthew Boyd against the Indians, and a win against Shane Bieber. And after Thursday’s 3-2 victory, Detroit got off to a promising start against an opponent that has tormented it the past few years.
The last time Hinch roamed the clubhouse at Comerica Park in a Tigers uniform, he was the backup catcher when Detroit avoided a historic 120-loss season with a win on the final day of the 2003 season. The Tigers squad he inherited wasn’t in those depths, but general manager Al Avila brought on Hinch to begin to turn the corner.
Hinch spent Spring Training preaching to his team to just focus on winning the day’s game. Despite a formidable matchup and even tougher conditions, they did it.
Not only had Bieber not lost to the Tigers since his rookie season of 2018, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner had given up just 10 runs in six career meetings, half of those in that lone defeat. He had racked up double-digit strikeouts in their last three matchups, including both meetings last year. He still perplexed Detroit hitters for 12 strikeouts over six innings, including 11 swings and misses on a slider as biting as the wind chill, but the Tigers pounced early before he could settle in.
Cabrera’s opposite-field loft on a Bieber high fastball crept over the right-field fence as Cabrera tried to track it through the snow. His 488th career homer — No. 350 with Detroit — marked the first home run of the 2021 MLB season and gave the Tigers a lead four batters in.